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Does God Care How I Worship?

In Exodus, the instructions He gave for the tabernacle and the priesthood were specific right down to the stitching that should be used for the curtains. The people had asked, “Lord, how do we keep your covenant, how do we show our love and devotion for You.” And God told them: “do this!” God was clear and specific. And because He was, the Israelites could not claim to love and obey God and not follow His instructions!

That principle remains today! Now, God hasn’t told us what color our curtains need to be, we have a great deal of liberty on most things about the way we go about worshiping Him and glorifying Him in our day-to-day lives… but where God is specific, Exodus 32 is a warning: to love Him, you can’t substitute His instructions.

Idolatry is not just the worship of false gods; it is also the worship of the One True God falsely.

But people will be quick to say that’s just legalism.

Maybe they are already saying that in the comments… Let’s talk about it.

People will say, “God doesn’t care how we worship… He cares about our heart!”

And they’re right in a lot of ways. Here in Exodus the Lord has just spent a lot of time detailing to Moses the kind of worship He wants, right down to the size of the altar and the wood that would be used for the tabernacle and the stones that should be sewn into the priest’s clothes. He gives instructions for the most minute of the details.

Now, do I think that God was too concerned that the color of the tabernacle curtains was red and blue?

No, I really don’t.

Now, some of that points forward to foreshadow elements of the New Testament. And our human minds can’t grasp God’s mind in its infinite wisdom and understanding, so there probably is significance to every element of the worship He prescribed in the Old Testament.

But this is also the God who just said, when you’re building a monument or an altar, you could worship me with a pile of mud for all I care. When you use stones, don’t cut them, just stack them. God didn’t need precious jewels and fine linens to be worshiped. None of that could come close to the glory of God.

It was never about the altar. It was always about what went on the altar. God cared about the sacrifice. He has always wanted authentic worship from us. Not just going through certain motions, but devoting ourselves to Him from the heart.

So God does care about our hearts. I’ll even say He cares more about our hearts than our actions.

But then how do we explain what’s going on here in Exodus 32? Aaron is seemingly trying to give the Israelites a way to keep worshiping Yahweh by carving this calf… how could that be wrong? Isn’t it just about the heart?

It is, kind of. But do you see here, clearly their hearts were wrong. And their wrong hearts LED to wrong actions.

How do I know their hearts were wrong? Because God had just spent ten or so chapters describing the worship that would make Him happy. He told them the way He wanted to be loved.

And if someone tells you how they want to be loved, and you refuse to love them that way, you choose to love them a different way, how could you say you love them?

It gets even worse here, because sometimes people don’t really know how they should be loved. We don’t know everything and so sometimes we asked to be loved in ways that really aren’t the best for us. That could never be the case with an all-knowing God though, right? When He says what will bring Him glory, there is never a better answer!

So how could the Israelites claim to have a heart right with Yahweh, if they refused to love Him the way He said He wanted to be loved?

God does care about the heart, but our hearts can’t be right with God if He tells us something and we decide to do the opposite. That’s what the Israelites did here. God told them “Do not carve idols.” And the Israelites go and within a month and a half they committed both forms of idolatry here: some seemed ready to turn to other gods entirely, while Aaron and maybe some others were just falsely worshiping Yahweh. But to all of them, Exodus makes it very clear: false worship is always wrong.


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