Concerning Worship: Deuteronomy 12 (7)
Opening Prayer: Psalm 51.10-13
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
(Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Create in me a clean heart, renew me from within!
Take not Your Spirit from me because of all my sin.
Salvation’s joy restore, Lord, and keep me in Your hand;
thus shall I tell Your strong Word to sinners in the land.
Review Deuteronomy 12; meditate on Deuteronomy 12.12, 32
1. What are the most important points about worship in this chapter?
2. What must the people guard against in the worship of God?
Clearly, worship as God outlined it is not a spectator sport. Worship requires focus, attention, diligence, and effort. Worship brings us into the Presence of God, where we share or participate in Him with greater intensity than normal. The things we do in worship enable us to enjoy the Lord’s Presence, so that the enjoyment of Him will go with us into the times in between worship, to sustain and guide us.
God set clear parameters for the worship His people would bring to Him. Certain elements were to be engaged – thanks, praise, giving (including confession of sin), attending to God’s Word, making commitments – and certain forms were to be used in expressing these elements – sacrifices, offerings, prayers, singing, vows. God knows the elements and forms that are most appropriate for us in coming before Him in worship. We are not free to do whatever we like, just because we like it or find it pleasing in some way (v. 8). We rest in the promises of God in worship (v. 9); and our worship grows out of those promises, as we have experienced them, and toward those promises, as we yet hope to experience them. Since all the promises of God are in Him and His Word (cf. 2 Cor. 1.20), worship will lead us to greater rest and blessing in the promises and Presence of God when we worship as He directs.
We must especially be on guard against incorporating into the worship of God elements or forms deriving from pagan worship. The pagan peoples of Canaan had long before rejected the worship of the one, true God. But because they were made in His image – as all people are – they could not not worship. So they made up gods to suit their fancy, then sought to connect with those gods through forms of worship according to their own best ideas. Turns out, some of these weren’t such good ideas after all, especially if you were a young girl or guy whose parents had surrendered you to temple prostitution. Or if you were a child selected to be burned alive. Or if some grim priest, perhaps angry at your paltry offering, directed you to cut yourself to please the god you had offended.
God described all such elements and forms as abominations (v. 31). Pagan forms of worship – that is, any worship that departs from or adds to the elements and forms God prescribes (v. 32) – is abominable today as well.
Worship works for us, to bring us into the joy and rejoicing of the Lord (v. 12) when we work at it according to God’s Word. Sitting by and waiting for worship to “do something for you” is not the way to worship God. See Him, love and fear and serve Him, then come before Him according to His Word. He will give Himself in communion to you.
Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“…so that the enjoyment of Him will go with us into the times in between worship, to sustain and guide us.” Look at the care God expresses in Deuteronomy 12.12. While He is guiding the people in the rules for correct worship, He is also teaching them about His kindness and care for others. “And you shall rejoice before the LORD…” and be sure to care for the Levite, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. “For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD endures forever” (Ps. 117.2). In truth, God cares about all of us, and He wants us to care about others as part of our participation in worship. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5.22, 23). All legal. All doable in the power of the Holy Spirit. All ways we can please God. “Clearly, worship as God outlined it is not a spectator sport.” So let’s get busy and actively worship God!
1. In what ways should we expect to be active in worship?
2. Why are pagan elements and forms of worship abominable to God?
3. How would you counsel new believers to be always working to improve their worship of God?
The Word of God is not subject to whim, taste, or passing fancy. Earl Radmacher (1831-2014), NKJV Study Notes for Deuteronomy 12.32
Help me to live in worship before You today, Lord, following Your Word and praising You as I…
Closing Prayer: Psalm 51.1-9
In worship, we are in the Presence of God. He wants us to rejoice, even when worship leads us to recognize sin in our lives. As you worship the Lord today, keep focused on Him. Listen as His Spirit searches you. Rejoice in His forgiveness and grace, and call on Him to revive and renew you.
(Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Be gracious to me, Savior, according to Your love!
According to Your mercy, my sins, my sins remove!
O wash me, precious Savior, and cleanse me from all sin;
look on me with Your favor, and cause my grief to end.
Against You only, Savior, have I become unclean;
thus just the condemnation which You pronounce on me.
Lord, I was born to sinning, while You seek truth within;
to wisdom my heart winning, release me from my sin!
In Jesus’ blood and mercy, Lord, cleanse my evil heart!
Let me washed, cleansed, renewed be and pure in whole and part.
Bring joy again and gladness; look not upon my sin.
Deliver me from sadness; renew me yet again!
T. M. and Susie Moore
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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).