Texts: Leviticus 9; Leviticus 10:1-11; Revelation 20:9; Deuteronomy 33:26-29; I Samuel 1; I Samuel 15:22-23
The lesson for this week begins with a rather sobering couple of verses, taken from the writings of the prophet Isaiah. The verses read: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” Isa 5:20-21.
These words represent a plight that is quite common to humans, that we get things rather badly inverted or reversed, sometimes. The author of the lesson worries that we might, particularly in a highly individualistic society, get our worship ideas and practices mixed up. Certainly, from a biblical perspective, worship should emerge as a heartfelt response to God’s actions in history, both on a grand scale as well as on a personal scale. To get our responses to God somehow inverted would not be a good thing at all.
We turn once more to the experiences of ancient Israel for some continuing lessons and insights into worship.
- Leviticus 9 records the very first time a service was conducted in the newly built tabernacle or sanctuary of that time. The account of that first service ends with the recitation of some real drama, that the “glory of the Lord came down.” Do you have any ideas what that might have looked like?
- In addition, fire came down and consumed the sacrifices on the altar and so the tabernacle was inaugurated.
- The response of the people is quite instructive. They shouted and then fell down on their faces.
- What would be an appropriate way to show reverence and awe in the presence of God today?
- Have you ever wondered why there is not the kind of divine manifestation now that there was in ancient times?
- Very soon after the inaugural events, there is an astonishing story, in Leviticus 10:1-11, a story about Nadab and Abihu the sons of Eli and their callous and thoughtless misuse of the tabernacle and its services. For their sin, they were consumed by fire that came out from the Lord, just as it had come out to consume the sacrifice.
- What conclusions about worship would you draw from this story?
- Quite a bit later, over in 1 Samuel 1, there is another story from the history of ancient Israel that is quite informative. It has to do with the woman Hannah.
- Do you recall Hannah’s great struggle?
- How does worship play out in Hannah’s life? What role does it play?
- Notice here attitude when at worship – anguished, but surrendered.
- What do you make of her bargaining with God?
- Another great worship lesson is found in 1 Samuel 15:22-23. Saul, the new King, has disobeyed God and decided to do things his own way. In the face of his disobedience, he brings offerings to worship God. He is met by Samuel and told of rejection by God of both his offerings and his kingship:
- Notice that God would rather have obedience and contrition than rituals, even those designated by Him.
- In what ways do you think we are hypocritical in worship today?
- What role do you think rituals may play in worship today?