Monday, September 30, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES - THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP (Part 12): GIDEON (Obedience Precedes Worship)

It is possible for us to be so concerned about the acts of worship, that we run ahead of the necessary steps of God requires as He leads His people to True Worship. In a sense, True worship is not an act but rather a natural response to foregoing knowledge or experience. In other words, whereas God's people can run hither and  yon trying to discover genuine ways to worship God, He would rather they obediently follow Him throughout the week  so that Sunday worship will be a natural expression of their relationship with Him.

We look into the Old Testament story of Gideon. God put a heavy burden on Gideon, though he lacked confidence about his ability to lead God's people. Since Gideon was weak in faith, he begged God to confirm His will by making a fleece wet or dry. God obliged and then instructed Gideon to fight a massive enemy army with only a handful of men. When Gideon was unsure, God told him to go to the enemy's camp in the middle of the night. Gideon OBEYED this seemingly strange requirement and, in so doing, learned an important lesson about God's power. His natural response was to fall down in WORSHIP and then rise and serve in CONFIDENCE!

Gideon was going through a very difficult time. As the Bible records in Judges 6, God had allowed the nation to suffer seven years of enemy occupation because Israel was in sin. The Israelites cried out, and God sent prophet to confirm His promise. Gideon was minding his own business, doing farm chores for his father, when "the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor ... Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?' " (Judges 6:12-14)
We read of the progress of Gideon's faith through his obedience:
- He started out alone in faith protesting of his weakness but God assured Him (Judges 6:15-16)
- Then he began to asked God for a sign that it was God who was speaking to Him. God was gracious and gave Gideon a sign followed by a promise ("peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die." - Judges 6:17-24)
- Then Gideon obeyed God's further instruction to destroy Baal's altar. Although he received death threats God protected him (Judges 6:28-31)
- More importantly, "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." And the men of his town and tribe rallied to his cause, and messenger were sent to rally other tribes. (Judges 6:34)

Gideon was moving in the right direction. He obeyed God's command, then worshiped his Lord and was encouraged to start assembling an army. yet still lacking complete faith, he"put out the fleece" (Judges 6:36-40) so that God might give another confirming sign. God did so, and at the start of the events recorded in Judges 7. Gideon had amassed a host of twenty-two thousand soldiers. However God instructed Gideon to let the fainthearted go home and only ten thousand remain. But incredibly, God declared that "the people are still too many." So He proceeded to reduce the Israelite force to a mere three hundred men.  

At this stage, Gideon had no army at all, but only a small band of soldiers. Yet that situation was precisely the place God wanted His people to be  - in complete dependence on Him. Gideon knew what he was supposed to do. God had given him clear instructions: "Arise, go down against the [enemy] camp, for I have delivered it into your hand." (Judges 7:9). If Gideon was afraid to scout the enemy alone, God had told him he could take his servant along. But that very night God commanded Gideon to go "down to the camp ... and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened  for the ensuring contest (Judges 7:10-11)
Gideon obeyed and his OBEDIENCE was no small matter since "the Midianites and Amalekites" were mighty and numerous. (Judges 7:12). The odds seemed overwhelming, but Gideon trusted God. To his surprise, in the enemy camp Gideon learned that his foes were apprehensive about him! One soldier even had a dream that, through his symbols, depicted the Midianites' destruction by the "sword of Gideon," the man who had God on his side (Judges 7:14). Like Gideon, we will not experience God's encouragement until we trust Him enough to obey Him. When Gideon heard of the fear among God's enemies, he bowed in humility before his Lord.
"And so it was, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, that he worshiped." (Judges 7:15)
The text uses a Hebrew word - SACHAH that speaks of a servant or slave's lowering himself before his master. Thus most depictions of worship in the Old Testament show worshipers bowing or prostrating themselves in humble recognition of God. That recognition was often gained as it was with Gideon, through OBEDIENCETHE ESSENCE OF TRUE WORSHIP results when God allows His servants to see His mighty power and realize their own meager state.
Gideon could worship God truly because he had learned some important lessons from God. But in order to learn those lessons, he first had to obey God and trust Him. In the same way, when we are living or acting in OBEDIENCE, we learn to trust God more. As we grow in that trust, He reveals to us His great power. And in glimpsing that power, we fall prostrate before Him and worship. Does that pattern describe the kind of worship we have today? 

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