To listen to the audio teaching, go to http://followingjesus.org.za/sermons/being-the-beloved-18-the-practice-of-worship-part-4-2/
Intro: Isaiah’s worship in the midst of political crisis
I’ve been teaching on the practice of Kingdom worship to live our highest value of following Jesus (developing intimate relationship with God): In worship, God’s Kingship in heaven and the age to come, breaks into our midst… or as we worship we enter God’s throne room and worship with all the angels and redeemed from all tribes, languages, nations (Hebrews 12:22-24, Revelation 7:9-17). Worship is the means of regular power-encounter with God, especially since Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. But even in the Old Covenant there were such breakthroughs of Kingdom worship – seen in Isaiah 6:1f.
Isaiah was a priest doing his duty of worship when the veil between heaven and earth momentarily lifted, and he saw The Lord. In the routine of regular worship God surprises us with his presence and power – often in the midst of deep instability (“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord…”) – to restore our perspective on reality. We live in a context of international political turmoil, with war and death stalking the nations. Horrendous atrocities have recently taken place locally and internationally, leaving one very vulnerable, even fearful. Who will save us? Who’s in charge? Is there anyone we can trust? “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (read Psalm 11). Look up, see God, he’s on his throne, he’s still in charge! If so, why doesn’t he intervene? The answer…
Three Movements of Worship from Isaiah 6:1-13
- Upward Movement to see The Lord, vv. 1-4:
True worship results in a right view of God, ourselves, and the world (see also Matthew 28:17-20). At times, in worship, the veil is lifted and scales fall from our eyes – washed with tears of worship we see God for who s/he really is: The King of ALL Kings, of ALL Corrupt Presidents, Oppressive Dictators, Islamic Caliphs, Occupying Armies, Russian Separatists, International Terrorists… ALL leaders be warned: worship of “the only true God” revealed in Jesus Christ (John 17:3) is devastatingly subversive of any evil rule! In worship we glimpse God as King on his throne in all his majesty and power, filled with glory, completely “other” (pure & holy), with all heavenly beings in humble attendance (worship = service). Everything is shaken in his presence, by the angelic proclamations, so that what cannot be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:26-29). And those with eyes of worship (faith) see THAT Reality (ruling) over any other threatening reality.
- Inward Movement to face yourself, vv. 5-7:
True worship lifts our gaze up to see God in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 27:4-5). In so doing we’re moved inward to awareness of our true condition before the Holy One, King of ALL Creation. Our response is “Woe is me! I’m unclean, sinful, broken. I live in such a sinful broken world!” To see God is to see yourself and the world accurately. If you have a wrong view of yourself you’re not truly worshipping, you’re not worshipping the only true God. Worship in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24) humbles you, causing you to own your profound need for God’s mercy, forgiveness and healing. As we confess (verbalize) our need for God, to God, he moves upon us, touching us with cleansing and healing each time we worship – unless our pride stands in the way; then God resists us (James 4:6-10). Therefore worship is not about us, or our world; it’s first and foremost about God and his great glory and goodness. The practice of such worship slowly transforms us.
- Outward Movement to see the world and give yourself, vv. 8-13:
“Then” (v.8) we hear God – as in Psalm 95, the third movement of worship is to hear God and obey him. Isaiah hears God speaking to him/herself (the Holy, Holy, Holy Father, Son and Spirit): “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Worship washes our eyes to see clearly, cleanses our hearts and lips to speak purely, but also opens our ears to hear God’s heart cry, the heavy Trinitarian sighs of suffering love for the pain of a rebellious and lost world. So Isaiah responds, waving his hands and raising his voice above all the heavenly beings in God’s throne room, “Here I am! Send me!” He hears, sees and feels God’s heart for the world and offers himself to go for God to the nations, to proclaim and offer God’s salvation, his Rule and Reign of Reconciling Love. Worship is the womb of world missions. God accepted Isaiah’s offer (as he does ours) and sent him to a people (Israel) who would reject him; tradition says he was sawn in half (Hebrews 11:37)! Imagine if your ministry – life of worship – offering repentance and salvation, was in fact to confirm people in their unbelief as they harden their hearts, making them ripe for God’s judgment? A multitude of modern Christian martyrs are fulfilling this calling!The point is: Worship is surrender – giving ourselves and all we possess – placing it at God’s disposal in service of his Kingdom purposes.This raises one last point that I’ve wanted to teach in the practice of worship as we follow Jesus…
Worship is Giving
The simple truth in scripture, from the Old to the New Testament, is that all giving is (ought to be) part of our worship of God. Without going into the views on tithes & offerings (“it’s only Old Testament law”) and/or giving (“New Testament freedom”), etc, I want to highlight the fact that when we worship God, we give ourselves by giving of our material resources. Materialism, as in our dependence on money and possessions for security, above trusting God for his provision for our lives, is still the biggest battle of the human heart (Matthew 6:24). The idea of tithing is an act of worship (giving God 10% of all he gives us materially via work or whatever means of gain, beginning in Genesis 14:17-20). It says, “God, you own me and give me all that I have, therefore I give you 10%, an acknowledgement of ownership – of worship – to remind me that all I am and have is yours! It all belongs to you anyway, by virtue of creation and redemption – I’m bought with the precious blood of Jesus!” In fact, under the first covenant, every time a person came to worship God at the Temple, they had to come with a material gift to ‘devote’ (sacrifice as worship) to YHWH.
Therefore, giving whatever you determine in your heart before God as per your income and his provision for you, is a spiritual discipline for health and growth in God (1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11). It’s really your worship of God, trusting him for your provision. And if we want to ‘quibble’ about a tithe or whatever percentage, etc, take note that the new covenant in Christ frees us into extravagant generosity (not foolish, or presumptuous, or manipulative giving, to get God to give you more, etc). It’s the heart behind the giving that God seeks: to give sincerely and joyfully precisely as worship… not grudgingly!
I challenge you to consider your financial and other giving when we gather for worship.