unAcceptable Worship

Psalm 50

For last 30+ years has been blight on landscape of church particularly in America called “worship wars”. Has all marks of real battle except bullets. Lines have been drawn, people have taken sides, friendships made and broken over the issue. Even has its own language – terms that get thrown back and forth that often bring about further division. Ultimately extends to nearly every aspect of worship including which elements are included and what prominence is given to them – things like communion, offering, Lord’s Table, special music; and don’t overlook the demographic characteristics of those in attendance..

What defines the sides is music – is it traditional or contemporary? Take a survey of those attending one service – opinion of worship in other service – majority would express opinion that other guys are missing the mark. Many would think (without saying) that they’re also not quite full-blooded Christians in the other service. That their worship isn’t serious enough. That it’s boring and not genuine.

God has something to say in his Word about worship. What is acceptable to him and what isn’t. Surprise…. he doesn’t say anything about music, either. Even though this text is part of the psalter, the original hymnal of the church, it reads and sounds more like the words of prophet than poet. And God does more than take his people to task over how they do worship; he takes them to court. He calls witnesses to view the proceedings. And he brings charges against the defendants. But stops short of bringing down the gavel in final sentence. Instead, puts people on probation, outlining conditions under which they can gain his approval.

Defendants in the dock are his people Israel. Yet principles still apply – God’s standard for acceptable worship is universal. While outward form has changed since Calvary, other expectations have not. Just as pertinent for us today as 3000 years ago.

A. call to worship v.1-6

the presiding official is introduced

imagine showing up for church and finding God there – for real, in a Mt. Sinai kind of way

must not be too quick to write off passages like this – describing God of OT, not NT

God is still God as identified by his names; character hasn’t changed although ways he manifests himself to his people differ

El, Elohim, Jehovah. (1) The first represents God as almighty, the second, as the only proper object of worship, and (by its plural form) as perfect, the third, as self-existent and eternal, and at the same time, as the peculiar God of Israel.” Alexander

Elohim (2) – perfection of his beauty, shown forth in light and splendor; pillar of fire (Ex. 40:34-38), glory at temple dedication (2 Chr. 7:1-3), Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-6), Daniel/John’s visions (Dan. 10:5-9; Rev. 1:13-17)

El (3) – all-powerful sovereign revealed in strength and majesty; fire, thunder, lightning on Sinai inspiring dread (Ex. 19:16-21)

Yahweh (4-5) – covenant God, in particular kind of relationship with his people (Gen. 15:7-21); still in covenant with people, new covenant (Ex. 24:5-8; Matt. 26:28)

the people are summoned (5)

a summons to appear before the Lord, the Judge

is God’s people, his faithful ones, those in a relationship with him characterized by sacrifice

given language of v.5, could indicate imminent future action – they are about to renew or commemorate the covenant by sacrifice

as if God’s people are coming to the temple, bringing their sacrifice with them; approach ramp up to altar; look up and see God standing there with his hand up, saying “wait just a minute…”

similar effect to gathering around Lord’s Table, discover glorified Christ presiding

he calls heaven and earth to witness the proceedings (4, 6)

this “El, Elohim, Yahweh” is perfectly suited to carry out the matter at hand

all-knowing – the facts on all sides including those unseen (heart issues); the requirements, both letter and spirit

all-wise – how the facts should be interpreted, requirements applied, consequences determined

just – is without question this Judge is absolutely just but not rigidly so; grants mercy when it is just to do so, when he can do so and remain faithful to his righteous character

angels, spirits of just men made perfect, even the very heavens affirm these things are true

in his role as party to the covenant, God stands with two tables of the Law representing terms of the covenant

first deals with vertical – relationship with God; second with horizontal – relationship with neighbor

question being asked: given attitude and action with respect to each table, is worship sincere and acceptable

and,…if people fail to be acquitted before bar of God’s justice, what is the remedy

B. love the Lord your God v.7-15

the charge – heartless worship 7-8

issue is not a technicality (8): wrong time of day, color of animal, kind of wood; not oversight or missed details, or failure to meet measurable requirements with respect to sacrifice; were meeting the “legal” requirements for proper sacrifice

was all about mindset – what they thought the sacrifice meant, their attitude toward and understanding of God

the problem 9-13

doing God a favor (9)

God wants it, God enjoys it, it looked good on their resume when they gave it to him

perhaps even thought God assigned it a higher priority than they believed it should have

my time is really valuable, especially on Sunday; that’s my day to do what I want with my family; God says “go to church” so I’ll give him that much, an hour to gratify him

to give what is ours (10-11)

check the title again – everything that exists including what we might be motivated to give to God already belongs to him – he made it, he rules it

a little different spin than the Sunday School song!! point is not that God can supply his people’s needs; is that God has no needs we can supply

uhoh, here comes the plate, how much can I spare this time? you know, I’m not making much money, only part time, can’t afford to tithe; all right, I’ll put in a five

because he needs it (12)

if God didn’t need something, he wouldn’t ask for it; he asks, therefore he must need

instead of man in image of God, it’s God in image of man; applying human (especially fallen man’s) ways of thinking and being to a self-existent God

God made Adam / Eve so he could have fellowship; umm,..no,..he already had that within the Trinity

and will be better for it (13)

will have something that he didn’t have before – a satisfied appetite like the pagan idols

the solution 14-15

not that God needs the sacrifice, they need what it signifies

must recognize God’s ownership, their dependence, their need for forgiveness and reconciliation

C. love your neighbor v.16-23

the charge – hypocritical worship 16

the wicked, those flaunting God’s laws toward neighbor but pretending to worship sincerely

really no more wicked than those guilty of heartless worship, just more open and obvious about it

the problem (17-21)

know at least basic principles from God’s word (17) but willfully reject them; refuse to be taught by God and his servants

maybe some real scoundrels, maybe a collective indictment (18-21) – broken virtually all of the second table

have convinced themselves that since God has said / done nothing to hinder or stop them, he must approve

at very least, must not be as big a deal as others claim; go to church every so often, put some money in the plate, help with their fundraisers, no lightning or loud voices from heaven, everything’s cool

now, let’s go to next level – must be the crazy preacher is exaggerating, riding his pet hobby horse; he’s making more of a deal of it than God does, I can safely ignore that part of the sermon

puts individual in position of deciding what to take, what to leave – not just from sermon, from God’s Word; makes individual final arbiter of right and wrong, based on wrong view of God and his actions

eventually results in abandonment of worship as well; skip a few, no consequences, must not be a big deal; relatively soon have forgotten God – no longer give any consideration to trying to please him

the solution 22-23

don’t be foolish – reprieve is only temporary; may last for all of this life, but in big picture that’s only a little while

God will act, justice will be carried out – either on Christ or on the individual; the penalty for wrongdoing will be satisfied

“Thanksgiving is a God-exalting work. Though nothing can add the least cubit to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. Praise is a setting forth of God s honour, a lifting up of his name, a displaying the trophy of his goodness, a proclaiming his excellency, a spreading his renown, a breaking open the box of ointment, whereby the sweet savour and perfume of God’s name is sent abroad into the world.” Thomas Watson

our task – to live in light of these truths

“thanksgiving is good, but thanksliving is better.” Henry

when we come to worship, to fellowship at Lord’s Table, do our hearts and lives show clear evidence of transforming power of God?

is it obvious to God and others that our sincere desire is to please God in all things, depending on his grace and strength, giving him glory for what he accomplishes in and through us?

If answer to both is “yes”, God will be pleased to accept our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving


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