November 17, 2017

Worship With a Tenth of Flour

Danny Brymer

As we enter into Thanksgiving and Christmas season, our schedules, minds, and emotions run wild. We buy turkeys and baking ingredients while coordinating with family members and then we buy decorations and gifts, and do more coordinating with family members. These two occasions are a time when we tend to examine what we have and are able to give and often compare and take notes on what others have and are able to give. If you are a kid, you take pride in your cool toys that you get to show and brag to your buddies about. As an adult, you value what you are able to give. We love throwing the best parties, giving the best gifts, and providing the best experiences. My wife, Heidi is a born hostess. She was born with a baking spoon in one hand and an Instant Pot in the other. She would host a party every night if she could. We all have our ways that we find validation and fulfillment.

This same frame of thinking can affect the way we come into the Lord’s presence on a Sunday morning and how we think of our service to Him throughout the week. We come into church in the morning and we see how others are passionately worshiping. We notice the ways that they are able to serve and contribute to the church. We hear their exuberant singing as they raise their hands in adoration. We listen to their testimonies in how God has worked powerfully in their lives. All these things, we take notice of, and after looking in the mirror, we see ourselves falling short. Why should I bother worshiping? What do I have to give? They have it all, what am I?

I want to address this situation we find ourselves in by looking in a place you would probably not think of as the first place to look, Leviticus 5. The book of Leviticus was written by Moses for the children of Israel to instruct them in living holy lives. Holiness is a key theme in Leviticus. Chapter 5 talks about sin offerings for atonement, providing instructions on preparing the offerings. Three options are given in regards to the sin offerings. 1.) a lamb or goat (v.5), 2.) two turtledoves or two pigeons if one could not afford the former 3.) a small portion (a tenth of an ephah) of flour if one could not afford the former two. Many mistakenly think of the God of the New Testament as the God of love and mercy and the God of the Old Testament as the God of wrath and judgment, but underneath the regulatory exterior, you can see the love and compassion of God shine through all in the context of His holiness. In this scenario, God is providing atonement for every one of His people, regardless of their wealth. He gives everyone the opportunity to give what they can and essentially meets them where they are at. Even a meager sack of flour, He deems as acceptable for a sin offering. Such a merciful and gracious gift from a holy God.

How is this relevant for Christians in the 21st century? Are we still under the old covenant? No, we are not. Nevertheless, this is a picture of how God works today. Of course, we know that the ultimate sin offering was the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross for God’s children. Though that may be, we still bring our offerings before Him every day, as we are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Everything we offer to the Lord is an act of worship, just as the Israelites offered up their lambs, birds, or flour as an act of worship to God. Now when I use the word, “offering,” I am not necessarily referring to a tithe, something we give to the church monetarily, although that is one of many offerings of worship. An offering is what we have of ourselves to give to God. We offer our singing and praises, our prayers, our acts of service, our teaching, etc. Sometimes when we come to church on Sunday, we have a lamb sized offering of worship to give to the Lord. Other times, our spiritual facilities are a little more drained and so all we can give is a pigeon sized offering. And then other times, all we can muster up is a small sack of flour sized offering, which we often feel is too meager and insignificant. If that is your view, you are right, it is meager and insignificant, but so are the pigeon and lamb offerings. Going back to what we mentioned earlier in this paragraph, God knew that those offerings were not a worthy offering, so he sent His Son to become that offering for us. That offering is sufficient.

God does not care about the size or amount of our offerings in and of itself. He merely wants the best that we have to offer Him. With ancient Israel, He wanted the best, which could mean any one of the three options. Leviticus is not the only place in Scripture we see this. In Mark 12 and Luke 21, Jesus commends the poor widow who gave two copper coins to the offering box, which was everything she had, in contrast to the rich people around her who gave large sums of money from their abundance. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 on the other hand, gave out of hypocrisy, claiming to give all, yet withholding some and lying about it. That led to their deaths. Money is an easy way of looking at offering and giving to the Lord, but Amos 5 talks about God rejecting feasts and assemblies, and songs and music meant to be offered to Him. That is due to the sin that prevented those acts from being true worship, and thus was not the best that could be offered to God.

This post is not about inauthentic worship though, but about worshiping with seemingly little to offer. Maybe you have experienced loss. Maybe you are going through turmoil in your family. You might be experiencing betrayal of a loved one. You may be living in regret over past sins. Entering a place of corporate worship leaves a sting as you look at others around you give of themselves for the glory of God. You know that you do not have that passion to sing and shout for joy. You cannot bring yourself about joy or gladness when you are reminded of the sorrow that isolates you in a dark shroud from the rest of the joyful worshipers. You do not even know how you should pray. If that is you, God wants your sack of flour. He wants your faint, frail voice to sing to Him. If you do not know how to pray, His Holy Spirit “intercedes with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) That means, the Holy Spirit takes control and prays for us when we lack the strength. God wants you to worship Him, not because He needs to be worshipped, but because you need to worship God. We talk about giving offerings to God, but in that, it is God who gives to us. He gives us Himself, which is the only way we are able to give in the first place. If you think your worship is not good enough or that God will not use you because of where you may be, remember that nothing is impossible with God. He is the same God who can feed over 5,000 people with an insignificant offering of five loaves and two fishes. Be thankful for a God who meets us where we are at and accepts our worship, feeble as it may be, and then equips us. In my times of impassioned worship, God has been glorified, but also in those times where it felt as drawing a drop from a dry well, God has been glorified as his compassion shines.

When Job had everything taken away from him, he still had much more. He had the ability to worship God and that was the first thing he did when the calamities had struck him. God always gives us the means to worship Him, even through the most difficult of trials. We may not understand the situations we find ourselves in, but we can always rest assured that if we desire, God will give us Himself and we in turn will give Him all the glory that is due to Him.