There is doubtless unanimous agreement among believers in the Christian Church about the importance of assembling together to worship our Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The services of devotion with fervent prayers, songs of thanksgiving and praises, as well as hearing the Word of God taught to us seem to permeate the very core of our being.
The Holy Spirit bearing witness with our 'spirit' confirms and authenticates our spiritual adoption as children of God, but does even this heavenly gift substitute for our giving to God in everything we do the kind of worship that He regards as pleasing to Him? It isn't enough just to be religious and sincere but the bigger question is whether the sacrifice that is being offered to the Creator is of "Faith." Some examples and additional commentary in the following are offered for consideration.
Genesis 4: 3-5a
And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. And Abel also brought the firstborn of the flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected (accepted) Abel and his offering, but He did not respect (accept) Cain and his offering.
NOTE: Many Sunday school teachers, preachers, Bible scholars or theologians have tried to explain why God accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's. Some have surmised that it was because of the type of offering that the LORD rejected, and while that might be partly true, but the narrative in GENESIS does not say; so what was the reason? There are 3 references that might give a clue, which are found in Hebrews 11: 4; Jude 11; I John 3: 12. In a nutshell then, it wasn't the type of offering that God rejected so much as it was Cain's character; which is borne out not only in I John 3: 2 but way back in Genesis 4: 7, where the LORD says, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should [must??] rule over it." This is all the more interesting because the LORD does not mention anything about 'sin' pertaining to Adam and Eve's conduct.
The Old Testament is replete with examples of individuals as well as the Children of Israel offering sacrifices to the LORD God as a sweet aroma, starting as far back as Noah in Genesis 8: 20-21a, but are there instances where God rejected this or any other display of worship, too? Well, one person comes to mind is Saul, the first King of Israel as someone who bears looking at for a starting point. Besides details of the beginning incident which ultimately leads to his down fall in I Samuel 13: 1, 8-14a, King Saul takes it upon himself to build an altar to the LORD in I Samuel 14: 35; this is even after the prophet Samuel told him that God has rejected him being King. The point to notice is this, first, continuing in verse 37, where it says, "So Saul asked counsel of God. . . But He (God) did not answer him that day." In I Samuel 28: 6, again it reads, "And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by the Urim or by the prophets. So, what does this have to do with someone worshipping God and being heard by Him, everything!
Isaiah 59: 1-2
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened that it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear you.
NOTE: Although sin is readily obvious as well as the usual rendering of iniquity as wickedness, but according to WEBSTER'S Dictionary, "Iniquity" has another meaning: 1 fr. iniquus uneven, [like the balances of a scale]. I: gross injustice.
John 9: 31
Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshipper of Him and does His will, He hears him.
NOTE: This Scripture really gets to the heart of the matter because it not only mentions the all-important 'worship,' but includes the person performing God's will. Let's just see how this works in reality.
Matthew 15: 8-9
These people draw near to Me with their (1) mouth, And honor Me with their (2) lips, But their (3) heart is far from Me. And in vain do they worship Me, Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Cp. Isaiah 29: 13).
NOTE: In Matthew 22: 34-38, the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the great commandment in the Law ["Torah"], and the first aspect within man was to love God with one's heart; now why mention this area first? Why is the "Heart" important? According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, The heart is the "home of the personal life," and hence a man is designated, according to his heart. The heart is the centre not only of spiritual activity, but of all the operations of human life. Hardness of heart evidences itself by light views of sin; partial acknowledgment and confession of it; pride and conceit; ingratitude; unconcern about the word and ordinances of God; inattention to divine providences; stifling convictions of conscience; shunning reproof; presumption, and general ignorance of divine things.
There are numerous passages in the Bible that mentions God trying or searching the 'heart" (Cp. II Chronicles 28: 9b; I Samuel 16: 7b; I Kings 8: 39b; Jeremiah 17: 10a; 20: 12a; Revelation 2: 23), and Jeremiah 17: 9 states, "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can 'know' it?" The thing is, a person can be deceived, fooled or self-deluded and not even 'know' it. As a result, perhaps the psalmist had this thought in mind in Psalms 78: 36-37, which reads: Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth, And they lied to Him with their tongue [perhaps thinking they were doing the 'truth'??]; For their "heart" was not steadfast with Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
Are there examples where God was not pleased and rejected the sacrifices of worshippers who offered these things up to Him; As former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin would say, you betcha!
Isaiah 1: 13-15
Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies- I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of hearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. . .
Ezekiel 20: 39
"As for you, O house of Israel, "Thus says the LORD GOD: "Go, serve every one of your idols- and hereafter- if you will not obey Me; but profane My holy name [and assembly??] no more with your gifts and your idols."
Profane 1: to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence [treat lightly or set aside the seriousness of], disrespect or contempt.
NOTE: Basically, what God is saying to the Children of Israel in contemporary modern vernacular, "Don't waste My time, as well as yours with faking it or pretentiousness!"
There are those in the body of Christ who habitually come late to the appointed place and time set aside to honor the King of the Universe; they start visiting and socializing with friends and acquaintances during this sacred time; they become distracted and loose their focus and concentration [daydreaming; "spiritually gone fishing"], still others are pacing back and forth [presumably taking bathroom breaks], or some parents are publicly trying to discipline unruly children, not to mention interruptions of another sort, even some shenanigans from the pulpit, too. It is almost as though some Christians subconsciously think they are doing God a favor by just showing up. The saints need to be reminded of Matthew 18: 20, where Jesus says, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I AM there in the midst of them." In the book of REVELATION, the Lord Jesus Christ says to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (Turkey), "I Know Your Works" (Cp. 2: 2 3: 15); which includes individuals as well as the collective assembly.
Also, there is the very good passage that seems to mirror the current attitudes among some of the believers today in Ezekiel 33: 30-32, which reads: "As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the door of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, 'Please come and hear what the Word is that comes from the LORD.' "So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their 'hearts' pursue their own gain. 'Indeed you are to them a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument, for they hear your words but do not do them.
Additionally, when was the last time anyone made a connection between contrition, repentance and restoration; leading sinners to the Lord as in Psalms 51: 10-13?
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to you.
Matthew 7: 21
"Not everyone who says to Me,' Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
John 14: 15
"If you love Me, keep My commandments."
John 15: 10, 14
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."
Lastly, to sum it all:
II Corinthians 13: 5a
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the 'Faith.' Test yourselves.
Hebrews 13: 15-16
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with sacrifices God is well pleased.
I Peter 2: 5
You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5: 1-2
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.
Romans 12: 1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is your reasonable ['spiritual'??] service.
Of course, the opposite of this is found in the following:
Titus 1: 16
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being reprobates, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Matthew 7: 19-20, 22-23
"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire; Therefore by their fruits you will know them." "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, cast out demons in Your Name, and done many wonders in Your Name?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness ["iniquity"]!'
NOTE: In conclusion, it behooves every believer to be like it says in Psalms 26: 1-2:
Vindicate me, O LORD, For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the LORD, I shall not slip [sin or be in error??]. Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.
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