Posted by: Bill Hornbeck | April 2, 2023

“Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling.”

Today’s devotion comes from Numbers 3:1-10.

“Now these are the records of the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai.  These then are the names of the sons of Aaron:  Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.  These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests.  But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered strange fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai;  and they had no children.  So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him.  They shall perform the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do the service of the tabernacle.  They shall also keep all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, along with the duties of the sons of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle.  You shall thus give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons;  they are wholly given to him from among the sons of Israel.  So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.”  Numbers 3:1-10.


Today’s Scripture shocks us and shows us that the LORD does not receive worship of Him casually.  We may think we are doing a favor to the LORD to do anything we consider to be worship, but the LORD killed Nadab and Abihu who offered strange fire before the LORD.  The LORD strictly commanded who may be priests, and the LORD commanded that any one else who attempted to act as a priest “shall be put to death.” 

Our congregational worship to the LORD on Sundays needs to be done in reverence, in rejoicing, and with trembling how the LORD commands it to be done.  

“Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.” Psalm 2:11.

“Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:9.

In one word, our congregational worship to the LORD on Sundays needs to be done formally as He wants, not casually as we want.

Professor Barrett L. Gritters of the Protestant Reformed Churches wrote an article covering this topic titled “Public Worship and the Reformed Faith”.  Here is a link to it followed by some quotes from it –

The following quotes are separated.  I did not put dots (…) between each quote, because the dots would distract too much.  But, I did put them all in italic font.  I could only fit these within the format of a short devotion, but I recommend you read the full article which has much supporting Scripture and explanation.

Strange fire is being offered on the altars of worship in many churches today. That fire is being offered on Reformed altars.

For one reason or another, worship is not the same as it used to be. Perhaps the leaders of the churches are trying to raise the attendance at the evening worship service. Perhaps, because the young people are not impressed with the worship anymore, pastors and consistories are trying to lure the young people (who have wandered off to more charismatic or enthusiastic worship services) back to the services of their church.

For some reason, perhaps because the people are not moved by the worship services of the church, dramatic presentations are offered, movies are shown, talented singing groups are asked to lead the worship and even liturgical dances are offered as worship to God, many times in place of the preaching. All this is to make the services moving.

True to his Reformed heritage and, therefore, true to the Scriptures, the Reformed believer asks the question, ‘What is the worship required by my Lord?’ 

The PURPOSE of our public worship is to bring glory to God’s name.

Glorifying to God, worship will also edify His church. That is the second purpose of worship.

The third purpose of worship is to bring believers into fellowship and communion. 

Reformed believers teach that our worship is to be just what God commands it to be—nothing more, nothing less. This is of utmost importance for us to understand in connection with Biblical, Reformed worship. God does not leave it up to us to determine the manner of our worship of God. God’s Word regulates us in how we must worship Him.

True to this regulative principle, Reformed worship services have these elements: singing of Psalms (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19-20); offering of prayer (I Timothy 2:1-8); reading of Scriptures (I Thessalonians 5:27; I Timothy 4:13); the preaching and hearing of God’s word (Romans 10:13-17; II Timothy 4:1-2); the administration of the two sacraments (Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 11:23-29); and the giving of our offerings in the support of the ministry and the relief of the poor (I Corinthians 16:1-2; I Corinthians 9:11-14).

Worship that is regulated by the Word of God not only will have only those elements taken from the Word of God, it will have certain basic characteristics.

Speaking to the woman at Samaria, Jesus lays down the first characteristic of true worship. It is worship IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH (John 4:24). 

The preaching is at the heart and centre of every Reformed worship service. The preaching of the whole counsel of God is what makes the service a true worship of God, bowing the knee before Him and His Word in Christ. The preaching gives glory to God, but also edification for the church.

The Reformed worship is characterized by CONGREGATIONAL PARTICIPATION. Every act of worship is an act in which the believer participates. The congregation is not a group of spectators who come together to watch some professional priest or theologian do his thing. They are not observers, but worshipers. 

This is why, historically, Reformed churches have never allowed choirs and special numbers to come into public worship. The entire congregation is called to participate in every act of worship in the church. 

Our worship should be characterized by REVERENCE.

The Reformed worship service is a SIMPLE service.

We do not have all kinds of clutter in the Reformed worship building. This is in keeping with the Reformed view. Nor do we (most, anyway) have symbols of Jesus’ cross and the Holy Spirit, because Christ is present, not with His cross, but when He is evidently set forth before you in the WORD. The Spirit is present, not in some symbol of a dove, but in the power of the preaching of the gospel.

This is not to say that Reformed worship is not ACTIVE, JOYFUL AND THANKFUL.

That man that comes to worship his great God, knowing his sins, and hearing the gospel of forgiveness, must necessarily be the happiest man alive.

But, there is hope!

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  …

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:7 and 11-13.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD;  you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”  1 Peter 2:9-10.


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