Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Holy Ground


Holy Ground



Exodus 3:5 "Then He said, ‘Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground’".

Respect for God has always been a lesson which man has needed to hear and learn. In light of the above statement allow me to make the following observations:

God Should Be Thankful?

When we start talking about proper respect for God, especially when we are engaged in worshipping Him with others, the tendency is to become defensive. A common unvoiced attitude is, "God is pleased that I am here, so leave me alone." But God has never had such an attitude. God did not tell Moses, "Relax Moses, for I am glad for your mere presence." God is not a beggar. God will not accept our leftovers, token efforts, or mere crumbs of gratitude or respect. Mark 7:6-7 "Their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me". God is disgusted and insulted when we approach Him with carelessness, apathy, or a disregard for His rules. Amos 5:21-24 "I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them…But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."


Treating God With Respect

Exodus 3:5 "remove your sandals": Carefully note that God’s presence manifested in a lowly burning bush didn’t diminish His holiness. "The Lord called to Moses when he approached and commanded him to take off his sandals out of reverence for the ground that carried His appearance. Those sandals carried the dirt from his journey, and man must be pure when he approaches God" (Bible Students Commentary. Exodus. W.H. Gispen p. 52). This insistence upon respect for God and the things of God runs throughout both Testaments:Leviticus 10:3 "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored"; 1 Samuel 6:19 "And He struck down some of the men of Bethshemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord…."; 2 Samuel 6:6-7"‘Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it…and the anger of the Lord burn against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence…"; Malachi 1:6-10 "Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?"; John 2:14-16 "Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise"; Matthew 21:13 "My house shall be called a house of prayer"; but you are making it a robbers’ den".

God has not relaxed His standards concerning worship (1 Corinthians 14:29). The attitude in all the above verses is never, "I am just glad you are here." In fact, in the book of Malachi, God desired that someone with enough respect for Him would shut down the Temple (1:10 "Oh that there was one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar!"). Offering God the leftovers and simply going through the motions, is not worshipping God, rather it is mocking Him. Would we dare treat important people with such disrespect (1:8)? Think of how this looked to others. "Ah, the God who receives sacrifices that nobody wants anyway". Things to ponder: Consider the measuring stick in the above passages: When we gather for worship, is our level of respect and attentiveness less than what we offer to human dignitaries, such as at a funeral service, wedding, job interview, dealing with a police officer, or in a court of law? What is our level of enthusiasm and respect? Do we sing secular songs with more feeling and appreciation than we sing songs directed at praising God? (Ephesians 5:19 "singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord"; Colossians 3:16 "singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.") Treating God with respect also includes respect and consideration for those things associated with His presence, worship, and work. Practical applications: Bibles and Songbooks shouldn’t be roughly treated and they are not toys for our children to mangle. The auditorium is not a playground and neither is it a place to just toss our garbage. If we respect God, then let us care for this place in which we worship and teach His word. This is not a shrine, but neither should it be treated with any less respect than the homes of our friends.

We Are Priests

1 Peter 2:5 "you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

It is wonderful that people bring their children to services. Children were often mentioned in the background when people came near to God (Deut. 31:11-13 "Assemble the people, the men and the women and children…And their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God…" Nehemiah 8:3 "And he read from it…in the presence of men and women, those who could understand (8:2 "all who could listen with understanding"); and all the people were attentive to the book of the law"). But our children need to be taught that these gatherings are not solely for their benefit. I am afraid that some professed Christians simply come "for the sake of the children." The primary reason that any Christian gathers for worship is because they have an obligation to offer worship to their Father. Children need to know that their mother and father are engaged in a serious activity when they gather with other Christians. In the O.T. the priests were under the penalty of death if they became careless in approaching God (Leviticus 16:2 "lest he die"; 10:1-2). It was the obligation of the priests to ensure that God was held in high esteem (10:3). Children need to be trained to be quiet, obedient, and respectful during this time, because mom and dad are worshipping! Mom and dad are involved in the most important aspect of their lives. Mom and dad need to express their gratitude, appreciation, and dependence upon God, for this week will present another set of challenges to them. Once again, mom and dad will do battle with the spiritual forces in high places (Ephesians 6:10-13). Your parents are going to face temptations at the workplace, with their neighbors, or non-Christian relatives, and they are going to face temptations in raising you! They might be tempted to overlook a lie on your part, be tempted to withhold desperately needed discipline, because they are too tired, tempted to neglect instruction that you really need at the present moment. They also need wisdom! The wisdom to see through your excuses, the wisdom to realize when you are trying to undermine their authority by getting one parent to side with you against the other parent. 1 Samuel 2:29 "Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me". Eli is not the last parent who made that mistake. This is why parents must teach their children to be quiet, respectful, and reasonably still during services. To put it bluntly, your parents must always view God as more important than you. God comes first, even before children (Matthew 10:37 "and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me"). I fully understand that emergencies arise, but, for the vast majority of the time, children (not babies) can get a drink and use the rest rooms before services. Allowing our children to habitually go in and out is treating them as more important than God. We would not allow such during a wedding or funeral.

"Draw Near To Listen"

We can become too comfortable in approaching God. Worship should take some preparation. Genesis 35:2-3 "purify yourselves, and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God"; Exodus 19:10-11 "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day"; 30:20 "when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, that they may not die; or when they approach the altar to minister". Notice the emphasis on garments. What a person wears does say something about their attitude. Many groups are advertising a relaxed and casual atmosphere, but I don’t find God making the same sales pitch. Ecclesiastes 5:1 "Guard your steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools". This indicates that we might need to approach God with a little more forethought and consideration than what has been our individual practice in the past. Years ago I wrote: Do we come here in a flurry of activity? Have services become for me merely one stop on the way to a busy day? Do I find myself huffing and puffing and almost self-destructing in order to make it to services? Only to sit in the pew and boil over with frustration as I replay in my mind the struggles in getting here? God deserves prepared worshippers. Attentive worshippers. Joyful worshippers! (Psalm 48:9"‘We have thought on Thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of Thy temple"; 63:1 "I shall seek Thee earnestly; My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee"; 84:2 "My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God"; 100:2 "Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing"; 116:12 "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?"; John 4:23-24 "when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." And God also deserves prompt worshippers! What priest would ever think about being late to serve in the tabernacle or temple? Brethren, we are the people who maintain respect and reverence for God. If we do not treat God with the respect that He deserves, then how can we expect the world to learn such respect? If coming in late at a wedding or funeral is viewed as a mark of disrespect, then make the application to the worship of God. Psalm 29:1 "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name"; 99:5 "Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; Holy is He"; 5:7 "But as for me, by Thine abundant lovingkindness I will enter Thy house, at Thy holy temple I will bow in reverence for Thee." One writer noted, "This lax attitude is especially evident in the change that has come over many congregations with regard to dress. Much of the casual clothing worn in local church assemblies is a direct manifestation of a casual attitude toward worship. Dress in current American culture is generally more casual than preceding generations in keeping with the breakdown of discipline and self-control. Dress unquestionably reflects attitude and can also create attitude. Just ask the military!" (Miller pp. 182-183)

Respect For His Word

With the abundance of Bibles that surround us, the temptation is to take the Word of God for granted, but consider the following points: 1. At one time only kings and priests had personal and unlimited access to this revelation (Deut. 17:18). 2. Portions of this book were placed beside the Ark of the Covenant (Deut. 31:9). 3. This is a book that people did not have their own personal copies of until fairly recent times (Deut. 31:11). 4. Tremendous sacrifices have been made by various individuals so that you could have your own personal copy! 5. Various truths that you can read in the New Testament were truths from which even the Old Testament prophets were denied access (1 Peter 1:10-12), and things into which angels longed to look. 6. Nehemiah 8:5 "And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people…and when he opened it, all the people stood up"; Hebrews 2:1 "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it".

Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017