Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Though public worship is vital to the growth of a congregation, private worship must never be neglected. In fact, private worship is essential if we will worship corporately. The message explores by examining an incident in the life of Gideon.

“As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped.” [1]

Pastors will not have spent much time in the pastorate until they learn the awful truth that preparing for worship is such intense work and so demanding that worship may often be ignored! It is a tragic truth that among the individual Christians least likely to worship are pastors and worship leaders! Those charged with leading worship can readily fall into the trap of becoming so focused on the mechanics of worship that they fail to worship. Woe to that individual who begins to treat the Word of God as a source of texts to be used for sermons rather than seeing the Bible as a divine revelation of the Person of the Living God. Woe to that individual who pores over the pages of Holy Writ seeking what to say to the people of God and yet fails to hear the clarion call of the Master ringing forth through that Word.

Perhaps one reason for this failure to worship is that we, (and by “we,” I am including pastors and worship leaders), are not certain what is meant by the idea of worship. However, I suspect the problem is much more basic than saying that those who should know better don’t know what they are looking for. I suspect that pastors and worship leaders do not have periods of private worship. Our lives are so filled with demanding moments that we are insensible and insensitive to the need to see the Holy One at work in the busyness of life.

Before I begin this message, I want to emphasise that I am a proponent of public worship. In the Apocalypse, when the people of God are witnessed after having been gathered to Heaven, all the worship is congregational. Surely, that means something. There are two instances of private worship described in that Book, and they are false worship. One speaks of worship of “the beast,” the antichrist [see REVELATION 13:5-18].

The second instance of private worship recorded in Revelation tells how John, who is a pretty good theologian, falls down before the angel who was showing him all that was coming on the earth. John says he was prepared to worship that angel. You will recall that the angel was horrified and he told John, “You must not do that!” Then, he reminded John who is to be worshipped when he said, “Worship God” [see REVELATION 22:8, 9]. John had been dazzled by the splendour and the glory of that angel, just as we are susceptible to being overwhelmed by ceremony and majesty. We must watch that our emotions do not overcome our mind. As we are taught by the Apostle Paul, let us sing and pray with our mind [see 1 CORINTHIANS 14:15]. In short, when we worship, let us ensure that we do so knowledgably. If we encounter God, there will be emotion, but not every emotion leads us to God!

I propose in this message to explore this business of worship, and especially to explore the relationship of private worship to a healthy relationship with God. The means by which I propose to explore this matter is through consideration of what is written in the Word of God. The focus of this study is the response of one of the Judges of Israel to God revealing that He was already working on a problem before that Judge even realised it was a problem. I invite you to join me in this exploration today.

THE EVENT DESCRIBED — “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” [JUDGES 6:1a]. We aren’t told the precise nature of the evil that the people began to practise, but as we read farther in the divine account it becomes apparent that Israel succumbed to idolatry. Like us, I would suppose that many of the people rationalised the repeated incursions by Midianite raiders; they said that the nation lacked a strong leader, the army wasn’t as large as it should be, the Midianites were just bad neighbours—there is always an excuse when things are going badly for us. However, the Word of God says there was one great reason why they were suffering these repeated incursions: “the LORD gave them into the hand of Midian seven years” [JUDGES 6:1b].

The scourge of these eastern raiders had caused serious problems for the people. “Whenever the Israelites planted crops, the Midianites and the Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. They would encamp against them and devour the produce of the land, as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel and no sheep or ox or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents; they would come like locusts in number—both they and their camels could not be counted—so that they laid waste the land as they came in. And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the LORD” [JUDGES 6:3-6]. Israel was like many of us; it took them seven years to figure out that their own choices were the reason for the problems they faced!

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