None shall appear before me empty
"And none shall appear before me empty." If this was expressed in its positive form it would read: "They shall come before me as worshippers." For to worship is the presenting of something to God.
The first mention of "worship" in the Old Testament gives us the basic and central thought in connection with the subject of worship. In Genesis 22:5 we read that Abraham said: "I and the lad will go yonder and worship." Abraham was about to offer his son unto the Lord (offer = bring). So in the New Testament we find wise men presenting gifts to the infant Saviour. Matt.2:11 ...and fell down and worshipped. I hope you see the language which would describe the gratitude and thankfulness is that of Ps.103:1 "Bless the Lord O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name."
The redeemed cannot appear before the redeemer "empty". Heb.13:15 says: "By Him therefore, (our redeemer) let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name."
Our hearts should be filled with love and our mouths with praise as we appear before our Saviour God.
There are two aspects regards the believers position before God which may here be given due consideration. First, the believer is said to be born into the family of God, and thus by relationship God becomes his Father, and the believer becomes the child of God. Secondly, the Bible also speaks of the believer as being adopted into the family of God. In other words he is placed into the family of God with full status as a son by adoption. Entitled to all what belongs to his Father.
1 Peter 1:23 Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.
Rom. 8:15 We have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.
Gal.4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of Sons, and because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
There is an obvious reason for the two aspects of being born into the Family of God, and of being adopted into the Family. Being born into the family gives the child family and relationship rights, but in contrast, to be adopted into the family of God is to look back and remember from where we have been taken, and to where we have been placed - to make us thankful.
Our God has done everything he could possibly do for us that "none before Him should appear empty handed."
The Worship Meeting of the Saints
(Quotes taken from "Collective Worship" by John Ritchie)
It has been said that the highest occupation of humanity is to worship. It is clear by even the blindest observer that all of us worship something though we wouldn't like to call it worship. The god of many Australians is sport for example. For others it is money, music, their career, car or spouse (Isa 2:8).
Today I'd like to look at the corporate worship of the saints at the Breaking of Bread rememberance each first day of the week. It has always been clear from scripture that God rightfully commands our worship.
When God gave Moses the law, the most important commandments were with respect to worship and although we are not under the law but under grace, these commandments are still relevant:
1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
1 Chronicles 16:29
29 Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
15 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.
(See also Exod 34:14, 1 Chron 16:29, Psa 29:2, 66:4, 86:9, 95:6, 96:9, 99:5, Isa 66:23, Php 3:3, Rev 4:10, 15:4)
In addressing the subject of the Worship of the Saints or so-called "open worship" I would like to answer several questions:
What is worship?
How do we worship?
What hinders worship?
The results of true worship.
While worship is the birthright privilege of the individual believer, and ought to be his constant employ (Heb. 13:15), God's great design has been, and still is, to have His people worship Him collectively. For this purpose, and as an incentive to worship, the Lord's Supper has been instituted. It is true that primarily we do this for a remembrance of Him (1 Cor 11:24). But to remember Him, and especially His atoning death, is to call forth worship from our hearts (Ps 62:7-8).
What is worship?
Worship is the occupation of the whole being with something. That is, being totally enthrawled with the object of worship. Worship of God is to be utterly consumed by who He is, meditating on His attributes, character, work and person. It is pursuing everything which will instill in us a right understanding of our true nature as opposed to His and which results in adoration and appreciation of Him.
How do we worship?
We worship God through prayer which adores Him and emphasises His glorious name, attributes and person from a heart which has contemplated and understood its baseness and utter dependence on Him.
We worship God through reading the scriptures which speak specifically of His victories, titles, glories and nature.
We worship God by singing spiritual songs to Him and about Him which speak of His excellencies and marvels.
We do not worship God by speaking of ourselves, what He has done for us this week, preaching a sermon or praying long prayers of confession or supplication. Though we may express our thanks giving.
John Ritchie has the following to offer:
I should like to offer some practical suggestions as to how this most important of all gatherings of the saints, "on the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), might be made more glorifying to God, and more profitable to His people.
Let us recognize that the Spirit of God as Viceregent of the absent Lord is sole President of this gathering.
On the principle that he who convenes a meeting is responsible for the ordering of it, the Lord by His Spirit alone should rule. For this reason no pre-arrangements are possible at this meeting; preparation on the part of the worshippers is certainly necessary, but not pre-arrangement.
Here the saints appear as priests unto God, and the Spirit of God may lead any brother to voice the assembly's worship, for in this gathering it is not so much gift and experience, but spiritual condition which matters. Even the breaking of the bread is not an official but a representative act "the bread which WE break" (1 Cor 10:16)
It is important to distinguish between worship and ministry in this respect. For the former no special gift is required; for the latter gift is essential. In gatherings for worship no pre-arrangements are necessary; in public gatherings for ministry, arrangements are seemly (1 Cor 14:40).
In order to give practical effect to the Spirit's ruling we must assemble prepared.
"None shall appear before Me empty" (Exodus 23:15), was Jehovah's command to His earthly people when they came to worship, and the principle still applies. The first activity of the Lord's Day morning long ago was an act of worship, and the worshippers "came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared" (Luke 24:1).
Whatever duties may have to be performed, some time between Saturday night and the appointed hour for worship on Lord's Day morning, there must be time (however short) for self-examination, meditation, and preparation. The practice of "a long lie" in bed on Lord's Day morning, followed by a rush of necessities, is disastrous to our enjoyment of the worship meeting.
Assembling in the right condition of soul, the hearts of the believers, like the strings of a well-tuned harp, will be ready to vibrate at the prompting of the Holy Spirit in harmony and melody.
How may the leading of the Spirit be recognized in the worship meeting?
This is a question which has oftentimes presented difficulties to the minds of young Christians, especially, who, although truly exercised about their responsibility, are diffident about taking part. It is also a question which older brethren who are in the habit of taking part regularly, and sometimes, we fear, mechanically, each Lord's Day, might profitably consider, for it is deeply important to distinguish between the Spirit's prompting and mere carnal impulse.
Let me try to offer some evidences which will enable us to discern when we are being truly "led of the Spirit."
* The Spirit Always Leads to Christ
Any brother taking part, therefore, should first consider whether, what is in his mind is likely to further this object. Experience leads me to believe that the bane of many worship meetings is that misguided men, who would have no opportunity in other meetings, seize the opportunity offered by the open character of this meeting to inflict their ministry and other contributions on their fellow-saints without any apparent regard for the authority of the Holy Spirit; and certainly without assisting the worship of the assembly.
Discursive ministry on general topics in such a gathering is obviously not of the Spirit's leading. If ministry is necessary at all, it should be given with the object of leading the hearts of the saints after Christ.
Long prayers, which are almost all petition and no adoration, are also out of keeping with the Spirit's ideal in worship. I would infinitely rather hear a few broken sentences from the Spirit-filled heart of a young believer, often softening and breaking down the whole meeting in their manifest sincerity, than the mechanical utterance, stale and stereotyped, of the brother who has formed the habit of "taking part." "Strange fire" is a serious offence on the part of any of the priestly family (Leviticus 10:1).
* The Spirit Always Leads Harmoniously
He will not, for instance, lead two brethren to rise at the same time. "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Cor 14:33). He will not lead a brother to give out hymns not in keeping with the object of our gathering, as, for instance, "Sweet Hour of Prayer" or "Christians, Go and Tell of Jesus," both of which are good in their place but not in the worship meeting.
He will not always lead us to give out the hymn or read the chapter we have been enjoying at home. These things, and others that could be named, simply create discord, and betray an utter ignorance of the way of the Spirit.
What hinders worship?
Let us remember that each believer present is definitely helping or hindering the assembly worship.
A worshipping church is a living and exceedingly sensitive organism. One brother or sister out of touch with the Lord, or indulging in unconfessed sin, will act as a dead weight on the proceedings.
Lack of exercise on the part of many, quenching of the Spirit on the part of some, carnal impulses on the part of others, are all factors which detract from the dignity and glory of the worship of the saints.
Let us therefore examine ourselves, confess known sins, meditate on what the Lord Jesus Christ has really accomplished for us (Col 1:12-14) and rid our lives of idols which frequently take God's rightful place. If we hunger after righteousness, wisdom and understanding, we will find the fear or awe of the Lord as Proverbs 2 says, and worship will naturally flow:
1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
David was one who did this as the psalms so richly resound of worship. See Ps 1:2, 63:6, 77:12, 119:148, 143:5. His meditation and thirsting after righteousness, wisdom and knowledge resulted in other psalms such as 96, 111, 112, etc.
The results of true worship.
When we worship God in the beauty of holiness, He is glorified, we are a shining testimony to unbelievers and the principalities and powers who witness our meetings (Ephes 3:10), we are doing the complete will of God, we are in tune with the Holy Spirit's guidance for our lives (Gal 5:16), we are less likely to be carnally minded, we are more likely to be able to love one-another in sincerity and simplicity, we are focused on our hope, and our lives will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
7 June 98