W O R S H I P P I N G G O D
A General Survey of What the Bible Teaches about
Worshipping God
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2021 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written
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CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1 – Rejected Worship and the Importance of the Heart
2 – The Altars of Genesis: Personal Expressions of Praise and Confidence
3 – Principles for Worship in Exodus
4 – Leviticus and Nature of The Offerings we Bring
5 – What Numbers Teaches Us About the Seriousness of Worship
6 – How God Protected Worship in Deuteronomy
7 – Worship in Everyday Circumstances
8 - Worship and Blessing
9 – King David, the Worship Leader
10 – Religious Clutter
11 - Worship and the Health of the Nation of Judah
12 – Worship in Exile
13 – Worship and Suffering
14 – Worship, the Great Purpose of Life
15 – Passionate Worship
16 – Worship and the Fear of the Lord
17 – Worship in the Psalms
18 – The Praise of the Nations
19 – A Jealous God Seeks Praise
20 – Worship in the Minor Prophets
21 – The Restoration of Old Testament Worship in Ezra, Nehemiah and
Haggai
22 – Jesus and Worship
23 –The Establishment of New Testament Worship
24 – Worship in the New Testament Church
25 – Hindrances to Worship in the Corinthian Church
26 – The Seven Churches of Revelation
27 – Worship in Revelation
About The Author
M
PREFACE
any books have been written about worship. It is not my
intention to replace these works, nor do I pretend to have any
particular insights into this subject. My purpose in writing this
book is to survey the teaching of the Bible on this important topic.
We will work our way through the Bible, beginning in Genesis, examining
passages written at various times. While the praise of God varied in these
periods, some principles apply to all generations.
I trust that Scripture will speak for itself and give us a greater awareness of
the obligation and privilege of worship.
God bless,
F. Wayne Mac Leod
W
1 – REJECTED WORSHIP
AND THE IMPORTANCE
OF THE HEART
hile Scripture gives us all we need to know for life and
doctrine, there are many things it does not tell us. The story of
Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 is an example of this. Adam and
Eve had two sons. The first was Cain and the second Abel. As these boys
grew up, they each took on a profession. Genesis 4:2 tells us that Cain
worked the ground while his younger brother was a keeper of sheep. We
read in Genesis 4:3:
3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of
the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn
of his flock and of their fat portions. (Genesis 4)
Remember that Cain and Abel lived before God gave His Law to Moses.
While these two brothers did not have the written Law, somehow, they
knew they could bring an offering to the Lord God as an act of worship and
thanksgiving. Many years before Moses, God communicated to His people
what He required and how they were to worship Him.
What is striking in Genesis 4:3 is that Abel brought “the firstborn of his
flock and of their fat portions.” There are two details we need to notice in
this phrase.
Notice first the reference to the firstborn of the flock in verse 3. Abel had
no way of understanding the significance of the firstborn. Many years later,
Israel would be freed from the bondage of Egypt, and the Lord gave this
command to His people:
11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the
Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give
it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens
the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall
be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem
with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its
neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall
redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What
does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the
LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15
For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD
killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of
man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the
LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the
firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ (Exodus 13)
When the angel of death passed over the homes in Egypt, he spared the
firstborn in all homes that had the blood of a lamb painted on their
doorposts. Every firstborn Egyptian, however, perished. This was God’s
final judgement on Egypt, resulting in the release of Israel from bondage.
How did Abel know to offer the firstborn of his flock to the Lord? Way
before this Law was given through Moses, God communicated to Adam
and his children what He expected of them. Scripture is silent about how
God shared these details.
Notice also that Abel brought the fat portions of his offering to God.
Consider what God told Moses many years later about this fat portion of the
animal sacrifices:
17 But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the
firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy. You
shall sprinkle their blood on the altar and shall burn their fat
as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
(Numbers 18)
Many generations before God gave the Law to Moses, Abel already knew
what God required.
What is true of Abel’s offering is also true for Cain’s. The Law of Moses
required offering the firstfruits of the ground and the ripe fruits of the land:
12 All the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the
grain, the firstfruits of what they give to the LORD, I give to
you. 13 The first ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which
they bring to the LORD, shall be yours. Everyone who is clean
in your house may eat it. (Numbers 18)
Both these young men brought legitimate offerings to God. They had a
clear understanding from God of what He required from them.
While both men brought legitimate offerings, Genesis 4:4-5 goes on to say:
And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for
Cain and his offering he had no regard. (Genesis 4)
For the first time in the Bible, we see God rejecting an act of worship. God
had “no regard” for Cain’s offering. In other words, God did not approve or
look on it with favour.
As we have already noted, there does not seem to be anything wrong with
the actual offering brought to God. Why then did God reject Cain’s act of
worship?
To answer this, we need to examine Cain’s response to the rejection. Notice
in Genesis 4:5 that he became very angry. His anger was so great that the
Lord warned him that if he did not control it, it would cause great
devastation:
5 So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The LORD said
to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do
well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you,
but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4)
If Cain had any question about why God had rejected his worship, God
certainly addressed this in these verses. God told him that there was sin in
his heart threatening to take over. That sin stood in the way of his worship.
What would you do if God spoke to you about your sin and warned you that
it was about to overcome you? Would you not take this seriously? Cain,
however, ignored what God said and gave into his sin. We see the fruit of
this in Genesis 4:8:
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the
field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
(Genesis 4)
Cain killed his brother. Such was the intensity of his bitterness toward him.
This reveals the evil of his heart and the deep resentment and jealousy he
harboured toward Abel. It was with this attitude that he stood before God
and offered the fruit of the ground.
The apostle John picks up on Cain’s anger toward his brother when he says:
11 For this is the message that you have heard from the
beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not
be like Cain, who was of the evil ne and murdered his brother.
And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil
and his brothers righteous. - 1Jn 3:11-12
Notice how John connects loving one another with the example of Cain.
“We should not be like Cain,” he tells his readers, instead “we should love
one another.” Cain is an example of one who hated his brother and yet still
came to worship God.
The Lord Jesus taught us the importance of a right relationship with our
brothers and sisters as we come to worship God. Consider His instructions
in Matthew 5:
23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there
remember that your brother has something against you, 24
leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled
to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5)
According to Jesus, if we want our offering to be acceptable to God, we
must first be reconciled with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This may be,
in part, the reason for the rejection of Cain’s act of worship.
The apostle Jude, warning his readers about false teachers, has this to say
about Cain:
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago
were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who
pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only
Master and Lord, Jesus Christ… 11 Woe to them! For they
walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the
sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s
rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they
feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves;
waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late
autumn, twice dead, uprooted (Jude)
Jude speaks here about teachers who “crept in unnoticed” (verse 4). They
were “hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear”
(verse 12). These individuals participated with his readers in worship but
walked “in the way of Cain” (verse 11). Just as Cain killed his brother, these
false teachers would destroy the faith and harmony of the church. They had
motives other than the glory of God in mind.
We see from these verses what the apostle Jude felt about Cain. He was not
a man who sought the truth and the glory of God but worshipped alongside
his brother with an ulterior motive.
Speaking about Abel’s offering in Hebrews 11:4, the author of Hebrews
says:
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than
Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God
commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith,
though he died, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11)
As Abel brought his offering, he was commended as righteous. He came
with a very different motivation than his brother. Mention is made of his
faith. While both men came with offerings to the Lord, God rejected Cain’s.
The context indicates a difference in the hearts of these men who stood
before God that day. Cain was full of jealousy and anger. Abel came as a
righteous man with faith in God.
In Genesis 4, we see God rejecting the worship of a man whose heart was
not right with Him. He looked beyond the external rituals to the attitude of
the heart. What pleased God was not the sacrifice but the heart. When the
attitude is not right, neither is the act of worship.
For Prayer:
Father, we see here that You look beyond the outward act to our heart. In
the story of Cain and Abel, we see two men coming to worship. One is
accepted because he approached You as a righteous man by faith. The other
was rejected because of the bitterness and sin in his heart. I ask Lord that
you would help us to consider the attitude of our heart in worship. May our
hearts overflow in genuine praise and thankfulness. May our adoration be
from our heart and not just actions and words.
W
2 – THE ALTARS OF
GENESIS: PERSONAL
EXPRESSIONS OF PRAISE
AND CONFIDENCE
e come now to the days of Noah in Genesis 8. He lived in a
time of great spiritual rebellion and evil. Genesis 6 describes
the world as corrupt in God’s sight and filled with violence:
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was
filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it
was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.
(Genesis 6)
Of all families on the earth, only Noah and his children walked with God.
God determined to punish the earth for its rebellion but protect Noah and
his family. He commanded him to build a large boat and fill it with animals
of all kinds. God then sent a flood that covered the surface of the earth and
destroyed every living creature. Notice what took place when the waters of
the flood subsided and Noah and his family stepped on dry ground:
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of
every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered
burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the
pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never
again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of
man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again
strike down every living creature as I have done. (Genesis 8)
Noah built an altar and sacrificed some of “every clean animal and some of
every clean bird.” I don’t know how many kinds of animals and birds were
with Noah at that time, but this sacrifice was a significant one that would
have taken some time to complete. For every clean animal, one of its kind
was sacrificed to God as a token of thanksgiving for sparing its species on
the earth.
This practice is often repeated in the book of Genesis. In Genesis 12, the
Lord appeared to Abram and told him that He would give him and his
descendants the land of Canaan. When Abram heard this, he responded by
building an altar to the Lord God.
7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your
offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the
LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12)
The altar that Abram built served two purposes. First, the altar was a means
for Abram to express his gratitude to the Lord God for this promise.
Notice, however, that we have no record in this verse that Abram offered a
sacrifice on the altar that he built. While he may certainly have done so, it is
not mentioned. This leads us to the second reason for Abram building that
altar. Abram did not remain in this region but continued his journey. The
altar, however, would remain as a testimony to the goodness and mercy of
his God. For the first time in history, the name of the Lord God was
recognized in this dark corner. Abram declared “his glory among the
nations, his marvellous works among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3).
Abram’s altar was a public declaration of the goodness and mercy of his
God.
Abram continued this practice throughout his life. In Genesis 13, God told
him that He would make his offspring “as the dust of the earth.” In other
words, counting his offspring would be like counting the dust of the earth.
Notice Abram’s response:
16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if
one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be
counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of
the land, for I will give it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tent
and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at
Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD. (Genesis 13)
When Abram heard the promise of God, he again built an altar to express
his trust and confidence in what God said. Remember that at this point,
Abram had not yet experienced the fulfilment of the promise of God. He
built an altar, however, to express his gratitude and belief that God would
do what He said. Abram worshipped God by faith, even before he saw the
fruit of His promise. That alter represented Abram’s deep confidence in
God, who would fulfil every word He had given him.
We see a similar practice in the life of Abraham’s son Isaac. When Isaac
was in the region of Beersheba, the Lord appeared to him and confirmed the
promise He had made through his father, Abraham:
24 And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I
am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you
and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant
Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called upon
the name of the LORD and pitched his tent there. And there
Isaac’s servants dug a well. (Genesis 26)
Isaac trusted the Lord and built an altar as a token of gratitude and faith in
His promise.
Isaac’s son Jacob would take this a step further. After many years in exile in
Mesopotamia, Jacob decided to return to the land God had promised
Abram. After a long journey, he arrived in the city of Shechem of Canaan.
Purchasing a parcel of land, Jacob pitched his tents and built an altar to the
Lord. He called that altar El- Elohe-Israel.
18 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in
the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he
camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor,
Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the
piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he
erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Genesis 33)
The name means “God, the God of Israel.” Remember that the name Israel
did not represent a nation at this time. An angel of God gave this name to
Jacob after fighting with him.
27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said,
“Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be
called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with
men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32)
By naming that altar El-Elohe-Israel, Jacob (now called Israel) was saying
that this God was his God. He publicly declared this by the presence of this
altar in the land. He was not ashamed of His God but declared Him openly
to all.
Jacob does a similar thing in Genesis 35. Here the Lord spoke to the
patriarch and told him to go to Bethel and build an altar for Him. Bethel
was where God revealed His purpose to Jacob when he fled from his
brother Esau who wanted to kill him (see Genesis 35:1). In obedience to the
command of God, Jacob told his household to put away their foreign gods
and purify themselves. Together they went to Bethel and built an altar in
remembrance of the God who met him in his time of distress:
3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make
there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my
distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” (Genesis
35)
Genesis 35:5-7 describes what took place as they set out for Bethel:
5 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities
that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of
Jacob. 6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in
the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7
and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel,
because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled
from his brother. (Genesis 35)
As Jacob travelled through dangerous territory, the hand of the Lord was on
him and his family, protecting them from their enemies. Jacob built an altar
in Bethel and called it “El-bethel,” meaning “God of Bethel.”
As Jacob and his family stood before that altar, they remembered the
goodness of God. Jacob recalled how the God of his fathers met him at this
very place to bless and encourage him as he fled for his life. His heart
would have been filled with gratitude as he considered what God had done
for him and how He had been faithful to His promise.
What do the altars of Noah, Abram, Isaac and Jacob teach us about the
worship of God? They were erected to declare the goodness and grace of
God. They demonstrated the confidence of those who built them in the yet
unfulfilled promises of God. They were public statements proclaiming the
Lord God of Israel as their God. They were testimonies to the faithfulness
of God in their lives. Worship before these altars was very personal. Those
who built these altars often had a very specific reason to offer their praise.
Often, they were erected spontaneously in gratitude and confidence in God
and His promises.
For Prayer:
Father God, as we examine the various altars built for you in the book of
Genesis, we gain insight into what it means to worship You. Thank you for
the life, and hope you give us as your people. We recognize that we owe our
very lives to You. Give us the boldness to declare you as our God in this
dark world. May we not be ashamed to express our confidence in You and
Your promises. Thank you that even though we do not now see the
fulfilment of all Your promises, we can be sure that you will be faithful to
Your Word. Help us never to forget what You have done for us. May we
unashamedly declare You to be our salvation, our help, our strength in times
past, and our confidence for what is ahead.
A
3 – PRINCIPLES FOR
WORSHIP IN EXODUS
s we move now to the book of Exodus, remember that the book
was written about a special time in the life of God’s people. They
were enslaved in Egypt, but God was now preparing them to
become a nation. Exodus teaches us about the Passover and the dedication
of the firstborn to the Lord. The book recounts the movement of God’s
people through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. For the
first time, God’s people built a portable tabernacle that moved with them
everywhere they travelled. In those days. God also gave Moses the Ten
Commandments and revealed His requirements for His people and their
worship of His name.
It is not my purpose to examine the requirements of God in the laws and
celebrations of that period. Rather, I want to take a moment to explore some
underlying principles that Exodus reveals about the worship of God. While
written at a particular time in Israel’s history, these worship principles still
apply to all times and cultures.
Exclusivity
Listen to the words of God in Exodus 22:20:
20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone,
shall be devoted to destruction. (Exodus 22)
The words of the Lord are very strong. God told His people that they were
to worship “the Lord alone.” He would not tolerate devotion to any other
god. To worship or sacrifice to another god was an offence punishable by
death.
God knew the temptation His people would face as they travelled through
the wilderness and met people of various nations and religious beliefs. In
Exodus 34, He warned Israel:
12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of
the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst.
13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and
cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god,
for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)
(Exodus 34)
Lest His people be tempted to worship another god, the Lord commanded
them to tear down and destroy all religious shrines and articles used in the
worship of other gods. God required that they remove all hints of pagan
worship from the land lest they become a temptation for His people.
When we choose to worship the Lord God, we commit to putting aside all
other gods. He demands the exclusive right to our hearts. He will not share
worship with another god. To worship the God of Israel was to turn aside
from all other gods. This principle sounds easy, but many things can take
God’s place in our hearts. If you want to worship God, all idols must be
pulled down. He must have our undivided attention.
Simplicity
The second principle for the worship of the God of Israel is the principle of
simplicity. Consider what the Lord said in Exodus 20:23-26:
23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall
you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you
shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and
your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place
where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you
and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall
not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you
profane it. (Exodus 20)
In Exodus 20:23, the Lord reminded the people of Israel that they were not
to make any gods of silver or gold. Instead, they were to build an altar of
mounded earth to offer their sacrifices to God. If the need arose to build an
altar of stone, no tool was to be used in its construction. The stones used to
make the altar were to be used as they were found.
Admittedly, the tabernacle was quite elaborate, but this was limited to one
place and one building. Outside of this tabernacle, God required that
worship be simple. This prevented the people from setting up alternative
centres for worship and wandering from His purpose.
This principle of simplicity is one that we would do well to keep in mind.
The more elaborate our worship becomes, the more it can distract from
God. People can easily focus on the altar instead of the God they came to
worship. They can become so caught up in the glitter that they no longer see
their God. They can become so attracted to those leading in worship that
their eyes are turned from their Saviour. Simplicity helped to keep the right
focus.
Purity
We discover the third principle for the worship of God in Exodus 40:30-32,
where we read:
30 He set the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar,
and put water in it for washing, 31 with which Moses and
Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet. 32 When
they went into the tent of meeting, and when they approached
the altar, they washed, as the LORD commanded Moses.
(Exodus 40)
There was a basin of water in the tabernacle, located in front of the altar,
where sacrifices were made. That basin was conveniently placed there so
that the priests could wash their hands and feet before sacrificing to the
Lord God. To stand before the Lord with unclean hands was to defile the
altar and show disrespect. Those who approached the Lord God were to
cleanse themselves before offering their sacrifice.
In Matthew 15:1-2, Jesus defended His disciples when the Pharisees
questioned Him about why they did not wash their hands. He told His
accusers that the purity of heart was more important than the cleanliness of
one’s hands. The principle of washing the hands and feet before
approaching the altar reminded the priests of that day that they were not to
approach God without first cleansing themselves from the defilements of
this world.
God expected that those who come to Him would come with clean hands
and a pure heart. If we are to worship the Lord as He intends, we will do
well to examine ourselves, confessing any known sin and turning from any
attitude or action that would hinder our worship.
Restraint
From Exodus 23:18, we discover that the worship of God required restraint.
18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything
leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.
(Exodus 23)
Also, consider the words of Exodus 30:9:
9 You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt
offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink
offering on it. (Exodus 30)
Notice what these verses tell us. God’s people could not do what they
wanted in worship. They were not to offer blood with leavened bread. They
were not to allow fat to remain until the morning. They were not to use
unauthorized incense. God had some basic guidelines about acceptable
worship. His people were required to stay within those guidelines.
Imagine what would have happened if the people were given the freedom to
do as they pleased in the worship of God. Maybe some would have said,
“we don’t like seeing so many animals killed; let’s stop these countless
sacrifices.” Another might say, “I don’t see why we need to clean up this fat
tonight; we’ll do that in the morning when we have more time.” Soon the
worship of God would look nothing like God ordained.
Exodus challenges us to allow the Scriptures to be our guide in how we
worship. These Scriptures point to what God desires from us. God
encouraged His people in the book of Exodus to exercise restraint in their
worship, lest their worship evolve into something He never intended it to
be.
Diversity
While we are to exercise restraint in worship, God still allows for a
diversity of expression. Consider what took place in Exodus 35:
22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a
willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings
and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an
offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every one who possessed
blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or
tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone
who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as
the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia
wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful
woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they
had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined
linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their
skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx
stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the
breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the
anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and
women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring
anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses
to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.
(Exodus 35)
What is striking in this passage is the diversity of gifts brought to the Lord.
The people of God donated their jewellery, yarns, linens, or goat hides.
Others offered gold, silver, and acacia wood. Those who were skilled spun
goats’ hair and brought it to the Lord. Other gifts included precious stones,
spices, and fragrances. All these gifts were offered with a willing heart to
the Lord God. God was pleased to receive such a diversity of contributions
from His people to construct the tabernacle. Skilled artisans offered the fruit
of their art. Those who did not have such skills brought their treasures.
There is great freedom of expression within the parameters God has
established for worship. God’s people were encouraged to be creative in
what they could offer to build the tabernacle. The same principle is true
today as well. As we continue to build the church of God, we are called to
seek out what we can offer creatively. God has given us various gifts and
talents. If we are open to His leading, we will be surprised at what we can
offer to expand His kingdom on this earth. The worship of God is enhanced
as each believer creatively offers their gifts and talents to Him.
An Offense To The World
Finally, consider the words of Moses to Pharaoh in Exodus 8:25-26:
25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go,
sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It
would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice
to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If
we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their
eyes, will they not stone us? (Exodus 8)
When Pharaoh permitted Moses to worship God in the land of Egypt,
Moses told him that their offerings and sacrifices would be an abomination
to the Egyptians.
Moses understood that the worship of God would offend the Egyptians.
Understanding this, Moses felt the need to remove the people from Egypt
before offering their sacrifices. He had permission to worship God in Egypt,
but he would have to compromise the requirements of God to do so. Moses
refused to compromise. He would not make the worship of God less
offensive to the Egyptians. He would worship as God required.
The temptation to compromise is very real. How easy it is to try to make
our worship more appealing to the world. We do not honour God, however,
by seeking to please those who have unclean hands. The One we need to
satisfy is God. We cannot be distracted by compromises to please people.
Our faith and worship will be offensive to the unsaved, but we are not
seeking to please them. We desire to please the Lord God alone.
For Prayer:
Lord God, thank you for the principles we learn in the book of Exodus
regarding the worship of Your name. Help us to understand that those who
come to You must reject all other gods. Help us to see the gods we set up in
our hearts in opposition to You. Give us the grace to tear down those idols
so that our hearts are devoted to You alone. Help us to come before you
with clean hands and a pure heart. May we never stray from Your purpose
in worship. Give us eyes to see what we can offer to You as our act of
worship. Help us not to focus on pleasing people but on pleasing You.
Teach us to worship as You require.
I
4 – LEVITICUS AND
NATURE OF THE
OFFERINGS WE BRING
n the book of Leviticus, God details His requirements for the offerings
brought to Him. It is not my purpose to go into detail about these
requirements. What is important in this study is to see what these
regulations teach us about the offerings that delight the heart of God. While
we no longer offer animal sacrifices, some key principles in Leviticus help
us understand the worship God expects of us today.
Without Blemish
The book of Leviticus begins with the regulations of God for a burnt
offering. Notice what God said about this burnt offering:
3 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer
a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the
tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.
(Leviticus 1)
The animal brought to the Lord had to be “without blemish.” The phrase
“without blemish” occurs seventeen times in the book of Leviticus. Each
time it is in connection with an offering brought to the Lord. This shows us
that the Lord requires the best that we have.
The Lord also placed this same requirement on the priest who brought the
offering. Listen to the words of God in Leviticus 21:
16 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron,
saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations
who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.
18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind
or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19
or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a
hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an
itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the
offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come
near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish,
he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may
eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy
things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the
altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my
sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”
(Leviticus 21)
No priest who had any kind of physical deformity could approach the altar.
His deformities disqualified him from service.
The apostle Peter speaks of the Lord Jesus as being a lamb without blemish
or spot in 1 Peter 1 when he says:
17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially
according to each One’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear
throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were
ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers,
not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with
the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish
or spot. (1 Peter 1)
An animal sacrificed to the Lord had to be without defect because it
represented the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins. The
priests who represented the Lord also needed to be without spot or blemish
for the same reason. They reflected the perfect nature of the Great Lamb of
God who would offer Himself for our sin.
Beyond this, however, is the fact that the Lord God is worthy of our very
best. We bring Him no honour if we offer what we would not be pleased to
accept ourselves. Our offerings are a declaration of God’s worth. When we
present to God what is blemished and worthless, we reveal our heart toward
Him. We owe our lives and all we enjoy to Him. Surely, He is worthy of our
finest treasures.
Covered Or Sprinkled With Oil
The second requirement of God for the offering was that it be sprinkled or
covered with oil.
1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the
LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it
and put frankincense on it. (Leviticus 2)
4 “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an
offering, it shall be unleavened loaves of fine flour mixed with
oil or unleavened wafers smeared with oil. (Leviticus 2)
5 And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it
shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil. (Leviticus 2)
7 And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan, it
shall be made of fine flour with oil. (Leviticus 2)
Notice the words used to describe how the oil was presented to the Lord:
1) “pour oil on it” (Leviticus 2:1)
2) “smeared with oil” (Leviticus 2:4)
3) “mixed with oil” (Leviticus 2:5)
4) “made of fine flour with oil” (Leviticus 2:7)
While the oil was used in different ways, it was an important ingredient in
the offering brought to the Lord.
Why was oil important, and what did it represent? To answer this, let’s
consider how oil was used in the remainder of the book of Leviticus. In
Leviticus 8, we discover that when Aaron and his sons were ordained to the
priesthood, they were anointed with oil to set them apart from all other
people:
30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and of the blood
that was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his
garments, and also on his sons and his sons’ garments. So he
consecrated Aaron and his garments, and his sons and his
sons’ garments with him. (Leviticus 8)
Notice that not only were Aaron and his sons consecrated to the Lord and
His purpose, so were their priestly garments. Once sprinkled with oil, these
garments were used exclusively for service in the tabernacle.
The anointed priests were from that point onward to live for the Lord and in
His service. They were not to profane themselves or defile their
consecration. They were entirely devoted to the Lord:
10 “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head
the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to
wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose
nor tear his clothes. 11 He shall not go in to any dead bodies
nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother.
12 He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the
sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil
of his God is on him: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 21)
When oil was sprinkled on an object, it set that object aside for the Lord
and His exclusive use.
Related to this was the fact that oil was used to declare an unclean
individual clean again. We see this in the case of a leper who was healed
from leprosy. When all evidence of his disease was gone, the priest would
declare the leper clean. Notice what was involved in this ceremony:
14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering,
and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him
who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and
on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take
some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left
hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand
and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the
LORD. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the
priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be
cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe
of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And
the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the
head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make
atonement for him before the LORD. (Leviticus 14)
The priest sprinkled the leper with oil seven times. He then put it on the
lobe of their right ear, thumb, and big toe. He poured what was left on the
head of the leper who needed cleansing. With the anointing of oil and the
atoning sacrifice completed, the priest could declare the individual clean.
Purification required oil and a sacrifice.
The prophet Joel speaks of a day when the Spirit of God would be poured
out upon all flesh:
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my
Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young
men shall see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2)
Isaiah says something similar when he tells us that the Lord Jesus would
“sprinkle” many nations:
13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and
lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at
you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human
semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind
—15 so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their
mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them
they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.
(Isaiah 52)
This work of opening eyes to see and ears to hear what was never revealed
is most certainly a work of God’s Spirit who was sprinkled upon the
nations, giving them insight, understanding, and consecrating them to God.
The requirement of oil with the offerings shows us the role of the Spirit of
God in worship. He must anoint and consecrate our worship. It is because
of Him that we can worship. He sets us aside as holy to God and seasons
every act of praise and adoration.
Free From Leaven
Leviticus 2:11 tells us that no offering brought to the Lord was to contain
leaven.
11 “No grain offering that you bring to the LORD shall be
made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey
as a food offering to the LORD. (Leviticus 2)
To understand this, let’s consider the teaching of the Lord Jesus and the
apostle Paul. Consider first the light bulb moment that took place when the
disciples of Jesus finally understood what Jesus was referring to when He
spoke about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees:
11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak
about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and
Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them
to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the
Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16)
The disciples came to understand that when Jesus spoke about the “leaven
of the Pharisees and Sadducees, He was referring to their false teaching.
This false teaching was leading many astray from the truth of God’s Word.
Luke’s gospel gives us a deeper understanding of Jesus’ use of the phrase
“leaven of the Pharisees” when he says:
1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had
gathered together that they were trampling one another, he
began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the
Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12)
According to Luke’s account, the “leaven of the Pharisees” represented
hypocrisy. These religious leaders appeared to be holy in front of the
people, but they were full of sin and evil inside.
Finally, in 1 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul says this about leaven:
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little
leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven
that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For
Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us
therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the
leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of
sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5)
The apostle Paul speaks here about “the leaven of malice and evil.” There
can be no question that leaven represents hypocrisy, falsehood and evil.
The application of the principle of unleavened offerings is very simple. If
we worship God and bring Him our offerings of praise, they must be free
from hypocrisy, falsehood and evil. Our sin and hypocrisy will only hinder
our worship and make it offensive to God. The leaven of sinful attitudes and
behaviours must be addressed if we are to worship God as He deserves.
Seasoned With Salt
13 You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall
not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from
your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.
(Leviticus 2)
According to Leviticus 2, God commanded that all offerings brought to
Him be seasoned with salt. Of note in Leviticus 2:13 is that the Lord calls
this the “salt of the covenant.”
Salt was used for various purposes in Bible times. It had a cleansing effect
and was used for medicinal purposes. It also was used for preserving. Salt
came to represent a lasting and healthy bond between two individuals. A
covenant of salt is a covenant that is permanent and free from defilements.
When salt was placed on an offering, it reminded the worshipper that they
were in a covenant relationship with the God they worshipped. By adding
salt to their offering, God’s people reminded themselves of their obligation
to Him as their covenant God. They also recalled His grace and faithfulness
as a covenant-keeping God.
Just as salt cleansed the offering of any impurities, they too were to keep
themselves pure before Him. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste,
how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for
anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s
feet. (Matthew 5)
As representatives of the Lord Jesus, we will have a purifying and
preserving impact on this world. We do so through our lives and message.
Jesus often condemned hypocrites of His day. These individuals came to
worship or serve but were more concerned about people noticing them than
the glory of God. Others came with sin and rebellion in their heart. God is
not interested in this kind of worship. He is looking for purity, sincerity and
faithfulness in those who come to Him. Our worship needs to be seasoned
with salt—purifying our actions and offerings from hypocrisy, sin and
impure attitudes.
We come before a covenant-keeping God whose heart is devoted to His
people. We must let the salt of God’s Spirit dissolve and purify improper
ambitions and attitudes. Only then can we bring a pleasing offering.
Blood Poured Out
Repeatedly in the book of Leviticus, we have a reference to the blood of the
sacrifice presented to the Lord. This blood was poured out against the sides
or base of the altar of sacrifice. Consider the following examples:
5 Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons
the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against
the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of
meeting. (Leviticus 1)
15 And the priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its
head and burn it on the altar. Its blood shall be drained out on
the side of the altar. (Leviticus 1)
9 and he shall sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on
the side of the altar, while the rest of the blood shall be drained
out at the base of the altar; it is a sin offering. (Leviticus 5)
As each animal was killed, the blood was placed in a vessel and brought to
the alter. Before those present, that blood was sprinkled on the altar, and the
remainder drained at its base. While it would have been easy to let the
blood drain on the ground, God wanted that blood to be visible as an
important reminder of the cost of forgiveness, and so He incorporated this
into the regulations for every sacrifice.
In Leviticus 8, notice how the blood of an animal sacrifice is used in the
ordination of the priest:
22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and
Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23
And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on
the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand
and on the big toe of his right foot. (Leviticus 8)
Blood was applied to the right ear, thumb and toe of the priests who were
ordained. The application of this blood set them aside for God’s service.
What is true for the priest’s ordination was also true for the consecration of
an altar used to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of God’s people:
18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD
and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of
the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the
horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of
the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and
consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.
(Leviticus 16)
Those who approached the altar to offer sacrifices needed to be covered by
the blood of a sacrificed animal. The penalty for their sin needed to be paid
by the death of an animal on their behalf. The writer to the Hebrews has this
to say about the forgiveness of sin under the law:
22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with
blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness
of sins. (Hebrews 9)
Of course, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we understand that as the Lamb of
God, He paid the full price for our forgiveness. His blood covers the sin of
all who belong to Him.
We need to understand that there would be no access to God without this
blood. As the writer to the Hebrews tells us, “without the shedding of
blood, there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). Without the
forgiveness of sin, we cannot approach a holy God. Worship is only
possible through the death of the sacrificed Lamb of God.
The death of the Lord Jesus alone gives us access to the Father. He paid the
supreme price so that we could stand before the Father in praise and
worship. As you stand before the Lord your God, recognize the cost paid
for this privilege.
Surrendered Fat
The Law of Moses required that the priest burn the fat of every sacrifice on
the altar.
35 And all its fat he shall remove as the fat of the lamb is
removed from the sacrifice of peace offerings, and the priest
shall burn it on the altar, on top of the LORD’s food offerings.
(Leviticus 4)
Leviticus 3:16 declares that all fat belonged to the Lord.
16 And the priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering
with a pleasing aroma. All fat is the LORD’s. (Leviticus 3)
The Law forbade eating the fat of any sacrifice made to the Lord, and
anyone found guilty of violating this law was cut off from the people of
God:
25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a
food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from
his people. (Leviticus 7)
Why did God require the fat of each animal sacrifice? Let me attempt to
answer this using two passages of Scripture. Consider first Genesis 45:18:
18 and take your father and your households, and come to me,
and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall
eat the fat of the land.’ (Genesis 45:18)
Notice what Pharaoh told Joseph in this verse. He told him to offer his
family the best of the land of Egypt— “the fat of the land.” The “fat of the
land” referred to the best and richest pastureland Pharaoh had. Fat is a
symbol of great blessing, prosperity, and abundance.
The second passage I would like to consider is from Deuteronomy 31:20:
20 For when I have brought them into the land flowing with
milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they
have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other
gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.
(Deuteronomy 31)
Notice what God told His people in this verse. He informed them that the
day would come when God’s people would enter a land flowing with milk
and honey. God would shower His blessings on them in abundance. He
warned them, however, that the temptation would be for them to grow fat
on this blessing. This would ultimately result in them turning from Him to
other gods.
The richness of God’s benefits can cause us to become so comfortable that
we worship the blessing more than the One who blesses. This is what
happened to Israel. She became so happy in her prosperity that she desired
it more than God. How do we protect ourselves from this temptation? We
offer the fat to God. We surrender all our privileges and possessions to Him
and give Him complete control over all we have. We recognize that all we
have comes from the Lord. He does not bless so we can grow fat, but so we
can glorify His name.
What does this teach us about the offerings we bring? True worship comes
from a surrendered and pure heart. I come offering the fat of my life, my
blessings, everything I have to Him. I give Him that right to use every gift
He has ever given. True worship involves the sacrifice of all we have to
Him as our Creator and Lord.
Aroma Of Frankincense
The final detail I want to examine in the book of Leviticus has to do with
the inclusion of frankincense with the offerings presented to the Lord God.
Frankincense was a gum obtained from a tree that could be dried and
ground into a powder. When it was burned, it emitted a fragrant aroma. It
was offered along with an offering to the Lord.
1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the
LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it
and put frankincense on it. 2 and bring it to Aaron’s sons the
priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and
oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as
its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a
pleasing aroma to the LORD. (Leviticus 2)
Why was frankincense required with the offering? To answer this, let’s
consider the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 141:
2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the
lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! (Psalm 141)
Notice how the Psalmist asked the Lord to consider his prayers as incense.
We find a similar thought in the book of Revelation:
8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures
and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each
holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the
prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you
were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and
you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and
they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5)
John describes the bowls of incense as the prayers of the saints. Notice in
Revelation 5:8-10 that these prayers rose to God in songs of praise and
thanksgiving.
In Revelation 8:3-5, John shows his readers the response of God to the
prayers of the saints rising with incense to the throne of God.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden
censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers
of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the
smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before
God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the
censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the
earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of
lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8)
God responded to the prayers of the saints that rose with incense to His
throne with peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an
earthquake. What followed was a series of judgements on the earth.
The frankincense of the Old Testament offerings, like the prayers of the
saints of God, rose to heaven. God heard those prayers of praise,
thanksgiving, and cries for justice. He cast down His censor to the earth,
and justice prevailed. These prayers moved God as they rose like incense to
His throne.
Leviticus teaches us that the offerings we bring to God must be Spirit-
sprinkled, undefiled, and purified by the salt of the covenant we have
entered with God. He is worthy and demands the “fatty” portion –that is,
the very best we have. It is the blood of His sacrifice that makes our
worship possible. As the incense of our prayers and praise rise to Him, He
is moved and responds from heaven.
For Prayer:
Father, You deserve that best we have. May our hearts be so full of gratitude
that we offer you our all. As we come to worship, may our heart and minds
be sprinkled with the purifying salt of our covenant relationship with You.
May the oil of Your Spirit motivate, cover, and convict us of any sin that
hinders our praise. Thank you for the assurance that our prayers and
offering will rise to like frankincense as a pleasing aroma to You.
W
5 – WHAT NUMBERS
TEACHES US ABOUT THE
SERIOUSNESS OF
WORSHIP
orshipping God is not something we can take lightly. While it
is a privilege to give thanks and praise to the Lord, it is also a
very serious matter. In the book of Numbers, we have many
examples of individuals who did not take the worship of God seriously and
suffered catastrophic results. Let’s take a moment to consider some of these
stories.
Aaron’s Sons
Consider first the case of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. In Numbers 3,
we read:
3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed
priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. 4 But Nadab and
Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized
fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had
no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the
lifetime of Aaron their father. (Numbers 3)
Nadab and Abihu died because they offered “unauthorized fire” before the
Lord. According to Leviticus 10:1-2, they put this fire in a censor with
incense and brought it to the Lord. When they did this, “fire came out from
before the Lord and consumed them:”
1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his
censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered
unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not
commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the LORD
and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Then
Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said:
‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before
all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.
(Leviticus 10)
Leviticus 16:12-13 explains more fully what is happening here. Listen to
the requirement of God for the use of the censer:
12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar
before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten
small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the
incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the
incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so
that he does not die. (Leviticus 16)
The fire used in the censer was to come from the altar in the tabernacle. It
appears that Nadab and Abihu did not take fire from the altar but obtained it
from another source. In His fury, the Lord struck them dead because they
did not observe His requirements for the worship of His name.
Miriam’s Opposition
In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron approached Moses with bitterness and
jealousy in their heart, questioning his authority from God. They felt that
they should have the same right to speak for God as Moses:
1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the
Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a
Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the LORD indeed
spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us
also?” And the LORD heard it. (Numbers 12)
Now you might ask what this has to do with the subject of this study. Moses
was God’s chosen representative to lead His people in the worship of His
name. He revealed God’s purpose for their lives and worship. The
regulations God gave Moses would guide the worship of God for
generations to come. When God heard Miriam’s complaint, Numbers 12:5
tells us that he “came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of
the tent.” God rebuked Miriam and Aaron that day. He punished Miriam by
striking her with leprosy for questioning the authority He had given Moses:
10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam
was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and
behold, she was leprous. (Numbers 12)
Complaining People
As we move to Numbers 14, we read how, even though the Lord led and
provided for His people in the desert, Israel grumbled and complained
about their lot:
1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people
wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against
Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them,
“Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that
we had died in this wilderness! (Numbers 14)
Notice the response of the Lord in Numbers 14:11-12: