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In the Gates

Worship as Obedience

Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Laws: The Forms and Elements of Worship (3)


Worship is, in the first instance, an act of obedience from the heart.

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19.3-6

The way to participate in God’s Covenant is through obedience. For the people of Israel, this applied to the ceremonial laws as much as to the civil laws and the Ten Commandments. If the people wanted to give pleasure to God and to enter into that pleasure as His “treasured possession” they would need to make sure they were focused on obeying Him at all times.

Thus, as we have seen, they were not to introduce into the worship of God anything imported from the surrounding pagan cultures. Nor were they to innovate with respect to any of the forms or elements of worship God had approved, as the sons of Aaron had tried to do. The worship Israel brought to the Lord was to be like the Tabernacle they constructed for Him: strictly according to the pattern of divine revelation.

Obedient worship begins in the heart. We must make sure that we are motivated in our worship by gratitude for what God has done in redeeming us from our own captivity in Egypt. From gratitude worship proceeds in the heart to desire for God: it should be the great longing of our hearts to realize His intention of making us His treasured possession. It behooves us, thus, to prepare well for worship, by allowing the Spirit of God to search our hearts and set them into a right frame with respect to the purposes of worship.

Then, our hearts filled with gratitude to God and love for Him, we come as priests to the Lord in worship, set aside according to His anointing and precepts to worship Him obediently, using only the forms and elements He has revealed and will accept. Thus our worship will be holy to the Lord, and we will be His holy people, when we come to Him, obedient from the heart, to please and honor Him in a celebration of Covenant renewal.

For a fuller study of the pattern of worship revealed in Scripture, order the book, The Highest Thing, by T. M. Moore, from our online store. These studies and brief essays will help you to see how the pattern of sound worship, which began in the Law of God, comes to complete expression in the rest of Scripture. Pastors, we’re getting ready to start the next season of The Pastors’ Fellowship. Write to me today at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about how you join in these online discussions. Our theme for the coming series is “The Worldview of God’s Law.” There is no charge for participation, but you must reserve a place for these monthly gatherings. Subscribe to Crosfigell, the devotional newsletter of The Fellowship of Ailbe.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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