Texts: Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:5, Deut 12:8, Deut 13:18, 1 Kings 11:1-13, 1 Kings 18, Malachi 3:16-17 Malachi 4:1-6
One of the things to be learned about human beings and worship is that we have a great innate desire and capacity to worship. Truth is, we will all worship something! In fact, we simply cannot live well until we find something to which we can attach our fondest affections to. Standing in awe of something, or giving it our best and fondest attentions, is what worship is. And this element in life is very powerful. If you look at history, you will see some of the best and greatest and most expensive exploits of human beings have had to do with worship.
Given the great power and prevalence of worship, it is not surprising to discover that there is an underside, or a back side to worship. Just as there is a genuine and appropriate kind of worship, one that calls out the best in us, there is also a counterfeit form. There is a type of worship that takes us far away from good and truth. The lesson this week asks us to contemplate the counterfeit side of worship, I am sure in order to give us a clearer perspective on the good side.
- A good place to enter this arena is by way of some verses in Jeremiah 17:5-9. Notice the progression: cursed is the man who trusts the arm of flesh; blessed is the one who trusts in God; beware of the human heart for it is very deceitful.
- What is the value of this caution?
- How might this dynamic affect humans at worship?
- Failure to manage this dynamic has led many from good toward captivation with evil.
- I Kings 11:1-13 tells a sorry story, of how Kind Solomon, who was once a very godly man, came to the point where he loved many “strange women” who did not worship the God of Israel, and who “turned away his heart after other gods.”
- What were the effects of Solomon’s indiscretions?
- 1 Kings 12:25-33 tells the story how, after Solomon’s reign was over, the kingdom soon divided into two, and a rivalry developed that was at times quite aggravating. Part of that involved the establishment of a rival system of worship. Notice some of the elements of the rival worship:
- New places of worship – Bethel and Dan
- Making of golden calves as features of worship
- Rival feasts
- Shrines built in high places
- A declaration by Jeroboam that these new gods were, in fact, the ones who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.
- 1 Kings 17-19 is a lengthy section that tells the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The showdown on Mt. Carmel is particularly informative. After reading this, notice the contrasts between the activities of the prophets of Baal and those of Elijah:
- Notice the day-long drama trying to get Baal to hear!
- Notice the dramatic act of God that sent fire down from heaven.
- Does this kind of thing really engender the right kind of worship?
- Quoting from 1 Kings 18:21 – “How long will you vacillate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal is God, follow him” – people have long spoken of the “Elijah message.”
- What do you understand this to be?
- Would you include a message of reformation, repentance, and a call to obedience?
- If you do not have God as a point of external reference, how will you prevent worship from becoming whatever is currently relevant?
- What do you think about balancing experiential and cognitive elements in worship?
- Why do you think Israel seems to have so easily fallen into idolatry in times past?
- How do you think people today can avoid falling into idolatry?
- Do you think change by itself is an indication of a drift away from God?
- How do you think your congregations worship practices have change for better or worse in the last 10 – 20 years?