What a Worship Experience!
by Joseph Franks
There is not a God-given order of worship presented in the sacred scriptures. Various texts are used by godly men seeking to prove a particular flow, but the inspired examples given in the Word of God are numerous and not uniform. There is no reason to think that Adam, Abel, Abraham, Aaron, Andrew, Aquilla, and Augustine followed the same divinely regulated pattern of worship.
However, if one particular pericope was selected, perhaps Exodus 24 would serve well:
Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.” Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.” Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
In this worship service, one sees God calling his people to worship. He is interested in spending intimate time with his redeemed people. He longs to encourage and bless them. So God gives them an invitation, command or summons. How encouraging this should be to realize that God seeks worshipers. He desires communion with his chosen people.
This entire worship service is regulated according to the Word of God. God prescribes the elements or ceremonies which are acceptable to him. He then instructs Moses who instructs the people. The wisdom of God is expounded, and the people are improved by the delivery of God’s Word. The entire service is founded and focused on God’s revelation.
Following Moses’ instruction, the people respond with vows and ceremonial worship. They vocally commit themselves to obedience. They plead the blood of the coming sacrifice (Jesus Christ) and then engage in a primitive form of baptism. Blood and water are mixed and sprinkled on the congregation — adult and infant alike.
Then, a group of men ascend God’s holy mountain. One sees this worship service is elder-led. Godly fellows guide the congregation through the worship process.
Throughout scripture, one sees that worship can be dangerous. Israel, who worshiped at the foot of a golden calf, will learn this lesson in short order. Similar lessons will be learned by Nadab, Abihu, Saul, Uzzah and those in Corinth who partook wrongly of the Lord’s Supper. However, it was not dangerous for these friends of God. Because they approached God on his terms and through the merit of Jesus Christ, they were spared harm. He did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel.
And what did they do while in the holy presence of God? They ate and drank. Reverential celebration is the order of the day. While carefully worshiping on God’s holy mountain, there was a degree of comfort experienced.
There is one troubling matter here. In this text, one sees special intimacy is enjoyed by certain friends. Israel, as a whole, can only worship from the base of the mountain. Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders can come part way up the hill. Joshua is privileged to ascend even higher, and Moses is granted the privilege to spend sweet time in the divine cloud atop God’s holy mountain. Later, one will see that only certain people get to be called his priests, and only certain priests receive the right to enter the holy places. Do we find this a bit disconcerting? Do we find ourselves lusting for more of God? Do we long to ascend fully up God’s sacred hill and enjoy full and free communion with the Father? Do we want to be graced and blessed as was Moses? Well, there is good news. Jesus Christ has opened a new and living way. Because we are united in him; because we are joint-heirs with Jesus, we can come before the throne of God with confidence. We are not bottom-of-the-hill worshipers. We are not half-way worshipers. We are invited to enjoy worship with God atop his holy hill. Better than that, we are his holy tabernacle, and he chooses to eternally dwell within.
So, how should we respond to this passage of Scripture?
1. Hear God’s Gospel call. We are separated from him and in great danger, unless we have found atonement through the cross-work of Jesus Christ. Come to Christ. Kiss the Son. Pledge your allegiance. Call upon his name, and be reconciled to God.
2. Hear God’s call to worship him today. It is less of an invitation and more of a summons. Whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory and worship of God. He regulates your daily conduct, so worship him according to his Word.
3. Hear God’s call to worship him corporately this weekend. While every day is a worship day, the Lord’s Day is a special worship day. Would you decline his invitation? Are you too busy? Do you have something better to do? Really? Make sure you and your household do not neglect the assembly of worshipers. Find your place in the Lord’s House this Sunday.
4. Enjoy Spirit-led, elder-led, regulated worship. The worship service is much less ceremonial in the New Covenant, but God has still presented his desire. Carefully obey, but comfortably enjoy praying, singing, learning, giving, eating, and washing in his presence. Glorify God and enjoy him in your public worship this weekend.
5. Rejoice that all are equal in Christ. Men and women, children and adults, Jews and Greeks, laity and leadership, new believer or experience, victorious or struggling — all are invited to the top of God’s hill. No one has the inherent right to such blessing, but all who are married to Christ are ordained priests in his kingdom. Humbly enjoy your mountain-top experience.