The Heart of Worship

I believe worship is extremely important. But I also believe that most of our fighting over worship boils down to what we want. We waltz on in and complain about not starting on time – those people and their fellowshipping, actually enjoying one another’s company. Then we get unhappy about the song selection. I mean what was the song leader or worship leader or whoever picked out these songs thinking. They are too slow or maybe they are too contemporary or maybe they are too shallow or maybe too theologically heavy. And the prayers? Do we really need to talk to God so many times during a worship event? Or maybe we don’t pray enough. And don’t even get me started on the preacher. Was he actually jumping up and down last week? What a child? Wait! Stop! Sing with me the chorus from Michael W. Smith’s song “The Heart of Worship”. I’ll provide the words: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship And it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus. I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it When it’s all about you, It’s all about you, Jesus.”

In Exodus 39:32-43 we are told that the Tabernacle is finished! By some calculations, this took about six months. So, when we read that all of the labor of the Tabernacle – the Tent of Assembling – was finished, there really ought to be a shout for joy or at least a sigh of relief. After all this is a community project that demanded financing, skilled labor, and oversight and now it is done. But this is not just a community project like some kind of event center. This is the physical representation of the Presence of Yahweh among the Israelites. Completed, it represents opportunity to worship before God. It was kind of big deal. We are told that the work was all done according to the command of Yahweh as given to Moses. This is emphasized at the beginning and end of the section. Why? Well, because the Presence of Yahweh is not up to their artistic expression; because worship of Yahweh is defined by Yahweh. This Tabernacle is not about what their personal wants or wishes might have been. It is about Yahweh consenting to tent among them. They do not get to decide what that should look like. So, they are told during the instruction and construction sections that they are to follow God’s design. And now that it is all finally completed, they can, with sense of accomplishment and obedience hand everything over to Moses to inspect.

Verse 33-41 is a list of everything that was made. Durham calls these items “media of worship.” Even though this is about Yahweh tenting with them, it is also about Israel worshiping God. This list is also found in 31:7-11 and 35:11-19. There is nothing new here. But there is an important reminder. If God decides to tent with us, we don’t tell him how that should happen. Shouldn’t we, all filled with knock you to your knees overwhelming joy, just say “thank you Lord”? And the “media of worship”? Right about now, some of you are getting nervous. Am I going to dip into a Pharisaical rant about what should or should not be a part of worship. No, no I am not. I believe God has given us a lot of freedom in our worship. And now the rest of you are nervous. My fear is that we sometimes slip into attitudes concerning worship that misses the very point. Whatever you are doing, does it honor God? If I am grumbling about the songs, prayers, lessons, how some people show up in shorts during the summer time, am I honoring God? And isn’t that the point or heart of worship?

At the end of this passage, we are told again that they had finished the work following the instructions of Yahweh given to them through Moses. Moses looks intently at their workmanship. And then he blesses them. We use the word blessed, but I’m not sure we grasp the importance of receiving a blessing from a man of God, or, as in this case, the mediator between God and the people. It was a big deal. It is a request that the blessings of God flow down upon them. Moses does not stipulate what the blessing will look like. And there just may be a lesson there for us. If God blesses us, no matter what form that blessing takes, it will be a good thing.

Let’s get back to the heart of worship. Let’s seek forgiveness for all the ways we have made worship about us. Let’s honor God. Let’s adore him. And here’s the thing; when we make worship about God, we are blessed. Every time. There is something about pouring out our hearts in song, prayer, and study in honor of God that showers blessings all over us. The goal is honoring God. And we are blessed!