Lesson – 9 “Trust Not in Deceptive Words”: The Prophets and Worship

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Read for your study: Isa. 1:11–15, 6:1–8, Isaiah 44, 58:1–10, Jer. 7:1–10, Mic. 6:1–8.

Memory Text: ‘Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let him foretell what will come’ (Isaiah 44:7, NIV).

Introduction:

God has always warned His people about their unfaithfulness to Him through His major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Isaiah prophesied to the nation of Judah in the eighth century before Christ. Jeremiah prophesied to Judah during the time its people were being carried into the Babylonian Captivity. Ezekiel was taken into Babylon with the second group of captives. He was called by God to prophesy to the captives in Babylon. Daniel was in the first group who were taken captive. He served God as a prophet in the courts of the king of Babylon.

Isaiah foretold the coming of the Babylonian Captivity (Isaiah 39). Jeremiah preached to the people of God and told them to accept the period of captivity as just punishment from God for their sins (Jeremiah 25). Ezekiel spoke of the return from Babylon (Ezekiel 20:39-44). Daniel foretold what would happen to the Jews after the time of the Babylonian Captivity (Daniel 8-11).

Yet the children of Israel never learnt their lesson in spite of being in the captivity. From the time He brought them out of Egyptian captivity till they went into the Babylonian captivity and even when they were out of Babylon they still didn’t get it. They kept going back into idolatry, worshiping other gods. They had forgotten that:

  • They needed to understand the reason for the captivity.
  • They needed to turn from the worship of idols and return to worshiping God.
  • They also needed to correct the mistaken idea that they would speedily return to their homeland. But before they could return to their homeland, they had to first return to God!

Still God kept working with His people.

Question: Why do you think God continues working with His people after hundreds of years?

Isaiah 48:9-11 gives us the explanation. The lord tells through Isaiah, “For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

This week’s lesson is not just about worship but what happens outside of worship. It is about daily living, our day to day life. Does God care about what we do during the rest of the week? Let us dive into our study and learn more about worshiping God!

A Thousand Rams?

The separation that sin has caused between God and man can never be removed by our own efforts. The sinner can never receive salvation on his own merits. It is by God’s grace that we are saved.

Salvation comes as a gift from God based on our faith in Jesus Christ for we read in Acts 4:12 that ‘there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved.’

If we think our good works can atone for our sins and that we can receive salvation by our good works then there was no need for Jesus to die on the Cross. The Scriptures clearly says in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

Ellen White counsels us that “From age to age these counsels were repeated by the servants of Jehovah to those who were in danger of falling into habits of formalism, and of forgetting to show mercy. (RH, April 1, 1915 par. 16).

Several previous lessons have suggested that the true worship of God means that we recognize God for who He is and respect and reverence Him for that reason.

Question: Could we do that on the weekends in church and still do all sorts of terrible things during the week?

We are to fear God and show mercy for He spoke through Hosea, “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice…

 The Call of Isaiah

The people of Judah seemed to be prospering spiritually under the reign of several good kings. The temple services were well-attended by all with enthusiasm. But God calls Isaiah at this very time.

Question: Why do you think God calls Isaiah for His special work? What was that special work which God wanted him to do?

Though the people of Judah were attending the temple on Sabbath and prospering spiritually, yet the Israelites were then going to the fertility cult religious sites the rest of the week. It was this evil act of Israel that called Isaiah on the scene with a special message from God.

Isaiah lived 150 years before Jeremiah. He was born into an aristocratic family who advised the King. Isaiah receives his prophetic call in a vision during Temple worship. As an observer, Isaiah does not see God directly, only the train of his garment (i.e, his glory).

In the presence of God, Isaiah was anxious for his life because, in the face of such divine power, he could die. He was one of a sinful people who spoke with “unclean lips” (i.e., those who said one thing and did another). But his “sin” is removed by the touch of a burning coal to his lips; now Isaiah would only speak the truth and be single hearted. With this sin removed he could speak in the holy court. (Verses 6-7).

God calls out for a prophet. Here, Isaiah’s anxiousness turns to willingness. The “clean” Isaiah becomes God’s prophet. (8)

Question: What would you do if God the Father suddenly showed up in your Sabbath school class? Would you respond as Isaiah did?

When Isaiah saw God, he thought of two things:

  1. The Holiness of God.
  2.  His own sinfulness and unworthiness.

Question: How do you think you would respond if God appeared to you? How did Adam and Eve respond when God appeared to them and walked and talked with them in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden? How did Abraham respond when those three strangers walked down the dusty road to his home? (Genesis 18:1-5; Hebrews 13:2)

Isaiah was a witness to God’s power, first as an observer, then as a prophet. We are called to be God’s witnesses, by what we see in our world and by what we do in our world. Seeing God’s power requires prayer; doing God’s will requires honesty, purpose and faith.

Note: Think for a moment what our worship services would be like if the worshipers sense that they have been in the presence of our Holy God, which in turn makes them deeply aware of their own sinfulness and need of His saving grace and cleansing power. Imagine the worship experience if the singing, the liturgy, the prayer, and the preaching worked together in a way to lead us each time to faith, to repentance, to cleansing, and to a willingness to cry out, “Here I am; send me.”

No More Vain Oblations

The writing of the Old Testament, especially the writings of the prophets, was written as admonitions and warnings to God’s promised people, to the ones who were His “true church.” Most of these people had a basic understanding of biblical truths, knew the right things to say and do in worship and professed to follow the true God. Yet, they forgot the purpose of these writings and were nowhere close to it. It became a vain oblation to God, a mere outward show of worship.

So, God tells them in Isaiah 1:11–15 that your offerings and sacrifices have no meaning. He tells them to ‘stop bringing meaningless offerings for they have become burden to me.’

Question: Why had their offerings and sacrifices become meaningless to God?

They had become meaningless because they did not do the right things in His sight. They did not worship Him whole heartedly.

Isa. 1:16–18 gives the answer saying, “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Then after that the Lord says, ‘come let us reason together…

Question: What does this passage mean?

God wants His people to be not only listeners of the word but also doers of the word. They must be practicing people. ‘Let every member of the church closely examine his heart and investigate his course of action, to see if these are in harmony with the Spirit and work of Jesus’ says, Ellen White (RH August 4, 1891, par. 5).

Question: What would happen to us as individuals if we truly were being changed each day to become more like Jesus?

There would be a revival in every heart, and in every church member a spirit of faithfulness will awaken.

‘Every man’s work passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Opposite each name in the books of heaven is entered with terrible exactness every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel.—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 482.

 The word of God recorded in Jeremiah 7:1–10 tells that false religion is worthless and trusting to deceptive words is worthless. This will take us away from God and the true worship and we will also lose sight of the true character of God.

Ellen White echoes this thought saying, “In losing sight of the true character of Jehovah, the Israelites were without excuse. Often had God revealed Himself to them as one ‘full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.’ Psalm 86:15.”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 311, 312.

Thought Questions: What is our Christian experience with the Lord, with other believers and non- believers. What are the main things that hinder us or prevent us from living the kind of Christian lives we know we should? How many times during each day do we say or do things that are slightly dishonest?

In Isaiah’s day, they were worshiping man-made idols. Do we ever turn even good things into idols in our day?

If we are worshiping in a new church for which we have put forth considerable effort and expense to construct, do we take pride in it even suggesting that God should reward us for what we have done?

Let us take pride to worship the Lord each Sabbath, making our worship experience more meaningful and blessed!

God Bless You!!!

 

Lesson – 4 Rejoicing before the Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship

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Read for your Study: Exod. 25:1–22; 29:38, 39; Exodus 35; Deut. 12:5–7, 12, 18; 16:13–16.

Memory Text: “And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you” (Deuteronomy 12:12).

Introduction: Joy and gladness are not only deep inward feelings, but they are also expressed in visible celebration when God’s people gather together. Speaking of the future church, Isaiah 60:15 says, “Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations.” Apostle Paul advises us to “rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

God desires us to rejoice, but He wants us to rejoice with purpose. And what great purpose can be there for rejoicing than before the Lord during worship! The Psalmist declared, “I was glad when they said, let us go to the house of the Lord.” Yes, David was glad to go to the ‘house’ of the Lord to praise and worship Him. He did that because he had a close and true relationship with the Lord. Worship comes from the heart and so it was for David. And for Israel, the centre of worship was the ancient Israelite sanctuary service. Let us dive into our study to learn the deeper worship experience!

“That I May Dwell Among Them”

In Exodus 25 Moses is shown the plan for the Tabernacle or Sanctuary. Why? So that God may ‘dwell among them’ Exodus 25:8 ‘And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.’ This plan was a pattern of the heavenly Sanctuary or Tabernacle, designed to reveal that Jesus Christ is our High Priest, our mediator, in the plan of salvation, Exodus 25:9 ‘According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.’

The God who delivered Israel was going to dwell among them and live in a dwelling that would be the center of all Israelite worship. It was not to be an ordinary place but to be a place worthy of His presence.

Willing Hearts

 I love the joke: Why did it take 10 boy scouts to help the little old lady across the street? You know: She didn’t want to go. The joke may make us grin – but it reminds us that people can be made to do the things even they’re not willing. So, what is a willing heart?

In Exodus 25: 2 and Exodus 35: 5, 21 it says, God said, “whoever is of a willing heart” and everyone “whose heart was stirred” responded.

A willing heart is a heart that is inclined to draw close to the Lord and submit to Him.

In Ruth 2:12 we have a story of a woman who approached God with a willing heart. She took the counsel of Naomi and stepped ahead in faith, and then left the results of her life in hands of a Sovereign God.

God instructed Moses to take an offering for the Lord, from all those who are giving with a ‘willing heart.’ This meant that God did not force anyone to come to Him nor offer anything forcefully. Their willingness to give revealed a sense of thanksgiving and gratefulness, says the author. They willingly gave material gifts, their time, their talents, and the work of their creative abilities: “All the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom . . .” (Exod. 35:26,); “everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work” (Exod. 36:2, NKJV).

 The Continual Burnt Offering-

The Sanctuary service provided an illustration of the way the sinner was to repent and atone for his sins. To bring to the sinner the consequences of his sin, the sinner placed his hands on the head of the animal and confessed his sins to God. He was then required to slay the sacrificial animal by his own hand, as an offering for his sin, and collect the blood of the animal. This emphasized to the sinner that his transgression of the law of God was no small matter, and that death was the inevitable result. The animal that was sacrificed (usually a lamb) was symbolic for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, offered as a sacrifice in our place, so that we as sinners do not have to die for our sins.

As we read Exodus 25:1-9, we find that everything was spelled out in details. Every step of the sacrificial system and the worship was repeated – sometimes twice a day.

Question:  Does that repetition seem like ritual? Do you think that is what God intends for us? What does “rejoicing before the Lord” sound like to you?

 The daily offering of lambs, the “continual burnt offering” (vs. 42), was to teach the people their constant need of God and their dependence on Him for forgiveness and acceptance. The fire on the altar was to be kept burning day and night (Lev. 6:8–13). This fire could serve as a perpetual reminder of their need of a Savior. This was the main reason of these daily prayers and offerings that it would be a constant reminder of God’s presence to His people.

Ellen White echoes a similar thought saying, “We all need to keep the subject of the sanctuary in mind. God forbid that the clatter of words coming from human lips should lessen the belief of our people in the truth that there is a sanctuary in heaven, and that a pattern of this sanctuary was once built on this earth. God desires His people to become familiar with this pattern, keeping ever before their minds the heavenly sanctuary, where God is all and in all. We must keep our minds braced by prayer and a study of God’s Word, that we may grasp these truths.”-E. G. White Letter 233, 1904.

Further she writes, “God never intended the daily offering of a lamb to be simply a ritual or routine act. It was to be a time of “intense interest to the worshipers,” a time of preparation for worship, in silent prayer and “with earnest heart searching and confession of sin.” Their faith was to grasp the promises of a Savior to come, the true Lamb of God who would spill His blood for the sins of the whole world (see Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 353).

Paul also emphasized that true worship must always flow from a forgiven, cleansed, and sanctified heart that delights (rejoices) in obeying the One who has made it all possible. “Therefore, I urge you brethren . . . to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1, NASB).

Paul is talking about the attitude of worship and not merely a ritual.

 Communion with God

 Immediately after crossing the Red Sea and rejoicing over their escape from Egyptian bondage, God began to speak to them about the construction of a sanctuary. (Exodus 15:17) God told them that He wanted to dwell among them.

The Hebrew word suggests that God wanted to sit down and dwell among them to commune with them. “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel” (Exod. 25:22).

 Question: What was God trying to gain by doing this?

 By doing this, God promised the people not just His presence but even promised to communicate with His people, to talk to them, to guide them in the ways that they should go.

The word tabernacle seems to have an almost sacred meaning. It is an Old English word translated from the Hebrew mishkan which means simply “a dwelling place.” Our word tabernacle is derived from the Latin tabernaculum which literally means a tent.

A tent was necessary as God’s dwelling place during the exodus because it had to be moved all the time. During the wilderness wanderings, the tent-sanctuary was always set up in the middle of the camp. It was supposed to be the center of all of their activities. But, they continued to use that tent for hundreds of years after they were safely in the land of Canaan.

Rejoicing Before the Lord

When the building of the tabernacle was completed, Moses examined the work of all the builders, according to the directions God had given him, and so they had done it. And Moses blessed them. The people had gathered around the Sanctuary to look upon this great tent of the Lord. As they were contemplating, the pillar of cloud came upon the sanctuary and surrounded it. “And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” “There were no loud demonstrations of rejoicing. A solemn awe rested upon all. But the gladness of their hearts welled up in tears of joy, and they murmured low, earnest words of gratitude that God had condescended to abide with them. Ellen White ‘Christ in His Sanctuary’ p. 13.

 Thus began Israelites’ experience of worship. At the same time, we must not come away with the idea that Israelite worship was cold, sterile, and formal, says the author. The Lord had set very strict guidelines on what was to be done, but these guidelines were not ends in themselves. Rather, they were means to an end, and the end was that His people would be a holy, joyful, and faithful covenant nation that would teach the world about the true God (Exod. 19:6, Deut. 4:5–7, Zech. 8:23).

 Question: What lesson do we learn from the Israelites worship experience and the Sanctuary services?

  • The sanctuary was to be a place of meeting between God and the children of Israel. And so is the church for us today.
  • The main message of the sacrificial system was to teach them that sin is very serious and leads to death. It requires sacrifice and that the ultimate sacrifice was the sacrifice of Christ. He suffered and died, but then He rose again!
  • We can also learn from the sanctuary model, is that all true worship, which should lead to rejoicing, must do so in the context of biblical truth.
  • God gave the Israelites very clear, strict, and formal instructions regarding the construction of the sanctuary and its ministry and services, all of which were meant to teach them the truths of Salvation, Redemption, mediation, and judgment. And yet, at the same time, they were to rejoice before the Lord in their worship. This theme appears over and over again. It should be clear, then, that one can be very strong in biblical teaching and at the same time have a joyous worship experience. After all, if the truths of Salvation, Redemption, mediation, and judgment are not worth rejoicing over, what is?

May our worship experience be of rejoicing before the Lord for He dwells within our hearts!

 God Bless You!!!

Lesson – 5 Happy are you, O Israel!

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Read for your study: Leviticus 9; 10:1–11; Deut. 33:26–29; 1 Samuel 1; 15:22, 23; Rev. 20:9.

Memory Text: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21, NKJV).

Introduction: A research was conducted at the Gallup World Poll between 2005 and 2009 in about 155 countries to find out the “happiness” levels in each country. They asked people to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives. Do they feel that they are free? Are they making a living? Do they feel intellectually engaged? Are they relatively free of pain or suffering? Do they feel that they are respected by others?

The top five countries on the happiness scale, who say they are thriving are Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. These are prosperous countries, not involved in wars, (except for the recent tragedy killings in Norway) out of the center of the world’s problems. Costa Rica and New Zealand come next. In eighth place, there is a tie among four countries: Canada, Australia, Switzerland–and ISRAEL.

Yes, Israel. This small country, surrounded and threatened constantly by enemies, terrorism and war, subject to an Arab economic boycott, often maligned by the media, torn within by ethnic and religious strife, is among the world’s happiest countries!

To look at the overall view, the United States is ranked 14; France is 44; Saudi Arabia is 58; Russia is 73; Japan is 81; China is 125.

62% of Israeli described themselves as thriving; 35% as struggling; and 3% as suffering. With these figures, Israel is tied for eighth place among the 155 nations surveyed.

Question: In spite of its many problems, why is Israel so happy?  Why is it among the happiest, most thriving, and most creative countries of the world?

Responding to these questions, Rabbi Marc D. Angel writes, “I believe the answer is: the grand human spirit of the people of Israel. Israelis–in spite of many differences among themselves–recognize that they are part of an incredible, dynamic adventure. Israel is the only example in the history of humanity of an ancient nation exiled from its land, forced to live (often under horrific conditions) as a minority group scattered throughout the world–who after nearly 2000 years returned to its ancestral land, revived its ancient language, and re-established its historic culture.  Israelis–and all members of the Jewish people–understand that we are living in a unique period of history.  Israelis are happy not only because they are thriving intellectually, culturally, scientifically, militarily; but because they understand that their lives mean something, that they are pioneers in restoring the honor and strength of the Jewish people after centuries of powerlessness and disgrace.

Responding further he says, “Happiness doesn’t mean having no troubles and no problems. Happiness means believing that life has meaning and direction, that one’s life counts that one is building for the future.

The Jewish people, throughout the ages, have demonstrated an astounding optimism, an unflinching, unwavering faith in the future. In spite of all the difficulties we have faced, we have never given up on our mission to be a light unto the nations.

The Talmud (Berakhot 4b) quotes the opinion of Rabbi Yohanan who taught:  who has a place in the world to come? One who recites the “geulah” (prayer for redemption) connected to the Amidah prayer of the evening service.

Rabbi Marc says that this passage can be understood as follows: Who is the one who will have ultimate redemption? It is one who can dream of redemption even at “night”, even at times when everything seems dark and bleak.  This is the eternal genius of the Jewish people–to dream of and work for redemption–regardless of how difficult the external circumstances appear.  How does the church dream of the work of redemption?

As we dive into our lesson study, let us rejoice with Israel as one of the happiest, most creative, most advanced countries of the world. Let us pray for true peace and redemption–happiness for all Israel and for all humanity!

The Dedication This lesson is about consecration, worship, obedience, and God’s show down with fire coming down from heaven. The last portion of the book of Exodus tells us about the construction of the tent-sanctuary in the desert and God’s presence experienced, in the cloud of God’s glory that filled the recently completed tent sanctuary which not even Moses could enter. (Exodus 40:34, 35)

When one week of consecration had passed, on the eighth day the priests entered into their sacred ministry in the sanctuary to begin their solemn work of sacred ministry, a work that pointed to the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (Leviticus 9).  Moses was given specific laws about offerings and sacrifices.

Question: As we read Leviticus 9 what elements appear here that teach us about worship?

After having completed the required sacrifices for the dedication of the Sanctuary and the priests Aaron, being instructed by Moses, lifted up his hands; and Moses and Aaron entered the tent-sanctuary. We are not sure exactly what happened inside.  It is likely that Moses was instructing Aaron–based on his conversations with God–about the use of each of the individual pieces of furniture inside.

But, when they returned to the outside, “Fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”  The coming down of the fire meant that the sacrifice offered has been accepted by the Lord. This was a very impressive time.

Question: What are we supposed to learn about God from those experiences?

When the people “fell on their faces,” it was an expression of intense reverence, awe, and obedience for every detail of God’s commands were followed, and the Lord showed His acceptance of what they had done. It was an expression of intense worship and humility before the Lord.

Question: What is our experience when we worship the Lord?

Worship involves respect and reverence for something that we value or consider to be of very great worth. But, as we know, people have worshiped almost every imaginable thing down through the generations. Isaiah 5:20,21 suggest that the time came when they called evil good and called good evil!

Question: How do you think that happened? Other than the obvious involvement of Satan, what factors led them to do that?

The Scriptures describe two kinds of worships in general. There is self-centered worship, otherwise known as pure selfishness; and there is God-centered worship, otherwise known as love. In other words, there is our way, and there is God’s way. And we have learnt about that in Cain and Abel’s worship experience.

 

Fire From Before the Lord

Fires are scary, especially when they are unexpected and uncontrolled. But, some uses of fire remind us of God. The Israelites were acquainted with the fire of God’s presence. This was the Holy Fire. In Leviticus 10 we see that Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, do something that was not commanded by the Lord and the fire of blessing was turned into a fire of punishment.

Leviticus 10:9 suggests that the problem may have had something to do with alcohol. Ellen G. White stated that those two young men had become almost drunk, had lost their clear thinking, and entered the tent-sanctuary with “common fire” rather than the fire sent from heaven that God had specified to be used. They also used incense which was not of the type which God had specified. (Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene 18.2; Historical Sketches of the Seventh day Adventist Church 208.1; 1 Spirit of Prophecy 277.1; 4a Spiritual Gifts 11.3; Review and Herald, July 29, 1873, par. 5; Youth’s Instructor, June 4, 1903 par. 4)

 

Further she writes, “Assisted by his sons, Aaron offered the sacrifices that God required, and he lifted up his hands and blessed the people. All had been done as God commanded, and He accepted the sacrifice, and revealed His glory in a remarkable manner; fire came from the Lord and consumed the offering upon the altar. The people looked upon this wonderful manifestation of divine power with awe and intense interest. They saw in it a token of God’s glory and favor, and they raised a universal shout of praise and adoration and fell on their faces as if in the immediate presence of Jehovah.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 359.

But, Nadab and Abihu forfeited all of that by behavior which was typified by this episode of disregarding God’s direct instructions.

When Moses and Aaron carefully fulfilled God’s directions to the letter, God was pleased; fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering. (Leviticus 9:22-24) When Aaron’s sons misbehaved and misrepresented God and entered the tent with strange incense and common fire in their censors, fire came down from God and consumed them!

 

Question: How many times did God send fire directly out of heaven to this earth?

  1. Fire came down on the top of Mount Sinai before the giving of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19)
  2. Fire came down from heaven to consume the burnt offering; (Leviticus 9:24) and a short time later, fire came down to burn up Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10:2)
  3. Fire came down from heaven on the top of Mount Carmel in response to Elijah’s prayer before all the children of Israel. That fire consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the water, and left a black hole in the earth! (1 Kings 18:38)
  4. When King Ahaziah of Israel sent troops to get Elijah, fire came down from heaven and consumed the troops–twice! (2 Kings 1:10,12)
  5. Fire will come down from heaven to consume the wicked as described in Revelation 20:9 contrast Revelation 13:13.

 

Question: How does this fit with Isaiah 66:22-24 which says that the fire will be consuming dead bodies?

Ellen White describes that fire at the end of time as a fire that cleanses the earth. [Compare

Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 217, 218 (1858); Early Writings 294,295 (revised 1882); Spirit of

Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 47-49 (1884) and Great Controversy 672, 673 (1888)]

Question: What do we learn from these passages? Is God testing us to see if we will do things His way instead of our own way?

 

Happy Are You, O Israel Turning to the story of Moses recorded in Numbers 20: 1-12, was it Moses’ anger or rebellion that kept him from entering the Promised Land?

Reading carefully the wording of Numbers 20:12, notice that it does not talk about anger, rebellion, or even disobedience. It says, “Because you did not have enough faith in me….”

 

Question: What are the implications of those words?

Remember that faith is a word we used to describe a relationship with God as with a good friend. What Moses did was to misrepresent God and that mistake prevented him from entering the land of Canaan.

Moses had done well of representing God correctly in many previous occasions. But, on this occasion, he made it sound like he and Aaron were the ones who had led the children of Israel out of Egypt. It sounded like rebellion! He was punished but he did not complain. He accepted God’s verdict despite asking some questions–which God always allows.

It is important to note that when Moses climbed to the top of Mount Nebo and looked out over the land of Canaan, he was given a vision of the entire land so that he actually saw where the children of Israel were going. (Patriarchs and Prophets p. 477)

Three days after Moses died and after God contended with the Devil over his body, (Jude 9) God resurrected Moses and took him–not to this sinful, earthly Canaan, but to the heavenly Canaan.

This story reminds us that the God of the universe still cares about each one of us individually and expects us to be faithful to Him.

 

An Attitude of Surrender – I Samuel 1

The story of Hannah and Samuel in Israelite history help reveal to us how true worship can be expressed in the heart of a penitent soul. It reminds us that when we have the kind of relationship with Him that we should have, He responds to us.

Question: What does this teach us about worship?

 

In 1 Samuel 15 it is very clear that Saul considered his opinion more important than the guidance he received from God through Samuel. This is clearly a case of self-worship versus God-worship.

Was the choice of Saul to be the first king of Israel a mistake? Didn’t God choose him? How do you understand the following passages: 1 Samuel 15:10,11,29,35?

It seems clear that in choosing Saul as the first king of Israel, God was not choosing the kind of person He wanted; but rather, He was yielding to the wishes of the people and choosing the kind of king they wanted. Saul was never God’s first choice.

 

Question: What should we learn about worship from this experience of Saul’s rejection of God and God’s rejection of Saul? Read 1 Samuel 15:22,23.

  • God would rather have our hearts than our offerings. (If He truly has our hearts, the offerings will follow.)
  • Obedience is more pleasing to Him than are sacrifices. (Obedience is our way of showing that we understand what the sacrifices are truly about.)
  • Stubbornness, insisting on our own way, is idolatry because we have made a god of ourselves, our desires, and our opinions. (Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for Thursday, July 28)

 

Conclusion:

 

God requires perfection of His children. His law reflects His own character, and it is the standard of all character. This infinite standard is presented to all that there may be no mistake in regard to the kind of people whom God will have to compose His kingdom. The life of Christ on earth was a perfect expression of God’s law, and when those who claim to be children of God become Christ like in character, they will be obedient to God’s commandments.

Clothed in the glorious apparel of Christ’s righteousness, they have a place at the King’s feast. They have a right to join the blood-washed throng. Christ’s Object Lessons 315; God’s Amazing Grace 148 (1900)

Each one of us must make a permanent, final decision: Will we worship in our own ways, our own thoughts, our own desires, and practice self-worship and selfishness? Or, will we–with prayer, submission, and reverent awe–see the superiority of God’s ways and choose them and worship God in the correct way so that we can, one day, be among His saved people?

 God Bless You!!!

 

 

Lesson – 6 Worship and Song and Praise

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Read for your study: 1 Chron. 16:8–36; Ps. 32:1–5; 51:1–6, 17; Phil. 4:8; Rev. 4:9–11; 5:9–13.

Memory Text: “O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1).

Introduction: It’s been said, the fuel for worship is the truth about God. The furnace of worship is our spirit. The fire of worship is the Holy Spirit and the heat or result of worship is reverence, fear, adoration, contrition, trust, joy, gratitude, hope and much more.

What does it mean to praise and worship the Almighty God? Worship, according to the dictionary means: to show profound religious devotion; to have intense love and admiration. Praise on the other hand means to express admiration or approval for; to express thanks and worship to God. So, Praise and worship go hand in hand.

Praising and worshiping God is not about a ritual, or prayer repetition. It’s not about spending a few minutes a day reading our bible or about reciting our wish list on a daily basis. True worship requires total commitment of our body, mind and spirit. It’s about exalting, adoring and acknowledging our God. It is about having an intimate and profound relationship with God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To worship God is to express our love and awe of who He is.

In Isaiah 66:1 God says “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” He is the Creator of the universe and everything in it.

This lesson is about David and his psalms or songs and what they can teach us about worship. As we dive into our study about song, music, and worship, let us keep these three questions in mind: What does worship mean? (Remember that worship comes from the Old English word, worth-ship.) How should we do it? What can it do for us?

 

Between Saul and David

 

Question: Why did God choose Saul as the first king of Israel?

Saul had a good start as king. He was attractive, the people liked him, and he soon had an impressive military victory to his credit. But 1 Samuel 13 describes his first mistake. Saul offered the sacrifice himself — indicating a radical lack of faith in God. The altar was still warm when Samuel showed up and delivered a stinging message from God: “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart” 1 Samuel 13:14.

God’s choice about Saul as the first king of Israel was not because God wanted him to be but because he matched the description the people had requested. But when God chose David to be the next king of Israel, He reminded Samuel that the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

1 Samuel 16:7 gives us a hint about the differences between Saul and David.  

Read Psalm 32:1-5 and Psalm 51:1-6.

These verses were written after David’s sin with Bathsheba. David was far from being perfect. In fact, many argue that David’s later moral lapses were much more serious than Saul’s sins. Yet, the Lord rejected Saul but forgave even David’s worst mistakes, allowing him to continue being king.

Question: What made the difference?

God not only reads the heart, the center of thought, inner attitudes, and motives, but He can touch and change hearts that are open to Him, says the author. David’s heart yielded to the conviction of sin. He repented, and he patiently accepted the consequences of his sins. When David’s sins were pointed out, he immediately repented and sought God’s forgiveness. By contrast, Saul just rebelled.

Ellen White points out saying, “Yet the Lord, having placed on Saul the responsibility of the kingdom, did not leave him to himself. He caused the Holy Spirit to rest upon Saul to reveal to him his own weakness and his need of divine grace; and had Saul relied upon God, God would have been with him. So long as his will was controlled by the will of God, so long as he yielded to the discipline of His Spirit, God could crown his efforts with success. But when Saul chose to act independently of God, the Lord could no longer be his guide, and was forced to set him aside.”—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 636.

 

Question: David wrote some of his most famous Psalms after some of his most famous sins! When was David a man after God’s own heart?

“I was shown that it was when David was pure, and walking in the counsel of God, that God called him a man after his own heart. When David departed from God, and stained his virtuous character by his crimes, he was no longer a man after God’s own heart.” 1Spirit of Prophecy 379.1

Though David had fallen [after his sin with Bathsheba], the Lord lifted him up. He was now more fully in harmony with God and in sympathy with his fellow men than before he fell. Patriarchs and Prophets 726.1

 

Question: What should we do if we have disappointed God? Can we still make things right?

The answer is yes. There is hope. One of the best examples of true repentance that we have ever seen can be found in Psalm51. David really messed up. He committed adultery and then he tried to cover it up. He even had Bathsheba’s husband killed. And once the seriousness of what he’s done hits him, he says, “Have mercy on me, O God. . . Cleanse me from my sin.” What matters is how God treats us! And how we approach God for forgiveness of our sins!

Question: Do we learn and grow after committing our sins? Do we as individuals and as a Seventh-day Adventist Church have a covenant relationship with God?

 The Scriptures make it very clear that we are all sinners. (1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Psalms 130:3,4; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:9-23; 1 John 1:8-10)

And that we are in need of the gospel of Jesus. We are in need of a Saviour. The gospel means ‘good news’ that Jesus died for our sins. It puts the emphasis on what God has done for us. And thus this gives us the basis and reason to praise and worship God for the everlasting gospel, Rev. 14:6,7.

It’s wonderful news that there is grace and forgiveness for anyone who repents. Proverbs 24:16 says that “a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” He doesn’t hide for the
rest of his life in disgrace. He gets back up! He goes on with his life. This was the experience of David. He gets back up in life praising and worshiping God with his songs and music. David recognized the role of song in worship. Whether this was a direct result of his experiences with his harp while herding sheep, or his forgiveness. We do not know. But he worshiped with songs.

David: A Song of Praise and Worship

Music is a great way to express emotions. Those emotions may include everything from wrath to loneliness, betrayal, and sorrow for sin, rejoicing, and worship. Experts who have studied music and its effects on human beings suggest that it bypasses the frontal lobes of the brain–the area of the brain where we do our serious thinking–and that the tempo and rhythm/beat have a direct impact on our emotions.

Consider the following statements by a musician: So why should music play such an important and integral role in our lives? As it turns out, research over the last few decades has increasingly shown that music, and in particular the singing and playing of music, helps the brain develop much more fully and extensively, especially in our early years. Music makes us brighter, more intelligent, more logical, more rational, and more capable. It improves study habits and test scores. It builds a better sense of self and community. It aids in our general sense of well-being and improves our quality of life. At times, it brings us closer to the divine in all of us. A recent study even suggests that the act of singing improves the immune system. To answer a question with a question: Why shouldn’t music play an important role in our lives?—Peter Rutenberg, LA Music Director, Chamber Singers

 Perhaps this had been David’s experience. His understanding of God and the salvation He offered shaped not only his own life, but his spiritual leadership and influence over his people. His songs and prayers reflect a deep sense of awe for the God he loved and knew as a personal friend and Savior, says the author.

Worship is always associated with singing, for God loves ‘joyful noise’ and all the varieties that come in. (Psalm 100:1) We can worship God through prayer, singing, raising our hands in adoration, through the use of playing instruments. “As a part of religious service, singing is as much an act of worship as is prayer. Indeed, many a song is prayer” says, Ellen G. White in Education 168.3 . Further she says, “God is worshiped with song and music in courts above … “whoso offereth praise glorifieth” God. Let us with reverent joy come before our Creator, with “thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” My Life Today, p. 33

David in his Psalms declares, “Everything on earth will worship you; they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs.” (Psalm 66:4)

Music is a whole-body experience, appealing not only to our emotions but to our bodies and minds. It can provide a powerful and touching corporate experience that tempers the atmosphere, prepares our hearts for spiritual truths, and brings us together in a common encounter with God. It is no wonder that music plays such an important part in worship. (Adult Teachers Bible Study Guide, p. 69)

We read in 1 Chronicles 16: 23-29, “Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill his dwelling. O nations of the world recognize the Lord; recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong. Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come to worship him. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.”

Some of David’s most famous psalms were composed while he was still tending sheep on the hills of Bethlehem. How did he get started with that skill? Sheep have to be looked after on a daily basis.

Question: Did David observe the Sabbath and worship God with the sheep on the hills of Bethlehem?

 Throughout the Scriptures and the Psalms, worship had always been associated with songs and praise and adoration to the Creator. While tending his father’s sheep in the hills and the valleys, David grew up amid nature and enjoyed God’s creation. Thus most of his Psalms talks about hills, valleys, green pastures and nature.

There is no question that song and music and praise were part of his worship experience. In

1 Chronicles 16:8-36 we get a feel for what David had in mind. Notice some of the action verbs that were used in that call to worship: give thanks, sing, call on His name, seek the Lord, make known, talk of, declare, give glory to, proclaim, remember, and bring an offering.

His personal daily experience was into a more intimate communion with God. His mind was constantly penetrating into new depths for fresh themes to inspire his song and to wake the music of his harp.

In the moments of peace and quiet while herding sheep on the hills of Bethlehem, David had plenty of time to think. His thoughts turned to God. Do we have enough quiet time to think about God?

 Conclusion: What should be our guide in choosing the kind of music to which we listen and have in our worship? Is Christ our Guide in everything? (1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 4:4,8; Colossians 1:18-20)

Over the years, the question of music and types of music in worship has arisen in our church. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between what is being played in church and what is being played as secular music.

Music in our worship services should have a balance of spiritual, intellectual, and emotional elements. The lyrics, in harmony with the music itself, should uplift us, elevate our thoughts, and make us long more for the Lord who has done so much for us. Music that can bring us to the foot of the Cross, that can help us realize what we have been given in Christ, is the kind we need for our worship, says the author.

This is God’s wonderful gift to humanity. Don’t let Satan pervert it. It is important that we seek the Lord’s guidance in having appropriate music for our worship services that will uplift us in praise and worship.

 God Bless You!!!

Lesson – 7 Worship in the Psalms

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Read for your study: Ps. 20:3; Psalm 49; Ps. 54:6; Psalm 73; Ps. 78:1–8; 90:1, 2; 100:1–5; 141:2.

Memory Text: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:1, 2, NIV).

Introduction: Psalms has been a wonderful resource for thousands of years to enrich a person’s spirit, both in public worship and in the believer’s private devotional life. The word “Psalms” comes from a Hebrew root word that means “to sing with instrumental accompaniment.” Thus, the Psalms were songs sung in praise and worship of God as part of the worship in Israel. There are 150 psalms that make the longest book in the Bible.

Though Hebrew poetry predates the time of David, he seems to be the first person to use psalms for praise and worship. Seventy-three psalms are attributed to David, a great poet and musician. He is known as “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1). It is no doubt that under the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit he composed psalms as a shepherd, on the run from Saul, and later as king. Throughout his life he sang and composed, and in the process rejoiced in his God.

It has often been pointed out that the book of Psalms is the book of human emotions. Indeed, every experience of man’s heart is reflected in this book. No matter what mood one may be in, some psalm will reflect that mood. For this amazing book records every one of man’s emotions and experiences. Those who have discovered the “secret of perpetual emotion” certainly ought to get acquainted with the book of Psalms.

For instance, if you are fearful, read Psalm 56 or Psalm 91 or Psalm 23 (we all know that one, of course). And if you are discouraged, read Psalm 42. If you happen to be feeling lonely, then read Psalm 71 or Psalm 62. If you are oppressed, with a sense of sinfulness, there are two marvelous psalms for you: Psalm 51, written after David’s dual sin of adultery and murder; and Psalm 32, a great expression of confession and forgiveness. And then, if you are worried or anxious, I would strongly recommend Psalm 37 and Psalm 73. If you are angry, try Psalm 58 or Psalm 13. If you are resentful, read Psalm 94 or Psalm 77. If you are happy and want some words to express your happiness, try Psalm 92 or Psalm 66. If you feel forsaken, try Psalm 88. If you are grateful and you would like to express it, read Psalm 40. If you are doubtful, if your faith is beginning to fail, read Psalm 119. And we could go on and on, because all 150 psalms have to do with life experience.

David found himself in all of these situations; experienced all these emotions and was given by God the gift of capturing the emotions of his full life’s varied experience and putting them in beautiful lyrical terms. These became the psalm book or hymn book of Israel. Many of these psalms were written to be sung in public. How fascinating it would be to hear these songs, in their original tongue, sung with the music that first accompanied them.  Let us dive in to our study to know the beauty and purpose of these Psalms!

Worship the Lord, Our Maker

Scholars point out that the entire book of Psalms is divided into five sets or books and parallel the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible. Those first five books were designed by God to give us the pattern of God’s working in a human life, or in the whole of creation, or in the whole of world history, and God always follows the same pattern, whether with an individual or with a nation. He takes them through the same steps, for God never changes. And those five steps were revealed by divine inspiration in the first five books of the Bible.

The Psalms follow the same steps, reflecting the reactions of the human heart to this pattern of God’s working in man’s life. To begin with, the first book of psalms — Psalms 1 through 41 — is equivalent to the book of Genesis and has essentially the same message. It is the cry of human need. It is the expression in beautiful, poetic terms of the human heart’s deepest need. It follows closely the story of the book of Genesis. It begins in Psalm 1 with the picture of the perfect man just as Genesis begins with man in the Garden of Eden. Then in Psalm 2, you have man in his rebellion. Psalm 19 is another song in praise of God as Creator. It describes who God is and why He is worthy of worship and declares His greatness. So, Psalm 1 through Psalm 73, we see man in his rejection, and right on through in the following psalms, the grace of God is introduced. And as we read through this book we will hear the human heart’s expression of deep-seated longing, of its separation from God, it’s calling out to God in need.

Judgment from His Sanctuary – The third book of psalms, Psalm 73 through Psalm 89, corresponds to the book of Leviticus. Leviticus is the book of the tabernacle of worship; the discovery of what God is like when man comes before him and what he himself is like in the presence of God.

Leviticus is the book that reveals the inner workings of man’s heart: we see his need, his deep consciousness of his own sin, and the discovery of what God offers to do about it. And in these psalms, 73 through 89, the same pattern is carried out. Psalm 73-75, for instance, is an exquisite expression of man’s awareness of God’s judgment in the inner heart. Psalm 78 is a record of God’s unbending love: although God loves man, he will never let him get away with anything. He never compromises, he never bends; he gives in to man’s plea for mercy, but is absolutely relentless in cutting away sin. This means that His judgement is pronounced. Then, when man is ready to acknowledge his sin, and to agree with God’s judgment concerning sin, God deals with him in love.

Psalm 81 describes the new strength that God offers man, and Psalm 84 wonderfully portrays the continuous provision that God offers us. This is the beauty of God’s judgement mingled in His Love, Grace and Mercy from His Sanctuary. It is a double-edged sword: deserved punishment on the wicked and the defense of the oppressed and humble (Pss. 7:9, 10; 9:7–12; 75:2; 94:1–3, 94:20–22; 98:9). Thus the sanctuary, the place of worship, becomes a haven of refuge for the distressed, says the author.

“Like the Beasts That Perish” Quite a number of psalms talk about social injustice. The rich take advantage of the poor. The powerful abuse the weak. (Psalm 49)

Question: Does it give us satisfaction when we think of these issues to realize that rich and poor alike end up in the grave?  Is it helpful to realize that we all depend on the same plan of salvation?

How encouraging for us to learn from the song we have sung many times, “This world is not my home; I’m just a passing through… It is so true! We all should know by now, the things of this world are so temporary, so easily lost. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world. Jesus Himself has promised that He has gone to heaven ‘to prepare a place for us, and He will come again to take us that where He is we may be also.’ John 14:2-3

 

Worship and the Sanctuary – God asked Moses to build Him a Sanctuary so that He could dwell among them. In other words, He wanted a close communion with His people where they would come every day to worship Him, to meet Him, to commune with Him.

Though judgement seems to flow from the Sanctuary, yet David established orders of musicians and singers to bring regular organized worship before the tent in Jerusalem which David had pitched for the ark of God.

First Chronicles tells us:”Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it….” (1 Chronicles 15:22)

“He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the LORD, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel: Asaph was the chief, Zechariah second, then Jeiel …. They were to play the lyres and harps; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this psalm of thanks to the LORD….” (1 Chronicles 16:4-7)

Question: What is the relationship between psalms, prayers, songs, and worship?

Scholars believe that the institution of the Jewish synagogue developed during the exile, when worship at the temple was no longer possible. Even after the temple was built following the exile — and rebuilt by Herod — synagogues flourished, even in Jerusalem, the city of the temple itself (Acts 6:9). At the destruction of Jerusalem, some 400 to 500 synagogues were found in the city. A synagogue could be formed by as few as ten males. The synagogue was the local house of worship. Jesus attended the synagogue regularly (Luke 4:16) and taught in synagogues up and down Galilee.

Question: What was worship like in the synagogues of this era?

They were devoted to prayer and the reading of the scripture. We have a number of indications that the Jews used psalms regularly on feast days as well as in their synagogue worship.

George Foot Moore quotes, “It would seem natural that with other features of the temple worship, the songs of the Levites at the morning and evening sacrifices should be imitated in the synagogue. The first group of psalms to be so employed was Psalms 145-150; but it appears that in the middle of the second century AD, the daily repetition of the psalms was a pious practice of individuals rather than a regular observance of the congregation.”  Joachim Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus (Oxford: Basil Blackwood, 1955), pp. 30-31, especially fn. 1 on page 31.

The Passover ritual, too, drew heavily on the Psalms. The “hymn” sung by Jesus and the apostles at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:30) on the night of Passover was doubtless one the psalms prescribed for the occasion — the second half of the Hallel (Psalms 114-118 or 115-118).

Lest We Forget!

God has revealed Himself to us through His servants the Prophets, through Nature, and through His Son Jesus Christ. He has also revealed Himself through history. Three of the longer psalms in the Old Testament hymnal are Psalms 78, 105, and 106 that recount Israel’s history. Commenting on our own history, Ellen White writes, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us and His teaching in our past history. {Life Sketches 196.2}

From Synagogue to House ChurchPsalms were part of worship. Early Christianity was practiced in the temple and in the homes of believers (Acts 2:46). When Apostle Paul would take the Gospel to a new city, he would typically begin by attending the local synagogue and teaching there about Jesus. Eventually, the Christians would be driven out of the synagogues and formed their own congregations, which were essentially Christian synagogues governed by elders (Acts 14:23). Several passages of scripture indicate that psalms were part of the worship in these early house churches:

(1 Corinthians 14:26) “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

(Ephesians 5:18b-19a) “Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” (James 5:13)

After the original apostles died, psalms continued as part of the worship of the church. Tertullian (c. 160-225 AD) mentions singing songs from the scripture as part of the Lord’s Supper celebration. Church historian Arthur McGiffert notes, “In the church of Rome nothing except the Psalms and New Testament hymns (such as the Gloria in Excelsis, the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimittis, etc.) was, as a rule, sung in public worship before the fourth century.”

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) set a new direction for independent or congregational churches when he published his Psalms of David in 1719. The best known of these today are probably “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” (Psalm 90) and “Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come” (Psalm 98).

The Psalms are the prayer book of the church. When we know the Psalms, we have the language we need for prayer. Their richness and diversity give us permission to bring before God whatever we are feeling and experiencing. The Psalms help us to put even our most painful experiences into a context of prayer that, ultimately, ends in praise,” says Laura Smit, chapel dean.

Jesus quoted the psalms while hanging on the cross when he prayed “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1) and “Into your hands, I commit my spirit” (Ps. 31:5).

Echoing God’s direction in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to fill your heart and life with God’s commands, Psalm 119 says that God’s law is sweeter than honey, something to hide in your heart, and contemplate while lying awake.

Throughout history the Psalms have often been central in both corporate worship and personal devotional practice. As the psalms have remained strong, the church has been revived and personal spiritual life has been enriched. Imagine it. A sanctuary full of people singing, praying, and dancing their way through the entire Psalter—in one glorious worship extravaganza.

Isn’t it about time to renew the ancient practice of the Psalms in our congregation and in our life?

God Bless You!!!

Lesson – 8 Conformity, Compromise and Crisis in Worship

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Read for your study: Gen. 6:5, Deut. 12:8, Deut. 13:18, 1 Kings 11:1–13, 1 Kings 18, Jer. 17:5, Mal. 3:16–4:6.

Memory Text: “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14, NKJV).

Introduction: Commenting in his blog on ‘conformity, compromise and crisis in worship’, William Earnhardt makes a very strong statement saying, “Things that used to shock the world several years ago are now freely accepted by the church.” It is indeed a very powerful statement and also very shocking to hear it being said about the ‘remnant’ church. Perhaps he is right!

What is conformity? The dictionary gives us three meanings:

  1. Doing and thinking as others – behaviour or thought that is socially acceptable or expected.
  2. Following of standard – compliance with a fixed standard, regulation, or requirement.
  3. Agreement in form – agreement, correspondence, or similarity in structure, manner, or character.

Looking at the way things are happening and gradually taking place in our churches is shocking! Our worship music is changing, our attitudes towards worship are changing, and our worship style is changing. We are finding ourselves caught between the world and the church standard. It seems as though sin which must be called by its right name is now relative.  We compare and say well, it wasn’t as bad as the other one. This dress is not that immodest if you consider what they wear for the proms or on weddings because our children are growing in a different culture. Often we also have hard time to decide whether to serve healthy juice drinks or soft drinks or wine at the wedding receptions and social gatherings because we will have guests coming from other community as well who hold a good social status in our society.

Today some churches are measuring their success as though it is a worldly business. Instead of comparing themselves to the word of God, they like to look at the financial growth of numbers just like any other worldly business.

Some of our educational institutions which are suppose to be strong centers  of nurture and Spiritual growth in ‘Truth’ have gradually changed their programs to compete with the outside world, losing its vision and the mission of the church on which it was established. Some have died and are shut down!

Ellen G. White admonishes us saying, “If there was ever a time when we should watch and pray in real earnest, it is now. There may be supposable things that appear as good things, and yet they need to be carefully considered with much prayer, for they are specious devices of the enemy to lead souls in a path which lies so close to the path of truth that it will be scarcely distinguishable from the path which leads to holiness and heaven. (TM p. 229)

So, are we trying to follow Jesus, or just make sure we are not following the world too closely? Is the Bible our guide, or are society and the Bible our guide? Before we know it, we will be finding ourselves in conformity, compromise and crisis in worship and crisis in the church. Are we going to follow God’s Word, or just stay a few paces behind the world?

Let us dive into our study with this thought!

In Different Eyes – Read Gen. 6:5, Jer. 17:5, Rom. 3:9–12.

Genesis 6:5The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Jeremiah 17: 5 – Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Romans 3:9-12 – There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Question: What do conformity, compromise, and crisis have to do with worship? Throughout the Scripture, we are warned that the human heart is deceitful and people are corrupt; no one is immune from evil. We are born with corrupt and fallen natures, and we carry that fallen nature in us. We have to be careful, how we understand evil. Things that the world or our culture and our society might view as fine, as normal, as “just the way things are,” could be precisely what the Bible condemns as wrong, sinful, even evil.

In Old Testament times, the biggest spiritual problem for the Israelites seemed to be Baal worship. What do we know about Baal worship? Read Hosea 4:11-14.

 

Baal was a Canaanite storm-fertility cult god that was believed to be responsible for the fertility of animals and crops. Baal was a god that looked like a person standing with a spear in one hand and a club in the other.

Some scholars suggest that the Canaanites believed that the mythical Baal died every year when the rains stopped and then came back to life again when the rains started again the next rainy season. The word Baal means “lord,” “possessor,” or “husband.” Baal was a Semitic god.

The Canaanites believed that Baal dwelt in holy trees, springs, mountain summits, rocks, etc., and spoke of each of these local gods as the Baal, i.e., “lord,” of that particular locality. (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary article on Baal)

The claim was that Baal promoted fertility of crops, animals, and, no doubt, humans too. Thus, if one did not want to starve, especially in drought years, he needed to worship Baal. Israel seemed to be irresistibly attracted by those gods of the nations around them. (Numbers 25)

 

Question: Do we do anything like that? If we worship God, do we also carry a rabbit’s foot for luck? Or hang a horse shoe at the door? Is it wrong to carry insurance if you believe God can and will protect you?

The Art (and Evil) of Compromise – Read 1 Kings 11:1–13.

It is said that politics is the art of compromise. The text tells us that Solomon had many foreign wives and his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God,’… On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

Solomon is an example of someone who started out with a marvelous connection with God and had almost every advantage one could possibly imagine. With all of his wisdom, couldn’t he see where things were going? But, it seems that wives and money spoiled him, and his downward course is proverbial.

Question: How did this apostasy impact worship, faith, and the whole religious system of Israel?

It is pretty clear that Solomon’s downfall took years. There was a gradual, slight change in attitudes; and eventually, we read the words of 1 Kings 11:1-13. Solomon actually came to the place where he sacrificed his own children to Molech. (1 Kings 11:7). Satan is an absolute master at the art of compromise. He will find every possible excuse to make sin seem okay. But, so often we seem to believe there is nothing we can do about it. Is there?

Question: When we come to worship God, are we truly sincere? Is our worship of God confined to the church service and the Sabbath school class? What happens during the rest of the week? What is it that God really wants? (Micah 6:6-8)

 

Counterfeit Worship

 

In 1 Kings 11, we have the narrative of Ahijah who came to Jeroboam, Solomon’s servant, with a message that he would become king over ten of the tribes of Israel (vss. 26–31). But the prophet made it clear to Jeroboam that his success would depend on his faithfulness to God’s commandments (vss. 37, 38).

But Jeroboam wanted to listen to his heart and not God. He was threatened by the possibility that some of his people might continue to worship in Jerusalem. So, he selfishly constructed temples in his territory in Bethel and Dan with golden bull calves representing the fertility gods. In many ways this new worship resembled the worship of Yahweh. Read 1Kings 12:25-33.

 

Notice the ways in which this new worship violated God’s commands. They:

1. Offered sacrifices and ordained non-Levite priests (vss. 31-33).

2. Made calves of gold to worship (vs. 28).

3. Made Bethel a place of worship (vs. 29).

4. Made Dan a place of worship (vs. 29).

5. Instituted a rival feast to the Feast of Tabernacles (vs. 32).

6. Built shrines on high places (vs. 31).

(Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, for Tuesday, August 16)

 

Jeroboam wanted his false worship to be as much like what happened in Jerusalem as possible. He even claimed that the golden bull calves were the gods that had brought them out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:28) Where did he get that idea? (Exodus 32:4)

 

Question: How often do we–like Jeroboam–believe that we can make our own rules?

 

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal

 

Things went from bad to worse, especially when it came to the question of worship under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. It is here we come to the famous story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. It is here where we can see just how far compromise had taken them.

 

Question: What can we learn about the worship of Baal from the behavior of those prophets on the top of Mount Carmel?

They were leaping, crying, prophesying–probably accompanied by music–cutting themselves, and spilling their own blood as part of their worship. They had a passion for their faith and their god, even a zeal that suggested the sincerity of their beliefs.

 

Question: Are there any Christian groups worshiping like that in our day? How do we worship God today?

Yes, today too, many Christian worship services remind us at times of something like this: a lot of emotion, a lot of hype, and a lot of noise. Some think that the more sounds they make, the louder the music, the more emotional excitement generated, the better the worship service. But our worship must be dignified, respectful, and impressive to everyone looking on.

 

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from this account is that all worship must be focused on the true Lord, on the Creator. True worship needs to be grounded in the Word of God, pointing the worshiper to the Lord and His activity in history, says the author.

  • ·       Our worship should be with a simple prayer like of Elijah, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God’ ” (vs. 37).
  • Our worship services should always present worshipers with the question that Elijah asked Israel. “‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him’ ” (vs. 21, NIV).
  • Our worship experience should force us to look inside our hearts and see where our true love and devotion are: on the Lord or on anything else, says the author.

 

There must have been a period of revival following the experience on Mount Carmel. Elijah went down in Israelite history and in Christian history as a mighty warrior for God.

A. W. Tozer, a well-known preacher of the twentieth century who died in 1963, often preached against the worship of the “god of entertainment,” suggesting that no matter how hard they try churches cannot compete with the world’s idea of entertainment. It is the cross of Jesus Christ, says Tozer, not entertainment, that will win souls to Christ. See A. W. Tozer, Tozer On Worship and Entertainment, compiled by James L. Snyder (Camp Hill, Penn.: Wing Spread Publishers, 1997), pp. 108, 109.

We must always remember how we worship and whom we worship. 

 God Bless You!!!

 

 

Lesson – 3 The Sabbath and Worship

Download: Lesson – 3 The Sabbath and Worship

Read for your study: Exod. 20:11, Deut. 5:15. Isa. 44:15–20, Matt. 11:28–30, Rom. 6:16–23.

Memory Text: “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Psalm 95:6-7).

Introduction: We have learned in the introduction of the first lesson that creation and redemption are central to the theme of worship. Revelation 14:6.7 clearly links these themes commanding us to worship the Creator who made the heavens and the earth. In the book of Revelation, God is on center stage as Creator of the universe. When we think of worship, we are reminded of the creation week and the seventh day Sabbath which the Lord had sanctified.

In John 1:1-3 we are told through whom God did work in the creation of all things, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.”  Isaiah 43:1 directly speaks of the Creator as Redeemer, “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Thus, worship is linked to the themes of Creation, Redemption, and sanctification, which are revealed in the Sabbath, says the author. Let us dive into our study to learn more!

Creation and Redemption: The Foundation of Worship

Question: How central and important is the Sabbath to you and your worship of God? How do you think God would like to see the Sabbath observed?

God’s day of worship is very central to how we worship Him. Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”! Our Creator God starts off the fourth Commandment with the word “Remember.” This is because He knew it would be lost and forgotten. God asks that we keep the Sabbath set apart for Holy purposes so we can draw nearer to Him. The Fourth Commandment to remember the Sabbath helps define a proper relationship with God, how we are to love, worship and relate to Him. It explains why and when we need to take special time to draw closer to our Creator. It is also a special sign between us and God forever, that it is Him that sanctifies us; Him alone who we belong to and worship. The Sabbath, the Seventh day of the week was set apart by God as a time of rest and spiritual rejuvenation.

Within the Jewish economy, the question about the Sabbath revolves on the keeping of the Sabbath. How to keep the Sabbath properly was the main concern of the religious leaders. The question was not the “when” of the Sabbath but the “how” of the Sabbath. Thus, instead of Sabbath being a blessing to them was seen as a burden to them.

Question: Why is God worthy to receive our worship, praise and honour? He is worthy to receive our worship, praise and honour because He is the Creator. “Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Revelation 4:11.  Paul clearly link Christ in His role as Creator and Redeemer in Colossians 1:13-22.

Question: So why is this Commandment so frequently ignored, attacked and explained away by so many Christians? It is because the challenges to the Sabbath Commandment are views generated by the ‘ruler’ of this present evil world? After all, this being wants us to accept these views because he hates God’s law. He does all he can to influence us to ignore, avoid and reason our way around it. On our calendar the Sabbath begins at sunset Friday evening and ends at sunset Saturday evening. And this period of time is very crucial to a faithful Christian.

Those that keep the true Sabbath day say that it is a blessing and their favourite day of the week. The Sabbath is quality time with family and relaxing and fellowshipping with God and other Christians. Jesus said we are to not only obey the Ten Commandments but teach them also. God says we are to find this day a delight and a blessing. God did not say we should call it legalism or a burden!

Isaiah 58:13-14 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a DELIGHT, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shall honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shall you delight thyself in the LORD…”

Within the Christian church, many believe that the Sabbath principles, i.e., resting from our labors, spending time with God, are still applicable in our time. But “when” do you rest from your labor, when do you worship God, has become an individual prerogative. We call this principle “When-it-is-convenient-to-serve-God principle.” The overall principle within the Christian church when it comes to the Sabbath is—“I will choose my Sabbath.”

Remember Your Creator

Question: Why does the Sabbath commandment begins with the word remember? Is this evidence that God knows how forgetful we tend to be? When we begin with the creation the Sabbath is an ongoing, weekly reminder. Then, we come to the Exodus which is to remind us that God has freed us from the slavery of sin just as He freed the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. Next, we come to Passover weekend when Christ lay dead, resting in Joseph’s new tomb as a reminder of the Sabbath rest that He commanded in the beginning. And we are reminded of all that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ should mean to Christians. Further, Isaiah 66:23 tells us to look forward to when the Sabbath will be observed in God’s new headquarters on this earth as an ongoing memorial to all that the plan of salvation has cost, and what it means to all of us.

Question: What does it mean to “remember?” The Sabbath commandment begins with the word “Remember.” The word “remember” does not simply means putting into memory God’s commandments, or reciting the days of creation, or remembering God as the Creator of the world. The Sabbath commandment, though it begins with the word “remember,” does not depends its applicability to our lives, or to our time, on the basis of whether we remember it or not. The fact is that we forget! Thesaurus gives us some other words for the word “remember” : Consider, Think,  Believe.

Moses’ words to God’s people clearly define this point about the word “remember.”  Deuteronomy 11:18-21, “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.”

The Psalmist clearly tells us from where it all came. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made. . . . For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6-9, NKJV).
Thus, Sabbath is a remembrance of God as Creator and His creation. The Sabbath is intended to be a memorial–a reminder–in an ongoing exercise regarding creation, sanctification, and redemption.

Freedom From Slavery – Genesis begins with the creation of the kingdom of God and the rebellion of man under Satan. The rest of the Bible tells how God restores the kingdom to Himself and brings man back into the position of kingdom glory that God originally designed for him. History is the story of God’s war against Satan. God defeats Satan and reconstructs His kingdom through Christ, bringing to pass His original purpose for the creation.

The Sabbath points not only to creation, an important theme of worship, but also to redemption. Deuteronomy 5:15 tells us, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (NIV).

God called Abraham out of Ur and led him to Canaan and promised to give that land to him. God led through the drought that Abraham experienced which caused him to go to Egypt. Then He led them out of Egypt by means of the plagues, the Passover, and the Exodus, and He established them in Canaan as a new nation at the crossroads of the world where they were expected to tell the gospel to all who came through their area. That should be plenty of evidence for us that God can not only create out of nothing but also He can restore even damaged goods.

 

Remember Your Sanctifier – In Exodus 31:13, The Good News Bible says, “Keep the Sabbath, my day of rest, because it is a sign between you and me for all time to come, to show that I, the Lord, have made you my own people.”

Question: What is the meaning of this verse?   The Hebrew word translated sign means “mark” or “evidence.” The Sabbath day is the mark God gave His people to identify them as His own. To sanctify is “to set apart for holy service,” or more basically, “to make holy.” God’s purpose for Israel from the start was to set it apart from other peoples by giving it His laws and His statutes.  Several points stand out in this passage:

1) The Sabbath is a sign of who the true God is.  The true God is the Creator.
2) The Sabbath is a sign of God’s people.
3) The Sabbath(s) belongs to God (verse 13). He designed the time as holy, not Moses or      any other man.
4) The Sabbath sanctifies.  It sets apart the man who keeps it by showing him to be distinct from the rest of the culture.
5) Sabbath-breaking incurs the death penalty.
6) The Sabbath is a perpetual covenant.

7) The Sabbath covenant is separate and distinct from the Old Covenant given at Mt. Sinai.  Not only did the events in this passage take place 40 days after the proposal and acceptance of the Old Covenant, but God re-revealed the Sabbath to the children of Israel (because they were in Egypt for so long they had forgotten it) right after they left Egypt and days before they arrived at Mt. Sinai.

The lesson of the manna, which demonstrated the difference in the days of the week (Exodus16), happened before the rest of the law was given via the Old Covenant.  Even though the Old Covenant—that specific agreement—has passed away, that does not mean that the eternal code of conduct on which the agreement was based has passed away.  Notice that idolatry and adultery are both still sin (and nobody considers those laws to be “Jewish”).

Question: What is the relationship between holy and sacred/sanctify?

To be holy or to be sanctified means to become one of God’s special people. This is much more than just being forgiven. Eventually, it will mean complete freedom from sin. As we read in Paul’s letter 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are to be joined to Christ and become new creatures.

 

Resting in Redemption The purpose of the Sabbath was for rest and worship. The Pharisees had made such an issue about law and legalism that the Sabbath was no longer about rest and worship. We should follow the guidelines of the Sabbath. We should observe a day of worship and rest. Jesus is the one who is worthy of worship and the one who grants the rest.

Hebrews 4:9-11 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” God is, He was, and will always be our Creator, Sanctifier, and Redeemer. Shouldn’t we look forward to a future of Sabbaths that will be marvelous times of spiritual rest and celebration? Sabbath keeps us, rather than we keep Sabbath – remember God’s rest – a day of salvation, lifting of the curse. So have joy in worship!

Qtr. 4, 2016  –  The Book Of Job