Last Sunday night, our church discussed worship. What does true worship look like? How is it expressed? What brings true worship? As you can imagine, the discussion was quite diverse. I was reminded that oftentimes I have tried to manufacture worship, or rather a feeling of worship when in reality it is all about God and not a feeling. I Kings 18 reminds us of such a time.
I Kings 18:20 begins the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This is what it says, “So Ahab summoned all the Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. Then Elijah approached all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If Yahweh is God, follow Him. But if Baal, follow him.” But the people didn’t answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I am the only remaining prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us. They are to choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and place it on the wood but not light the fire. I will prepare the other bull and place it on the wood but not light the fire. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire, He is God.” All the people answered, “That ⌊sounds⌋ good.” Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.” So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed over them. All afternoon they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound; no one answered, no one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near me.” So all the people approached him. Then he repaired the LORD’s altar that had been torn down: Elijah took 12 stones—according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel will be your name”—
and he built an altar with the stones in the name of Yahweh. Then he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold about four gallons. Next, he arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed it on the wood. He said, “Fill four water pots with water and pour it on the offering to be burned and on the wood.” Then he said, “A second time!” and they did it a second time. And then he said, “A third time!” and they did it a third time. So the water ran all around the altar; he even filled the trench with water. At the time for offering the ⌊evening⌋ sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached ⌊the altar⌋ and said, “Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things. Answer me, LORD! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.” Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!”
What really struck me about this passage was the way in which the people were trying to get Baal’s attention. They were shouting, leaping and even cutting themselves to make him act. We know that Baal could never act due to the fact that he was not alive, but it did put into perspective for me how often I have tried to manipulate the hand of God as they tried to manipulate the hand of Baal.
How often have I wanted our church service to feel a certain way, or look like a particular worship pattern, or wanted God to disguise the fact that things are not as they should be so that visitors would not catch on? How often have I checked the boxes that I feel make a good worship service only to then sit back expecting God to act exactly as I pictured? How often have I gone home from a service disappointed in God because He did not keep His end of my expected bargain? How many times have I tried to manipulate the God of the universe?
Watchman Nee said in his book “Sit, Walk, Stand”, “Too often we think that the actual doing is what matters. We have to learn the lesson of not doing- of keeping quiet for Him. We have to learn that if God does not move, we dare not move…The abiding principle of all true Christian work is, ‘In the beginning God…’”
I must ask myself, “Do I want the feeling of worship, or do I really want to wait for true worship?” Think about it, do we want false worship where we just feel close to God, or do we want to wait for the mercy drops of His Spirit coming and reigning over not just a service, but our entire life?
Pastor Nee reminds me that instead of checking my boxes, I need to be listening to God’s voice. What does He want me to do? Rest in Him? Repent for the people? Be still and know that He is God? Encourage the brethren? Pray over the sanctuary? I must listen to know. I am not listening to induce a false feeling of worship, or to manipulate a certain behavior from God. I am listening so that I am as close to God as I can possibly be. Not to feel, or look a certain way, but to simply be in His presence which will naturally prompt worship. I must be like the maiden in Psalm 132:2 that looks to the hand of her mistress. I too must be on the alert for God’s hand to move.
In the above passage, Elijah simply heard what God wanted Him to do. When he heard clearly, he obeyed. What do we find in the passage as a result? Spontaneous worship. The Scripture tells us that the people who had been leaping to gain a false god’s attention, now said, “The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God.”
We must realize that any true worship is prompted by the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Any worship that is not of ourselves, is only of Him. We must not be so intent on checking boxes, but instead faithfully looking to Him for His directives knowing that when we are about our Father’s business, true worship exudes from us and prompts others to do the same. Then, as one body, we can say,“The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God.”
O, Lord, may false worship be removed from our sanctuaries so there is room for the one, true and living God.
Please visit the ministry site at : Seeking Hearts Ministries