Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
Worship offered to God is an immensely important responsibility/privilege. Sometimes we might erroneously think that worshiping God is THE most important thing that we can do. The Bible clearly teaches that there are things more important than this august activity. Today's devotion will deal with a few of the things that are of greater importance/priority than worshiping God.
To illustrate that there is at least one thing that falls into category, I will cite the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5.23-24). It is apparent that the bringing of one's gift to the altar is a planned act of worship. Yet, Jesus placed this act of worship in its proper perspective when He stated that, at least on some occasions, there is something that ought to be done first (before worship). In this particular example, He charged the would-be worshiper to correct matters that were amiss between him and his brother BEFORE executing his planned period of worship.
Isaiah noted the same principle when he penned his book. Note the following extract from the first chapter of his book: “Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: 'To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?' Says the LORD. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? 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 bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil.'” (Isaiah 1.10-16). The Sodom and Gomorrah in this text is a figure of speech which actually alludes to Jerusalem. Isaiah referred to them in this way due to the extreme evil that typified the nation of Israel at the time. In this case, God was actually disgusted with acts of worship because they were being offered by hands that were stained with blood. Their FIRST obligation was to act in manner consistent with holiness, not to worship!
Samuel presented this same principle to Saul, first king of Israel. Saul was told to utterly destroy the Amalekites (man and beast), but he only selectively destroyed them. In spite of this outright disobedience, Saul claimed to have obeyed the voice of God. Samuel heard the sounds of the plundered animals that were taken from the battle and knew that God's word had not been followed. When Samuel challenged Saul, he gave the excuse that he had saved the animals so there could be a huge sacrifice in which the animals would be offered in worship to God. To this Samuel responded, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Samuel 15.22-23).
The condition of one's heart is a priority in matters of worship. In fact, it is the greatest priority!
1. Is worship important? Is anything more important that participating in worship to God?
2. Why did Saul say that he had saved some of the select animals of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15.15)?
3. What did Samuel call Saul's almost obedience? What was Saul's penalty for his disobedience?
4. Can you make some practical applications of these principles? What, if anything, is more important than “going to church”?
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