Suffering as True Worship
I can think of no better way to end this series on suffering and discipleship than to reveal the relationship between suffering and the worship of Yahweh. As with many of the church’s teachings in this hour, truth has fallen by the wayside. It is needful at this hour to re-establish the critical link between suffering and the worship of Yahweh.
I was visiting with a brother in Christ this past week when our conversation turned to the subject of worship. He shared with me that he had recently completed a study on the subject of worship and he uncovered a very important fact. The very first mention of worship in the Bible describes an act of profound sacrifice and suffering. When Abraham is taking his son Isaac up to the mount to offer him up as a sacrifice to Yahweh, he refers to this act as worship.
So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
The first mention of anything in the Bible is very significant. The meaning of a thing is often found in first occurrences. As we examine this passage we find that Abraham had a very different concept of worship than that which the church has in this hour.
I have often pondered this experience of Abraham, and I think it would be well for all saints to spend much time considering it. There was no act of man found anywhere in the Old Testament that was more pleasing to Yahweh than this costly obedience of Abraham, the friend of God.
Then the angel of Yahweh called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares Yahweh, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
It is difficult to imagine the pain and conflict that was present in the soul of Abraham as he journeyed for three days on his way to the mountain to slay his beloved son. Surely this must have been Abraham’s Gethsemane moment where his soul was crushed as unto death.
I believe that during the three days Abraham journeyed to the mount he experienced great wrestling in his soul. It was possible that he could turn back and follow the counsel of his own soul rather than heeding the command of Yahweh. Yet, after three days of wrestling, and not shrinking back, Abraham laid the matter to rest. The will of God must be done no matter the cost. I believe the moment of Abraham’s victory is revealed in a small, often overlooked detail that serves as a parable of what has transpired. In the passage above we hear Abraham’s first utterance in this experience.
Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
There are no details of God’s word that are without significance. Yahweh does not waste words. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey.” The donkey is a symbol of the stubborn and rebellious soul of man. Abraham at this point was freed of the donkey. It had been firmly resolved in his heart that he would carry through with that which Yahweh required of him. This resolution was spoken forth, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” The matter was settled. The cross had been embraced. Now there was a perfect yielding to the will of the Father.
Abraham trusted Yahweh who years earlier had promised to bless Isaac. Abraham fully anticipated having to slay his son, but he believed also that Yahweh would have to raise Isaac up from the dead, for Yahweh’s promises could not fail.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
Consider for a moment the attitude and actions of Abraham at this time. I do not believe that Abraham was marching along rejoicing aloud about the goodness of God. He was not singing loud praises to the God of heaven. The church associates worship with such things today, yet the first pure act of worship to Yahweh mentioned in Scriptures was not attended with these things. I believe Abraham was walking along quietly, speaking very little, as his soul was full of the contemplation of what he must do. The following verse gives a clue to Abraham’s silent introspection.
Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
In these words we read of Isaac and Abraham walking silently together. A question is burning in Isaac’s heart. Isaac begins by getting his father’s attention. He says, “My father!” Abraham responds “Here I am my son.” Abraham likely seemed far away, lost in his thoughts. He was full of the pain that arose at the thought of slaying his beloved son whom he loved so much. As Isaac speaks Abraham responds tenderly, assuring him that he is present with him in both body and thought.
Examining this experience reveals that worship does not necessarily involve the tongue of man. Worship is not simply something we speak forth. True worship is much more profound. It involves the very depths of a man’s soul. Worship is revealed in both faith and obedience.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…
It requires confidence in the faithfulness of Yahweh for a man to obey God when He directs him to some painful course that involves sacrifice and sorrow. A man must believe that Yahweh has his best interests at heart and will cause all things to work together for good. Though Yahweh should lead the man down an afflicted path, the man must trust the One who is guiding him, believing that God has all wisdom and power, and is motivated by a perfect love.
There is no more profound act of worship than for a man to demonstrate great confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of Yahweh. Yahweh is pleased by man’s trust in Him.
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
The apostle Peter came to understand the value Yahweh places upon the faith of His saints. He wrote:
I Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Yahshua Christ…
Peter speaks here of “the proof of your faith.” In the churches there are many songs sung where people declare their faith and trust in Yahweh. There are also many sermons given and confessions uttered whereby men and women declare their trust in God. Words, however, are not proof. A man can speak forth things which are not reality in his life. Let the man be tested to an extreme degree; let his own life, or the life of those he loves be put on the line, then it will be proven whether he truly has faith in Yahweh.
Peter states that the proof of our faith is “more precious than gold which is perishable.” To whom is man’s faith precious? Is it not Yahweh that Peter has in mind? Yahweh finds faith to be an exceedingly valuable thing. As Paul said, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Faith, an active and practical trust in the goodness and trustworthiness of God, is an exceedingly precious thing in the eyes of Yahweh.
Peter compares faith to gold. Gold is valuable for many reasons. Perhaps the greatest driver of the value of gold is its scarceness. If gold were as common as coal that is mined by the train loads its value would not be much. Faith is similar to gold in this aspect. Faith is uncommon. How many men in Abraham’s day would have manifested the faith of that man? How many men today have this kind of faith?
Peter also mentions that gold must be refined by fire. Our faith is proven and made pure through fiery trials as we set our hope and trust in God. The outcome of proven faith is “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Yahshua Christ.” Will not Yahweh prove the character of every son’s faith? Will He not subject all to trials as He did Abraham that His sons might have an opportunity to worship Him and obtain praise and glory and honor?
People of God, true worship is not proven by what we say, or sing aloud as praise unto Yahweh. True worship is proven as we follow Yahweh obediently down an afflicted and distressing path that He asks us to walk. Do you want to worship God and Christ? Then accept the invitation of Yahshua to “Come, take up your cross, and follow Me.” This is worship.
We can find this definition of worship confirmed by the apostle Paul in the New Testament. Please consider carefully what is being expressed in the following verse.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
I have often made reference to this verse as I have shared with the saints the cost of discipleship. I have asked them, “What is a sacrifice? Is it not flesh that is laid upon an altar for the fire to consume it?” This is what Yahweh requires of His sons and daughters. He entreats us to yield our lives to Him. As we do, He will direct us to a sacrificial life where we encounter many fiery trials. The goal of these experiences is to reduce our flesh that a spiritual creation might arise. Paul declares that those who present themselves as a “living sacrifice” are offering to God true worship. As the smoke of the freewill offering ascended, it was as a fragrant aroma in the nostrils of God. So too do our lives become a sweet savor unto Yahweh when we freely yield them, and accept those fiery trials prepared for us.
I have often read invitations on church signs that said something like, “Come join us for worship.” Yet, what these churches are offering is an invitation to come and sing songs along with a praise band or choir. They may liven things up by having banners for people to wave, or dancers to accompany the songs being sung. Are these same ones yielding their lives to go wherever Christ would lead them? Have these ones found that afflicted path that leads to life, or are they pursuing prosperity, ease, comfort and those things that the soul of man desires?
There is much play acting that takes place in the churches today. Week after week Christians gather to proclaim their love of God, but their lives reveal that they love themselves more. The heart of man is prone to self-deception.
“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’”
The word hypocrite means “play actor.” It is derived from a theatrical term in the Greek language. Tragically, the church has adopted a pattern of showing up on Sundays to play a part in a group drama. All those gathered together appear to be great worshipers of Yahweh and His Son. Yet the truth is “proven” by what they do outside the doors of the church. Have they accepted the call to Christian discipleship? Are they yielding their lives to follow Christ? Are they bearing their cross? Are they content with suffering, reproaches, persecution, rejection, loss and sorrow? Has the church embraced the “first things” that John wrote about in the book of Revelation?
In this hour the Spirit of Christ is inviting many to embrace a radically different life than they would choose for themselves. As Yahweh did with His friend Abraham, He is directing His people to a sacrificial life where they must lay all they love, including their own lives, on the altar. Christ said:
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Do you want to worship God? Accept the invitation of Christ to be His disciple. Prove your faith by surrendering your life to Him. That which Yahweh esteems is costly. Christ would urge all who would be His disciples to “count the cost.” If you will count the cost of being a disciple of Christ, and accept it, Yahweh will truly be honored, and in that final day it will result in praise and glory and honor that far surpasses every pain and sacrifice.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days!
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