The Rhythms of Worship

The Rhythms of Worship

As we prepare to hear God’s Word, let’s go before him in prayer. This prayer is pulled out of Psalm 119. Let us pray. Father, as we come now before your word, we ask that our hearts would be such that we would rejoice at your word. We would be like one who has found a great spoil, that you would work in us and change us such that we might hate and abhor falsehood, but rather love your law. That it would be said of us seven times a day, we praise you. We praise you for your righteous rules. And we ask further that you would give and grant us peace as you work in us a love for your law. That you would make our ways sure such that by your word, nothing would make us stumble. And that in your word, we would hope for your salvation and do all your commands. Father, we pray this in Jesus name and for his sake, Amen. Well, you can see printed in your bulletin a selection of the three chapters by God’s Grace, I hope to cover this morning. So beginning in chapter 28, this is the word of the Lord.

The Lord spoke to Moses saying, Command the people of Israel and say to them, My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time. And you shall say to them, this is the food offering that you shall offer to the Lord. Two male lambs a year old without blemish day by day as a regular offering. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. Also, a tenth of an ee fath of fine flour for a grain offering mixed with a quarter of a hen of beaten oil. It is a regular burnt offering which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord. And in Chapter 29, on the first day of the seventh month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets and you shall offer a burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. One bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs, a year old without blemish. And a medley from Chapter 30.

If a woman vows to the Lord and her husband hears of it and says nothing, then her vow shall stand. If the husband makes them null and void on the day he hears of them, the Lord will forgive her. If he makes them null and void after he has heard of them, then he shall bear the iniquity. The word of the Lord, you may be seated. Let’s pray for the preaching of God’s word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. My words should stray from your word. I pray that they would be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen. There’s something about saying, we always do this, which helped keep the years together. Edith Schaefer writes those words in her book, What is a Family? And she continues in that line of thought. She writes, Time is such an elusive thing that if we keep on meaning to do something interesting but never do it, year would follow year with no special thoughtfulness being expressed in making gifts or surprises, charming table settings, and familiar food. And then she says, tradition is a good gift intended to guard the best gifts.

Our rhythm or the traditions that we have begun to establish in our lives, that is, our habits in worship, will have a powerful impact on our lives. The questions of, are we growing in Christ? Are we stagnant? Are we wil spiritually? They will likely be decided by, at least related to, the rhythms of our worship, both public and private. And as we begin to consider that in light of our text, we see almost immediately in chapter 28, verse 2, the first principle, the underlying truth about worship, which if we get wrong or if we just set it aside, it will render all of our efforts in vain. What is this fundamental truth? Verse 2, Command the people of Israel and say to them, My offering, my food for my offering, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time. What jumps out? The word my. Old Testament scholar Timothy Ashley notes that this list concerns only YAWAI’s offerings, those sacrifices which belong wholly to him. So the Lord is reminding the people who are about to enter into the promised land and receive the promised blessings there that when they gather to worship, they are gathering to worship the Lord.

It is his worship, the Holy One of Israel. He has delivered them out of Egypt. He has already worked miracles for them. He has already shown that he can defeat their enemies. He has already provided food and water for him. Their God owns the rights to declare how he is to be worshiped. And so then in a real sense, everything that we would bring is his. I said another way, God’s Holiness demands a rhythm of worship. And we’ll see later in chapter 30, as well as an understanding of our responsibilities in private religious vows. God’s Holiness demands a rhythm in worship. There are other principles that we see here right off the bat. In addition to God being the owner of worship, He’s also the focus of worship. To worship for the primary purpose of feeling refreshed or being rejuvenated in our spiritual walk is to miss the mark. Now, people worship for a variety of reasons. You may be here because your parents are making you. You may be here because you like to feel better about it. You may be here for the fellowship. You may be here for the music. You may be here for, insert, your favorite reason.

And they all may be reasonable and they all may be helpful and even good. But if they are the primary reason, then you’re missing the mark. We are to worship simply because God is worthy of our worship. He has commanded us. Yes, that’s true. And so we worship in obedience, but our heart should worship because we know our God is worthy of worship. And in our text, we next see that the beginning of the giving of that pattern of what the rhythm of worship should look like. Verse 3 ends, for instance, with the phrase day by day as a regular offering. Verse 9, on the sabbath day, there’s a weekly offering. Verse 11, the beginning of the months you shall offer. Verse 16, and then again in 26, and most of Chapter 29, we read of the annual feasts. And in each case, the Lord spells out his expectations for what we’re to be offering, how much to sacrifice when and in what combinations. As we read that, as we see that, we come to the point that Gordon Venom has so succinctly stated, sacrifice is the heart of biblical worship. Indeed, if you try to count up all that is sacrificed in these chapters, you end up with some pretty staggering numbers.

One scholar sums it up like this. It’s 113 bulls, 32 rams, 1,086 lambs, and over a ton of flour and more than a thousand bottles of wine and oil each year simply for the public prescribed worship services. Individuals who find themselves defileded and in need of cleansing or to offer a sin sacrifice or a burnt offering, or maybe sacrifices that they have made to fulfill vows, all of those personal sacrifices would be on top of those normal public requirements. There was an incredible cost to worship to the Nation of Israel. Perhaps sitting on the West side of the Jordan, they may begin to wonder, how will we ever flourish if we are required to pay such a heavy cost to the Lord? I think better would be to realize that it is because this requirement is from the Lord, that it can also be seen as a promise of his future provision and blessing. The cost of their acceptance in his sight is too high for any of them as individuals. And yet God, in requiring it of the nation, is binding himself to provide for them a way of acceptance. If we reflect on these staggering costs of worship in the Old Testament, we might ask ourselves, what is the cost of worship today?

We are a people who disparage convenience, and we would be wise to consider the cost associated even with our worship this day. I don’t know if you know this, but on an average Sunday in the summer, we need roughly 25 volunteers to help run this service. And during the school year, when Sunday school is in play, we need at least 50 volunteers each Sunday. If that hasn’t included you in the past couple of months, perhaps that’s an opportunity for you to sacrifice for worship. Singing takes effort. There’s effort in song. And you might want to consider whether you engage in singing. You might be thinking, It’s not really my style, or I don’t really like to sing, or trust me, all those seated around me wouldn’t like me to sing. And if you’re worried about your voice, I want to encourage you with the truth that worship is work. And we are called and commanded to sing to his glory. And it might take sacrifice on your behalf to sing to his glory. It takes effort to listen to consider the questions that Pastor Lloyd prepares for us every week to as we move through the flow, the rhythm of our worship here to think, how can I stay attentive to what’s happening?

For some of us, that takes incredible work. How do we listen? How do we stay connected and focused? There may be some areas of sacrifice in that sense. Now, of course, no amount of sacrifice can win our acceptance. We’re told clearly in Hebrews 10, verse 11, And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifice which can never take away sins. Jesus, the superior high priest, has no need to offer sacrifices daily. He died once for all, offering himself for all time a single sacrifice. And we know that his work is finished. For Hebrews 10, verse 12 tells us he sat down at the right-hand of God. Jesus is the superior high priest, the perfect one who offered for you a superior sacrifice. And if you see your need of him, if you’ve asked for his forgiveness and rest in the joy of his salvation, then you have the reason to worship him in joy. And every day in the Old Testament context and the numbers which we’re considering, lambs are offered to the Lord morning and evening. The Prophet Esra, in Chapter 3 Verse 4, reinforces this, As it is written, they offer the daily burnt offering by number, according to the rule as each day required.

Ezequiel, likewise says, You shall provide a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering of the Lord daily. And on that goes. Each day we begin with the offering of a lamb and its associated offering of fine flour, grain, oil. And again at twilight, another lamb with its associated food and wine offerings, all a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Not just daily, as I’ve already indicated, chapter nine of verse 28 shows us that there’s a weekly offering as well. And then in verse 11, we read that the beginnings of each month. And so it would work like this. Each day, a lamb is offered in the morning and at night. And on the sabbath day, in addition to the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the morning and at night, the priest would also offer an additional two lambs as a sabbath or a sabbath burnt offering. And then the first day of the month, let’s say it fell on the sabbath, the priest would offer the daily sacrifice, the weekly sacrifice, and then the monthly burnt offerings of two bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs, all with the appropriate flour, grain, oil, and wine offerings.

It’s a pattern that would become like a regular rhythm. Christopher Watkin, in his work on modern life and culture, writes this, The citizen of the Old Testament Israel does not simply have a copy of the law as local synagogues do today. She lives and breathes it. It’s patterns and rhythms her daily life, her memory, and her hopes for the future. Have you thought much about the rhythms of your life? What might they suggest take places of priority in your time? That you are here and listening to me suggest that worship, at least, is part of the weekly rhythm of your life. But what will happen later today? What will happen when you wake up tomorrow? What will happen as June rolls in to July? Do you have a daily time in the Word and in prayer, reflecting, meditating, and studying on the Word? Or is that something that you just try to fit in? Is it a rhythm? Is it a pattern of worship in your life? Would you say you live and breathe worship? One can imagine the families that live near the tabernacle. They would actually see the smoke each morning. They would smell that burnt offering, that pleasing aroma each morning.

And would their thoughts be turned to the Lord? Or would they simply be thinking about their morning chores? It’s a pattern that was to continue every day, every week, every month, broken only by certain annual celebrations, which the rest of Chapter 28 and 29 detail. The first annual feast occurs on the 14th day of that first month, and that was the Passover celebration. In addition to the daily sacrifices, this would begin a weeklong celebration, recalling the Lord’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. Each of these seven feasts that the next two chapters speak about are referred to, again, they’re filled out and they’re flushed out in the life and ministry of Jesus. And we don’t have time this morning to look at all of them. But in the Passover, for instance, we see it tied to Jesus’s ministry in Luke 9, verse 31. We’re in just a simple reference. His departure from a certain area is called the Exodus by Luke. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5, verse 7 and 8, as he’s encouraging the listeners to become Christlike in their lives, calls them to expel sin and he uses language, toss the leaven out. Referring back, of course, to the Passover.

Well, 50 days after that is the Feast of the First Fruits. In our text, it’s called the Feast of Weeks, which is a celebration of the barley harvest. The Greek Old Testament refers to it as the Pentecost. And a part of that feast, they would actually offer some of the grain of the barley that they have harvested, which would provide them, as a nation, an opportunity to both trust in the Lord. After all, they’re giving some of their harvest right back. Trust in the Lord, but also a sense of assurance each year that the Lord is providing for all of their agricultural needs. As Chapter 29 opens, we read, On the first day of the seventh month, you shall have a holy convocation. And as one reads through Chapter 29, one begins to realize that the number 7 is obviously a significant number in these chapters. Timothy Ashley notes that all of the feasts are organized around the number 7. There are seven feasts mentioned. The two most important feasts are seven days long. The seventh month is set apart as is the seventh day. Even the numbering scheme for how many bulls one is to offer each day during the feasts of Booth, which is two times seven, 14 days long.

Chapter 29 verses 12 to 35 speak of all that. And the numbering scheme may seem confusing until we follow one scholar’s advice. He says it’s simply best to see the numbers work out so that it comes to seven bulls on the seventh day. Interestingly, if you were to take the totals of these sacrifices and add them up, they’re divisible by seven. Elsewhere, we learned that the seventh year is a sabbatical year for the fields to rest, and that the year of Jubilee, that time in which land is restored, debts are canceled, and all slaves are set free is the year after seven repeats of seven years. Clearly, the repetition of seven helps us to remember the God given work rest cycle. Resting from work forces us to trust that God will continue to provide for all of our daily, weekly, and even yearly needs. We need rest, and the Lord has given us a day, but he’s also showing us here patterns and rhythms for regular rest throughout the year, and then year upon year. I wonder, how could each of us as individuals and perhaps as families seek to replicate some of those times of regular rest and worshipful celebrations?

How might we take things that we’re already doing, annual trips, family gatherings, the holidays, and modify them just a little to heighten both the worshipful aspects as well as opportunities to rest in God’s faithful provision? Well, as chapter 29 ends and 30 begins, they use some of the same language, Moses giving to the people of God what God has given to him. I think it’s of vital importance that just as we considered the affirmation, sacrifices are all God’s sacrifices. They’re the public sacrifices that he owns, and therefore he has the right to insist on how they are offered. Here too, in Chapter 30, there are the rules regarding private religious vows, and they are also the Lord’s. I mention this because if we chafe against them, once we understand them, we are chafing against God’s commandment. At first glance, you may say, This doesn’t seem fair that there are different rules for men and women. And I would suggest that anytime we begin to think that way, we are wise to remember God. God is just, His nature is good and holy and loving, and therefore, whatever God has declared is both just and loving.

It can be no other way. It’s His nature. The problem, then, if we find that we have one, is one of our perspective. I think as we look a little closer, we’ll see God’s plan. First, we ought to notice that this chapter, Chapter 30, deals with a specific context of making vows to YAwe. Several scholars see that that’s what connects this chapter to the previous two. Chapters 28 and 29 are the publicly prescribed sacrifices, and Chapter 30 are the personally prescribed sacrifices, vows for sacrifice. In Chapter 30, the first two verses, we see the basic principle given to the man. If a man vows an oath to the Lord, he shall not break his word. He shall do all that proceeds out of his mouth. Now, if you know your Bible, you know the tragic effects of this in Judges 11, with Jezebel’s vow to sacrifice to the Lord whatever the first thing is that comes out of his house if and when he would come home victorious. I’ve always wondered what in the world he thought was going to be the first thing that came out of his house. Perhaps some pet that he actually didn’t really like, or some servant he was trying to figure out how to get rid of.

What was he thinking when he made that vow? What are we thinking when we make some of our rash promises? But there is no doubt that his vow, as tragic as it was, stood. That’s the principle. When the husband or the man of the house makes a promise, it shall be made good. One scholar notes it like this, A vow once spoken had an independent existence and was binding. The rest of the chapter addresses the question, what about if women in the house take an oath? Will it stand? And here is where that sense of protest may swell. But if we jump to verse 9, we read this, But if any vow of a widow rather, but any vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, anything by which she has bound herself shall stand. And so here we see the principle in its fullness. The absolute or uncontested ability to make a vow is given only to the head of the household. And so if both spouses are alive, then the husband is the head. The scriptures are quite clear about that. But it is the mother in the case where the husband is absent.

Furthermore, we begin to realize that these rules are actually given for the protection of those within the family. Timothy Ashley notes further that throughout this whole section, the rights and privileges and laws for women, which he recognizes a normally underprivileged group, they’re mentioned notably at the beginning, the middle, and the end of this entire section. We’ve already seen that in Chapter 27 Verse 11 with the daughters of Zalaphahad. And they want to know, will we receive a land inheritance as well? And then here in Chapter 30, where the rights of and the rules pertaining to the vows made by women are discussed. And finally, in Chapter 36 as well. All this, Timothy Ashley states, shows that, quote, YAWAI’s land would be a place where all God’s people find rest. Indeed, as you read through this chapter, you realize, in fact, it is the head of the household that is being restricted here. He or she, in the case of a divorced or widowed mom, may only make the vow void when they first hear of it. In all other cases, the vow will stand. This was an extraordinary change from the cultural practice of that day.

Anyone can make a vow. But if they are not the heads of the household, then the head has a one time opportunity to void the vow when they first hear of it. And if they do, the original vower is completely freed from their promise. Verse 8 tells us the Lord will forgive her. If, however, the husband says nothing, which I understand is a regular occurrence among men, and then later tries to cancel it, verse 15 teaches us that he will bear her iniquity. Again, the responsibility falls on the head of the household. It seems that only the head of the household has that uncontested right to vow the resources of their household. We all know that is a good thing when a husband trusts the heart of his wife, he trusts in. But here, this is helping us to understand the significance and the cost of keeping our word. And at times, it’ll cost us dearly. Rashed vows, thoughtless, and empty promises are a tremendous insult to God and to other people as well. God cares deeply about our promises and our private promises in worship, just as he does our public offerings in worship as well.

Jesus, in fact, speaks out against those who used or made vows to actually avoid their real God given duties. In Matthew 15, for instance, Jesus calls hypocrites those who refuse to care for their parents because they have supposedly promised to help the local priests. Jesus sees through their hypocrisy and quotes Isaiah 29 13, The people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me. But if we remember that first principle of worship, that it belongs to God because it is from Him and it is for Him. If we remember that we worship God because he is worthy of worship, then our lives can be lived in a rhythm of worship that beautifully reflects God’s pattern of worship and of rest. The rhythms and habits in both public worship and our private religious vows can become a good thing that guards the best thing, which is heartfelt worship of a worthy God. A worthy God who has provided for us the only way of our salvation in the perfect sacrifice of his risen son, Jesus. Let us pray. Father, I thank you for your word. It’s a lot in those three chapters.

I pray that in the rhythm of our week to come, we might find time to read through them all and that you would speak to us as we do. Father, we thank you that your word always accomplishes your purpose in our lives. We thank you for the reminder, even from our Gideon representative this morning, from Brian. Father, we ask that you would help us as we think through what our rhythms suggest, and that we might look for ways in which we could live and breathe worship. Father, we thank you for your love. We thank you for your word, which you have preserved for us. And we thank you most especially for the perfect and final sacrifice of your son, Christ Jesus, our Savior, in whose name we pray, Amen.

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