WORSHIP: GOD’S BLESSING OR MAN’S BLESSING?
by Pastor Paul K. Christianson
Today many Christians speak about the blessings they receive in praise, prayer and preaching, within the context of New Testament worship. One might get the impression that like other things in our day, worship may be directed toward God but is for the benefit of man. Many believe worship is coming before God that man might be blessed. Certainly the old deities of Greece and Rome were worshipped with that very thought in mind. The gods of the rain and sun were propitiated that the community might have a plentiful harvest.
The modem analogy of these ancient rites which has found itself in the church today am puppet shows, musicals, sing-spirations and the like. Such ‘amusements’, in the popular religious language of the day are ‘owned by God’ to bless His people. However, I would suggest this is entirely backwards: the purpose in coming to worship is first and foremost to bless God, and God will not be blessed ~ man is standing at center stage.
We are told in John 4:23 that the Father seeks worshipers. Who are these worshipers? Peter helps us in his first epistle: ‘ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ (1 Peter2:5) Here we have a spiritual temple, a gathering of all the living stones together to form the church of Jesus Christ. And since these living stones are a holy priesthood, they offer spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ.
What are these spiritual sacrifices? Hebrews 13:15 tells us one of these sacrifices is praise; Paul in Romans 12:1 says ‘to present your bodies a living sacrifice.’ Again, Ephesians 5:1, 2 urges ‘Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also love you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell.’ In Philippians4:18 Paul thanks them for ministering to him by way of material things, saying, ‘…having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.’ This ‘sweet smell’ and ‘fragrant offering’ are unto whom? They are unto God In a passage dealing with the context of worship, Paul exhorts Timothy ‘…that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men.’ (1 Timothy 2:1)
This is true as well in the Old Testament. The capstone of David’s confession in Psalm 51 asserts ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.’ In Psalm 100 men are commanded to come into God’s presence, corporately, with gladness, thanksgiving, and praise in their hearts and on their lips. Many other places in the Old Testament including Psalms 35, 40, and 95 elaborate upon this theme. Under the old economy as
well as under the new, all of our spiritual sacrifices are unto God. And if they are unto God, then
it follows they are a blessing unto God as well. We are to primarily bless God in our worship, and
that is done in our giving, loving, praying, thanking, repenting, singing, amongst others. All
of this is to be a blessing unto our God first and foremost.
And why is that? Not because of any merit found in those offering sacrifices, but because
these sacrifices are offered through our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. Peter says sacrifices ‘
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’
If our worship does not include the element of blessing God, then it is defective worship, if
worship at all. Is this no less than robbing God of His due? The prophet Malachi asks ‘Will a man rob God’? Then he declares, ‘Yet ye rob me.’ And he goes on to explain where this robbery takes place, summed up, (Malachi 3:10) ‘in my house’, a reference to the temple and its worship. We must not ‘rob’ God in worship by having attitudes, words, or deeds which place man’s interest and man’s blessing a center stage. When we come to worship let us seek first to please and bless Him: to not do so is clearly a violation of the First and greatest commandment to love God with your whole soul, whole heart, and whole mind.
Yet, when we come to worship with right aims and right motives God has promised a blessing. In the Old Testament Psalm 65:1 – 4:
Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion; and unto thee shall the vow be performed.
Thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Iniquities prevail against me:
as our transgressions, thou wilt forgive them. Blessed is the man whom thou
chooses”, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts:
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy temple.
Psalm 36:7 – 9 is even more explicit:
How precious is thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge under the shadow of Thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou will make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with Thee is the fountain of life: in Thy light shall we see light. Oh continue Thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
In the New Testament James commands us ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.’ (James 4:8) This drawing near to God with a repenting and humble heart, God promises,will result in His exalting of His people, verses 9 & 10. But humility requires that the worshiper put God first in his worship. May God be pleased to mature us in the understanding and the practice of worship blessing Him as we come ‘into His courts.’