Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

God's Gift of Worship (Romans 9:4-5)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Let's hear God's word from Romans Chapter Nine, versus four and five, and we've been reading these verses now for a few weeks. Not sure if I've ever spent so long on two versus. You'll have to remind me. Some of you have been here longer, but I hope you're starting to memorize these and that perhaps by the end you will indeed have them memorized. But let's give our attention, I'm newly and freshly, to God's word in Romans nine of versus four and five. Today our focuses on worship in this list. They are Israelites and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To Them Belong the Patriarchs and from their race, according to the Flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen, please be seated. Well, as I mentioned last week, in this list Paul takes us on kind of a tour of these monuments in Israel. Obviously not physical things, the covenants, the adoption, the glory. Sometimes these things are manifested in physical, tangible ways, like the glory cloud descending upon Mount Sinai, or the fire and smoke leading Israel in the wilderness, or the riding of the law on the two tablets which were then placed in the Ark. These various ways are expressions, monuments, physical things to these big picture things, these things that God has given to his people. He gave them to Israel and now they belong to them. And as we've been focusing on these things, we've becoming to a better, hopefully a better and better understanding and more concrete understanding of who Israel is. That's Paul's point. He lists all of these things so that we would know when we think Israel in the Old Testament, we have a particular conception of what he means, and that's going to be important in the upcoming parts of this chapter because he's going to build on that to to say a various things. But it's important for a lot of other reasons. One of them, which he will bring up later, is that as we are joined to Israel, as gentiles are joined to Israel, we need to understand something of our family tree. If we're like a branch that is being grafted on to this tree that God has been cultivating and procuring for generations. It's right for us to understand what is this that God has put us into? If these things belong to them, well, in what sense do they belong to us? And you notice how he gets to that point. At the end of verse five, he's building this list, he lists all these things and then he says to them belong the Patriarchs and from their race, according to the Flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all. That's the place he's getting he's talking about in Israel in this unique way, so that he can talk about how now Christ rules over us all and these gifts belong to us. Well, today our focus is on worship. Worship is sometimes controversial, sometimes ignored, sometimes it's merely a ritual, sometimes it's an auxiliary part of what we do. Sometimes we find ourselves wholeheartedly in the process and other times we find it ourselves is very distracted. But in all these ways, both positive and negative, that we might...

...think about worship, we are often thinking about it mostly as our act towards God, and certainly that's true. The words that are used to describe worship are words that are on our part. Praise, thank, serve, bow, those kinds of things. These are things that we do. But rarely, I think, do we forget about the other rarely we remember, I should say, the other part of worship, which is it's God's work toward us. Sure we might think of certain parts of worship as belonging to God. Maybe in the sermon we hear God's Word, God speaks to us, or in a blessing he blesses us. But what about the whole of worship? Or is he puts it here the worship? Just as he gave them adoption, as the adoption and the glory and the covenants, the law, he's also given them the worship. God has done something and it is his. It's one of these things that's also in this list that marks his people. It's a way that he marks his people as his own. Circumcision is a sort of obvious example of this in the Old Testament. It's a part of worship, right, it's a part of the ceremonies, the the rituals, these ways in which God's people express their devotion to him. But who gave the sign? Well, was God? Right, God was the one who said to Abraham, this is my covenant that I'm making with you, and this is the sign of my covenant. It was God's mark upon his people. Before it was his people's expression of their devotion to God. So you might think of it like a bird. A bird flies, a bird soars, a bird does all these things and it does it by its will. But how is that will exercised? How? Where does the wind come from? How do the feathers grow? Well, it's all in God, and that's the perspective we have here. God has given something to Israel. He has given them worship. This is a marker upon his people. So what is the worship that God gave Israel? What Paul has in mind are the specific religious practices, similar to the giving of the law, which had a particular rules, statutes, provisions for that time when Israel lived in Canaan. He also gave them a worship and he gave it them in particular. You could think about it this way. God didn't give to the Canaanites Feasts to observe. He didn't give to the MOABITES the sign of circumcision. He gave the priesthood to the Levites, who were sons of Abraham. They belonged to Israel, not some other clan of some other tribe outside of Israel. The temple was built where in Jerusalem? Wasn't built outside of Canaan somewhere. It didn't hide here in Tucson or some other place in the world. It was there. This all was very much Israel's. The worship belonged to them. That's what it means by it belonged to them. God gave it to them. But what do we understand about that worship? It's obviously particular to them, but what was it like? What was it about? And for that we have to go deeper, and I hope you'll go deeper still too, when you read your bibles, when you think about the various sacrifices or offerings or feasts, be eager to understand those things, because in understanding the worship God gave to his people, then it helps us to understand the worship he has given us. Now, why is that the case? I'll mentioned...

...just three quick reasons. One is that it's the same God, right, even though there are great differences. In the book of Hebrews spends a lot of time explaining these differences, why we don't do certain things anymore. Nevertheless, it's the same God in both the old and New Testament, and it would make sense that this God whom we worship in both the old and the news, there's going to be some continuity there. Indeed, Jesus is Jehovah. He is the one who revealed himself to this people and commanded these things. A second reason, not only is God the same in both old and new and we have we worship the same God, but we remember Jesus's role particular in the New Testament. He brought many aspects of Old Testament to an end, not because he said, well, this was garbage and why did we bother with that? We made a mistake. God made a mistake, I made a mistake. Now, that's not why they come to an end. They come to an end because they find fulfillment in him. It's like when you're working on a project. You know you've got directions and plans and helpers and maybe contractors, and you pull it all together and you move until you get to the completion of that plan. Right. You don't throw away the building material and all that because you hated it or it was terrible or it wouldn't do what it was supposed to do. Know you you move that off the side. If you're building a house, you send the contractors away it because it's done, not because they were worthless, not because they were bad, but because they serve their purpose. The House came to completion, it came to fulfillment, and that's what Jesus does. I can't do it this morning. I'd love to, but when we go through the Old Testament and we see the various sacrifices and the feasts and the offerings and the holy days and the geography of the land and the various aspects of the whole thing, it all, in all kinds of intricate ways, points to Jesus. And you know this as you've read the by pulls. You come to understand these connections if you've read Hebrews. Well so anyway, that's a second reason. We are right to understand the old testament because and the Old Testament worship that God gave to Israel, because it helps us understand the fulfillment to that piss helps us to understand Jesus. That leads me to my third reason, which is that new the New Testament explains worship in Old Testament terms. In other words, if the thing that I just said is true, about the Old Testament being fulfilled in the new particularly the Old Testament worship being fulfilled in Jesus, then it would make sense that the new testament would use old testament terms to describe new testament worship. Let me give you an example. Romans twelve one, and we'll come back to this later. Paul uses the same word here for worship that he uses in the passage I read, for in verses nine, four and five. Listen to what he says and listen to the Old Testament echoes. Okay. I appeal to you, therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. We don't have sacrifices here on Sunday morning. We don't bring animal is in. There isn't an altar. The table that we serve communion on is a is a table, it's not an altar. We don't have these kinds of sacrifices anymore, and yet paul uses the language of sacrifice, doesn't he it's what it is. He tells us to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. These sacrifices...

...cannot be unclean. They must be holy, they must be acceptable to God, and this is our spiritual worship or reasonable service. So you can see what I mean when I say how important it is for us to understand Israel, to understand the Old Testament, because it helps us to fill in the color, in the details of what New Testament worship is all about. So what is it about? What is Old Testament worship about? Well, there's a lot of different ways you can approach it. There's a lot of subjects you could talk about. One Way to approach it is through the various words that are described. I mentioned some of them earlier. Praising, thanking, sacrificing, giving thanks on or glory, submission, honor, praise. An Old Testament Professor Daniel Block, A, Professor Wheaton, takes all these terms and he puts him into just these three categories, which all I'll give to you now as a way to help us picture and understand what Old Testament worship was all about. He talks about three different categories. He talks about dispositional expressions, which is worship as attitude, physical expressions of worship or worship as gesture, and then also liturgical expressions or worship as ritual, all of these various terms and words that we have for worship and service and whatnot, putting into these categories. So the first one is worship as attitude. You might put it this way. Devotion to God begins with the fear of God. Devotion to God begins with the fear of God. Now, I'll tell you that for a long, long time this particular verbs at very uncomfortable with me and even, I think, when I first became a minister, I struggled to know how to describe it. How is it that we're supposed to fear God, because obviously there's ways were not supposed to fear God. He's we're not afraid of him in ways that we are about other things perhaps, and he talks to us as a father, as a friend, and yet there are these very clear commands in scripture to fear him. What does that mean? Deuteronomy ten twelve, as a ten verses twelve through thirteen, has this kind of catechism question about devotion to the Lord. The question has been verse twelve. And now Israel. What does Yahway, your God, require of you? But and then here's the answer to fear Yah Way, your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve Yah Way, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your soul, and to keep his commandments and statutes, all of those things, walking in the Lord, walking in a consistent way, walking in his ways. It all begins with fear. You must fear him. Now, this word is a word that we use to describe powerful, scary things. Right. We fear getting hit by a car? Why? Because it's faster and more powerful than us. It can hurt us, it can take our lives. We fear being bit by something poisonous. We fear someone, a murderous person, a taking our life. Is that an appropriate word to use for God? Well, of course, God is not a poison...

...he's not a murderous person, but he is similar to these things and that he is powerful. Right, Jesus says, do not fear Him who can take your life, but him who can take your soul. He takes our fear and understanding of God and relation to other things and even sort of steps it up a level. He says, if you are scared of these things, be scared of God himself. He can take your life. He is powerful. There is this kind of real fear without any kind of qualifications. I think that we have to say about that. Can we really go before the God of the universe in any kind of cavalier, nonfearing way? Is that even possible for someone who has a right conception of God? Sure, as Christians we might add to that. We might say, well, of course he's not going to kill us because the curse is already been taken away in Christ. We know that he loves us, so will be okay. And yet, nevertheless he is still capable of those kinds of things. It's kind of maybe it would be similar to sort of standing on the edge of the Canyon and you look down you go, this is scary. I'm okay, maybe there's a rail there, maybe everything's okay. You see, you know, hundreds of other people standing there. Everything's fine, and yet it's scary. It's there's a kind of fear and awe, a reverence that comes from standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Isn't there because you sense its power, you sense how, in some ways this thing is bigger and greater than me. Maybe you've felt that with other kind of natural things, whether it's a mountain or a wind, or you've been on a ship that's being rocked by the sea, or maybe you've seen it in social events and political things and and economies. You get this sense from time to time that I'm kind of small. Well, if we sense that with things in the world, what of the one who made the world? You see why the scripture doesn't really equivocate on this and says fear God, because he's powerful, because he's mighty, because he's cabable, because he rules perfectly. And, if we're to be honest, we are sinners. We're not just weak, but we do things that are against this God, against His Holiness. So, going back to Deuteronoma, when it comes to thinking about worship and devotion to God, what is it that the king, the ruler of the universe, requires of us? To treat him in is an equal and love him when we have the opportunity, to bring him alongside of us when we need some help, or serve him when we get a chance. No, fear him. You owe him something, you owe him your life. We must fear him. We cannot serve him, we cannot love him, we can't walk in his ways unless we fear him, because if we don't fear him, we walk in his ways until it's not convenient. We say well, I'm going to do something else, doesn't matter, it's not going to hurt. What problem could there possibly be? But if you have in your mind a conception of God as God, if you have in your heart a conception of God as God, it's not so easy to just turn aside and say well, of course I want to do something else. One of the ways that we see this interacting with worship is in Malachi. I'm not good.

I would. I was going to read you chapter one, but I'm not going to do that. Read Chapter One this afternoon and see the ways in which the fear of the Lord, or lack of the fear of the Lord, impacts worship. Going back to Daniel Walk, he lists these various things that molock. He's just listing what Malachi says there. He talks about how a lack of fear from the Lord brought about in Israel, in God's people, contempt for sacrifices, boredom in worship, a calloused disposition toward vows, ministerial irresponsibility and infidelity, ingratitude and stinginess in tithing, arrogance toward Yahwey. Of course we see these things in ourselves. This is not just post to exile Israel when we don't fear the Lord. That is what happens. You come into worship and you say, well, I can be here, I cannot. You know, I'm if I can, if I can't, or, even worse, content having contempt for the things of God. I hate the things of God, I don't want to be with the things of God or near them. Now, of course, when we think about worship is attitude. Worship involves this concern of the heart, this disposition of fear. But I must say, as I've hinted at already, for the Christian it isn't terror. For the unbeliever at very well might be. If you stand to God only under his law and as one who's disobedient, then you should be very afraid because your life is only being preserved by the mercy of God for the moment. There's no reason which he has to keep you alive for a moment longer and not put you under his wrath and curse forever. For the Christian it's different, not because the Christian person has obeyed all of God's law, but because God has given his righteousness to them. A Christian is one who isn't a perfect in their own righteousness. There one who has been perfected in his they've been forgiven. The Christian goes before God not saying, Lord, I can ascend your holy sale he'll because I have a pure heart, much more than all these other Yogol yogols. I go before the Lord with a pure heart because you've given this to me, you've cleansed it, you've washed you've purified me. I'm not holier than them, I'm not holier than you. I'm holy because you've made me holy, and so I come in fear, but in confidence too. We go before the Lord and worship, fearing him, yes, but also bold, knowing that he is our king and that he loves us. Well, we need to move on. I'm to worship as gesture. One thing that is included in Israel's worship is this worship of the heart, this fearing the Lord. A second thing is gesture, or bodily physical things. One of the most predominant ways worship is described in Israel is bowing, kneeling, prostrating one's self, let me read to you just a little bit from Isaiah Forty two. Isaiah Forty two, verse twenty three. No, this is not right, or I'm looking in the wrong thing and don't realize it. Let me read to you a different verse. First Corinthians fourteen twenty five says the secrets of his heart are disclosed...

...and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. Who is Paul talking about? To the Corinthians he's talking about a stranger, a stranger who comes into worship, a stranger who walks into the people of God. What does he see? How is a stranger who comes into the people of God to react? How is that person to feel, given what is said, given the attitude of the people, given the response of that peep, the the people of God are having to his word? Is he too? Well, I'll read it to you. He will find that he is called to account. The secrets of his heart are disclosed and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. This falling on one's face, this sort of New Testament description of worship is, of course, very similar to many pictures we have in the Old Testament. When I say pictures, I don't just mean words. If you go back and you look in the ancient Near East, at at at pictures on pots and statues and things like that, what do you see people doing? Bowing, bowing. We don't bow very much in America, but Christians do sometimes. When we bow our heads in worship, that's not just so that we can keep the kids from being distracted. It's an act of prostration. It's a humbling of ourselves before the Lord and saying you are worthy, you are holy, you, to you do belongs praise and glory and not to me. It's an act of submission and we see this in various kinds of examples throughout the Old Testament. Bowing, worship is gesture and finally, worship as ritual. This is probably the first thing that you think of when you think about worship in the Old Testament, the sacrifices, the free feasts, the holy days. It's helpful to note that this word, this this this worship that is offered is often parallel to service. And you'll see why that's helpful if you remember that act, that gesture of bowing when we bow, we are saying, I I give deference to you. It's a it's kind of an act of service. It's a it's a gesture of service. Well, sometimes worship is talked about this way. So, for example, when Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, will you let the people go for a few days, do you remember what he asks for that they might go out into the desert and serve God? What does Moses have in mind? Will we know from the other pors, other portions of scripture, that it was a feast and sacrifices and various of these kinds of rituals? Service to the Lord, worship to the Lord, involve these external things, these rituals and ceremonies. This word, these words are also used in the Old Testament to describe servants in the temple, those who serve the Lord from the tribe of Lee by those who serve the Lord as priests, are those who are involved in all the ritual elements of Israelite worship. And so that's one reason. Some bibles translate that Romans twelve verse as. This is this act of spiritual sacrifice, is your reasonable service. The SEV translates that as a spiritual a spiritual worship. Well, what do we when we take all these things together? I'm attitude, gesture, ritual. What can we conclude? One thing we can conclude about the worship...

God gave to Israel is that it's not, as some people think of worship, purely external. Some people think of worship this way. Right, it's purely external. It doesn't matter what I do in my heart. As long as I say the right things as I are, long as I talk to the right people, is show up at the right church, do these external things, God will be pleased. But, as we know from our thinking about the fear of the Lord, the devotion God requires, it's not purely external. It's very much an internal thing. Worship is a thing of the heart. Well, some people think what worship is purely external. Other people think it's purely internal. The Bible doesn't say that either. The internal realities, the fear that's in one's heart, extends out into our lives. The internal realities have external expressions, from the ways than which we position our bodies to the paths on which we choose to walk, and that includes the ceremonies of the church, the ceremonies and rituals of worship. Some people think of worship is purely informal and individual. As long as I have my heart in the right place and I have a relationship with God, then that's all God cares about. But that certainly wasn't true in the Old Testament. If you had a sacrifice that was old, you'd better pay it. If you had an offering that was owed or a vow that you promised, if there was something that was part of the system, or if there was a holy day coming up or a feast that was offered, you couldn't say to God, why, of my relationship with you, I'm not really going to do these things that you've commanded. God has certain requirements on his people and those requirements, those liturgies, those expressions of worship that we see in the Old Testament are not inhibitions to worship or road blocks to worship. They are the worship. That is what worship is. It is doing those things, even those external things, with a heart that's in the right place, a heart that fears the Lord and then moves forward into external realities and serves him. And the same is true in the New Testament. This worship that God gave Israel, though it is changed in some ways, in the particular external forms, there is very much the same kind of heart here. Our heart must be in the right place. There are external expressions of it and there are corporate gatherings of preaching and sacraments and singing that we must attend, we must belong to. It is what God calls us to. It's how he marks us. Now you know already that Israel did not keep worship as it ought. Israel took the worship that God gave to them and it bowed down to other gods. It didn't keep the temple holy, it didn't keep the feasts and sacrifices and fasting as it ought. They profaned the sabbaths and over and over throughout all the profits you hear are this kind of common condemnation. And it's a condemnation I think, at least I hope. Maybe condemnations right, not the right word, but up pricking of the heart. When I read those sections from Malachi, these descriptions of things that will happen when we don't fear the Lord, distraction, boredom, not caring, these things are true of us as well. When our heart arts aren't in the right place. Israel didn't keep the worship they that they ought, and we know from scripture and from our own hearts, are own lives, that we don't worship God as...

...we ought. If we give deference to our bosses at work or our fathers and our homes, how are we not going to give deference to God, to worship him with reverence and awe, to humble ourselves before him? This we don't do. But I'm here to tell you that the king we have, the king that we are called to worship and love and serve, is a king who commands, is a king who requires, but he's also a king who forgives. If it weren't for that fact, then we should be terrified of coming before him, even those holy prophets of his who are caught up in a great vision to enter into the Throne Room of God and somehow see and expression of who he is on his throne. You know what they did, like Isaiah, they fall down before him, they shake, they tremble, they cry out, they're feeling impending doom until the Lord says stand up, I'm going to speak to you. Not that moment when you hear that promise. When you hear the offer of grace and forgiveness, you don't lay there on the ground say no, no, I'm not worthy and I don't want to listen to you still and know, you stand up and you receive the gift. If the king is offering you pardon, you go. You go before the King and you say I'm here, Lord, I'm not worthy, Lord, but save me, Lord, and that is what he offers. How do we know? How do we know? How can we enter with boldness and confidence before the throne of God and worship him? It's because of the Christ that Paul Mentions in these verses, in Romans Nine, four and five. It's because Jesus hung on a cross, even while the Roman soldiers took to the knee to mock him, King Jesus, as he hung on across, there were people around him, laughing, ridiculing him. Oh, King of the Jews, let's put a robe on him, let's put a placard above his cross. He took on that kind of indignity and shame and dishonor when he was oh to everything, out of love for us. He did it so that we can know that we have forgiveness so that the grath of God and the condemnation for our false worship and our bad worship, are in pure worship, would be all washed away. Paul said, you remember at the beginning of Romans that people do not worship God as they ought. Instead of worshiping and serving the immortal, glorious God, they make images of creeping things and worship their money and themselves and all the rest. That's what God saves us from. Those are the sins that he forgives. He didn't have to do that, he wasn't required to do that, but he did it nevertheless. And so though we have sinned, though we are unworthy, through Christ, God opens up away for us to come back to him and serve him. He cleanses us, he sanctifies us, he gives us his spirit and because Jesus came not just for the Jews, it means that all of us can find our place again and in service to him.

Does that, when you hear that news, does that make you feel like treating God in an irreverent way? Does that make you think that, oh, worship can be no big deal? What was kind of laugh and joke our way through it, throw out t shirts, whatever, have a good time. That's what it's about, having fun. Or when you hear about the grace of God in Christ, does it make you want to bow the knee, to humble yourself before him, to give yourself fully over to him in fear and reverence, in awe? I hope it's the latter. We read in Hebrews twelve that things have changed. In the grace of Jesus Christ, we don't come dismount Sinai anymore blazing with fire, threatening the law. He says. You have not come to what maybe touched a blazing fire or a darkness, a gloom, a tempest, the sound of a trumpet at whose voice words made the heroes bag that no further messages bespoken to them. Indeed, so terrifying was the sight of Moses on Mount Sinai that Moses said, I tremble with fear. But you Christians have not come to Mount Sinai. You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to be innumerable angels and festal gathering. You've come to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled to heaven and to God. The judge of all into the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. He concludes the section by saying, therefore, let us be grateful, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Do not leave today without bowing your head and your heart before God, in repentance, ingratitude, in boldness, in confidence, but also in fear. As you go before the King of the world, who was also the king on the cross so that we could be saved from our sins. Let's bow our heads in our hearts and praise him and love him and serve Him who forgives us. Let us pray even now,.

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