Introduction to Worship

A Prepared Offering

“When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it. He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.” - Leviticus 2:1-2

“Thus the lamb and the meal offering and the oil shall be provided, morning by morning, for a regular burnt offering.” - Ezekiel 46:15

The meal offering of the people of God was to be prepared at home. As the offerer prepared the ingredients of flour, oil and frankincense, he was worshipping God for providing the good things of life. He was also thankful and appreciative, spending time in preparation, meditation, and giving of his resources to ensure that God was worshipped and glorified. The worshipping of God in this way and every way was a very serious matter.

Exodus 13:15 shows us that “No one was to appear before the Lord empty.” In the context of the Lord’s Supper that we now celebrate instead of giving sacrifices to the Lord, we should bring our prepared offering as we appear before God. Today, our prepared offering is Jesus - the Lord Jesus is all that we can offer or boast in - nothing less and nothing more. In this worship of the Lord’s Supper, we present Jesus to the Father in all the excellent and incomparable glories: His preeminence, His virgin birth, His victorious death, and His victorious resurrection glory.

In the meal offering, the people of God only took a handful of the oil and salt and all the frankincense and threw it on the altar, and what was left of the ingredients of the offering was food for the priests. But note that all the frankincense was set aside for God “as a pleasing aroma.” There is nothing that pleases the heart of God more than for His people to be occupied alone with Christ, and to present to Him His superlative Son, setting aside what is His. God says to us, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” When we worship we say thankfully and humbly in return, “We present to you your beloved Son in whom we are well pleased.” (See Matthew 3:17)

When the people of God and the universal church worship the Lord, we are also called to be holy, just as our Father in heaven is holy. We should acknowledge and sincerely praise the Lord for His absolute and complete holiness, to whom every believer should aspire. Exodus 15:11 proclaims, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” The Lord is indeed awesome in His splendor and works mightily in the world! Acts 2:36 declares, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Ephesians 1:20-21 says God “worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” Our Savior humbled Himself by his death on the cross, and God has highly exalted Him. Jesus did not seek things for Himself, but God has given Him a name that is above every name. Jesus bent His knee to serve others, yet God has decreed that every knee shall bow to Him!

 

Cleansing

In our worship of the Lord, there is another area of preparation with which we are not so familiar - the area of soul cleansing. Habakkuk 1:13 says, God “is of purer eyes than to behold evil.” He will not regard any who attend the worship meeting with a newfound sin in their life. It is only those “with clean hands and pure heart, and who have not lifted up their soul in vanity, not sworn deceitfully” who will “ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His presence.” (Psalm 24:3-4)

John also introduces us to foot washing. We all are in need of the Savior to wash our feet with the water of the Word. We need to get rid of the filth of the world, confess of our sin, and repent. There must not be any unconfessed sin present in our lives when we come to worship! Hard thoughts, bitterness, anger and strife must be dealt with, and wrong attitudes corrected. As we read in Matthew 5:23-24, “when we bring our gifts to the altar, and remember that we have something against a brother, leave your gift there and go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” If we take this literally, we indeed need to confess our sins and reconcile before we come to the altar of worship. These are scriptural truths that we neglect today, and they are the result of both individuals and church bodies being spiritually impoverished and withheld from God’s blessing.

 

A Nation of Priests

Furthermore, as we think about worshipping our holy God, we should recognize our own roles as Holy Priests. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter tells us, “We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special people.” Also in Ephesians 1:4, Paul tells the church, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” To be royal priests is to proclaim the excellencies of Christ to the world, witnessing to the world, and to be holy priests is to go into the sanctuary to worship. Paul and Silas of Philippi are examples of those who were royal priests going into the world. In Acts 16, Luke reports the story of them being jailed in Philippi, being persecuted for their faith, and yet witnessing to a Philippian jailer, whose entire family is ultimately baptized through their gospel witness! Yet being royal priests is one of the church’s weaknesses today.

Jesus’ words at the Last Supper were: “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) Jesus’ last words before His ascension into heaven, following his resurrection were: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” The church tends to be strong on the “This do,” part of Jesus’ command, yet weak on the “Go,” part of Jesus’ great commission. God has bypassed angels and has given us (His people) a message to proclaim to a perishing world - the only message of hope!

We indeed serve a living Savior—the only One. Faith in Christ, receiving Him as Savior, and receiving eternal life as a free gift is the only message of its kind. All other religious people come with their hands full, hoping what they have to offer can merit salvation. In our faith in Jesus, we come with empty hands, recognizing that we have nothing to offer but our faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel message of the cross! Let us remember the words of the hymn, Rock of Ages, saying, “Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to the cross I cling.”