Introduction: The Ten Commandments start out with the statement that we must have no other gods before our God. I've generally thought that idol worship (which was a big thing in the Bible), was idiotic. Why would anyone worship something that they made with their own hands? If the practice is idiotic, why is God so concerned about the practice? Why are fake gods addressed in His first commandment? Are the gods of the past nothing, or impostors? If Satan wanted to be like God, is it possible that fallen angels are the false gods of the past? (See Revelation 14:11.) If some false gods are not a piece of wood, but an intelligent being, would they try to keep us from properly worshiping God? Would they try to steal our worship? If so, this would explain why our God puts the issue up front. Let's dive into our Bible to see what it teaches us about true and false worship!
Burning Bush and Worship
Read Exodus 3:1-3. God has Moses attention! Why would God approach Moses in this way? (He wanted Moses thinking this is something he should contemplate.)
Read Exodus 3:4. Would you give the same answer? (Moses is obviously stunned by the voice - of course he was there.)
Read Exodus 3:5-6. Let's examine this a few moments to see what we can learn about worship. Why does God tell Moses to take off his shoes? (God is holy and that makes the ground around Him holy.)
Why must Moses keep his distance? (We can approach on holy ground, but we cannot come too close to a perfect God.)
What is the overall message about worship? (God comes in the miraculous - a burning bush. He makes ordinary places holy. We can only approach Him, we should not get too close.)
Read John 13:3-5. How do you explain going from a God in whose presence you take off your shoes, to a God who washes your feet?
Has the nature of God changed?
Has the nature of worship changed?
Read Hebrews 4:14-16 and Romans 5:10. What do these texts suggest?
Do they diminish the glory of God?
Golden Calf and Worship
Read Exodus 32:1-4. Is it possible for us today to be so stupid and so offensive to God?
What in these verses gives the greatest offense to God? (That God's powerful works get attributed to something made with human hands.)
Do you ever attribute your success to your hard work and skill rather than to the power of God?
Read Exodus 32:17-20. Is this how we can recognize false worship - singing, dancing, and loud music?
Read Exodus 15:20-21. Is this how we can recognize true worship - singing, dancing, and drums?
Read 1 Chronicles 15:27-29. Is this how we can recognize true worship by those who have the heart of God (1 Samuel 13:14) - shouting, loud music, percussion instruments, stringed instruments, and dancing? (2 Samuel 6:14 adds the additional detail that this was no restrained or ceremonial dance. David "danced before the Lord with all his might." This is King David's worship.)
We need to carefully consider the epilogue to King David's exuberant worship dance. Read 2 Samuel 6:20-22. What is the nature of the dispute about David's worship of God?
What is the position of Michal, David's royal wife? (She complains that David is being "vulgar," immodest and undignified. He is acting like the common servant. Note that this is before the ark, the symbol of God's presence.)
What is David's position? (That undignified worship and celebration of God is appropriate. God chose David and he will celebrate his God even if it seems undignified and humiliating.)
Well, friend, does this sound like the current debate over worship? Have you heard that "dancing, loud music, singing, shouting and general confusion" is the mark of idolatrous worship?
Let's read God's answer to this. Read 2 Samuel 6:23. (Michal was barren after she attacked David for undignified worship.)
Have you ever been in a "barren" house of worship?
Have you ever been in a worship service that is dry as dust? Everyone has grey or white hair (like me!), and no one seems to be celebrating, truly celebrating, what God has done for them?
Is the curse of Michal on your house of worship?
People have very strong opinions on this subject. Our opinions need to be based on the Bible - especially where it is very clear. There is a common sense component to this, however. Consider your children. Can they both love and respect you?
How do you want them to greet you? With their heads down and their lips pursed? Or, with smiles of joy and laughter, and obvious excitement?
Satan has seen, and before he rebelled, even been a part of the most glorious worship of God. If Satan wants to be like God, if he wants to be worshiped, what kind of worship would Satan inspire? (It would be logical that if Satan wants to be worshiped like God, he would want to inspire the kind of worship that is given to God. Unless some aspect of pagan worship clearly violates God's law, this suggests that what happened with Aaron's golden calf might look rather like true worship (albeit with the wrong object of worship).)
Modern Gods and Worship
Read Exodus 20:4-6. Do you know a single person who has an idol in his back yard and who goes out to worship it? (I've never seen that, not even once, in my entire life in the United States.)
Did one of Satan's most successful temptations become obsolete? Was it just a passing fad?
What are the elements of idol worship? (An idol is something that humans make. We "bow down" to it and we worship it.)
What does it mean to worship an idol? (We give it our money, our time, our respect and we take its advice.)
When I was reading "American Gods," (a book I do not recommend) one modern god was the Television. Television, to show her importance, said (this is paraphrased from memory) "Families gather around me, they sacrifice their time, they give me their attention, and they obey my words." Wow! That got my attention. Has our idol worship moved from the back yard to the family room?
Read Revelation 5:13-14 and Revelation 19:1-7. Is it your highest desire to join in these words of praise and adoration to God?
Friend, if you want to be part of this group, why not praise God with such intensity now? Why not shout and roar (Revelation 19:1) your praise to God? Why not praise Him like you really mean it, and not like you are getting ready for your Sabbath afternoon nap?
Next week: The Sabbath and Worship.
Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.