"You are to bring there your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tenths and personal contributions, your vow offerings, and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. You will eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the LORD your God has blessed you." (Deuteronomy 12:6-7 HCSB)
The psalmist said, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD.' " But, he never had to face a "time-change Sunday"! While it is a wonderful thing on the first night of Daylight Savings Time to gain that extra hour of daylight, it is tough to lose the hour of sleep the night before.
Will you be on time? Will you turn in early, so you show up gladly rather than grouchy? It is important.
The commands given to Israel underscore this. At the center of their camp was the tabernacle. Wherever they travelled in their pilgrimage, they pitched their tents around the house of God. As Moses instructed them in anticipation of entering the Promised Land, where a temple would be built, he reminded them that worship would still be at the core of their experience. They were being readied to cross into Canaan, and that demanded they be ready for worship. Will we be ready for worship?
There are several requirements if we are to be ready. We must go to the place of worship. We must know the pattern of worship. We must show the preparation for worship. We must bestow the provision through worship.
WE MUST GO TO THE PLACE OF WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 12:1-14). You can worship God anywhere. You should. But, most often you won't. I hear that excuse sometimes for why people don't attend worship. They say, "When I'm in nature, I feel so much closer to God." Really? How much time do you spend focusing on the Father while fishing? How much singing to the Lord do you do while splashing in the lake? While you are hunting is heaven on your mind? The creation ought to inspire us with awe and is meant to direct us to the Creator. Our problem is that our minds, darkened by sin, begin to worship the creation itself (see Romans 1:18-25). This is why Moses forbids the Jews from going out to the hills, and under the stars, then constructing their own altars. If we spend time with the saints at the house of God engaged in corporate worship, it affords the needful corrective to our wandering hearts which tend to devise a god of our own imagination instead of the God of revelation. Father God may give way to Mother Nature, if we aren't cautious. The first commandment tells us to have no other God.
WE MUST KNOW THE PATTERN OF WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 12:15-13:18). You can't worship God anyway you want. The second commandment prohibits images in worship--not just the correct Person to worship, but the correct pattern is important. Particularly note 12:30, "Do not inquire about their gods, asking, 'How did these nations worship their gods? I'll do the same.' " God said, "You must not do the same to the LORD your God..." (v.31). Jesus taught us that the only acceptable worship is in spirit and truth (see John 4:23-24). Let us bring that kind of worship to God--nothing superficial, no sham--not ritual, but reality. The congregation has the responsibility to safeguard that only the truth of God is proclaimed. In Israel, false prophets were dealt with severely (13:1-5). It isn't a matter of one man's opinion--one can be mistaken or just have an ax to grind--but a body of believers led of the Spirit can insure truth is spoken in worship.
WE MUST SHOW THE PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 14:1-21).
The dietary restrictions on the Jews doubtless had health reasons, but those were secondary to the main purpose--to remind them that they were to be different from the pagans. They belonged to the Lord--and that extended to every dimension of life--from outward expression (v.1-2) to inward digestion! They were not to be governed by their passions but God's precepts. To eat to live is one thing, to live to eat another. Only a people whose hands were clean could lift them to God in praise. Only those whose lips were pure could open them in prayer. One must not come to a holy God in worship carelessly, casually--but reverently. It is when we are spiritually prepared for worship that we encounter God in powerful ways. You cannot ignore Him all week, doing as you desire, and then flip a switch and expect something transformative on Sunday. Are you ready for worship? By all means adjust your clock, but also adjust your soul--orient it to God in submission.
WE MUST BESTOW THE PROVISION THROUGH WORSHIP (Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23). Have you ever heard someone say, "I didn't get anything out of worship today." But a better perspective would be, "What can I give today?" I have found that the best way to receive a blessing is to be one.
This has to do with liberty (15:1-3; 12-18). God wants to set the captives free. He might well use you to proclaim that liberty.
This has to do with generosity (14:22-29; 15:4-11). Whether providing for those in ministry or for those in poverty--a liberal hand is an indicator of a loving heart.
This has to do with priority (15:19-23). God demanded the first and the finest. Worship that is content to give God the leftovers of our time, treasure and talent is a pious fraud.
So, are you ready for worship? The clock is ticking. Don't keep God waiting!