Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Spirit of Bezaleel, son of Uri.

I've been reading Exodus, and it is has been amazing. I never cease to be amazed at how God continues to reveal His glorious unchanging truths in passages of Scripture that I have read many times before. I just want to point out something really powerful, that I never noticed before.

Reading the ten commandments (Exo. 20:1-17), we see the first commandment (Exo. 20:2-3), which is a precursor to all the others - who do we worship? The LORD, and Him alone! Worship is the centre of the Christian life, without a shadow of a doubt. Ask why was God so merciful to save such wretched and despicable sinners as us? That we might show forth His praises! (I Pet. 2:9) And most especially, the glories of His unending, incomparable grace! No surprise that this is what all the commandments are about.

I like to ask people what makes the second commandment (Exo. 20:4-6) different to the first. Some people seem to have the idea that it also speaking about who we worship - but in fact it is teaching that if we are not worshipping God according to His way - His commandments, then we are worshipping idols. The second commandment is about how we worship! We don't worship God with graven images. What is a graven image? (Deut. 4:15-19, Isa. 40:18-21) It's just something from our own ideas - our own imagination. No surprise that today, the most popular kind of worship is always this imaginative human-invented worship. Well, God tells us that this kind of worship is not what He requires, and that it is worship of idols - not Him. He requires worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

To teach us this, He shows us the example of the Israelites who asked Aaron to make them a graven image (Exo. 32:1-35). He gathered their bits of gold and just formed a molten calf to represent the God who brought them out of Egypt (Exo. 32:2-4; 23-24). Remember that the word "gods" is the same as the word referring to the one true "God", Elohim. They did not think they were worshipping an idol - Aaron told them that by means of the calf they would worship the LORD - the God who brought them out of Egypt (Exo. 32:4-6). But God identifies this practice as despicable idolatry (Exo. 32:7-8)! Why? He cannot be represented by anything in heaven or on earth, and cannot be worshipped in any other way that the way that He has commanded.

All evangelicals ought to know this very well. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Apart from that narrow way of faith in Jesus Christ alone, we have no way to worship God (Rom. 3:20-31). We cannot worship the Father except that we are in the Son by faith. Without His life, death and resurrection for our sins, we would be utterly separated from God - and heading to hell. We could not even pray to God except for faith in what Christ has done for us (Prov. 15:8; 26; 29; 28:9; Isa. 59:1-21; Jas. 1:6-8).

So we see the burning anger of the Lord against this wickedness, and Moses' pleading for them - his pleading rooted in the desire for God's name to be hallowed and the promise of the covenant established and maintained throughout generations (Exo. 32:11-14). And then we see Moses' anger at such wickedness and the terrible judgments brought upon the children of Israel that day (Exo. 32:19-20; 25-28).

A little later on, we see Moses, having been given the detailed instructions about how God is to be worshipped. The first person in the Bible, that we are told that was filled with the Spirit of God, was Bezaleel, son of Uri, who God raised up to follow exactly His instructions about the tabernacle (Exo. 31:2-11; 35:30-35). What follows is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture (and I used to think it was boring!). In clear and sharp contrast to the wickedness of idolatrous Israel with the molten calf of their prideful imagination, Bezaleel carefully, worshipfully, and lovingly crafts all the articles for the tabernacle according to every detail - just as God had commanded (Exo. 36:1), so that the children of Israel may worship Him as He ought to be worshipped - in the splendour of holiness.

And here we see another glorious picture of Christ who alone builds the altar of the Lord and provides the sacrifice by which we may worship our Lord with clean hands and a pure heart. Not only do we see such glorious pictures in the various articles of the tabernacle and the glorious truths that the tabernacle itself points to - all these things pointing to the Person and work of our Lord and Saviour, but we see the Spirit of the Lord at work in Bezaleel to do all these things, just as God had commanded.

The contrast is mind-blowing. On one side we have the impatience, pride, and presumption of Aaron and the children of Israel who worshipped with a hastily made molten calf. On the other side we have Bezaleel and the others, who painstakingly, carefully, attentively, prepared everything just perfectly so that they could worship exactly as God had commanded. And we taught even more - Bezaleel, was chosen for such a task only because God had filled him with the Holy Spirit.

May God graciously grant us that same Spirit, so that we also, with Bezaleel, may be delivered from wicked idolatry, to worship God in spirit and truth, as He has commanded us and no other way. And may we take great delight in worshipping God in His way in His temple, the body of Jesus Christ, which has been raised from the dead - to proclaim His glory!


From all this, I have some sad conclusions too. Popular contemporary worship, in all it's attempts to be new and fresh and relevant, is no different to the idolatrous ritualism of the medieval Roman church - it is Romanism at best. But to use this biblical example we have - it is simply worshipping that golden calf again - and will bring those terrible judgments again. May God cleanse us of such wicked practices and may He open our eyes to see them, may He reveal His commandments to us, so that we may delight in them and glorify His name.

And I see no suggestion anywhere throughout Scripture that we are commanded to sing any songs as praise to God, except the Psalms. We are reminded again and again throughout Scripture to sing the Psalms of David - and that he is the sweet psalmist of Israel, speaking the words given to him by the Holy Spirit, as a picture of Christ (II Sam. 23:1-2).

Again, we ought to be reminded of this truth that runs throughout all this: that the only way to worship God is the way that He has made and given to us. The only tabernacle to worship in, was the one which God Himself had laid down the instructions for, and even more, had Himself crafted by means of His Spirit at work in Bezaleel. The truth of salvation is Christ alone is also taught in this. We cannot worship in any way that we have invented - only the way that Christ has made and Him alone. Faith itself being a gift of God (Eph. 2:8), and Christ even entering this world by the virgin birth - teaching us that man was not involved. We have no part in our salvation (Rom. 9:11-16).

How much then, ought our worship to reflect this? We are nowhere instructed to craft our own songs to worship God with - but we have been given the Psalms and are told to use them, over and over again (Jas. 5:13; Psa. 95:2; 105:2; I Chr. 16:9; Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16). Some people point to the phrase used twice in Scripture: "psalms, hymns, and songs, of the Spirit." (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) How can this suggest that we ought to write our own songs? Such would simply be more golden calves.

The word, "of the Spirit" is always used to refer to something coming from the Spirit of God, that can only be Scripture - and especially, it can only be the songs of the sweet psalmist of Israel who spoke by the Spirit. These "psalms, hymns, songs" also are called the "word of Christ" (Col. 3:16) with which we are to "teach and admonish one another" and to be "filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18) - and in the Psalms, David speaks the word of Christ, filled with the Spirit. This can only be the Psalms of David. And "psalms, hymns, songs" are three Greek words, which are the three different titles used in the headings of the Psalms in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and triplets used to describe the same thing are used elsewhere in Scripture too. There is no suggestion anywhere that they could refer to anything other than the Psalms.

Finally, what would the Ephesians and Colossians assume that Paul meant when he wrote to them? The Bible is persipicuous, clear and lucid to believers - Paul wrote to be understood, as he would prefer to speak five intelligible words than ten thousand in an unknown language (I Cor. 14:19). There is no question as to what Paul was referring to - the Psalms. And so we ought to sing the Psalms only, and any who claim otherwise must have to go to terrible lengths to prove something different. But why even try to go to such lengths? What songs could be better than the biblical Psalms?

And why bring something less than the best to God in worship? The prophet Malachi was sent to rebuke the priests for bringing lame and sick sacrifices to the Lord (Mal. 1:6-14). He will not accept them - He requires the best sacrifices - and so only what Christ has given us in the Psalms should be the sacrifice of praise on our lips (Heb. 13:15). And what other songs come so infallibly from the Spirit of God, with such continual recommendation and exhortation to sing? After all that, we ought to remember that whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). If one has no conclusive proof for singing other songs - then don't risk worshipping with a golden calf.

The Psalms are the songs of Jesus Christ, of whom David was a type, and nothing less than these songs could possibly be worthy as an offering before God. Heb. 13:15 teaches that it is by Him that we must praise God, how else but by the Psalms? May God grant us the spirit of humility and grace to delight in the songs that He has given us, and not seek broken cisterns elsewhere that will only bring judgment on us (Jer. 2:9-13). May God's name be hallowed among His people. May Christ's grace and mercy be known among the nations.

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