Empty-handed worship

Published 9:15 am Friday, February 2, 2018

By Pastor Brandon Young
As I was reading the book of Exodus, I noticed God commanded no one should ever come before him empty-handed. Exodus 23:15 states, “Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty”) and Exodus 34:20 states, “You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck. You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty handed.” There’s one important item in our passage that we need to examine. For when everyone attended the required feasts, scripture directs that “No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” In other words, God had granted the people a great amount of providence and provision. This was a blessed people and God expected them to give back to Him in return. The same applies to us today.
I am well aware that these passages are from the Old Testament, but I am fully convinced the Word of the Lord teaches God does not change. He also expects us to come with a sacrifice. You may already be asking yourself, “What kind of sacrifice does God desire?” In these passages, God is asking for the people to come before him bearing an animal sacrifice, and New Testament Christians have Jesus Christ as a permanent sacrifice for sin, but the book of Hebrews mentions a different type of sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15-16 states, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” We should also come before the Lord’s presence with a sacrifice of praise, gratitude, and honor to God. I have thought about how many times I have appeared before God empty-handed.
Do not come before God “empty-handed.” This requires personal consecration, a setting aside of self-interest and needs to prepare to serve. Prepare for worship on The Lord’s Day by spending time the day before in God’s word, prayer, meditation, and personal worship. Daily Personal devotions make us ready to bring an offering of service on Sunday, perhaps a song of praise or a word of encouragement. Daily personal worship makes us ready to say “Amen” to the sermon. When you spend time during the week to read the Bible, pray and worship the worship meeting becomes a celebration of our personal worship experienced throughout the week. In fact, we should bring all the blessings that God has granted us throughout the week, and present them back to the Lord. This is not because God forgot what he blessed us with throughout the week, but this is for us to remember what God has done for us!
We live in an entertainment culture where we go to “get,” to be entertained or at least be taught. We go to church to hear a message, (hopefully one that is not too troubling to our conscience), with a few laughs and memorable stories. We want the child care to be clean and happy and the fellowship hour to be well stocked with fresh cookies. It is tragic that today’s Christianity has turned away from the example of our Lord who “came not to be served but to serve and give himself as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28). We should come to church with the attitude that we are there to give not get. We should enter the door looking for opportunities to meet needs. We should come before the Lord full handed ready to offer up to him all of our blessings. Is our praise and worship in proportion to our blessings? I am afraid my blessings look like a tractor and trailer, and my praise to the Lord looks more like a Volkswagen Beetle.
The Bible is filled with stories of individuals who decided to give back to the Lord, and other stories of those who held back. Only 1 leper out of 10 decided to come back, fall down, and worship Christ for his healing. A young man presented his small lunch of fish and bread before the Lord, so the Lord could bless it and feed a multitude. Another man took his talent, hid it in the earth, and when his Master returned he was angry that the talent had not been multiplied. Let’s decide to enter worship with our arms loaded with all the blessings of the Lord, and praise upon our lips. We will be a contributor to the kingdom of God rather than a consumer. I came across the difference between a contributor and consumer in my studies. Contributors encourage, consumers complain. Contributors empower, consumers criticize. Contributors sacrifice, consumers hoard. Contributors forgive, consumers hate. Contributors work together, consumers compete. Contributors volunteer, consumers take. Contributors generously give, consumers buy. Contributors serve, consumers obtain. Contributors love people, consumers love things. Let’s never come before our Lord empty-handed!
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Hampton, and his associate, Hunter Greene.)

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