Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words.
So many have not been taught well concerning spiritual etiquette when gathering for worship. Please consider God's word concerning this.
My first thoughts are on the word "rash". This Hebrew word "bahal" is translated "trouble" 17 times and "haste" 4 times. Think here of Jesus words to Martha. "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary." In the context of this passage our thoughts here would be concerned with reverent consideration rather than a hasty rushing in accompanied by babbling about much of nothing. Seeking the Lord quietly would do so much for our hearts preparation for worship.
So often we appear so concerned to tell all our troubles, yet we have spent little time telling the Lord about our troubles and preparing our hearts for exactly the divine encounter in His Word that may be the answer we are seeking.
This passage also spoke to me about the reasonableness of well prepared worship. Shooting from the hip is not more spiritual than well thought out, prepared and contemplative worship. It was actually Aaron hastily making the golden calf, Nadab and Abihus' hasty and irreverent offering and King Saul's brazen worship that brought the judgment of God. We are approaching GOD! We especially, as people of grace, ought to be so filled with gratitude that all we can think about is, "I am coming before the King." "I am coming to worship my King." "He is the One who has set me free." "We have an audience with the KING!"
It's time we stop looking like we are so concerned about what others think about us and focus on the reality of what is taking place as we gather to worship the LORD, the MASTER, the KING! (and that would of course necessitate arriving in a timely manner and being sensitive to distractions during worship that would draw attention away from Him and His WORD! This also requires grace and wisdom.)
There is a real difference between being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and being carelessly unprepared when gathering before the LORD. But preparation is not only the responsibility of the Elders. We ought to be both prepared and yet subjected to His Lordship. He can do whatever He wants, and if our hearts are prepared, then and only then will we be ready to yield to Him. Personal preparation is so important here. "God is in heaven and you are on earth" speaks of the fact that He is the Creator and we are the creatures. Coming boldly into the throne room never implies irreverence. Let your words be few.
Then, when we have ended the service with prayer, it is appropriate to leave. It is not appropriate to leave before the last Amen. Let us be considerate to all. And let us then love those who are visiting, new comers, new members and those who are hurting, with true care, concern and prayer.
I gave a brief exhortation regarding preparation for worship at our business meeting yesterday. I thought I would briefly encourage further. My mentor sent me a few thoughts, which I have expanded upon.
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.
The concept of preparing for Worship seems lost in our busy lives. As if because God is a God of grace, we should feel fine to simply rush into His presence, having taken no thought as to how prepared we were for the encounter. As if preparation for worship was not a "real-life" need and trivial conversation with people were so critical to our spiritual lives that we ought not to leave it out. On Sunday morning we rush into the church, talk all the way through until the time we attempt to calm people down before the call to Worship and get them "focused on God", and then wonder why we didn't "sense the presence of God" this morning.
For the Puritans, preparing for worship started the night before. The Puritans were people concerned with being prepared for Worship. It was common for there to be prayer meetings on Saturday evening, simply in preparation for Sunday Morning.
The Westminster Confession states: "When the congregation is to meet for public worship, the people (having prepared beforehand their hearts thereunto) ought all to come…" Certainly, some may give 10 or 20 seconds to prayer the morning of worship, but the question must be raised as to whether this is sufficient. We need for God to work in our hearts before the worship time ever begins. It is God we are worshiping.
Perhaps we should consider the last few words in Ecclesiastes 5:1. "we don't know the evil we are doing".
Listen to the words of Stephen Charnock:
"Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of his majesty….It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverenceth his majesty, is ravished with his amiableness, embraceth His goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely object, and pitcheth all his affections upon Him" (Steven Charnock)
What is at the root of the matter is the condition of our heart. Do we even care? Our hearts need preparedness for worship. JI Packer said: "An aimless, careless, casual, routine habit of church-going is neither rational nor reverent."
Please hear this admonition. Beginning on Saturday evening, spend much time with God. Seeking His face, for His smile, crying out for the power of God on the preacher, exalting Jesus as Lord in your life, humbly submitting yourself to His supremacy, begging for His grace and for the display of His glorious majesty as we humbly and reverently gather to bow before His throne in worship, praise, prayer and preaching. We are not walking into Walmart, neither are we entering the house of God. The people of God, His house, are gathering together for Worship. When we gather, be preparing your heart for this awesome occasion. Be ready to stand trembling, yet joyfully lavishing praise on the One who has raised us from the dead and given us life.