Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Returning to the Heart of Worship

Have you ever wondered why God chose to favor a young shepherd boy named David above his brothers? What was it about David that captured God’s heart and made him select David to become king? How was it that the very lineage of Christ hinged upon David’s life? God could have done it through someone else, but there was something about this young man that marked his destiny for royal authority. What was it exactly that caused God to prefer David ?

David was said to be a man after God’s own heart, in 1 Sam. 13:14. Now, in order to fully grasp the significance of this, we need to take a look back into history to understand what preceded David coming on the scene. The book of 1 Samuel details many things about David’s life, but it begins with several important factors. To begin with, the priesthood was defiled by the house of Eli. Eli had been a priest in the temple for a long time, but he didn’t have control over his sons, who sinned against the people and the Lord with their selfishness and lust for control. Scripture tells us in 1 Sam. 2:12-17 that the sons of Eli were corrupt; though they were raised with the customs of temple worship, they had no personal intimate relationship with God. They knew about him, but did not know Him.

It is a tragic thing to have much knowledge about the things of God, yet never be truly saved or walking in a personal relationship with the living God. These young men transgressed against God in a serious way, because they acted presumptuously against the Lord and the responsibilities of the temple service. Priests were in a position of teaching and instructing the word of the Lord, and leading people into a correct understanding of worship. They were to stand as mediators to atone for the sins of the people before God as they offered sacrificial services. It was a solemn responsibility reserved for the priests, but Eli’s sons offered profane service to the Lord. Because they were unbelievers, they were not entitled to occupy that position; neither were they qualified to take offerings for themselves as compensation for the priesthood duties. They arrogantly took the best for themselves, demonstrating irreverence and disrespect for God, the people they ministered to, and the priesthood that they professed to serve. Their sin was so great that God killed the sons and Eli lost his life as well because he chose compromise over the preservation of the priesthood of which had been entrusted to his care. (Read chapter 4 of 1 Samuel). Not only that, but the ark of God, which represented the presence of God Himself, was captured and taken into captivity by the Philistines, Israel’s enemy. The wife of one of Eli’s sons, (who had just lost his life) gave birth to a son in distress after hearing that her husband was dead. She named the child Ichabod, which means, “No Glory,” and she said, ‘for the glory of God has departed from Israel and the ark of God has been captured.’

It is an equally tragic thing for a church, an individual, or perhaps a family to realize that they have entertained compromise so long that they have transgressed against the Lord and His presence is no longer able to be felt. The glory has quietly left and no one noticed. The problem in Eli's family existed long before the actual judgment against him and his sons, for we see in 1 Sam. 3:1 the proof the glory had departed long before their death. “The word of the Lord was rare and there was no widespread revelation.”

One of the first indicators of a life of compromise – whether in an individual’s life or in the life of the church – is a lack of fresh manna. God withholds revelation when obedience is compromised or sin is present. It is one of the ways that God disciplines His people and shows who is approved and those that are not. It is the evidence of inspired, divine revelation. One cannot expect additional revelation where they are not obedient to what they already know. This is also one way to help distinguish between those walking in the Spirit of God and those that are walking by their own will. It is the evidence of life in the Spirit. The flow of the Spirit is not stagnant, dull, heavy or oppressive. If you encounter a place of worship where there is no freedom, joy or movement of Holy Spirit, that is a sign that something is not right. Pray about whether or not you should stay there, for if you remain in that sort of place too long, the spirit that is trying to control and hinder worship will try to control and hinder you, too The Holy Spirit is a well spring of life! Revelation or ‘fresh manna’ is one of the truest indicators of whether or not there is actual life in the body. This life either flows freely, or it is restricted in some form and in the process of drying up. When the flow of anointing is drying up or not evident at all, then there is death attached to it. This allows for ungodly, demonic, controlling spirits to enter in and bring defilement. Divination is the counterfeit of the Holy Spirit, and it's so important to discern the difference! Where the presence of God is, there will be activity of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of prophecy, healing, and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit will be evident in the place where God is welcomed, honored and esteemed. There will be godly order, but not religious control that restricts or binds the Spirit of God from freedom of movement. God is not worried about us losing our composure. I often think He would like us to lose it just like David did when cast off the restraints of composure and didn't care what others thought about him. If we're prone to caring what others think about us, it will always restrict the flow of the Spirit in our lives. Fear and control produce religious spirits that constrict and bind the Spirit of God. People may try to rationalize it and call it something else much more pleasing and palatable, but it is sin to try and restrict or restrain the Holy Spirit. When people are hungry for the presence of God and man tries to restrain Him, it grieves the Holy Spirit. People should not be left hungry and disappointed. Jesus said the hungry would be filled and the thirst for His presence would be satisfied. This is God's desire for His people. That we would experience Him in a satisfying way and gain our fulfillment from relationship with Him, not try to satisfy that need through worldly ways. Alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, lust for power or control or the many other things people use to fill that empty void simply do not satisfy the craving of the soul to worship our Creator or to be known by Him. We are wired for worship. When Holy Spirit is not allowed to flow freely, it is a sin against God and the people who desire Him, to try to constrict God so that it fits with people's plans, schedules and their own personal comfort zones. God will not be boxed in!  David understood this about God, he delighted himself in letting God be big in his life. David needed a big God because David had big problems and big enemies! David found true liberty through unconstrained worship. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

From a defiled priesthood, to a defiled kingship, we see there were many years of King Saul's reign that were trademarked by disobedience and poor decisions. These things led the nation into decline and a loss of the glory of God. We’ve taken a look at the corruption caused by compromise prior to David coming into the story, and we can learn a lot from those things. Spiritual decline precedes any loss. Spiritual decline leads people into compromise, and a life of compromise always leads to sorrow and a loss of God's presence and glory. Now let’s go back to David and examine something vital about this young man’s life and why God called him a ‘man after His own heart.’ The key thing to understand about David is that he wasn’t a perfect man. He was human and prone to weaknesses just like any other man. He had some serious mistakes in his life, but in spite of all his flaws, God chose David to be in the line of royal authority. The Christ would come from David's lineage. David had a heart that was sensitive to God’s Spirit. When he did the wrong thing, David was quick to confess his sin and get right with God. He wanted to please God with his life, and the outflow of that desire was not just a heart to follow God, but a heart that knew what it meant to truly worship God in Spirit and in truth.

Obedience is key, yes, but obedience alone out of a sense of duty or obligation does not produce revelation. Worship produces revelation, for revelation only comes through connecting with the heart and Spirit of God. Worship is the bridge between us and our Father, through Holy Spirit. Worship draws us into God’s presence where (as we see in 1 Sam 5) our idols cannot stand. Idols are toppled in the presence of the Lord! God’s hand is harsh towards our idols because He is a jealous God. He will not share our affections with the things of the world or the many ‘other lovers’ that contend for our affections. It is the cares of the world and the desires for other things that pull us away from the heart of God and inhibit our ability to connect with Him in worship. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy. Break up your fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12). Real worship will always bring us back to the place of the cross. Returning to the heart of worship means toppling our idols, repenting, and coming back to a place of genuine repentance so that we can seek God in Spirit and in truth. It's seeking Him in worship until our heart is restored to a place of divine order, and then receiving answers to our prayers. If we proceed on our own assumptions, we proceed in our own strength, and not divinely guided by God. It can make all the difference between success, staying stuck, or complete failure.

David was a God lover. When he worshiped, prophetic words and spontaneous songs emerged. He praised with all his heart and he rejoiced in the freedom that he found in throwing off the restraints and letting his heart delight in God. When David led corporate worship, he encouraged others to delight themselves in God and enter into high praise. Praise is such an important element of worship because it has the power to elevate the name of Jesus and break off heavy yokes. We need both high praise as well as the intimate, introspective worship. David understood the power and anointing that was released through worship, and that it was the anointing that broke the yoke of oppression, sin, and unbelief. Heartfelt praise and worship breaks through our fears and insecurities and releases  a Spirit of Faith. It releases a Spirit of Overcoming! There was great joy and thanks, but out of that also flowed divine revelation that was both encouraging and humbling, and inspired true repentance. This is the power of Davidic worship!

There is a big difference between being a song leader and a worshiper after God’s own heart. There is a difference between a professional musician, or one that is just a performer, and a God lover. Both may love the object of their desire, and both may worship what they desire, but what they desire may not be God. One may simply crave the worship from performing, while the other craves the presence of God from the worship they offer Him. This is a reality that holds true regardless of whether or not we're talking about being on stage or in front of others, leading worship or worshiping God in private. The things we crave and the desires we have may not glorify God at all, nor draw us any closer to Him. Knowing the difference makes all the difference in the world as to what sort of environment is established - in our home, family, or church - and what sort of worship is offered. It can make all the difference between offering God an unacceptable sacrifice, or pleasing Him with a sweet smelling aroma of true worship that delights His heart.

Worship comes in many forms. Giving is worship. Loving others is worship. Sacrifice is worship. Repentance is worship. Whatever releases the presence of God is key to entering into worship, but it is the presence of God that releases breakthrough. If we want breakthrough in our families, we need to restore worship. If we want breakthrough in our church, communities or cities, we need to restore worship. Earlier I asked the question, "What was it about David, that the very lineage of Christ hinged upon him?" David came from the tribe of Judah, which means "praise." Prophecies concerning Jesus' birth and ministry made 1200 years before his birth announced that He would be from the tribe of Judah, and from the 'root of Jesse.' (See Gen. 49: 8-10; Is. 11:1; Is. 9:7; Zech. 6:12). Jesus brought breakthrough, but it came through David's ancestral line. It is interesting that when David's grandfather, Obed, was born to Ruth, the women of that city surrounded Ruth and her mother in law, Naomi, and prophesied into Obed's future. They prophesied that the house of Obed would have the same ability to produce breakthrough as one of his ancestors, a child named Perez that had been born to a woman named Tamar many years earlier. "Perez" means breakthrough. Perez' life left a legacy of anointing that produced breakthrough for generations to come. It was the legacy of worship, coming from the tribe of Judah, and the Davidic line. The breakthrough of prophetic anointing  and kingly rulership from the life of a worshiper (David) was a result of the Spirit of God coming upon him in a powerful way. It was evidence of royal authority.

God wants to restore this sort of Davidic worship to our lives. He wants to restore worship into the heart of the family, release it into our communities, and in our churches. Worship is where the heart of God connects with others and releases a word of healing, a prophecy that can change the direction of a life, or an inspired word that brings wisdom or guidance into a personal situation. Part of God healing our families and our future is to bring worship, real worship, where it has been lacking. This is how God can change a city, a destiny, and the future. Worship is the key to power and authority with God, where strategies to outwit the enemy and blueprints for the future are released. Need answers? Return to the heart of true worship. The answers you need are in the presence of the Lord.

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