Guidelines For Worship
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it instead of bringing it to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord – that man shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood and must be cut off from his people. This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. The priest is to sprinkle the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’ Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting to sacrifice it to the Lord – that man must be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 17:2-9 NIV)
Prior to the building of the Tabernacle, the Israelites offered sacrifices anywhere they deemed appropriate. Abraham offered sacrifices at the mountain. But when the tabernacle was constructed, God commanded the Israelites and the foreigners living with them to stop sacrifices in the camp or outside the camp. All sacrifices must be brought to the Tent of Meeting for the sacrifice or they will be cut off from Israel. Why was God so hardline with the Israelites? What God did was to bring all worship back in order after the tabernacle was installed because the people were scattered and had their own ways in making offerings.
How does God want us to worship Him today? We can learn that from the New Testament.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NIV)
Is our reading of the Bible only a five-minute devotion? Are our prayers limited only to saying grace before meals? Do we have prayers and breaking of bread at homes, praising God and enjoying the favour of all people? Do believers meet together and have everything in common? These may appear like a fairy tale to some of us, but they did happen in our first century churches.
God persuaded the Israelites to bring their worship back to the tabernacle. We too should call ourselves back to worship like what we see in Acts 2:42-47. Like those who offered sacrifices in places outside the tent of meeting, we could be spiritually cut off from church if we do not worship God the right way. Let the Holy Spirit guide us in how we worship God and draw close to Jesus.
God also wanted to put a stop to the sacrifices the Israelites and foreigners living among them have been making to the goat idol. Before Israel entered Egypt, idols and temple prostitutes were a growing problem. During Israel's 400 years in Egypt, the nation learned to worship the false gods of the Egyptian pantheon.
The Greeks referred to one of those gods as Pan while Egyptians called him Min and the Romans called him Faunus. The Bible refers to him as a goat idol or a goat demon or a devil (Leviticus 17:7). Pan was a lusty fertility god, with the horns and hind legs of a goat. Pan's worshipers expected him to reward them with an increase in their flocks, fields and families. As shepherds and slaves with no land, and after that wandering in the desert with Moses, the Israelites' fear for their livelihood was real. They desired to have more children to protect their inheritance. Thus, the worshipping of goat idols though wrong was understandable before they fully knew God.
God instructed Moses and Aaron to put a stop to all of these past practices. Idol worship today is no longer the same as ancient times. Our idols may be our jobs or other things that could help us to enjoy a “better life”. They may even be our passion or hobbies. We too, will be spiritually cut off from God if we don’t stop worshiping these idols. God wants to bring us back to Him.
Why is God so hardline? It is because God loves us and wants us to be with Him. He put up rules for us to live within so that we may remain in Him. Guidelines are necessary to help us stay in Jesus’ house.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.