I have been doing a study on worship for past couple of weeks, and I am just about to the end of it. Through the study, I've looked at eight verses that use the word "worship" itself, and studied the context of each one. It's been an eye-opening study to say the least.
The first verse I looked at, and the one that's impacted me most, is:
"...for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God..." Exodus 34:14
Some context...This command is being given as the Lord replaces the commandment tablets He had given Moses before on Mount Sinai. They were shattered in chapter 32 when Moses walked down from the burning bush and saw that the people had made a golden calf to worship while he was with God on the mount.
As the Lord makes the new covenant with Moses through these commandments in chapter 34, He explains that He will perform miracles never before seen (v10). But, He also tells Moses not to allow the people to make covenants with the inhabitants of the land where they are going (v12). In verse 13, He goes further with this part of the command and tells Moses to tear down their altars "...for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God...". Without doing so, they would be tempted, just as before, to take up the worship of the gods of the inhabitants.
I found that command from God interesting - to "tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim (v13)".
God means business here. His priority is His people, and He knows that if they are left in the midst of a culture that opposes Him, their hearts will sway away from Him.
So what do I get from this that made it such an eye-opening verse to study? Well, a few things:
First, worship sounds like a little more than we may have thought. When we talk about worship, we are typically referring to the time spent praising God through singing and music. But God's not just talking about worship in the context of singing praise here; this is about the hearts of His people.
Second, we need to avoid surrounding ourselves with things that are not aligned with God. There is a better chance we will end up being more influenced by them than they are by us because our flesh is weak.
And the point that's impacted my heart the most is this one:
Before God (re)commanded Israel to worship Him alone, He commanded Moses to tear down the altars of the inhabitants. Why? We are to remove all things that stand in the way of living in worship to the Lord.
For me, this has meant changing some of the music I listen to, removing myself from conversations that lead my heart to being critical, and allowing no excuses for not spending quality time with the Lord before I start my day - which sometimes means removing myself from plans that keep me out late at night.
This isn't about legalism and following rules to make God happy with us. It's simply about guarding our hearts.
I encourage you to find a moment this weekend to look at your life, and honestly determine if there is anything standing in the way of living in worship to the Lord.
A heart that worships the Lord is a heart that's free. Let's live in that freedom.