Spirit and Truth               Nehemiah 12

There are a few funny words in the criteria of longboard surfing contests… ‘The Surfer must perform controlled manoeuvres in the critical section of the wave utilizing the entire board and wave using traditional longboard surfing. The Surfer who performs this to the highest degree of difficulty with the most style, flow and grace will receive the highest score for a Ride.’

Style, Flow and Grace. all interpreted differently and visually two surfers can do the same manoeuvre but one can have a greater sense of style flow and grace about it. This of course elevates the score. So you see its not just what you do but its the manner in which you approach what you do and then how you execute it.

I find this contrast here in the realm of worship the Pharisees were doing right actions for wrong motives..** There are 2 things I see here about the nature of our worship:

Joyfulness… The secret of acceptable worship is not simply what we do but how we do it. Remember the Pharisees were doing right things but with the wrong heart. Here in nehemiah the worship of these people had a vital ingredient. A radiant Joy. (27) celebrate the dedication with gladness, (43) they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away. 

They were stoked to be there stoked to be worshiping God with Gods people. They didn’t look like they were baptised in lemon juice and the joy of the w lord wasn’t measured by there sober faces and disapproving scowls. The opportunity to magnify God and make much of him was a happy occasion.

Cleanliness… The hearts of the worshipers are of greater importance then there voices. The Lord is not moved by lofty words and pumping tunes if he discerns unworthy and unacceptable things in our lives. Before they began to worship march around the wall they… (30) purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall. 

The psalmist knew that to stand in the holy place of worship and expect communion with the living God we must first have ‘clean hands and a pure heart’.
PS 24: 3Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

This is echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah. 1:11 What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts;  I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Jesus confronted similar worship of wrong nature and intent in Matt 23: 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 

This why there is so much emphasis on forgiveness confession and rebirth. I’d rather come to God with the right attitude and posture than my perceived right pious actions. I do not want my worship of God to be a stench in his nose. Im not sure that smoke machines and amazing guitar riffs replace the need for a right heart.

God wants us to worship Him. He doesn’t need us, for He couldn’t be a self-sufficient God and need anything or anybody, but He wants us. When Adam sinned it was not He who cried, “God, where art Thou?” It was God who cried, “Adam, where art thou?”         A. W. Tozer

Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit.   – Richard J. Foster

Worship is not a repetitious exercise of rituals and formulas. These create a veil that actually prevents us from enjoying the presence of the Lord. Worship is the heart poured out in gratitude and awe, expressing our appreciation of who He is and what He has done for us by His grace through Jesus Christ.    – Dave Hunt

“Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit. - Richard J. Foster”

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