Thankfulness to God is primarily expressed in our worship of Him. Our service is directly related to our thankfulness to God. Some people want to serve God but prefer to serve Him “in an advisory capacity”. It is not ours to dictate to God where or how we may serve Him, it is ours to say with the apostle Paul “Lord what will You have me to do?” Believers in Christ, claim the privilege of the “priesthood of all believers” <see 1 Pet.2:5>, yet most fail to understand that with every privilege there comes a responsibility. As members of a local Church, we are all called to be priests who worship and serve God, and as we examine the life and work of a priest as described in the scriptures, we see many parallels between the Old Testament priest and the New Testament priest. The two primary functions of priests are: 1. Worship; 2. Service. An O.T. priest could not take the office of a priest if he was not able and willing to worship God. Likewise, he could not be a priest if he had no intention to serve God.
- WORSHIP: What Is Worship? (Quote: A. W. Tozer.) “Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner, a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe, astonished wonder, and overpowering love, in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call “Our Father Which is in Heaven”.
Worship In the Old Testament: is centred around an altar. The first mention of an altar was after the flood when Noah built an Altar and sacrificed clean animals and birds to the Lord <Gen 8:20>. “The altar of worship was Abram’s constant practice, wherever he settled. Abram set up, and kept up, the worship of God in his family; and wherever he had a tent God had an altar, he instructed his family and servants in the knowledge of the true God.” <Gen.12:6-9> (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary). Prior to the Tabernacle, the head of each family acted as priest and conducted worship for his family and servants. After the Law was given Moses carried out God’s instructions and constructed the Tabernacle, in which all worship was conducted by the family of Aaron and priests called Levites that God had selected, and from that time onward the Jews did not have individual family priests. In the Tabernacle were two altars: (1) the bronze altar that was placed in the courtyard, on which the burnt sacrifices were offered; (2) the altar of incense on which only incense was offered <Ex.30:9>. One of the priests’ duties was to maintain these altars on which sacrifices were offered continually. There were five offerings made on the bronze altar: three voluntary offerings (the BURNT, GRAIN, and FELLOWSHIP offerings); and two mandatory offerings (the SIN offering for unintentional sin, and the GUILT offering for unintentional sin where retribution was required) <Lev.1-7>. Worship consisted of the sacrificial offerings and the singing of Psalms <2 Chron.7:6; 29:27-28>, conducted daily by the priests as well as for the annual feasts days that were required and set out in the Law. Unfortunately, as time progressed the spiritual lives of the people deteriorated, and so went their worship! God spoke through the prophets repeatedly in an attempt to restore the true worship of His people.
HOSEA addressed the deeper meaning of worship: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” <Hos.6:6 (NIV)>
MICAH declared the worship the lord expects: “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” <Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)>
MALACHI declared acceptable worship: “… he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.” <Mal.3:3-4 (NIV)>
Worship In the New Testament: In the N. T., the physical altar of sacrifice has been replaced by the Spiritual altar and spiritual sacrifices. O.T. priests offered animal sacrifices that were pictures or types of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. Since our Lord’s offering was a much better sacrifice than theirs, and His offering is a final and eternal sacrifice, we, as N.T. priests are called to offer Christ to God as a sacrifice of praise in our worship <see Heb.9:11-12; 10:10, 18; 13:15>.
Therefore, as N.T. priests, we are called to offer up “spiritual sacrifices of praise – the fruit of our lips”. In the same way that worship in the O.T. had to be orderly, the N.T. requirement is also for orderly and true worship. Wrong attitudes such as divisions in the body of the local church, cliques, irreverence and self-centeredness, no regard for others or for the Lord Jesus Himself who is the centre of our gathering or coming together, these things cannot be acceptable <1 Cor.11:17-32>. Good attitudes must be exhibited whenever the local church comes together for worship <see 1 Cor.14:26, 40; Eph.5:19-21>. The motivation or driving force for our worship is to be acceptable to God in every way. Gifts of Praise (Matt. 5:24) (Quote: G. C. Morgan) “God seeks and values the offerings we bring Him – gifts of praise, thanksgiving, service, and material offerings. In all such giving at the altar we enter into the highest experiences of fellowship. But the offering is acceptable to God in the measure to which the one who offers it is in fellowship with God in character and conduct; and the test of this is in our relationships with our fellow men. We are thus charged to postpone giving to God until right relationships are established with others. Could the neglect of this be the explanation of the barrenness of our worship?” <see Heb.12:28-29>.
2. SERVICE: Service in the Old Testament was related to the Tabernacle (Temple) <see Num.18:1-7>. “The LORD said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your father’s family are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood.” <Num.18:1 (NIV)>. Offence [iniquity] is to violate or transgress; to cause to fall into sinful ways. (Webster’s Dictionary). The priests were to “bear the responsibility for offences against the sanctuary and priesthood”; this meant that they should not violate or transgress God’s rules and regulations for their service. They were to be careful not to fall into sinful ways of service, for if they offended in the office of the priesthood or in their service, the judgement of God would be swift and sure <see Num.18:5-7>. God’s primary rule of service for the priest was that they, and only they, were to serve in the Tabernacle. Anyone else who attempted to do such service, or even to come near to the sanctuary would be put to death. The priest’s service was a lifetime and fulltime job, he was to have no distractions from without that would cause him to fail in his duty to God and the people. Each had his assigned duties and area of service, and each depended on the other, and all worked to the glory of God.
Service in the New Testament is related to our spiritual temple and the service to which we are called. N.T. priests are called to serve in the attitude that our Lord can return at any time. <see Mk.13:34>. As N.T. priests we each have our assigned area of service in relation to our calling and gift, and therefore, we are all dependent upon each other in the Master’s service. When one servant fails in his/her assignment the whole project stalls or fails, and the one at the door may have to announce the sudden return of the Master, and we all have to account to Him for the failure of the job. The Master whom we serve is Lord, and many of us acknowledge Him as Saviour, but few acknowledge Him as Lord. Such “call” Him Lord but fail to do the things He commands them to do – they fail in their service! The reason for our service is more important than the act itself. God who sees the attitude and motive of the heart, and the true purpose of our action, will judge our service. So let us always ask ourselves – “WHY do I serve Him?” and be sure that we do everything for His glory <see 1 Cor.10:31; 4:5>.
Since Christ will examine our service, we should not judge the service of others. Let us be sure that our individual service will stand the scrutiny of the Master, since we will all stand before Him to give our individual account. The importance is not in the amount of work I have done, what is important is the quality and type of work that I have done! <see 2 Cor.5:10; 1 Cor.3:13-14; Rev.22:12>. Numbers 18:1-7 is applicable here to some degree: “bear the responsibility for offences against the sanctuary and priesthood“; we should do nothing to violate God’s standards for our priesthood or service! As a priest there must be evidence of our service. Unfortunately, for some there is no evidence.
The Dead Sea is so salty that it contains no fish or plant life. What accounts for this unusual condition? There are absolutely no outlets! A great volume of water pours into this area, but nothing flows out. Many inlets plus no outlets equal a dead sea. This law of nature may also be applied to the child of God, and it explains why many believers are so unfruitful and lacking in spiritual vitality. It’s possible for some people to attend Bible conferences, listen to religious broadcasts, study the Scriptures, and continually take in the Word as it is preached from the pulpit, and yet seem lifeless and unproductive in their Christian lives. Such individuals are like the Dead Sea. They have several “inlets” but no “outlets.” To be vibrant and useful believers, we must not only “take in” all we can, but we must also “give out” in service to God and to others! (Source: Our Daily Bread,1996, May 22)
Godly Service therefore is: bearing the responsibility of our office as priest; serving God in expectancy of Christ’s soon return; being able to give a good report to our Master; being willing to “give out” in service to others
CONCLUSION: As priests our journey must begin with the worship of God if we are to experience true Thankfulness and Godly Service. We must, therefore, learn to worship before we can serve effectively, and in order for our worship to be effective and acceptable to God there must be a “purifying of the temple”, as was done by Hezekiah because of the low level of spirituality of God’s people <see 2 Chron.29:3-5>. This account is a parable of the cleansing of the heart meant to be a temple for God. We find that the doors of prayer are closed, the lamps of testimony unlit, the burnt-offerings of self-sacrifice neglected; and, as a result, grass grows thick in courts which should have been trodden by the feet of Levite minstrels engaged in holy song. If ever that song is to break out again, there must be a thorough cleansing and renovation of the inner shrine. If you cannot sing the Lord’s song; then you have gone into the strange land of backsliding. If you acknowledge that for some time now you have taken no delight in God or his service; then the temple is badly in need of renovation. Cleanse the house of the Lord. Bring out all the uncleanness. By self-examination, confession, and self-denial, be clean of all the refuse that has accumulated through months and years of neglect. Resume the position of complete devotion, a prepared and sanctified servant. Offer the sin-offering for the past, and prepare the burnt-offering of complete consecration for the future. And when that is offered, when you determine to be wholly God’s, lay yourself, with all the interests of your life, at the feet of Jesus, for his disposal; then the song of the Lord will begin again. The music of your life is still, because you are out of accord with the will of God; but when by surrender and consecration there is unison with God, your heart will be filled with songs of worship and praise. And when there is a cleansing of the heart; the lamps of testimony have been re-lit; the burnt offerings of consecration are restored: then the song of praise to God will break-forth from our lips. “Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the LORD began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the singers sang and the trumpeters played. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed.” <2 Chron.29:27-28 (NIV)>
Our service to God will have many variations, sometimes all will go well, but unfortunately there will be the difficult times, and it is at such times that the song of praise may not heard. As we face the battles and the strife, we must be like king Jehoshaphat as he faced an enemy that was “vast”; a large army of Moabites and Ammonites were approaching from Edom, and we read that Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah “came together to seek help from the Lord”. After being encouraged by the Lord, the king and his army faced the enemy, and the enemy was soundly defeated. However, not before they had worshipped and praised the Lord <see 2 Chron.20:1-4, 21-22>.
Do you praise the beauty of His holiness? Do you appreciate holiness as it is presented in our glorious Lord? Can you turn from the noise and anxiety of life’s battle to dwell on the loveliness of God, to live a life devoted to divine worship and service, and to praise Him whose mercy endures forever? This can only be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In each of us there should be the priest-side of character as well as the warrior: the love for what is beautiful in holiness as well as for the strong and active in service. The special characteristic of this battle was that the king put the singers in the front of the army, and praised for a victory that was only assured to him by faith. Yet so sure was he of it, that he could praise before he entered into the battle. There is much to help us here in our daily combat for God and truth. Let us be the confident that God is going to bless. So, in all prayer, wait on God till you feel that you can praise Him for what you have asked Him to do.
When the singers began to praise, the Lord did all the rest. Before the attack of Jehoshaphat’s army, the enemy was destroyed. His people had only to gather the spoil, and then the praise that had anticipated the battle was brought to completion as they returned to Jerusalem. We must be confident in the face of our enemy that God is going to bless our service for Him, and never cease to worship and praise God for all He is going to do through us.
The dark and difficult times will come, and there won’t be much desire for gratitude or service; at such times, remember Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah! Let us worship and serve the Lord even when the enemy seems so overwhelming. Let us continue to express our gratitude to Him as we worship Him continually from a “clean temple”. Let us be faithful in our service for the Master! Let there be always true Thankfulness and godly service along the way. True worship will always lead to effective service.