Thoroughly Equipped: Sweet-Smelling Worship

Today’s reading includes Exodus 32:1-33:23, Matthew 26:69-27:14, Psalm 33:1-11, Proverbs 8:33-36.

Today’s reading encompasses many components.  There is impatience, which leads to unbelief, which leads to sinful idolatry. There is sin, which leads to consequences, which leads to discipline, which leads to mercy, which leads to renewed faithfulness.  We also see a faithful leader, Moses, who found his strength in friendship with God.  It was his custom to set up the Tent of Meeting outside the camp, where he would go to worship God.  Exodus 33:11 tells us, “Inside the Tent of Meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”  And this is true for us, as well, especially now that Jesus has made a bridge between God and man.  We, too, must daily withdraw to worship and hear the Lord speak to us as a friend.

The Westminster catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  Our ultimate purpose is to glorify God forever which will bring us deep joy forever.  On this earth, we will each be assigned different means of glorifying Him.  But the preparation for the assignment is the same for all of us: worship, true heartfelt worship.  Not the “go to church on Sunday and Wednesday night” kind of worship.  I’m talking personal, face-to-face realization that He is an extraordinary God who deserves more than we could ever offer Him, but Who is somehow pleased with a heart that simply acknowledges and loves Him.

We can worship corporately, such as during Bible Study or a Sunday church service, but we must also worship privately.  We can worship with prayer and praises.  We can worship with singing.  We can worship by reading and meditating and memorizing and remembering God’s Word.  And we can worship Him by reaching out to others.  Our good deeds are an act of worship.  Keith Green wrote a beautiful song with the following words:  “Make my life a prayer to You.”  Every action and word of our lives can be an act of worship.  And this happens through complete surrender to Him.

We see that God called Moses to a mighty purpose.  Moses did not take the assignment lightly, nor did he feel equipped in his own ability to fulfill the assignment.  So he worshipped in good times and bad times and in joy and in sorrow.  Moses led the people in worship through all the years of wandering in the desert.  Exodus 33:7 says, “Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the ‘tent of meeting’.”  I believe that the tent of meeting was pitched outside the camp for several reasons.

First of all, we cannot forget the holiness of God.   We must realize that though we are able to ‘come boldly to the throne of grace’ through Jesus, it is still a throne.  A throne calls for reverence, attention, and acknowledgement of its superiority.  And we are not just talking about any old throne.  This is the throne of all thrones, holding the presence of the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords.  All earthly thrones will fall.  And yet we pay homage to these temporary thrones.  How much more should we come with awe, diligence, respect and reverence to the eternal throne?  Our true worship brings us to a front row seat before the eternal throne.  Our prayers and praises thrust us forward to His mighty feet, propped up on the footstool of the earth. Our worship is a sweet-smelling incense for the Lord.

I once attended a worship conference at a large church in the Chicago area.  One night we attended a worship service with thousands of people.  The people were of one accord praying and praising.  My heart was filled to overflowing and my desire to please the Lord grew stronger.  At one point, I looked around at the believers gathered together, and I prayed, “Lord, are you pleased with our worship?  Are you pleased, Lord?”  Suddenly a picture formed in my imagination:  Jesus rose to his feet from the throne with outstretched arms.  And then He brought His arms forward towards His face in a grand sweeping motion, as if He smelled something divine. The picture in my imagination brought tears to my eyes, and joy to my soul; and I felt a true peace that our worship was indeed pleasing to Him.

A few days later, back at my home, I was reading my Bible and came across the following verses: 

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’  But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.  I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside.  Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep!  See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.  He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

                                                                                                                    Revelation 5:1-10

You see, our true worship is sweet smelling aroma to the Lord.  And our praises and prayers move heaven and change earth.  And as we have just read, we are called to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.  We are called to leave our slave mentality behind, and walk as royalty.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”                                                                                             

                                                                                                                         1 Peter 2:9

Another reason that I believe the tent of meeting was placed outside the camp is because true worship requires effort and obedience on our part. True worship is not always convenient, and is often painful because it strips us of false pride, false humility and false strength.  We can’t enter true worship without being totally aware of our inadequacies.  But true worship heightens our awareness of His abundant adequacies. Second Timothy 1:11-13 says, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day” (KJV).  Paul wrote these words in the midst of a discussion of his suffering.  This kind of confidence, faith and patience come from the knowledge, peace and assurance gained from our personal times of true worship.  Today, worship God with your time, your words, your thoughts, your prayers, your praises, and your good deeds.  Today, ask the Lord to make your whole life a prayer to Him.

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