WORSHIP IN THE HOUSE
One of the themes that pops out in the lyrics to this week’s anthem is that of the corporate nature of worship: WE are here…WE have gathered…WE celebrate…Let US go into the house of the Lord…
When it comes to worship, we can get a rather individualistic attitude. Each of us have our personal tastes and preferences when it comes to what stirs our hearts toward our God. And we can be a bit persnickety about what we find acceptable, sometimes equating what WE, individually, find acceptable with what God approves of. The various congregations around the city, and around the world, differ as much in worship preference as they do in theology.
While there is much leeway in what constitutes Biblical worship, what is essential is that the true worshipper of God, when free to do so, gathers with others believers in order to express the worth, honor and praise of the Lord. God has not only commanded we do so, but has put something in our hearts that draws us together. That said, however, whatever God ordains, Satan wars against, and he actively stirs up dissention, and uses the tactics of ignorance, pride and distractions to undermine this call to unity. In this anthem we remind ourselves and declare to others the importance of joining our hearts together to worship Him!
Even though the people of Israel were scattered all over the country, God gave them specified times when they were all supposed to gather together. Presence was mandatory, and failure to come meant the absentee was to be cut off from the people. Socially, spiritually, culturally, they became
non-persons—no better than an alien or Gentile. This is how important gathering together is in God’s eyes.
Corporate worship had many benefits:
• Gathering created a sense of community. They weren’t merely from a certain family, or town, or tribe—coming together declared that they were a people, a nation—together they were the children of God.
For us, gathering together reminds us that we are more than just an individual saved by God, we are part of the Body under the headship of Christ; we are part of the building where He is the Foundation; we are part of the Bride, the beloved one of the Bridegroom.
• Coming together reminded Israel of the true way of following Yahweh, just as He had prescribed.
Off in their own isolated parts of the country it was easy to begin to conform to the practices of the pagans around them, or to add their own ideas to the practices that God had said were His way of acceptable worship. We read about the “high places” Israelites would use, and how the Kings who sought to bring reformation would tear these down. Also, when the northern kingdom split away from Judah, the fact that they no longer returned to Jerusalem led them into idolatry and away from God.
Even today, when people get out of the habit of joining with others for worship and teaching, they have a tendency to fall into error, either drifting away from truth, or becoming deceived by a false teacher.
• Gathering in Jerusalem took effort. For some, there was more effort than for others, as the distances they had to travel varied. Coming together demonstrated that God meant something to them. He was some One worth sacrificing for. This effort acknowledged His provision, protection, and efforts on their behalves. It was a reminder to them that they belonged to God.
We don’t have to make the long trek to Jerusalem, yet how easy is it for so many people to stay in bed on a Sunday morning? Why is it that Almighty, Creator God doesn’t often to make it to the top of people’s priority lists? When we gather, we are saying that He IS, indeed, worth our effort!
• Gathering was the opportunity to bring an offering, a sacrifice. It acknowledged both corporate sin and individual sin. When the worshiper laid his hand on the head of the sacrifice and acknowledged, in front of those around them, that they were in need of forgiveness and atonement, it was humbling. It showed everyone there that they all stood together in need of the grace and mercy of God.
When we come together to worship, we are demonstrating that we are presenting our bodies, ourselves, as an act of worship. We come to identify with the sacrifice of Jesus for our sin, and to acknowledge that we are SO in need of that sacrifice because of our sin—all of us, together.
As we sing this anthem, let’s make an effort not only to declare, but make an effort to unite our hearts, in the spirit of these lyrics, to worship together.
As we gather together, as the Body of Christ, to worship Him, let us do so with a true sense of the corporate nature of this act. Let us cultivate an awareness of our union in Him as we gather to Worship in the House of the Lord.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries