Do we worship the same God?

hands-worshipWheaton College is probably the best known Evangelical college in the USA. And last month, Larycia Hawkins who taught political science at Wheaton, became their best known professor.  She had pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbours.  But she was suspended after she wrote on Facebook, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”  “This statement is unbelievable,” tweeted Baptist blogger Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville. “Really jaw-dropping.” Many others criticized Larycia. “A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you. Peace & respect,” Hawkins tweeted in response to her critics. She linked to her Facebook response, where she stated:

“Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others like the Triune God , the virgin birth and the Resurrection. Let there be unity in our diversity of views about all of the above.”

Wheaton have instituted dismissal proceedings against Larycia. Other Wheaton faculty have defended her.

Do we Worship the Same God? from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

A good friend and colleague, Dr Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton said this in TIME magazine, “I have seen no theological argument from the college that would deem her commitments unacceptable. Hers] is a clear, compelling affirmation of what we believe in Wheaton’s Statement of Faith.” So, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? The Pope says ‘yes’. Other Christian leaders say ‘no’. Let me ask an even more controversial question. Do Jews and Christians worship the same God? Jews base their worship on the Hebrew scriptures, but so do we. Orthodox Jews deny Jesus is the Messiah. Does that mean we worship the same God? Do we worship the same God as Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists? I’m sorry but I am not going to answer the question tonight. I suggest it is the wrong question. The correct question is more profound. What is acceptable worship to God? Just because we hold acts of worship, it doesn’t necessary mean God accepts our Anglican worship, any more than the Roman Catholics, or Orthodox, let alone Muslims and Jews. So what is acceptable worship?
Isn’t sincerity and devotion enough? If we sing the classic hymns or contemporary songs and say the right prayers that end with “in Jesus name” doesn’t God accept our worship? What does the Bible say about acceptable worship?
Here are two passages to get us going:

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24)

So justice and right living are more important than sacrifices and songs. And here is a definition from the New Testament.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)

So holiness and service are true and proper worship. These Sunday evenings we are exploring the Book of Exodus together to find out what is acceptable worship to God.  Tonight, we are going to discover that for fallen sinners to worship a holy God, we need a mediator.  Exodus has been called the Book of Redemption. God’s people were in hopeless bondage in the land of Egypt, powerless to deliver themselves, just as we are. But God says:

“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land.” (Exodus 3:7-8)

This is a beautiful picture of redemption from the bondage of sin into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

I want us to consider briefly, seven ways in which the details of the Passover meal prefigures and illustrates how the Lord Jesus Christ is our mediator.  God’s people were slaves in Egypt. How would God rescue them? God reveals a plan that will cause Pharaoh to beg the Jews to leave his land. God sends a series of terrible judgments (called Plagues) on Egypt. Although the first nine inflicted great suffering on the people, Pharaoh hardened his heart against God. The tenth plague would get his attention.
At midnight on a certain night, the Lord would go through the land of Egypt and every firstborn son would die immediately. But God would spare his people – if they followed His instructions. When blood of a lamb was sprinkled on the doorpost of each home, God would see the blood and would “pass over” that house. But if God didn’t see the blood, he would take the life of the firstborn in judgment.
It was the blood of the lamb that saved the people of God that night.  Here are seven instructions God gave his people. Notice how in each and every detail there is a wonderful insight into the finished work of the Lord Jesus the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

  1. A lamb must be chosen

“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.” (Exodus 12:3)

It couldn’t be a bull or a dove, which were sometimes used in other Old Testament sacrifices. God was very particular–it was to be a lamb and only a lamb. Nothing else would do. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him, he cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Apostle Paul refers to Christ as our “Passover Lamb, who has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)

  1. The lamb must be a male

Verse 5 states that “the animals you choose must be year-old males.” (Exodus 12:5). Jesus fulfilled this in that he was the son born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:31-32).

  1. The lamb must be unblemished

Verse 5 adds, “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect.” (Exodus 12:5). This means that family would have to inspect their lamb to make sure there were no open sores, no infections, no diseases, no blemishes, no sickness of any kind.  The Apostle Peter refers to Jesus as being “a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:19) Hebrews 4:14-16 emphasizes that though Christ was tempted in every way that we are, He was without sin. When Pontius Pilate finished examining Jesus, he declared “I find no fault in him.” (John 19:6).

  1. The lamb must be slaughtered at twilight

“Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.” (Exodus 12:6)

The NIV says that the offerings were to be made at twilight, although the words literally mean “between the evenings,” which in Jewish thought meant between 3-5 p.m. Jesus was nailed to the Cross at the “third hour,” meaning 9:00 a.m as the day began at sunrise around 6:00am. Matthew 27:45 tells us that there was darkness from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, or from 12 noon to 3:00 p.m. Shortly after, Jesus uttered his final words and died. His body was then taken down from the cross before sundown.
Thus, Jesus died “between the evenings” (3-5 p.m.) at the exact hour the Passover lambs were being sacrificed throughout Israel. The timing was perfect.

  1. The bones of the lamb must not be broken

An additional instruction insists “Do not break any of the bones.” (Exodus 12:46). Typically the Romans broke the legs of those being crucified in order to hasten their death.

John 19:32-36 tells us that the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus’ legs because he had already died. The Apostle John points out that this happened to fulfil the Scripture, “Not one of his bones will be broken.” (John 19:36) Although he is quoting Psalm 34:20, the ultimate reference goes back to Exodus 12.

  1. The blood of the lamb was sprinkled on the doorposts

“Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.” (Exodus 12:7)

After the lamb had been slaughtered and the blood drained, the father was to take some of the blood and sprinkle it on the top and the sides of the doorframe. The blood would be the sign to the Lord that the family had sacrificed a lamb as he had commanded.

“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)

The lamb alone could not save God’s people. Only the blood sprinkled on the doorpost could spare the people from the terrible judgment of God that struck down the first born of every Egyptian family.  Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation. His blood was poured out for us (Matthew 26:28). He is God’s Lamb offered for the sins of the world. However, Jesus’ blood saves only when it is applied. For those who reject the blood, even the Lamb of God cannot save them. If you want to experience freedom from bondage and avoid the sure judgment of God, the Lamb’s blood must be applied to the door of your heart.

  1. The lamb sacrificed must be eaten

“That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast… This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.” (Exodus 12:8-11)

In John 6, Jesus made one of his most provocative statements.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:53-56)

Although Jesus is primarily making an association with God’s provision of manna in the wilderness, the imagery is further developed in his teaching at the Last Supper, the Passover meal Jesus shared with the disciples on the night he was betrayed.

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)

The Apostle Paul adds these words of Jesus,

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)

The Passover, when God literally passed over the homes of God’s people because of the blood sprinkled, was a type and shadow of the Last Supper. And the Communion or Lord’s Supper, we celebrate has its roots in the Passover. Seven instructions God gave his people – and in each and every detail a wonderful parallel with all that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross.

A lamb must be chosen Exodus 12:3 John 1:29
The lamb must be male Exodus 12:5 Luke 1:30-32)
The lamb must be unblemished Exodus 12:5 1 Peter 1:19
The lamb must be slaughtered Exodus 12:6 Matthew 27:45
The bones must not be broken Exodus 12:46 John 19:36
The blood must be sprinkled Exodus 12:7,13 Matthew 26:28
The meat must be eaten Exodus 12:8-11 Luke 22:19-20

Who do we worship? From Exodus 12 we have seen that Jesus is indeed our mediator, our Passover lamb. How then should we worship? The writer to Hebrews leaves us in no doubt.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25)

Lets pray.


Sources used with thanks

John Risebridger: The Message of Worship
David Peterson: Engaging with God. A Theology of Worship
A.M. Hodgkin: Christ in all the Scriptures
Robert Reymond: Jesus Divine Messiah
Vaughan Roberts: God’s Big Picture
Brian Bill: “The Lamb”