Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worship & Obedience sittin' in a tree...

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and thinking about Abraham and Isaac…partially because this is currently my focus in my worship class for RMS and partially because I feel like Abraham’s story rarely leaves the surface of my thoughts. He teaches me so much about what a lifestyle of worship looks like. I thought I’d share some of my musings with you. 
If I could sum up Abraham’s relationship with God I think it would look like this:
In Genesis 12, God appears on the scene of Abram’s life and says to him, “GO from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Immediately we learn from this that Abram’s life in God was built on trust. God didn’t tell him exactly where to travel to, which means that this journey involving leaving everything known behind would be spent listening to the voice of the Lord for direction with the intent to obey what He speaks. Right from this beginning we see Abram’s heart yielded to the heart of God. So, more accurately speaking maybe his relationship with God could be summed up like this:
GOD SPEAKS = I trust the sound of His voice so much that I’m immediately spurred into action. 
In Genesis 21, God’s voice appears again. Isaac, the promised long-awaited child has arrived and Ishmael is feeling the intensity of some serious sibling rivalry. Think about him…for 12-13 years he had been the only beloved son on the scene, the heir of everything belonging to his father until Isaac appears. It’s no wonder he wanted to smack Isaac around a little bit! :) God speaks to Abraham and tells him to listen to his wife Sarah and cast Ishmael out of the camp. Sometimes the language in Scripture reads so cut and dry, but I have to believe this pained Abraham. I believed he loved Ishmael and now he will never see this son of his again. God up’s the ante here on testing Abraham’s obedience. And again, Abraham yields his heart to God’s heart and lets his son go. 
The ultimate test comes in Genesis 22 with the sacrifice of Isaac. God speaks to Abraham saying, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love [just in case you weren’t sure who I was referring to, Abraham] and offer him as a burnt offering.” There is no reason to water down or defend God on what He was asking Abraham to do. This is the child of promise…the very promise initiated by God, Himself. From Abraham’s perspective, God was calling him to do something he would have never imagined. This unpredictability makes this such a staggering test - god seemed to be totally out of His character and destroying His own program…it’s as if God became Abraham’s worst enemy! 
The life of a true worshiper will involve the willingness to sacrifice whatever is dearest and most treasured…even if such is a gift from God. This parallels Jesus’ heart in Luke 14:26-27 for believers today. 
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, cannot truly be my own disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” 
I’ve heard Josh Bentley say that it isn’t that God wants us to hate these people. It’s that our love for Him is to be so extravagant that any love we have for others looks like hate in comparison. As Abraham and Isaac take that agonizing 3-day journey to the mountain, Abraham tells his servants to stay back because he and the boy are going to worship the Lord together (Genesis 22:5). He wasn’t just giving them an excuse or hiding his intentions. His intention WAS to worship. His act of worship wasn’t Isaac’s bloodshed. His act of worship was his obedience to the voice of God. Every step he took to climb that mountain echoed a resounding “Yes, Lord” into the heavens. Worship and obedience cannot be empty of the other. They are a marriage…completely intertwined and united in purpose. I cannot show up on a Sunday and sing my love to God without obeying His voice the other 6 days of the week. That’s called a Pharisee…and I’m pretty sure that almost every time Jesus spoke to Pharisees it began with, “Woe to you!” :) 1 Samuel 15:22 says:
Has 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 listen than the fat of rams.

To obey the voice of our Father, our Bridegroom, our Friend is better than any outward expression of worship we can offer. To obey Him reveals a heart that is yielded to His heart. To obey Him reveals a heart that says we trust the sound of His voice so much we’re immediately spurred into action. If someone were to sum up your relationship with God, how would the equation be finished:
GOD SPEAKS = I _________________________________
I am praying this week to have an increased trust in our Lord and to be someone whose worship is not absent of obedience to His heart cries. He’s so good and His love is so proven to us over & over. Will you take time this week to turn to Him and to listen to His voice with the intent to obey?