It’s common knowledge that the Old Testament worship rituals were a figure for our worship to God now. We mine the Passover for more insight into the Lord’s Supper, since Jesus is called our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7), but we also look into the Day of Atonement since we know He died to cleanse us of our sins (e.g. Rom. 5:6). Many of the lesser rituals also teach us a lot about what God expects from us in worship.
When we think of O.T. worship, we normally think of the sacrifice. And we think of it in terms of sacrificing something to God. The shepherd gives up a sheep he otherwise could have harvested wool from year after year and which could have been breeding stock as well. He sacrifices that sheep to God to show his devotion. The other way we think of sacrifices is in terms of something dying in our stead. When people living under the Law of Moses sinned, they had to offer a sin offering for forgiveness. Something had to die for them to be able to stand before God, a sacrifice had to be made.
There is another kind of sacrifice that was made, however. This one was the offering. Some of these offerings were barely different from a sacrifice of devotion, e.g. the burnt offering, but sometimes the concept of offering was very different. Sometimes a worshipper was just very happy because of his blessings and wanted to offer thanks to God. He would offer thanksgiving offerings (Lev. 7:11ff). Free will offerings were similar. One just wanted to worship God at a random time in the year, not part of one of the set feasts, and he brought an offering to God (Lev. 23:21ff). The concept here was less of making a sacrifice for God and more of giving Him a gift. In fact, the free-will offering was very much like a barbeque in which God was the guest of honor.
Even in these free-will offerings and thanksgiving offerings there were rules and procedures which had to be followed. Chief among these was the necessity of the offering being unblemished:
Lev. 22:21-22 “And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar.”
When giving a gift to God, the Israelites were told to give their best. They weren’t to give God second-rate offerings. After all, the purpose was to offer up “a sweet savor to the Lord”. That sweet savor, or pleasing aroma, wouldn’t come from halt, maimed, or scabby sheep. God deserved the best.
We can learn from this as we offer our worship to the Lord. After all, we ourselves are to be a sweet savor to the Lord. 2 Cor. 2:15 “For we are a sweet savor of Christ unto God”. First, and obviously, the offering of our lives to the Lord must be of our own free-will. We must choose to devote our lives to Him. No one else can make this choice for us, nor should anyone be able to stop us from making this commitment.
To the concept that our lives are to bring a pleasing aroma before God add in Rom. 14:8 “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.” Also Col. 3:23 “whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men”. Now our lives are offerings to God. Am I living in such a way that God only gets the best? After all, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL thy heart, and with ALL thy soul, and with ALL thy mind.” (Matt. 22:37)
While this concept of offering the best to God should be carried to every aspect of our lives, let’s just look at the worship services we participate in on a weekly basis. When we sing, do we sing to the Lord? 1 Cor. 14:15b “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” So, do I pay attention to the words? Do I think about them, ponder what they mean? Or do I get caught up in the soaring melodies and intricate harmonies? Am I so busy looking for new sounds that I forget to contemplate the old lessons being taught? The Greek word translated “one another” in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 is most often translated “to ourselves”. While songs are a great way to edify the whole congregation, the first one I can be teaching with these songs is myself, but only if I bother to pay attention and think about them. When I offer God worship in song, am I offering my best?
What about during the prayers? Am I paying attention? Am I considering what is being prayed so I can offer an “Amen” at the end? 1 Cor. 14:6 says that the members of the congregation need to be able to understand the prayers so they can say “Amen”. Doesn’t it also follow that they need to listen with understanding to be able to so join in? When the church offers up a prayer to God as part of our worship, am I participating, or am I thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch and whether or not the Steelers will cover the spread? Am I offering my best?
The sermon cuts both ways, as does the Bible class. In the audience, am I listening and considering what is being taught? Am I being noble, searching the scriptures like the Bereans? (Acts 17). Am I using the opportunity to hear God’s word as a chance to offer up worship to Him? Or am I dozing off?
But as the preacher or teacher, am I using the opportunity to present a lesson on His word as a chance to offer up a gift to Him? Am I prepared, organized, researched and ready? Or am I winging it because I couldn’t be bothered to take the time to prepare properly? I know that personally there have been too many times when I wasn’t as prepared to teach as I should have been. Those lessons often went very well, but I know that I wasn’t offering an unblemished gift to God those nights.
When we come together to offer up our worship to God, we need to give our best. And it doesn’t matter how old or young we are. If someone is old enough to count the cost (Luke 14) and make a commitment to God, then s/he is old enough to sing along with understanding, pay attention during prayers and sermons, and offer true worship to God during our services. If they aren’t old enough to pay attention, how could they have truly counted the cost?
Lev. 22:29 “And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.”