Notes on the Exodus (114)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The way, the truth and the life!

The Call for Reformation of Worship  (Chapter 12 Verses 11-20)

Before we read this history of God’s people as they come out of Egypt with a somewhat judgmental attitude there’s something we must consider. This is a people who have been subjected to four hundred years of the most appalling and dehumanising idolatry. Of external and earthly, dead religion. The most depraved form of religion, without even a breath of heaven, the heart of God or his Holy Spirit in it. The feast now being instituted in these verses is to be a perpetual and integral part of Israel’s worship (v15). The details that will form and establish their worship for generations to come will be finalised at Sinai. But it will be a worship prescribed by God, not the dictates of man. Something that is sore needed in today’s church, in the West at least. The worship of nature for was forbidden, they were warned that their worship was to be spiritual (Deuteronomy 4:15-20). The spiritual worship of God was by no means simply a New Testament innovation. Of course, the worship of nature, creation itself is still practised today. The old paganism hasn’t gone away. We are to enjoy God’s creation, we are to conquer and subdue and rule over it (Genesis 1:28). We are to wonder at the beauty, the wisdom and the power of God in it, explore it to its fullness. But we are not to worship it. But as one preacher has said, the human heart is an idol factory. There is hardly a thing surely in all if God’s creation that man in some way shape or form has not worshiped. The human propensity towards idolatry is massive. What would it take to reform the churches worship today? Oliver Cromwell didn’t succeed. The revivals of the Great Awakening didn’t accomplish it. Well, of course, it would cause some disturbance and most certainly a reduction in numbers. And the peace of some congregations would evaporate quickly. But peace can be a bad sign, it could be the result of a seared or even dead conscience. And all the good intentions can amount to presumption. I mean the Pharisees sincerely believed they were worshiping God and doing him service (John 16:2). But they weren’t.

The thing is stuff gets into the church and its worship so easily. It can be the thin end of the wedge as we say. I can sense the eyes rolling even as I write. But it’s true, it is said that if a snake gets its head in through the door it will get its whole body in too (Galatians 4:10). “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). God is rescuing his people from Egypt to liberate them from the dehumanising pagan worship they’ve endured for nearly half a century, so that they can worship him, in his way, not theirs. God’s redemption demands that we be true worshipers of him, that is what he seeks even to this day (John 4:23). So how do we establish what is a lawful act in terms of worship? As prescribed in God’s word, “you shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32). It is not expediency, marketing concepts, caprice or yet pragmatism that dictates the worship of God, but God’s own word. We have his assurance that reformation of worship will turn God himself back to us (Deuteronomy 30:2-3). The questions are solemn, how much do we want him, who’s will do we really want?

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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