Worship for One

Featuring John Telman Posted on June 26, 2009

When we use the word "jealous", it often has a negative connotation in the sense of being envious of someone who has something that we don't have. That is the sin of jealousy. (Galatians 5:20)  However, there is an appropriate form of jealousy.

In Exodus 20:4,5, God said, "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God...".  He was not speaking about an envious covetousness of something he had no right to have.  It is very clear that he considered it a sin for anyone to worship anything other than himself, but even more so if someone claims to be his. God is jealous for those who belong to him.

If a husband sees another man flirting with his wife, he has every reason to be jealous, for only he has the right to flirt with his wife. This type of jealousy is not sinful. It is appropriate. Of course, a wife is not a "possession", but a husband and wife belong to each other.

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the Israelites lived in a world and among people who believed in the worship of many gods. The Canaanites worshiped forces of nature and fertility gods. They thought they could add Yahweh, the warrior God of the Israelites, to their other objects of worship as another of the "nature gods".  But the God of the Israelites was not just another god, He was THE God.

The apostle Paul spoke to the people of Athens who also worshiped many gods. Just to be safe, they had added to their idols "the unknown god”. (Acts 17:22,23) The Greeks appeared to have no problem adding another god to their worship regimen.  However, Paul spoke to them at length, explaining about the one true Living God.

In this contemporary world, people don't mind you worshiping God. In fact, many even today will try to tack on the worship of God to the list of deities that they honour. They only protest when we say that there is only one true God who has the right to be worshiped. They call us close-minded and exclusive, narrow minded and extreme.  But we didn't say it, God did.

One of the most, if not THE most, insidious forms of idolatry that can creep into the church today, is the worship of "worship" itself.  Really, it is the belief that people can be manipulated by music and showmanship into a form of spirituality.  It is looking to this tool to influence people emotionally to the exclusion of heartfelt expressions of truth about who God is.  But God also said, "this people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me..." (Isaiah 29:13)  This is the lament of a jealous God.

When a person becomes a believer and is saved, he or she joins himself or herself with God in relationship. (Ephesians 1:14)  Every Christian then belongs to God and cannot mix their worship of him with other objects of worship. God is a jealous God and is waiting for worship that is given only to him. (Exodus 34:14)  We must be faithful to God and practise fidelity. 

The Israelites recognized God as the only Sovereign Creator God. The metaphor used to make this claim was the metaphor of God as a jealous God. He would not simply be added to the other nature deities, because he was the authentic creator of the aspects of nature that the Canaanites worshiped! Other so-called "gods" do not threaten God, rather, he longs for relationship with his creation.

Unlike the Canaanites and the Greeks, we who know God, worship him only.  We daily meditate on the truth of who God is and are taken into a deep place of communion with him because we love him and he is worthy of all our worship.