Shouldn't God Get What He Ordered?

The other day I ordered my wife a coffee from a shop via their mobile app. She’s currently pregnant, and, since pregnancy for my wife transforms coffee from something that she loves into something that she hates, her “coffee” was actually a dragon fruit drink. Anyway, when I went to pick up her non-coffee coffee, I discovered that the fruit had been left out. As I looked quizzically at the clear liquid, the barista first said, “We’re out of dragon fruit, but it will taste the same,” but then, realizing that this probably wasn’t true, added, “I can add some strawberries if you want.” I didn’t feel like arguing, so I took the strawberries (in the drink mind you) and ran. Well, later, the coffee company reached out to me to fill out a survey regarding this order. This led to a conversation with their customer service department and eventually a full refund. Why? I assume the company realized that, even though they had given me something, it mattered that I didn’t get what I had ordered.

Now don’t get me wrong here – God is not a consumer of worship. At the same time, He has ordered something. Moses conveyed the following instruction on behalf of God: “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32). This admonition is given at the conclusion of a discussion mainly focused on God’s desires for worship. God commanded the Israelites to “destroy… the places… gods… altars… pillars… and… wooden images” of the people who then were living in Canaan, adding, “You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things” (Deuteronomy 12:2-4). He told them to “not offer [their] burnt offerings” in any place but “the place which the LORD chooses” (Deuteronomy 12:13-14). The “holy things… and… vowed offerings” had to “go to the place which the LORD chooses” (Deuteronomy 12:26). The worship of the people of Canaan was different, and, regarding that difference, Moses said, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way” (Deuteronomy 12:31).

 God made it clear through Moses that worship was a matter of His orders, His choosing, and not man’s. Now, someone might object, “Isn’t my entire life a worshipful sacrifice to God?” Let’s reflect a little on the passage that often inspires this thought: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). Your translation may say there instead of “reasonable service” something like “spiritual worship” (ESV) or even “spiritual service of worship” (NASB). It’s important to note that the word “spiritual” is not found in the text at all; “reasonable” in the NKJV I’ve quoted is translated from a word that actually finds its way into English as the word “logical.” The word translated “worship” or “service of worship” can be understood as worship but is a broader term than that, encapsulating all that priests do (cf. “service” in Romans 9:4; Hebrews 9:1, 6 in the NKJV). In one location, the word “worship” simply wouldn’t work in translation, and no translation that I’m aware of uses anything but service: “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (John 16:2). If you’ll excuse the NKJV pun, it’s more “reasonable” to assume that while all of my life is to be sacrificed to God and be at His service, not everything that I do is acceptable to Him as worship.

God gave orders in the Old Testament regarding worship, and He has given orders in the New Testament. He commanded the church to “preach the Word” and embrace “the message preached to save” (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Corinthians 1:18). He instructed the church to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We have “received from the Lord” instructions regarding a memorial feast, the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). He has “given orders” regarding a weekly collection (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). He asked the church to be filled with His Spirit and with Christ’s Word by speaking and singing to one another, playing no other instrument but the heart (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:18-19).  

So, the question I’ll ask in closing is this: shouldn’t God get what He ordered?
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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