The Scriptorium

Elements of Worship

God defines the terms of worship, not us. Deuteronomy 12.8-14

Opening Prayer: Psalm 115.1-3
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.
Why should the Gentiles say,
“So where is their God?”
But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.

Psalm 115.1-3

(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, “Where is their God on high?”
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 12.8-14

Preparation
1. What must we not do in worship?

2. How would you describe the relationship between blessing, rest, and worship as you see it here?

Meditation
That phrase, “every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes” – is ominous, especially as we remember its usage in the book of Judges. I’ll come back to this.

A considerable amount of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are given to describing the various sacrifices and offerings Israel should bring before the Lord. Why did God command so many of these?

Because worshiping God consists of various elements, which may be expressed in a variety of forms. These derive from “the rest and the inheritance” (v. 9) God provided for His people by delivering them from bondage in Egypt and settling them in the land of Canaan (v. 10). In the promises of God, Israel would be safe and enjoy all the blessings He graciously promised, as long as they obeyed His commandments.

That includes the commandments concerning worship. Worship allowed the people to declare their gratitude to God, to praise and rejoice in Him together, to be renewed in repentance, and to dedicate themselves in specific ways to more faithful obedience and service. In the various religious or ceremonial laws, God explained the elements that are appropriate for worship. The various offerings and sacrifices – the forms of worship – expressed the heart of Israel in thanksgiving and praise; confession of sin; dedication of their lives to Him; and vows they intended to fulfill, especially in response to His Word (“All that the LORD has spoken, we will do”, Ex. 19.8). They also helped to provide for the needs of priests and Levites, who administered the offerings locally and at the tabernacle. While the people could worship God in their own communities, it was important that, from time to time – especially during the national feasts, and for certain kinds of offerings (v. 14) – that the people should come to the tabernacle and bring their offerings there (vv. 11, 14).

The tone of worship was to be rejoicing (v. 12). And why not? In worship the people were renewing and strengthening their relationship with God, and delighting in His Presence.

We no longer keep the particular forms of worship God commanded His people through Moses. But the prescribed elements of worship remain, as we draw on the principles embedded in the ceremonial laws to maintain covenant continuity with the people of God in every age and place (cf. 1 Cor. 9.11-14). So in worship, we’re not free to do “whatever seems right” to us. That kind of “freedom” leads only to enslavement to whim and self. God has shown us what to do in worship. Let’s make sure we do what He commands, not what we invent.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
We all look forward to events such as Christmas and Easter, an exciting move, a new home, or a new job. God likes us to look forward to things; He created us this way. He explained some new events and future plans to the Israelites: For as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which I am giving you.

Keep going. Keep expecting. Another place, another opportunity to rejoice in Me, further along. Jesus shares His ultimate plans with us. Just across eternal Jordan are the best ones yet: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (Jn. 14.2-4). Look forward, rejoice, and worship in hope.

Reflection

1. Why should we look forward to worshiping God? How can we prepare for joyful worship?

2. What’s the difference between elements of worship and forms of worship? Which are more important? Why?

3. Why is it not a good idea to just do whatever we want in worshiping God?

…“you … and the Levite” includes all Israelites—women and men, slaves and free, Levites and tribes with land. The Hebrew word for rejoice describes a deep enjoyment by the entire community of God’s good gifts. God gave the Law to the people for their good—even for their enjoyment.
Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Note on Deuteronomy 12.12

Let my life today be one of worshiping You in everything I do, Lord, especially as I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 115.9-18
Rejoice in the salvation which is ours through Jesus. Rejoice in the rest and blessings of the Lord. Devote yourself to increasing in Jesus today, as you obey Him in all your ways.

Psalm 115.9-18
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
All who trust in Jesus yield – ever to His Name be glory! –
find in Him their help and shield – ever to Your Name be glory!
O Israel, trust the Lord!  He helps us evermore!
Fear Him obey His Word: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Blessings from our gracious Lord – ever to Your Name be glory –
will attend us evermore – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless all who fear You, Lord, all who obey Your Word,
all who Your Name adore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Grant us, Savior, great increase – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless us with eternal peace – ever to Your Name be glory!
Heaven and earth are Yours; let every soul adore
and bless You evermore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

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 Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore