Excessive, Extravagant Worship
I have just finished reading through 1 Kings 8 in my morning quiet time and was struck by the way in which King Solomon proceeded to dedicate the temple he’d just finished building in Jerusalem…
His dedication prayer was that this place, the temple, would be a place where people could come and connect with God. His prayer covered a number of different human circumstances:
- When anyone had wronged their neighbour and fellowship was broken (v.31)
- When Israel had been defeated and the nation was hurting (v.33)
- When drought came, threatening livelihoods and food supply (v.35)
- When they were struck with famine or plague, or when and enemy had them backed in a corner (v.37)
- When a foreigner came because they’d heard about God and wanted to know him… no one need be excluded. (v.41)
- When the people were unable to be physically present… but their heart was turned toward their “church” (v.44) … and finally
- When anyone sinned against God, needed forgiveness and needed their relationship with Him restored, for – says Solomon – “there is no one who does not sin” (v. 46ff)
There’s a place for each of us in Solomon’s prayer. We may not be experiencing national tragedy, but we may have a broken relationship, for example. At the very least, and if we were honest with ourselves, there is probably an area of our relationship with God that needs restoration even today!
I know that’s my case.
Following Solomon’s prayer and after blessing the people (v.54ff) he proceeds to make sacrifice as a means of dedicating the building; setting it apart from any other building.
He did this with ridiculous extravagance, sacrificing 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep & goats as fellowship offerings.
What do we know about fellowship offerings?
- The purpose – to offer thanksgiving or to signal the fulfillment of a vow (Lev. 7).
- They were expressing their thanks for peace from all enemies and for a place of worship. They were also testifying to God having kept his vow to King David, concerning the construction of the temple.
- The Means – flawless animals, slaughtered according to strict procedures (Lev. 3, 17).
- The Meaning – to affirm the covenant relationship between God & his people (Ex. 20, 24, Jos. 8).
- The Name – attests to the meaning… Fellowship. The priest and all the people shared the meat and ate their respective portions, together.
Remember… 22,000 (flawless) cattle and 120,000 (flawless) sheep & goats.
To find that many flawless animals they must’ve had tens or hundreds of thousands more animals from which to choose. Just thinking about that many animals is staggering.
If such a sacrifice happened today there would be an unrivaled public outcry over what would be considered animal abuse by many. Though, at the time, such sacrifice was common among many faiths.
Israel’s worship, in the eyes of many, would be considered excessive.
Fast-forward to 2016
France (indeed all of Europe) has just come through the #EURO2016 soccer championship and I can’t help but consider that.
- In France, tens of thousands of people gathered in stadiums to watch the games.
- Across Europe, tens of thousands more gathered in fanzones to follow their teams.
- People paid and average ticket price of 540€ to see the final game between France & Portugal (no less than 1/3 of seats were sold for 890€ each).
- In total people paid 1,9 billion€ just to see games or buy merchandise… not to mention associated travel & hotel costs.
Make no mistake… people are willing to ‘make sacrifices’ for what they consider important.
Indeed, it’s not a stretch to say that many made extravagant sacrifices to be part of the EURO2016 frenzy.
For the Christian… extravagant worship is not well understood or appreciated by those who, for whatever reason, don’t share this faith.
Of course, Christians today do not manifest their worship using animal sacrifice as was the case when Solomon dedicated the temple, but we will dedicate time, resources and energy to worship God who, still today, offers the same healing and restoration as we saw in Solomon’s prayer (and heaven knows we still need it today).
Soccer fans, on the other hand dedicate time, resources and energy for 90 minutes of game-play in a stadium. The personal rewards or benefits (apart from the thrill of the moment, shared memories and national pride) are minimal at best.
Make no mistake… I watched the final game on TV with my family and we did enjoy it (until Portugal scored what would be the winning goal), so I’m not attempting to demonize sport altogether or say that is has no place in our lives.
I’m merely drawing the conclusion that, if soccer fans can make extravagant sacrifice for the purposes of their own pleasure and to profit a billion-euro industry, surely we are not crazy for making extravagant sacrifice in order to worship our God who heals our brokenness and offers an open invitation to all:
Fellowship with one another and, more importantly, fellowship with Him.
“He will draw near to us when we draw near to him.”
…that’s another word for fellowship, and that’s what’s at stake today.
The Lord is inviting us, continually, into community with Him.
The doorway…. extravagant worship.
What’s one sacrifice you could make this week to enhance your fellowship with God who brings healing and restoration?
Mike Long is a Canadian pastor living in France and who blogs over at AIMLong.ca. He loves God, his family, small backyard animals, travel and mobile photography.
He is grateful for the opportunity to guest-post for Maria here on Health from one Heart to Another
Categories: Devotional Friday