Saturday, June 25, 2011


When Joshua began to settle God’s people in the Promised Land, one of the first things he did was to draw the people together in worship of God. Since this worship centred on sacrifices and offerings, the surrounding pagans might observe the Israelites’ worship and conclude that they were all doing the same kind of thing. But there was at least one major difference between the Israelites’ worship and that of their pagan neighbours. After Joshua had built an altar, gathered the people and made offerings, their worship included the reading of God’s law.
“[Joshua] read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded, which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel.” (Joshua 8:34-35)
Declaration of God’s Word was the focus of the Israelites’ worship. The ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP must draw people into God’s presence where they can hear, read, and study what God says about Himself, His people, and mankind in general.

Secondly, Joshua led the people to a specific place, Mount Ebal, as God had commanded through Moses in the law (Joshua 8:30). There they built an altar according to specifications: “an altar of whole stones, over which no man has wielded an iron tool. And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings” (Joshua 8:31).
Why a plain structure of undressed stone altar? During this time in history, the pagans built beautiful, ornate altars for the worship of their gods. How could the Israelites impress their enemies with only a plain altar of stones? In requiring that the altar be made of natural stones, God was making an important distinction. The principle of simplicity in worship is still in effect. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). God does not need human glitz or gimmicks in worship. He will be glorified and magnified when we honour Him with our worship that is from the depth of our heart.
After Joshua built the proper altar, the people worshiped with offerings and sacrifices. Their burnt offerings illustrated thankfulness and dedication to God, while the peace offerings indicated a right relationship with God. They were thankful for the privilege of knowing God, of being His people, and dedicating themselves to His service. They gave their freewill offerings to the LORD, beautifully picturing the picture of our offerings in worship today – our offerings must express obedience to God’s WORD and a genuine love for God. We cannot engage in THE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP when we give offerings under compulsion; we must give to the LORD because we love Him.

While the people watched, Joshua "wrote on the [altar] stones a copy of the law of Moses" (Joshua 8:32). He did not personally chisel the words into the stone; that method would have taken too long and limited what he could write. The Hebrew words here indicate instead that the stones were covered with plaster. So Joshua copied exactly what God has given, which was the same law that Moses gave to the people. By copying the exact law in the presence of all the people, he revealed to them that he had great respect for the law. Why did Joshua have this respect for the law? He knew that it came from God. Christians today must likewise respect God's WORD simply because it is from God.
By writing God's WORD in stone Joshua also pictured the importance of preserving God's principles. Similarly, when we gather for worship today, tere should be no question of the people that God's WORD is important. That regard for God's WORD is what we need for TRUE WORSHIP. When the excitement of the meeting is done and the "mountain top experience" is over, what do we have left? Emotions change and fade with time, but the principles of God's WORD endure forcver.

AFter the people saw Joshua write a copy of God's law, something very significant occurred. The Bible records that "all Israel, with their elders and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord" (Joshua 8:33).
Here we see a picture of the people agthered together, and in the very center of the crowd is the ark symbolizing God's presence. There were reminders of God's power in that ark. These included a sample of the manna that had fed the people in the wilderness, along with Aaron's rod of power and the original (second) set of stones upon which God wrote His law. On the ark was also the mercy seat where God accepted the blood atonement for sin. And at special times, God's shekinah glory would come upon the ark. All of these realities reminded the people that God's presence could be found at the ark.

When the people were gathered around the ark, spreading out for many hundreds of miles between the two mountains, it appears that the leaders dispersed so "that they should bless the peole of Israel" (Joshua 8:33). The passage then records that Joshua "read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, accordning to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commands, which Joshua did not read before the aasembly of Israel."(Joshua 8:34-35).  Presumably, the leaders were also involved in the reading, for it would have been impossible for millions of people to hear one man speaking. This procedure was used, for example, in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:1-8; see also chapter 13).
In our day, too, declaring the whole counsel of God must be the focus of our worship. God promises that His WORD is sufficient to make His people what they should be: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). 
Christians in the early church met for the purpose of "continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). They practiced THE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP, making God's WORD the center of their gathering. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The book of Joshua opens with God's commission to Joshua to lead His people into the land of Canaan. God's aged servants Moses and Aaron has died. Now Joshua, a young man, was faced with this enormous task. If Moses, with all his years of experience was unable to bring the people into the land, what hope was there for him? How would he be able to cope with the seven tribes that inhabited the land, all of them formidable foes? And how could he lead people like the children of Israel, with their fear of death and constant complaints? Faced with such a challenge, Joshua must have felt overwhelmed.

At that point he saw a vision. A man with a drawn sword appeared before him. Not recognizing the Man, he asked.“Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13 NIV). The Man answer was, "Neither." He was neither for one side nor for the other, He has come for one purpose, "As Commander of the army of the Lord I have come." (verse 14). Praise God, this is the purpose of our Lord Jesus! He has not come to help us, not our enemies, but to take His place as CAPTAIN OF THE LORD OF HOST. If you belong to the Lord's host, then He is your Captain. The question here is not one of receiving help, but of accepting leadership. He has not come to offer assistance, but to demand SUBJECTION.

How did Joshua react when he heard that this Man has come as COMMANDER of the Lord's army? "Joshua fell on his face down to the ground in reverence (worship)" (Joshua 5:14). Do you see the ESSENCE of WORSHIPING the ways of God? The issue is one of submission to His leadership. God does not stand in the midst of the conflict giving a little help here or there. When He is in command all is well! You do not know God if you think He can occupy a subordinate position in your battle. It is His place to lead and it is your place to submit. It is only when you are in your right place under His command that you will know what it means to worship and what it means to have the drawn sword wielded on your behalf.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


In Exodus 32 to 34 we read of a difficult situation Moses encountered. Alone on Mount Sinai with God, the ten commandments written on two tablets were committed to Him. Meanwhile, trouble had broken out on the plain. The people had made a golden calf and worshiped it. This provoked God to great displeasure and He said to Moses: “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” (Exodus 32:7-10 NKJV)

When Moses saw that God's wrath was stirred against His people he entreated God for them, then went down to deal with the situation on the plain. Thereafter he ascended the mount again and in obedience to God's command hewed two stone tablets like the first which he had broken, and with these in his hand he went to the top of Mount Sinai where God made a solemn proclamation, And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
At this point, it would have been most appropriate for Moses to bow down and worshiped God: but it was after the second part of the proclamation that he did so, and the second part was totally different from the first. The earlier part spoke of God's compassion, and grace, and mercy and forgiveness; but the latter was this: "Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:7 NKJV) It was when God had proclaimed His awesome majesty and holiness that "Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped." (verse 8). It is not merely grace that stirs worship; if we are to be worshipers of God we need to know His holiness.

So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” (Exodus 34:8-9 NKJV)

Comparing verse 8 and 9 of Exodus chapter 34, Moses first worship, then prayed. He first acknowledged the sovereignty of God's ways, then he seeks God's grace. He does not beseech God on the ground of His compassion, and grace, and plenteous mercies, and readiness to forgive to reverse His decision. Our prayer would be like that. We are always trying to persuade God not to do what He has said He would do. Moses was different. He took his right place before God and bowed to His ways.

Beloved, have we been guilty of asking God to do what we knew was contary to His ways of working? Have we sought Him to forgive a certain brother and cease to chasten him even when we knew that His dealings with that brother were right? That is not worshiping God. How often our prayers amount to requesting God to change His ways! Without considering His ways we just open our lips and ask Him to remove the pressure here, the sickness there and the domestic problems elsewhere. To pray after this fashion is seeking grace and ignoring the ways of God. Prayer is the expression of our will but worship is the acceptance of God's will.

How we need to learn from Moses! God made His ways known to him and seeing His majesty and holiness, he fell down before God and worshiped. He did not reason with God about the consequences of God visiting their iniquity to the third and fourth generation. Let us not only learn to accept God's will and do His work, we must also learn to acknowledge His sovereign ways and accept all that He does are for His own good pleasure. This act of Moses is the ESSENCE of True Worship

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Three months after the Israelites left Egypt, they must still have been buzzing about their deliverance. Then God did something they did not expect. He took Moses up into the mountains for forty days. That act did not make sense to the people. To make matter worse, God issued a clear but seemingly inexplicable instruction. While He met with Moses at Mount Sinai, He told the people in no uncertain terms, "Take heed to yourselves, that you do not go up to the mountain or touch it's base; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 19:12). Furthermore, God did not give the people any details about His meeting with their leader, Moses.

How would Moses' absence affect the people? God did not say, but He expected the people to trust Him. God's silence is our opportunity to learn to trust Him. But these people, who had seen so much evidence of God's power, chose to trust themselves.
"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' " (Exodus 31:1 NKJV)

The people's impatience and disregard for God's authority leads to false worship. In essence, Aaron and the children of Israel made a molded calf, pointed to it, and said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4). Now, where did the Israelite get the idea of making the image of a golden calf? It is interesting to note that two popular Egyptian gods, Hapis (Apis) and Hathor, were thought of as a bull and a heifer. No doubt the Israelite, fresh from Egypt (type of the world), found it quite natural to make a golden calf to represent the God that had just delivered them from their oppressors. And they called this calf the name of the Lord, there by reducing God's glory to the level of man-made idol!
We are often guilty of trying to make God in our image, molding him to fit our expectations, desires and circumstances. When we do this, we end up either worshiping ourselves or creating false images (idols) rather than worshiping our God. What is our favourite image of God? Does the image incorporates some of the worldly elements? Do we need to destroy it in order to worship our immeasurably true and living God?

As a result of false worship, God judged His people because they lost respect for Him in their worship. They experienced literal judgement when three thousand people died because of their willful sin (Exodus 32:28). Further, the Israelites also experienced spiritual judgement.

"And the LORD said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you ... so the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made ... Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt ... for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Exodus 32:33 - 33:3)

God now referred to the Israelites as "the people whom you (Moses) have brought out of the land of Egypt." God did not want to be associated with them. Rather than going with them into the promised land, God said He would send an ordinary angel to accompany them. The people had forfeited God's presence and power. The lesson of this account is that God separates Himself from false worship. He separated Himself then, and He will separate Himself today. When we yield to human desires in our worship, and thus detract from His glory, we forfiet God's power and presence. And when that happens, we are forced into a cycle of using human means - whether music or polished oratory or rituals or traditions - to attract the people. Then our worship can go through the motion WITHOUT GOD'S PRESENCE!

What response does God expect when worship becomes untrue and governed by human methods and desires? Those engaged in such worship must (as did the children of Israel), repent and then separate from their former associations.
"Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the LORD went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses." (Exodus 33:7-9)

Moses pitched his tent outside the camp! In doing so, he took the initiative to separate from the people who were not glorifying God in their worship. It was a tent set aside for a special purpose, a purpose that caused Moses to call it "the tabernacle of meeting."The result of Moses' act was that his faithful testimony brought others into a right standing with God:
a) The people saw God was at Moses' tent of meeting
- Whenever Moses went to the tent, God's glory fill the tent.
- Does our own worship give similar evidence to the people back at the camp that God is with us?
b)  Moses' separation encouraged the people to give the Lord true worship
"All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door." (Exodus 33:10)
- When we take our stand for reverent worship of God, those whom God is dealing with will respect our stand.

In our own day, worship practices are often driven by the goal of appealing to the people's desires. Are we willing to pitch our tents outside the camp, so that others will be encouraged toward the Essence of True Worship?