Volume. XXIV, No. 6
WORSHIP GOD IN RESPONSE TO WHO GOD IS - Part 2
The Worship of Abraham and Isaac (Gen 22:1-18): In Total Obedience and Full Commitment
Arthur Pontier also said, "Perhaps there is no more instructive portrayal of worship in the entire Scriptures than the worshipping of God by Abraham and lsaac." We have learned from the passage in Matthew that worshipping God is a response to who God is in awe and reverence and not a man-centred worshipful experience nor a programme that is entertaining by design or in nature. In Genesis 22 the passage which Abraham attempted to offer his son Isaac in response to God’s commandment, we will learn that this response must also be a response in total obedience according to God\'s given instructions with regard to worship. And to Abraham, that is "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou loves and get thee into the land of Moriah: and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Gen 22:2).
Firstly, upon receiving God\'s given instructions with regard to how he should worship, Abraham submitted to God in total obedience and intended to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering (v.3). To Abraham, it was a difficult test and challenge. On one hand, he knew that Isaac was the heir that God promised him (Gen 21); but on the other hand, he also knew that God had commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on the altar at mount Moriah. Perhaps Abraham might not have completely understood why God instructed him to do so, but he followed God\'s instruction and responded in total obedience (Gen 22:3,18, 26:5; Heb 11:17-19) with regard to how he should worship God.
Likewise, God has provided His church today ample and sufficient instructions with regard to how we should worship Him in the Scriptures, both in the New Testament (e.g. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; 1 Pet 4:11; 1 Cor 11:2; 14:37; 1 Cor 14:15; Rom 15:6; Matt 15:9; Jn 4:24; Rom 12:1-2; Phil 1:11; 1 Pet 5:8; 2 Cor 11:1-4) and in the Old Testament (e.g. Ex 34:8; 2 Chr 20:18; Gen 17:3; Ps 5:7; 22:22; 24:3-6; 26:8-8; 27:4; 29:2; 35:18; 36:8; 42:4; 48:9; 51:19; 55:14). Anyone who proposes that God has not given His church enough instruction with regard to how we should worship Him is either outright presumptuous or pitifully ignorant. The Westminster Divines have also given us an excellent summary of what God required of us in the worship, “The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or any suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.” (Article XXI: 1) There is no reason or excuse for Christians to assume that God has given His people liberty to formulate their own style and preference of worship as some eagerly propose. Those who defend the aforementioned view, by and large prefer a more contemporary entertaining and emotional driven genre of worship, which the Westminster divines warn against as the worship style which is "according to the imaginations and devices of men, or any suggestions of Satan...any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures."
Therefore, it is essential to follow God\'s instruction or worship that is "instituted by himself, and so limited by His own revealed will" as given in the Scriptures in total obedience and not to compromise or to give in to pressures to introduce any unbiblical and secularised forms, styles and philosophies of worship to replace true biblical worship of God as instructed in the Scriptures (e.g. John 4:24; Ps 29:2). God\'s people must also worship God as a response to who God is and what He has done for His people and also to respond in total obedience according to the principles and guidelines given by Him, though it may be challenging and difficult in this day and age.
Finally, the worship by both Abraham and Isaac was also a response of a full commitment to God. This was displayed in the action of Abraham in how he intended to sacrifice his son on the altar. Bear in mind that Abraham had already given up his comfortable and luxurious life style in the Ur of Chaldees (Heb 11:18). Now he was even willing to give up whom he loved most, his son Isaac (vs.3-10). Not only was this a response of Abraham in the worship of God, but it was also a full and unreserved commitment that pleases God and eventually led to his own blessing (vs.17,18). Isaac also played a part in the obedience too. Isaac, by this time was probably at least thirteen years old. He could have either resisted or sought to escape from his aged and feeble father from being sacrificed on the altar, but he didn‘t (v.9). He obeyed his father for he knew that it was the will of God for him to be sacrificed on the altar, so he obeyed and responded in total commitment and there is no record in the Scriptures that points to Isaac\'s unwillingness or resistance to be offered as a burnt offering. What a wonderful illustration of a worshipful response in an unreserved and total commitment by both Abraham and his son Isaac! Similarly, our worship of God should also be characterised with our total commitment. Therefore, God’s people should engage their heart, might, soul and spirit in total devotion every Lord’s day when the worship service is in progress and not be found loitering elsewhere. We are to engage in Holy worship because God is worthy of our total commitment.
In conclusion, in both passages in Matthew and in Genesis, we see that worship of God should not be a self-centred, exhilarating or invigorating human experience, nor should it be a programme lined up with worshipper centred entertainment. We should be reminded that worship of God is a response to who He is, as a Sovereign Creator and a Saviour in awe and reverence in a simple act of worship as well as in total obedience to His given instructions for worship in an unreserved or full commitment during the worship. May God help us to worship Him rightly based on the instructions and principles given to us constrained in His divinely inspired, infallible and inerrant Scriptures regarding how we should worship Him in response to who He is!