Wednesday, July 18, 2007
THE FOOD OF GOD
And God spoke all these words: 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.'
Present the offerings made to the Lord by fire, the food of their God.
The true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.
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.
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise -- the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts.
To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.
(Exodus 20: 1-5; Leviticus 21: 6; John 4: 23; 1 Peter 2: 9; Hebrews 13: 15; Jude 11 and 12; Revelation 2:17 -- all NIV)
God himself first identified the offerings of the priests as his food. It's not that God needed actual meat and grain to eat. The satisfaction he sought ascended to him through the obedience of prescribed worship laid down in the tabernacle sacrifices. He wanted worship. As often as his people expected to eat, God expected his meals of praise.
Whereas demons demanded sacrifices of others as a basis for their food, God prepared his own menu -- Christ. All of the work at the altar pictured God's work in Christ. The implied message is clear: God wants to be richly rewarded with worship. It is like food to him. He wants it lovingly prepared, generously offered and faithfully renewed. Nothing but Christ satisfies him.
God's method is simple: feed the people on the truths of the work of Christ and they in turn should praise him for what he has done. In the wilderness, God's singular menu of manna strengthened the people to offer him food. Now, since the cross, no better food than Christ can be found for God's servants because he is the essential ingredient of elective worship.
Those who commune with God know the value of Jesus' flesh and blood, but so do God's enemies. Demons who have been robbed of the human attentions they crave have not been able to stop the church from filling God's plate, but in many cases they have managed to spoil the taste. Tainted food will not do for God.
Offering God the praise he deserves for the unmatchable work of Christ is the true worshipper's daily work and this is God's food. For this he bought us and for this we must live. In a sense God is leading us to join him in truly living on love: his love to us in Christ and our love to him for Christ. Here is a feast of love for every day.
Old Testament saints understood that sacrifice was central to worship and it is wrong to assume that Christian worship is not also sacrificial. Although our Lord Jesus made the one final sacrifice for our sins, never to be repeated, we are to offer what Peter calls 'spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ'. And this can be done only when one's whole attention is focused upon God, 'lost in wonder, love and praise'. Then, in fact, the worshippers receive far more than they can ever give, because the paradoxical fact is that there is no experience more completely blessed than true, spiritual worship. But it is absolutely crucial to keep these matters the right way around. Come to give, not to get. It is the only proper way!
Stuart A. Frayne, What is Worship?
As we come before God, we shouldn't come with empty hands. We should bring him a sacrifice! This does not mean an animal sacrifice, for Christ himself has offered himself as our sacrifice for all time. But the Old Testament principle is still true. We should bring God something. Often people get nothing out of worship because they don't come to give something to God first. The sacrifice we should bring is the sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. And when we bring praise to God we find his presence draws near to us in a special way. Praise him that he is a great God! Praise him that he is King over all gods, the Lord over all the earth! Praise him for what he has made -- the majestic mountains, the deep valleys, the rolling seas! Let's thank, praise and honour him for who he is! This focuses our attention on him and prepares our hearts for worship.
lan Malins, Come Let Us Worship
Break thou the bread of life, Dear Lord, to me, As thou didst break the bread Beside the sea. Beyond the sacred page I seek thee, Lord; My spirit pants for thee, O living word!
Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me, Thy holy word the truth That saveth me. Give me to eat and live With thee above, Teach me to love thy truth For thou art love.
Mary Artemisia Lathbury and Alexander Groves
Soren Kierkegaard... watched his contemporaries in nineteenth century Denmark go to church ritualistically and participate much as they would in a theatre. The worshippers saw themselves as essentially spectators. They understood the clergy and the choir to be the main performers in the service and, if God were present at all in the process, he was a remote prompter, off in the wings somewhere. In this frame of reference, of course, the whole interaction was horizontal. It was people watching other people do certain rituals, with little depth, little awe, little real involvement on the part of the individual worshippers. To this whole way of conceiving worship, Kierkegaard thundered: 'Not so!' A church and a theatre are not similar processes at all. To worship is to do something quite different than going to a concert or a play. For one thing, the worshipper is the prime actor and God is the audience. The role of the clergy and choir is that of prompters, standing alongside the process reminding and suggesting. Worship is not something done by the clergy for the worshippers' perusal, but something worshippers do for God out of their own depths.
John Claypool, Worship as Involvement
To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of humans is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about his love for them, and his service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of himself -- creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like his own, not because he has absorbed them, but because their wills freely conform to his. We want cattle who can finally become food; he wants servants who can finally become his children. We want to suck in, he wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; he is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to him but still distinct.
Screwtape in C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
I'm deathly afraid of personal spiritual deterioration, of having a name that I'm alive when I'm really dead... The present crisis won't be solved by Christians who get their food and weapons secondhand. It will be solved by people who walk with God, who feed on his word, who have strength for the battle, and who know how to use the sword of the Spirit. We need a return to the oldfashioned spiritual disciplines of life.
Warren Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis
We're here to be worshippers first and workers only second. We take a convert and immediately make that new Christian a worker. God never meant it to be so. God meant that a convert should learn to be a worshipper, and after that he or she can learn to be a worker... The work done by a worshipper will have eternity in it.
A.W. Tozer, Great Quotes & Illustrations
I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe to all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to his people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us he waits so long, so very long, in vain.
A.W. Tozer in The Best of A.W. Tozer
Heavenly Father, I rejoice in the immutable, absolute truth of your word. In your grace, keep me from knowing only the letter of truth and sound doctrine. Let it enter my spirit, let it control my mind, let it stabilise and energize my emotions. I will to apply your truth aggressively and to depend upon its power to defeat all of my enemies. Through the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit and in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for hearing this petition. Amen
Mark Bubeck, The Adversary
Grant, almighty God, that as we are inclined not only to superstitions, but also to many vices, we may be restrained by thy word; and as thou art pleased daily to remind us of thy benefits, that thou mayest keep us in the practice of true religion. 0 grant that we may not be led astray by the delusions of Satan and by our own vanity, but continue firm and steady in our obedience to thee, and constantly proceed in the course of true piety, so that we may at length partake of its fruit in thy celestial kingdom, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only begotten Son. Amen.
May the Father show you his mercy by enriching you in the grace which enlightens your eyes to the greater glories of Jesus so that you may be refreshed in the communion of the Father's love and overflow with praise and thanksgiving. May the Spirit of Truth capture your mind and heart with an ever deepening knowledge of the holy.
Chapter four in Rowland Croucher ed., High Mountains Deep Valleys, Albatross/Lion.