A God Like No Other
Starting today we are beginning a new series entitled the “W’s and H of Worship.” In upper elementary or middle school we learned that there are five fundamental investigative questions we must ask if we are to learn the truth: Who, What, Where (or When), Why and How. If you have ever played the board game Clue you know how useful these five questions are.
In the game Clue you uses these five questions to discover who was the murderer, this summer I hope by using these five questions we can prevent a murder. In the last three decades countless pastors, worship leaders and congregational members have been spiritually killed in the “worship wars” that have torn churches apart. Twice in my own ministry I have almost abandoned my call because I was so deeply hurt by the conflict over worship.
As I know look back I cant help but think much of the conflict has been caused because Christian are biblically ignorant as to Who they worship, Who is called to worship, Why the church is called to worship, How we can know how to worship and Where and When we are to worship. These basic questions clarify the issues so much blood has been spilled over. On some questions we will discover we dealing with non-negotiable mandates from God and that all of use much humbly bow before God and his will. On other issues, we will discover we are dealing with issues of Christian freedom and must submit to each other out of love and strive for Christian unity.
Throughout this series our main text will be Hebrews 12:18-28. Some weeks we will read the entire passage and other weeks like today, we will read just a portion of this passage and read a second passage. This week we are going to read from the last two verses from Hebrews 12, and then three verses from the Song of Moses found in Exodus 15. Lets now turn our attention to Hebrews 12:28-29.
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
These two verses clearly lay out for us that we worship a God who is not to be trifled with. He is a God who will consume us in fire just as he did the sons of Aaron—Nadab and Abihu who worshiped God in an incorrect why (Lev. 10:1-7). The fact that we have the author of Hebrews telling us that God is still a consuming fire should teach us that we must take worship very seriously. We must worship God exactly in the way he has ordained in His Word or we risk being consumed in the fire of his wrath.
This is because we God we worship a God who is like no other. Moses reminds us of this in our second passage this morning.
11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. 13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
This song of Moses is so theologically significant that it is updated and found again in Revelation 15.
3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! 4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
What we learn from this amazing song is this:
We Worship a Holy God
We Worship a Holy God
Moses asks, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?” His question is reminding us of the primary meaning of the world holiness. Holiness means to be separated or set apart. As creator God stands apart from all that he has created. Everything that has been created, be it the highest angel or the lowliest sub-atomic particle is totally dependent on God. God on the other hand, is totally independent. The root of all sin and false worship is the confusion of Creator with something or someone that is created.
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
This is why the first rule of proper worship is reverent fear and awe.
The great Greek philosopher declared himself the wisest of the Greeks because he knew nothing.
“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.”
This is a good start at wisdom to acknowledge the limits of our human wisdom, but the Hebrew wisdom literature gives us a higher standard.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
The Hebrew standard of wisdom is higher than the Greek standard, because the ultimate act of foolishness is to worship the creature rather than the Creator. If we do not have the proper fear of God we are quick to worship a god created by our imagination rather than the true God who is revealed in Scripture. It is so easy to get sloppy with our thinking about God. John Calvin observed that the human mind is an idol factory.
I hope you are starting to see that much of what we call “worship” in the church today is nothing but foolish idolatry. This observation goes across the worship style spectrum. Even if outwardly the worship service conforms to what our society identifies as “reverent”, if we don’t have reverence and awe in our hearts we are offering to God idolatrous worship.
How many times I look at my own life and seen a lack of reverence and awe as I come to worship God. I have given more attention to the condition of my outward appearance than the condition of my heart. If you are sensitive to what we are hearing from God’s Word, I am sure you see the same tendency in yourself.
The best way to correct this tendency is to remember that the God we worship is an awesome God.
We Worship an Awesome God
We Worship an Awesome God
In the Song of Moses, our attention is turned to the awesome acts of God.
11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them.
This song was first sung on the shores of the Red Sea. Israel had just witness the destruction of Pharaoh's army. But consider how quickly they fell into irreverence and idolatry! This should be a warning and lesson for all of us.
A warning as to how quickly we can lose sight of the awesome majesty of God and a lesson to keep the awesome deeds of God before our eyes. Earlier I said the Song of Moses was updated in Revelation 15. Here is not called simply the Song of Moses, but the Song of the Lamb as well! God’s glory and might is most clearly revealed to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lamb of God! Before the throne of God, John heard a loud voice saying:
12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Was your heart, mind and soul filled with thoughts and praise to God for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as you came to church this morning? This is the only way to prepare properly for worship. It is not about music or liturgy, but about Jesus Christ! It is not that music and liturgy are unimportant, we will examine both later in this series, but the point I am trying to make today is this: The only way to come into the awesome presence of God the Father is through the Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus taught us?
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In looking at Jesus, we see not only the awesome might of God, but also the awesome grace of God.
We Worship a Gracious God
We Worship a Gracious God
The Song of Moses closes with this words.
13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
As I stated earlier, God is totally independent of his creation. He does not need us, but we need him. He was under no obligation to reveal himself to us. He was under no obligation to redeem us from our slavery to sin. He was under no obligation to call us to his holy abode that we might worship him. But he has done all these things!
Next week we are going to learn that the Exodus foreshadowed the greater work of Christ. Just like Israel the church was called out of a land of slavery to live a new life of worship before the presence of a holy God, so the church is called out of the world to worship God.
All of this is by grace!
Grace is what makes Christianity different than any other religion. Islam gets that transcendent awesomeness of God right, but the god of Islam is so totally other he cannot be known. In contrast, all the other false religions have gods so near, that they is indistinguishable from creation. This is why there idols look like created things.
It is the grace of God that beautifully joins the awesome transcendence of God with his nearness. Six times the author of Hebrews calls us to “Draw Near to God!” Yes we have a God who is to be feared in reverence and awe, but because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we have a God who we can draw near to! The first of these six passages is found in Hebrews 4.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
As I close this sermon, I pray and hope that you have caught a glimpse of how gloriously awesome the God we worship is. When we see an awesome sight in creation, such as the Grand Cannon, our breath is taken away. God is so much greater than the Grand Cannon, he is a consuming fire, whose glory can literally suck the life out of us! But this glorious God has condescended to us, he has revealed himself to by sending His Son to us in our own flesh and blood. By grace breaths life into us just as he breathed life in Adam and Eve so just as Adam and Eve could worship God in is Garden Temple of Eden, so we, the church, can worship God in the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It is this calling to worship that we will look at next week.