For over 20 years I’ve been leading people in worship — trying to help them engage with God — and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been going about it the right way.
Ok, it may not be as dire as that, but I’ve been re-reading a few passages that have made me wonder if we are going down the right path with the way we worship God.
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.
1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.
When I read these passages, it seems clear that God is not interested in our ritual worship. He doesn’t care about an obligation we have to show up on Sunday and sing a 20-minute set list. He is after more than giving you goosebumps. It is apparent, from these passages, that merely singing songs is superficial to God.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe God loves to hear us sing to Him. I know He loves to hear a song sung from the deepest parts of our soul. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” However, it would would seem that if we are not showing love, seeking to know Him, doing what is right and just, obeying Him — if we are not repentant, and if we oppress the poor, then our worship falls short.
I believe The Church has focused too much on the “singing” side of worshipping God — our sacrifice — and has forgotten these timeless and crucial passages on what other kinds of worship also truly honor Him. Showing love to the unlovable. Remembering those the world has forgotten. Being compassionate. Upholding justice for the weak. Obeying God when you don’t understand. Humility. Repentance. These things make our sacrifice presentable to Him.
In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus himself said, “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” When we add Jesus’ words to the passages above, we can begin to see that if our sacrifice is without love, forgiveness, consideration of the poor, repentance, etc. then it lacks a certain genuineness.
In seeking an “experience” with God, we have overlooked what the Bible says is worship. We have had a singular, or narrow, approach to worship. If we approach our worship of God holistically, I believe we will truly begin to experience God in the way He intended. Wow…what would that be like!
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