“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me’” (Exodus 8:1).
We might think that God called the Israelites to leave Egypt and worship Him, so they could sing some songs to the Lord, live peacefully in the wilderness, and experience joy in their freedom, but this was not what God meant when he said, “worship Me.”
When we read about the journey the Israelites took through the wilderness with Moses, we hear them grumbling, see their struggles, and watch them suffer. They did very little singing. What was God’s purpose in calling them to the desert to worship Him?
Worship in the KJV and the NASB is replaced with the word serve. The Hebrew meaning for serve is to make oneself into a humble servant. God’s definition of worship for the Israelites was to work out their salvation as they learned to free themselves from Egypt’s defiled influence and give themselves fully to God.
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The goal was to mold each person into a Godly servant who knew and proclaimed with certainty that God is their Lord! And indeed, we see God do this very thing!
Every day in the wilderness, the Israelites learned to totally depend upon God for their daily provisions, for His constant guidance, His unfailing grace, and His disciplined hand. They grumbled for food and water, and God provided. He may have been angry, because they did not trust Him; but his unfailing grace provided. He tested them; disciplined them, and directed them through the Law. This was boot camp, people! Not a vacation! All of this was to help each one work out their salvation – making God their Lord! Those that obeyed learned this lesson! Others not so! This is exactly what worship is all about; it is not a Sunday morning experience singing a few songs, even though this happens, this is more of a celebration of our weekly and daily obedience to God, not our one time a week ‘worship’ to God. Living a life of worship is often a boot camp experience! It is a struggle most of the time.
What pleases the Lord most is when our every day life marks the learning of this very truth: the Lord is our God. He is sovereign; and while his grace is enough and his salvation sure, we often venerate ourselves instead of him by failing every test he presents to us day-to-day.
Understand this, when you are in a dispute with your spouse, it’s a test whether you will show God’s grace for that person or not. When your child takes your patience to the limit, God is teaching you to discipline them in love and with self-control. When your finances cause you great concern and you don’t know where the provisions will come to pay, save or give, it’s a test to trust God for his timing and delivery. When you experience success, this is training you to give God glory and stay humble as you continue to uphold His fame – not your own.
Every day is a day in the wilderness for us. Every day we are to work out our salvation as we learn to free ourselves from our sinful nature’s defilement and fully give our everything to God. We are in this wilderness to worship the Lord and serve Him as priests. Each circumstance, every person we meet, all the good, the bad, the ugly are opportunities for us mold our life after God; this brings God the worship He desires! When we confess Jesus as our Lord and work out our salvation with fear and trembling we conform more and more into His image. God always working doesn’t miss a beat at an opportunity to teach us; His will for us is to worship Him for His good pleasure. His good pleasure is to see each one of us totally trust Him.
I love what Andrew Murray says in his book, Teach Me To Pray: “I am saved to serve.” God saved the Israelites to serve Him. And He saved us to serve Him, too. To work for Him! To worship Him! To be like Him! The best way we can serve our God is work out our salvation becoming more and more like His son, Jesus! His heart imitated in our life is worship!
Our life is a wilderness, our response is worship, and the result reveals to others God is Lord over us! In your wilderness choose to “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only…making the most of every opportunity…” (Luke 4:8; Colossians 4:5). When we see our life as an opportunity to learn God’s lessons, we will live intentionally, not superficially.