We begin our examination of biblical worship by looking at the scriptural law of worship, as declared by Moses. We will then see how the precepts of the law apply within the historical narratives of the Old Testament.
The tablets of the moral law begin with commandments regarding worship. Thus, the chief principles regulating worship were inscribed in stone, asserting the perpetual obligation of mankind to worship God according to his word.
The first commandment reminds us that the Lord is the only proper recipient of our wor ship. The command prohibits the worship of false gods, and enjoins us to worship only the true God, the Lord. "I am the Lord thy God . Thou shalt have no other gods before me"(Ex. 20:2-3).
The second commandment continues the focus on worship by telling us how God is to be worshipped. It does so in a negative sense, by forbidding us to worship God with human inventions. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"(Ex. 20:4).
A graven image is not merely a statue of a false deity. If that were the case, the second commandment would be redundant of the first. Instead, the second commandment plainly forbids making or revering physical or artistic representations of the true God.
When the Lord revealed himself to the Israelites, he did so by means of his word not by physical images to be imitated or embellished. Therefore, he warned them: "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure," etc. (Deut. 4:15-16).
The apostle Paul instructed the Athenians, "We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device"(Acts 17:29; cf. Ps. 115:4-8). Any attempt to represent God by human devices is an insult to the Lord. His pronouncement is clear: "I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" (Isa. 42:8).
The prohibition expressed in the second commandment reaches beyond what we might call an image, in the strictest sense of the term. In its broader scope, this commandment really forbids the use of all man-made devices in worship. It directs us to the basic concept: that the only acceptable way of worshipping God is to render homage to him according to the instructions given in his word. Any deviation from his word by adopting humanly-devised forms of worship is, de facto, a violation of the scriptural law of worship.
When we consider the corrupt nature of fallen mankind, we may perceive why biblical directives in worship are so essential. "There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God"(Rom. 3:11). The natural tendency of mankind is to pollute the worship of God, changing the truth of God into a lie, worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (Rom. 1:25).
Apart from God's word, men cannot attain an adequate knowledge of the way of salvation. Likewise, they can have no proper understanding of worship apart from the revealed will of God in the scriptures.
It is a maxim of Protestant theology that the word of God is our rule of faith and practice. The scriptures are necessary to make us "wise unto salvation" (2 Tim. 3:15-17). And, among the redeemed, we further recognize the word of God is essential "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," in order to be "thoroughly furnished unto all good works." We must not be ruled by personal feelings or human traditions, "but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4).
As regards our service to God, we need instruction about how to worship God. The biblical regulations respecting worship are a merciful provision, given to the people of God by their Redeemer, that they might know how to worship him aright.
As we survey the scriptures, we find that, from the earliest days of recorded history, the Lord gave to his people a divine pattern for worship. Although the Lord has sometimes made changes to outward forms and ceremonies, as he has unfolded the plan of redemption, God's people have never been left without commands for worship.
The Lord demands obedience from his people. He tells them how to conduct worship; and it is unlawful to worship God by means which he has not established. Any humanly-devised alterations or additions to the worship of God are a species of idolatry.
In other words, all religious ceremonies and institutions must have clear scriptural warrant, if they are to be admitted as valid expressions of worship. This concept has sometimes been called the regulative principle of worship. It is merely an application of the sola scriptura rule of Protestant theology.
In order to confirm our understanding of the scriptural law of worship, we turn to the precepts of the law. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses exhorts the children of Israel to keep the law of God; in the 12th chapter of the book, Moses reviews scriptural precepts pertaining to worship.
The Lord forbids his people to imitate pagan ways of worship; the Israelites were commanded to eradicate the remnants of corrupt worship from their midst (Deut. 12:2-3). They were commanded to destroy "all the places" wherein the heathen served their gods. They were instructed to purge the land of all the implements associated with false worship: "Ye shall over throw their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods." Even the terminology of corrupt worship was to be erased: "Destroy the names of them out of that place."
To the modern mind, this may sound strangely intolerant. But the Lord warned his people against the danger of imitating the worship practices of the nations: "Ye shall not do so unto the Lord your God" (Deut. 12:4).
The chapter concludes with another stern warning against imitating heathen worship. There is no room for comparative religion or the assimilation of man-made devices in the worship of the true God. "Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it" (Deut. 12:30-32).
That last statement points to doctrine highlighted earlier in the book of Deuteronomy respecting the sufficiency and authority of scripture. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deut. 4:2). The general sufficiency and authority of scripture are brought to bear upon the content of our worship. This is the meaning of the scriptural law of worship: all forms of worship must have express scriptural warrant, if they are to be admitted as legitimate means of worship. The biblical pattern of worship needs no supplements of human devising; indeed, such man-made additions are a snare graven images the very seed of idolatry.
We have seen the general precepts of worship stated clearly by Moses. We now turn to some historical narratives in the Bible which illustrate the scriptural law of worship. These narratives demonstrate the binding nature of the regulative principle of worship.
During the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites had to be schooled in proper principles of worship. Their native tendency toward corrupt worship was early shown, while they waited for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai. Growing restless, Aaron and the people constructed a golden calf to serve as a visible symbol of deity.
Virtually all expositors decry the action of the Israelites as idolatry. What is often over looked, however, is the manner in which the Israelites justified their action. They did not view the calf as a newly-created deity; rather, they made the calf as a testimony of their divine deliverance from Egypt. The calf-image evoked a sense of the strength displayed in their deliverance. "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord" (Ex. 32:4-5)
In other words, the Israelites did not claim to worship new deities that would be blatant idolatry. No, they intended the calf to serve as a symbol of deity; and Aaron seeks to honor the sacred name of the Lord through this monstrous invention.
Now, when Moses returned, he did not regard this matter lightly. He did not employ the tactic which Papists have used for centuries (and which evangelical churchmen presently endorse), simply cautioning the Israelites not to worship false gods, noting that the image itself was not a deity, and then allowing the image to remain strictly as a symbol. No, Moses was not trained in the sophistries of medieval scholasticism. "He took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?" (Ex. 32:20-21).
The 10th chapter of Leviticus contains a startling account of God's displeasure with human innovation in worship. It is the case of Nadab and Abihu. These men were sons of Aaron the high priest; they had been consecrated to the priesthood. In an act of carelessness, or presumption, they "offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not." Immediately, "there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them" (Lev. 10:1-2).
Note the simplicity of their offense; Nadab and Abihu had not performed an act which was expressly forbidden. No, they merely added a bit of strange fire which the Lord had not commanded. Irrespective of their office or their motive, they were immediately consumed by fire from the Lord. The judgment which fell upon Nadab and Abihu stands as a perpetual testimony against those who presume to worship God by means which lack divine warrant. It is a solemn warning: "the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified" (Lev. 10:3).
The case of king Saul illustrates the folly of claiming good intentions as an excuse for worship which God has not sanctioned.
Saul found himself in distressing circumstances. He was faced with a formidable number of enemy troops; and Samuel was late for their appointed meeting. Therefore, Saul decided to make a burnt offering himself, without waiting any longer for Samuel.
According to the Mosaic law, only the priests were authorized to make such offerings, but king Saul performed the priestly task on his own. No sooner had Saul committed his presumptuous deed, than Samuel arrived.
Samuel rebuked Saul, exclaiming, "What hast thou done?" Saul pleaded the necessity of his action, based upon pragmatic considerations. Regardless of the distressing circumstances, or Saul's apparent motive, Samuel pronounced God's judgment on the king. "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue" (1 Sam. 13:13-14).
Saul's foolishness did not end with this first incident. A short time later, he led the Israelites in battle to destroy the Amalekites. Saul had been specifically instructed to destroy both the Amalekites and their livestock as well, taking no booty (1Sam.15:3).
Instead, "Saul and the people spared Agag," king of the Amalekites, "and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs." His subsequent explanation was that these choice animals would make an excellent sacrifice unto the Lord (1Sam.15:9,21).
From a human perspective this decision might sound reasonable. After all, when they considered the best of the livestock, it probably seemed like a terrible waste simply to destroy them. Wouldn't it be better to retain them as an offering unto God? If the motive was sincere, how could such a generous act of worship be tainted?
Samuel's response was blunt: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king" (1Sam. 15:22-23).
The lesson of this incident is simple. No motive or action in worship is acceptable, if it runs contrary to God's revealed word. At no point had Saul professed the worship of another god; yet the king's actions toward the Lord were unacceptable, because they deviated from God's revealed word. Therefore, Saul's deeds are likened to the very opposite of true worship to witchcraft and idolatry.
As noted earlier, the 12th chapter of Deuteronomy opens and closes with general statements prohibiting the corruption of worship through imitation of heathen practices. The middle portion of the chapter is significant as regards the outward ceremonies of worship under the Levitical priesthood. Even at the time of Moses, it was understood that the portable tabernacle would eventually give way to a permanent place for the Levitical sacrifices. "There shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you" (Deut. 12:11; cf. 12:5,14).
The designation of a fixed place of worship did not reach fulfillment until the Israelites conquered and settled the land of Canaan. During the reign of king David, Jerusalem was designated as the permanent location for the ark, thereby establishing Jerusalem as the center for the sacrificial ordinances associated with the Levitical priesthood. Even so, the entire program of worship, from the tabernacle to the temple, was directed by divine revelation.
The tabernacle worship was not the invention of Moses; it was built according to a divine blueprint. The Israelites were instructed: "Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it" (Ex. 25:8-9; Ex. 25:40; 27:8; Num. 8:4; cf. Acts 7:44; Heb. 8:5). Throughout the description of the tabernacle furnishings, it is reiterated that all things must be made according to the God-given pattern.
The ark of the covenant was placed within the tabernacle. It was a symbol of God's presence among them the meeting-place between the Lord and his people. The Levitical priests performed sacrifices in the tabernacle: all according to the divine pattern given by God to Moses (Ex. 25:10-22; 29:42-46).
Later, when David sought to transfer the ark to Jerusalem, the ark was moved initially in a careless manner. The law required the ark to be carried on poles by the priests (Ex. 25:14; Num. 4:1-5). Instead of following the biblical procedure, the Israelites placed the ark upon an ox cart. While this method might have seemed more convenient, it resulted in a tragedy. "And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God" (1 Chron. 13:9-10; cf. 2 Sam. 6:1-10).
David was troubled by the death of Uzza. He wondered, "How shall I bring the ark of God home to me? So David brought not the ark home to himself to the city of David." The ark was left temporarily at the house of Obed-edom. "And the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that he had" (1 Chron. 13:12-14).
The problem was not with the ark. The problem was the failure of the Israelites to maintain the biblical order. Therefore, David called for the priests and Levites, and he charged them, "Sanctify yourselves, both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order" (1 Chron. 15:12-13).
David's lesson is not a quaint tale recorded for our amusement. Just as the earlier events regarding Moses, "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come"(1Cor. 10:11). There is a timeless principle contained in such declarations, "Make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount" (Heb. 8:5; cf. Ex. 25:40).We, too, must seek God after "due order" not according to convenience or what seems right in our own eyes.
After the ark was moved to Jerusalem, David organized the courses of the priests, including the Levitical musicians. Everything was ordered "according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by the prophets" (2Chron. 29:25).
Later, David provided Solomon with a plan for building the temple: "David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof and the pattern of all that he had by the spirit also for the courses of the priests and the Levites. All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (1Chron. 28:11-13,19). Nothing was left for improvising; everything was ordered by the divine pattern for worship.
Solomon built the temple according to the heavenly blueprints left by David. The kingdom prospered under Solomon, and Jerusalem remained the seat of public worship for the entire kingdom of Israel.
After the death of Solomon, the nation became divided and the people slid into corruption and apostasy. The northern tribes immediately embraced false worship, and never recovered from their apostasy. Within the kingdom of Judah, there were several seasons of reformation, amidst waves of idolatry. The key to understanding the history of the Israelites it to note the critical connection between the worship of the people, and God's dealings with them in relation to their worship.
When the nation of Israel was divided, Jeroboam received a prophecy, that his reign in the northern tribes would be firmly established, if he would walk according to the statutes and commandments of God. Instead, the condition of the northern kingdom was sealed negatively, because Jeroboam took a pragmatic approach to worship (1 Kings 11:37-38).
As we have seen, Jerusalem was the divinely-appointed center for the sacrificial ordinances of the Old Testament. Jeroboam reasoned that his authority would be undermined, if his subjects continued to participate in the temple worship of Jerusalem. So Jeroboam devised a "local" program of worship suited to his own purposes:
"Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense" (1 Kings 12:28-33).
Jeroboam's actions were wholly revolutionary. He established a new center for worship, new means for worship, and a new priesthood. It was not so much that Jeroboam encouraged his people to worship other deities, but that he devised new methods which displaced the biblical means of worship; Jeroboam's offense was akin to the Aaron's sin in making the original golden calf. Jeroboam was confirmed in his evil, and cursed on account of it. Similarly, the northern kingdom never recovered from this disastrous undertaking (1 Kings 13:33-34).
The kings of northern Israel are denounced for retaining the legacy of Jeroboam. Baasha exterminated the descendants of Jeroboam, but retained the corrupt religion. Therefore, the Lord sent a prophet to pronounce judgment on Baasha because he "walked in the way of Jeroboam, and has made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins" (1 Kings 16:2).
Zimri destroyed the house of Baasha; but Zimri was himself vanquished "for his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the Lord, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin" (1 Kings 16:19). Zimri's ultimate successor was Omri, who "did worse than all that went before him" (1 Kings 16:26).
The downward spiral continued with Ahab, the son of Omri. Ahab "did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him" (1 Kings 16:30-33; cf. 21:25-26).
Unfortunately, the spirit of Ahab is prevalent in our own day, especially among pluralistic cultures (and churches); corrupt worship is viewed merely as "a light thing."
There is one especially curious episode in the latter history of the apostate northern kingdom. When Jehu took the throne, he exterminated the house of Ahab, and repudiated the Baalism of his predecessors. Jehu professed a "zeal for the Lord;" he developed a crafty plan for destroy ing the prophets of Baal, and he eradicated Baal worship from Israel (2 Kings 10:16; 18-28).
Jehu's action brought temporal blessings for his house, but his heart was not right: "Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Beth-el, and that were in Dan. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin" (2 Kings 10:29-31).
The reign of Jehu shows that the guilt of Israel came not merely from idolatry, in the narrow sense of the term: that is, the worship of false deities. Jehu eradicated the worship of other deities and claimed to worship the Lord, but he clung to the unhallowed methods of worship instituted by Jeroboam. Thus, Israel was charged with corrupt worship for attempting to worship the true God, the Lord, with unsanctioned means. The comparison here between Jeroboam and Jehu illustrates that Jeroboam's original crime was in establishing alternate forms of worship from those enjoined in the Mosaic law. Jeroboam's initial action took Israel to the slippery slope of corrupt worship. From there, the nation frequently degenerated into further idolatry by worshipping false gods as well. Therefore, let it be noted that the first step on the path of idolatry is taken when men presume to worship the Lord through means and measures not ordained in the word of God.
Jehu's "reform" was not a genuine reformation. Jehu rejected the false gods of Baalism, and he professed to serve the Lord, but he retained the false elements of worship established by Jeroboam. He did not restore the correct means of worship decreed in the scriptures. Jehu is typical of multitudes who claim to serve the Lord, but who cleave to man-made forms or worship, instead of worshipping God exclusively by the means commanded in his word.
The kings of Israel were idolaters; the apostasy of the nation was thorough; and so the Lord destroyed the northern kingdom. A chilling account is provided in 2 Kings 17:4ff., with a summary statement in verses 20-24 of that same chapter:
"And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight. For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day" (2Kings 17:20-24).
The 17th chapter of 2 Kings also explains the origin of the mongrel religion of the Samaritans (2 Kings 17:24-41). After the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, the Assyrian king deported the Israelites; he then used the land of Israel as a relocation center for Babylonians and other displaced persons. These heathen refugees "feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them" (2 Kings 17:25).
Alarmed by this development, the king of Assyria sent back an Israelite
priest to instruct the people how to serve the Lord. The people then professed
to worship the Lord God, but they attempted to render service to the Lord by
resorting to their customary idolatry, employing their own devices and
priesthood. "So they feared the Lord, and made unto themselves of the
lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the
houses of the high places. They feared the Lord, and served their own gods,
after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence. So these
nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children,
and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this
day" (2 Kings
The technical term for such a religious admixture is syncretism. For centuries it has been the modus operandi of Roman Catholicism. Sadly this Samaritan approach to worship is also quite prominent among professing Protestants, especially in the church growth movement among contemporary "evangelicals." The trends in popular culture and the deviant worship of the plural istic masses are adopted as a way to make worship "relevant" and appealing to modern society.
After the separation of the northern kingdom, the people of Judah retained their connection with the kingly descendants of David. Sadly, not all of the kings of Judah walked in the ways of their father David, who had displayed such commendable zeal for the true worship of God.
Judah became apostate during the reign of Rehoboam by resorting to unhallowed means of worship: "Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel"(1 Kings 14:22-24).
When Asa became king in Judah, he instituted reform. In the summary of his reign, he is commended for removing corrupt worship. "Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God: for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him" (2 Chron. 15:2-5; cf. 1 Kings 15:12-14).
The detailed narrative of Asa's reign tells us that the Lord sent a prophet to admonish the king to faithfulness. As a result, Asa "took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the Lord, that was before the porch of the Lord." He led the people "into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul" (2 Chron. 15:8, 12).
Moreover, Asa expelled the queen-mother: "he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron." An exception is noted, that "the high places were not taken away out of Israel." Nevertheless, Asa is commended because he did not later apostatize, as some of the kings who resorted to idolatry in the latter years of their reins (2Chron. 15:16-17; cf. 1Kings 15:14).
Contemporary readers may find it strange that so much attention is given to a king's attitudes and practices respecting worship. Yet, the details of the inspired narrative illustrate the critical relationship between true worship and the state of the nation.
The reign of Jehoshaphat was generally positive, although some exceptions are noted in the biblical narratives. Jehoshaphat is praised for "doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord.""The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel." Further, he rid Judah of "the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa" (1 Kings 22:43; 2 Chron. 17:3-4; 1 Kings 22:46).
Jehoshaphat' shortcomings are recorded; he foolishly "joined affinity with Ahab," the wicked king of Judah, for Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat married Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. Jehoshaphat's further misadventures with Ahab nearly cost him his life (even as Ahab was slain) (2Chron. 18:1; 2Kings 8:16-18; 2 Chron. 18; 1 Kings 22).
In spite of his personal weaknesses, Jehoshaphat conducted substantial reforms within Judah. "He went out again through the people from Beer-sheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the Lord God of their fathers" (2 Chron. 19:4-11). He appointed judges and admonished them to "judge not for man, but for the Lord." Moreover, he charged the priests to fulfill their duties "in the fear of the Lord faithfully, and with a perfect heart" (2 Chron. 20). During a time of national crisis, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and led the people in supplication to God for deliverance. Such public humility and worship were not without effect. The Lord delivered Judah, even as a Levitical chorus was raised to praise him.
At some point during his reign, Jehoshaphat removed certain "high places and groves out of Judah." The conjunction of these high places and groves suggests that these were sites of pagan worship devoted to false gods (2Chron.17:5; cf. 19:3; cf. Deut. 12:2-3).
We are told that "as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers." They apparently resorted to other sites of corrupt worship, "for the people offered and burnt incense in the high places," and these high places were not taken away (2Chron.20:33; 1 Kings22:43; 2Chron.20:33).
From this passage, we see that corrupt worship is symptomatic of a serious problem of the heart. A plea of sincerity is no excuse for disobedience to God's commands; so the people are guilty of sin, regardless of their professed motives. In conducting unsanctioned worship, the people exhibited that their hearts were "not prepared" unto God. Also, in this case, the example of a godly leader was insufficient to overcome the inherent tendency of the general population to corrupt worship.
Before Jehoshaphat died, he designated his firstborn son, Jehoram, as successor to the throne. Jehoram "walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Chron.21:6). Jehoram murdered his six brothers; and "he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and compelled Judah thereto" (2Chron. 21:2-4,11). By thus undoing the reforms of his father, Jehoram provoked the anger of the Lord. He died of disease after a brief reign of eight years.
Jehoram's son, Ahaziah, also became an evil king, and was killed after a reign of only one year. These events paved the way for Athaliah to usurp the throne and destroy the royal descendants of the house of Judah. (Unknown to her, there yet remained one descendant of the house of David.) The apostasy during Athaliah's rule was notable. "For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim" (2 Chron. 24:7).
It took an armed conspiracy of reformation to restore proper worship after the usurpation of Athaliah. The true heir to the throne, Joash, was only a young child, and he was secretly sheltered for several years in the home of Jehoiada the priest. At an opportune time, Jehoiada assembled the captains and the Levites. They installed Joash as king and executed Athaliah. "And Jehoiada made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the Lord's people. Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and brake it down, and brake his altars and his images in pieces, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David" (2 Chron. 22:11-12; 2Kings 11:2-3; 2 Chron. 23; 2 Kings 11; 2 Chron. 23:16-18; cf. 2 Kings 11:17-20).
Jehoiada's good influence over the young king was considerable. "Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest." The temple was repaired, proper worship was restored, "and they offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada" (2 Chron. 24:3; cf. 2 Kings 12:2; 2Chron. 24:6-14; 2Kings 12:6-16).
Sadly, after Jehoiada's death, king Joash followed the wicked counsel of the princes of Judah. "They left the house of the Lord of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass" (2 Chron. 24:18).
Could anything be clearer? The Lord detests corrupt worship and he punishes this sin. God "sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear" (2 Chron.24:19).
Amaziah's reign was of a mixed character. The throne next passed to Uzziah,
whose government was generally good and prosperous. Uzziah "did that which
was right in the sight of the Lord.... He sought God in the days of Zechariah,
who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord,
God made him to prosper." Nevertheless, "the high places were not
removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places"
25:2-4,14-16; 2Kings14:3-6; 2 Chron. 26:4-5; 2 Kings 15:4).
Having achieved great success, Uzziah later became proud, and took unto himself a priestly function. "He transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense" (2 Chron. 26:16). On the surface, this might have seemed pious a personal desire on the part of the king to burn incense unto the Lord. Yet, even if his motive was sincere, such motivation was no excuse for going beyond the boundaries of worship prescribed by God (as the case of Saul had previously exhibited).
"Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: and they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God" (2 Chron. 26:17-18). Uzziah became angry with the priests, but the king was immediately struck with leprosy, and he ended his days in seclusion (2 Chron. 27:2).
Uzziah was followed by Jotham, who "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did: howbeit he entered not into the temple of the Lord. And the people did yet corruptly." "Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places. He built the higher gate of the house of the Lord" (2 Kings 15:35).
Since the people remained corrupt, the Lord sent them the leadership they deserved. After Jotham died, Ahaz became king.Ahaz "did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father: for he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree" (2 Chron. 28:1-4; cf. 2 Kings 16:2-4).
This wicked king plundered the house of the Lord. After visiting the king of Assyria, Ahaz determined to construct an altar after the fashion of one he had seen in Damascus. Ahaz sent the pattern of the Damascan altar to Urijah, who built a replica of it. When Ahaz returned to Jerusa lem, he personally made offerings upon the new altar. He subsequently moved and mutilated the brazen altar which properly belonged in the forefront of the house of the Lord (2 Chron. 28:21; 2 Kings 16:8; 2 Kings 16).
Eventually, Ahaz "gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers" (2 Chron. 28:24-25).
Ahaz's actions are typical of those who form their worship based upon personal preferences. Initially, he cast his eyes upon the novel worship of others. Perhaps he was moved by fascination, or possessed a desire not to be excluded from the experience of others. Regardless of his motive, the new practices embraced by Ahaz progressively crowded out the proper worship of Jerusalem. Ultimately, true worship was displaced altogether by the corrupt worship of the king. The pattern of Damascus and the king's impulses completely replaced the pattern of worship prescribed in the scriptures. God's verdict on the matter is clear; this process "provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers" (2 Chron. 28:25).
After the devastation wrought by Ahaz, the kingdom stood in need of comprehensive re form. The Lord raised up Hezekiah for this task. Hezekiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.""He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses" (2 Chron.29:2; 2 Kings 18:5-6).
During the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the house of the Lord and commenced repairs. He directed the Levites to cleanse the temple so that the priesthood and proper sacrifices were restored. The passover was reinstituted. Hezekiah's zeal was so fervent that he sent letters among the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, encouraging them to come to Jerusalem and keep the passover; a proclamation went "throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 30:5).
It was a call to repentance: "Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. And be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you" (2Chron. 30:6-8).
While many in Israel mocked the call to repentance, "diverse of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 30:11). The passover was kept, and the king and the people confessed their sins and sought the Lord's forgiveness. Thus, it was a season of genuine spiritual revival.
The restoration of the passover was such a wonderful event, the people remained in Jerusalem an extra week. "So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 30:26).
In conjunction with the passover celebration, the people "arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron." After the passover, "all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all" (2 Chron. 30:14; 2 Chron. 7:1).
From these actions, we see two aspects of reform united: the positive work of reform in restoring the biblical pattern of worship, and the negative work of reform in removing the elements of unscriptural worship. Both aspects are essential components of thorough reform.
Both the positive and negative aspects of reform are further illustrated in the actions of Hezekiah. A positive facet of reform occurs in Hezekiah's restoration of the biblical courses of the priesthood. "Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt offerings and for peace offerings, to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the Lord."The appointments were all made "as it is written in the law of the Lord." Hezekiah "set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets." As a negative facet of reform, Hezekiah "brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan [ a piece of brass]" (2 Chron. 7:2-3; 2 Chron. 29:25; 2 Kings 18:4).
The destruction of the brasen serpent is an extremely important event, for it demonstrates the far-reaching scope of genuine reform. The brasen serpent was originally made at the command of God. It had not, however, been designated as an implement for use in the ordinary worship of the Lord. Therefore, because the brasen serpent had been superstitiously abused, it was necessary to destroy it.
Contemporary readers may find it difficult to comprehend this deed. It is easier to discern why Hezekiah led the people to destroy the high places, images, and groves dedicated to unsanctioned worship. But, truly, the brasen serpent was a hallowed symbol of God's former deliverance of the Israelites. Why destroy it? Why not simply caution the people against the abuse of a traditional symbol?
Hezekiah was wiser than our modern churchmen, who would, no doubt, follow a more "moderate" course. The king realized that the serpent had become a snare; it fostered superstition. And Hezekiah knew that this superstition this corruption of worship was sufficient to provoke the wrath of God. Far better to dispense with a sacred relic, than leave it as a temptation for present and future generations.
As noted, the brasen serpent was included in no part of the ordinary worship of God. By contrast, the passover was an integral part of the stated worship of God; therefore the passover was renewed and restored. But since the serpent had no sanctioned role in the stated worship of God, it was better to remove it altogether.
It is noteworthy that, throughout Hezekiah's reformation, the king enjoyed the widespread assistance of other men. Hezekiah freely delegated tasks to others, and he used his authority to impress upon the lesser rulers and priests their own particular obligations. If a day of genuine reform and revival dawns upon our own land, it will be with the widespread participation of pastors, other church officers, and the generality of the people as well. There will be manifest repentance among all. The task of reforming worship is too broad to be accomplished by individual effort alone.
Hezekiah's good reign was followed by the government of wicked king Manasseh. The apostasy of Manasseh was shocking.
"He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them. But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel" (2 Kings 21:2-9; cf. 2 Chron. 33:2-9).
As a result of Manasseh's corruption, the Lord declared that he would bring judgment upon the people of Judah (2 Kings 21:11-15).
Manasseh later repented, and set about undoing much of the evil which he previously fostered: "He took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel. Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the Lord their God only" (2 Chron. 33:15-17).
In spite of Manasseh's repentance, the conquest and captivity of Judah were determined. After Manasseh's death, the kingdom passed to Ammon, who governed wickedly. Judah was fast approaching the day of reckoning.
The Lord sent one final revival before the captivity. It came during the rule of godly king Josiah. "He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." "And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him" (2 Kings 22:2; 23:25-27).
Josiah conducted thorough reforms. He purged "Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strewed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about. And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem" (2 Chron. 34:3-7; cf. 2 Kings 23:4-14, 24).
In addition to purging the kingdom of corrupt worship, the young king directed repairs of the house of the Lord. Josiah restored the word of God to the people and led them to renew their covenant obligations before God. The passover and priestly services were reinstituted, down to minute details, including the Levitical musicians (2Chron.34-35; 2Kings 22; 2 Chron. 35:15-18).
After the reign of Josiah, the kingdom of Judah passed again into apostasy. The nation fell to the Babylonians, and the people were carried away into exile.
During the captivity, it was impossible for the Jews to conduct the public ordinances related to the temple in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the Lord's people were still obligated to keep themselves free from idolatry.
Consider the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They were told to accede to idolatry on the direct orders of king Nebuchadnezzar. (The king spoke in a tart manner; his commands sounded remarkably similar to the high-sounding rhetoric of contemporary church rulers who instruct church members to submit to unscriptural worship.) The response of the Israelites was equally direct: "Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Dan. 3:18).
The prophet Daniel was confronted with the tyrannical decree of Darius. To comply with the decree, Daniel would be required to neglect an important element of private worship, prayer. The prophet responded with open defiance, by performing his exercises of worship openly. "Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime" (Dan. 6:10).
These short lessons from the exile are a perpetual testimony to God's people to keep themselves from idolatry. No authority, whether civil or ecclesiastical, has the right to enjoin corrupt worship upon the people; and it is unlawful to submit to usurped authority, if we are ordered to participate in idolatry. Similarly, no rulers, whether civil or ecclesiastical, have the right to discharge us from our duties of worship. If faced with such unlawful demands, our response should be plain, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
During the reign of Cyrus the king of Persia, the Jews were permitted to return to their homeland and commence rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. They were careful to restore the temple and its services according to the scriptural pattern."And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel." When the construction was complete, "they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses" (Ezra 3:10; 6:18).
Having reestablished the proper place and the proper priesthood for public worship, the children of Israel celebrated the passover. "For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat, and kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel" (Ezra 6:20-22).
During the reforms of Nehemiah, the word of God was restored to a prominent position, the people confessed their sins and renewed their covenantal obligations, and provisions were made to sustain the public ordinances of worship (Neh. 8-10; Neh. 10:32-33).
Based on the Old Testament precepts and narratives, we have discovered theses general truths:
1. God is holy and jealous for his honor. He has forbidden us to worship anyone or anything beside him.
2. God has prescribed the proper way of worship; he has furnished a "divine pattern" a "due order" for worship. Since mankind has a inherent tendency to corrupt worship, we need divine instructions if our worship is to be acceptable unto God. Therefore, proper worship is restricted exclusively to the means ordained by God.
3. All elements of worship which lack divine warrant are forbidden.
To state these ideas simply: Nobody has the right to add to (or subtract from) the biblical pattern of worship; we are forbidden to alter the proper elements of worship in any way. The restriction applies to both the church collectively, and to persons individually, regardless of their station. Only the Lord has the prerogative to modify the means of worship used by his people.
With respect to reformation, we observe that genuine reform in the Old Testament included the following components:
1. Repentance and confession of sin.
2. Restoration of the word of God to a preeminent position.
3. Restoration of the outward ordinances established by God, including the proper place of worship, the proper priesthood, and the Levical ceremonies.
4. Renewal of covenant obligations.
5. Removal of the implements of superstitious, false and corrupt worship.
Footnotes for Chapter 2
1. Readers should note that Roman Catholics and Lutherans divide the ten commandments differently than ordinary Protestants. Papists and Lutherans combine the first two commandments into one, thus subsuming the second command as a mere appendix to the first. They divide the tenth commandment into two commands prohibiting different types of covetousness. Thus, they still maintain ten in number, but the effect on their doctrine of worship is devastating.
In practice, many Protestants have unwittingly adopted this same viewpoint. The second commandment is expounded as a mere expansion of the first, and restricted in application only to false deities and open homage to images. As a result, they admit images into churches, ostensibly for didactic purposes, especially for teaching children. This is merely a rehash of the old papal doctrine that images are the "books of the laity." The only didactic function of a graven image is as a "teacher of lies" (Hab. 2:18). For a summary of the genuine Reformed position, consult: Heidelberg Catechism, #96-98; Westminster Confession, 21:2-3; Westminster Larger Catechism, # 107-109. For good expositions of the second commandment, see: Thomas Boston, Works (edited by Samuel M'Millan; 1853; rpt. Wheaton: Richard Owen Roberts), vol. 2, pp. 127-57; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. by Ford Lewis Battles; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Book 1, chapter 11, (pp. 99-116); William Cunningham, "The Worship of Saints and Images," chapter 12 of Historical Theology (1862; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979), vol. 1, pp. 359-89; Robert L. Dabney, Lectures in Systematic Theology (1878; rpt. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), pp. 361-64; Thomas Vincent, The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly Explained and Proved from Scripture (1674; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1980). pp. 121-30; Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments (1692; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976), pp. 59-84.
2. Even an Anglican author, J. I. Packer, explains this incident as an attempt by Aaron to worship the Lord (not other gods) an attempt using unlawful means: "Aaron made a golden calf (that is, a bull-image). It was meant as a visible symbol of Jehovah, the mighty God who had brought Israel out of Egypt. No doubt the image was thought to honor Him, as being a fitting symbol of His great strength. But it is not hard to see that such a symbol in fact insults Him: for what idea of His moral character, His righteousness, goodness, and patience, could one gather from looking at a statue of Him as a bull? Thus Aaron's image hid Jehovah's glory. In a similar way, the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of His deity, His victory on the cross, and His present kingdom. It displayes His human weakness,but it conceals His divine strength; it depicts the reality of His pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of His joy and His power. In both these cases, the symbol is unworthy most of all because of what it fails to display. And so are all other visible representations of Deity." Knowing God (Downers Grove: InverVarsity Press, 1973), pp. 40-41.
3. The author is convinced that ignorance of the historical books of the Old Testament, especially Kings and Chronicles, is a preeminent reason why Christian do not perceive the importance of biblical worship. The critical nature of worship, and God's dealings with his people in relation to their worship, are themes scarcely known in contemporary churches. After all, when was the last time you heard a series of sermons based upon 2 Chronicles?
4. The implication, whether stated or merely implied, is that the older, biblical forms of worship are simply boring, and must give way to more creative contemporary ideas.
5. Today, many evangelicals decry the sins of abortion and homosexuality as manifestations of our nation's corruption (which they are indeed); but our contemporary moralists generally seem oblivious to the heinous sin of corrupt worship.
6. Note well: this is precisely the kind of imitation forbidden in Deut. 12.
7. The biblical doctrine of worship is a corollary to the biblical doctrine of salvation. As regards salvation, mankind has nothing acceptable to offer to God to procure his favour, since "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa. 64:6). Through Christ Jesus, God has declared the way of salvation in his word. When men go about to establish their own salvation, deviating from the way declared in God's word, they incur added guilt. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3).
Similarly, when men seek to worship God according to their own innovations, they are concurrently deviating from the biblical means of worship, and thereby adding to their own guilt. The Lord declares of such: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9).
8. "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy scripture." Westminster Confession, 21:1.
Copyright ©1995 by Kevin Reed