Saturday, September 06, 2008


Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.
I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forvermore.
Psalm 86:11-12

People who truely worship God must become teachable people. Here, the psalmist looks up to God with complete openness, ready both to learn and to walk in the truth. To unfold this theme, we return to the account of Abraham's offering of Isaac. No passage in Scripture provides more fundamental teaching on the true meaning of worship. By being open to God's call, Abraham discovered a new place of worship. "Go to the land of Moriah," God told him, "and offer [Isaac] there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Genesis 22:2). Abraham left the security of his caravan and his servants to go discover this new place - this new mountain of acceptable worship to God.

Sometimes we must go to a "new place" too, in order to discover the true meaning of worship. It will probably be to a new place our hearts or attitudes rather than to a new physical site, but we sometimes need to be guided away from the worn valleys of our familiar ways to a mountain of God's assignment. We can become so accustomed to tradition, to the same trappings of worship and the same forms, that the spirit of worship dies of familiarity. But let's open as the psalmist does: "Teach me Your way." Let's not fear discovering a new place of worship, where in finding new and fresh capacities for worship, we find new dimension of God's goodness and Person.

Abraham first discovered that surrendering to God's claim is at the core of worship ... Abraham thought Isaac was his, momentarily forgetting that Isaac was God's gift and thereby rightfully His to claim. And so it is with all of our own gifts. Everything we have has been "bought at a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20), and you and I need to retain a readiness to return our "beloved Isaacs" at the center of our hearts - those things we cherish most dearly. Ever and always they must be kept before the Lord, to be sacrificed for His purpose. In the text for this reading, the psalmist promises to praise God with his whole heart, clearly meaning that nothing can be withheld. Can we begin to sense here the radical nature of true worship? It transforms our values from the beginning.

But further, Abraham discovered the true nature of God. He learned that God does not demand those things dearest to us because He needs them, but because He knows we need to be released from their controlling us. God never demands a sacrifice for the divine pleasure of smelling it's aroma or because He needs us to tickle His pride. The objective is our release - our growth. God asked Abraham to offer Isaac neither to exploit Abraham's emotions nor to destroy Isaac's body. But what He did do was to forever take away Abraham's fear that God might not have his best interests at heart. It is only in living worship that we will draw close enough to discern God's true nature and loving heart toward us.

Abraham also discovered the rewards of worship. Of course, God gave Abraham no immediate monetary reward for worshipping Him, but the reward was immensely grander - God Himself! "I am your ... exceedingly great reward" (Genesis 15:1). Until every corner of Abraham's heart was possessed by a trust in the greater love of God, God would be restricted from fully giving of Himself to Abraham. If he had been withholding anything from God, there wouldn't have been room in Abraham's heart to contain the wealth awaiting him in God. It's another way of saying, "No one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). The sacrifice of worship establishes our servanthood to the true God.

We see then that worship has a "cutting edge" - one that cuts the flesh and prunes our preferences. Bowing before the Sovereign Lord introducs real demands but also opens new dmensions of promise. We begin to catch a glimpse of what we can discover about God and about ourselves when we are willing to be taught in worship by Him whom we worship.

An extract from - The Heart of Worship by Jack Hayford


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