Thoughts on Worship
Moses spoke these words to the children of Israel regarding their worship when they would live in the land of Canaan: “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burnt their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way” (Deuteronomy 12.1-4).
There are a number of lessons we can take from this story. First, we find that it does matter how God is worshiped. In the second place, we see from the worship of the Canaanites that worship can be wrong! God gave instructions to Cain and Abel, Noah, and Abraham regarding how he was to be worshiped. The Law of Moses had instructions for the nation of Israel to follow in their worship. Likewise, God has given instructions in the New Testament as to how he is to be worshiped; specifically, what acts of worship to render and how to render those acts. While worship commands have changed down through time, one constant has remained: Obedience to what God has commanded is required.
This helps us to understand why the Lord’s death is to be observed as well as how often the Lord’s Supper is to be observed. It is why we don’t assemble on Saturday, but rather on Sunday; why animal sacrifices are not offered today, whereas they were commanded under the Law of Moses. This also explains other changes in worship today that differ from the worship under the Law of Moses, such as the use of instruments and dancing (Psalm 150.3-4 versus Ephesians 5.19; Colossians 3.16), along with the place of worship (John 4.20-24).
Jesus also pointed out how worship can be in vain because of error in the message. This is seen from his words in Matthew 15.8-9: “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Let us remember and learn why Moses gave the warning, “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.”
God hasn’t left worship up to us, to decide to do as we please. Let us respect his will in the matter of worship, and the spiritual blessings in Christ are ours to enjoy, chief of which is the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1.3,7).