What Should Worship Look Like? Part III


How We Present Ourselves Matters

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” – II Corinthians 6:17-18

   We have already disproved with multiple passages of Scripture the error which says, “I can worship God how I want and He will accept me.” Paul echoed this truth in II Corinthians 6:17-18. God told the New Testament church–which is under the covenant of grace–that unless they sanctified themselves and united with Christ in the new identity of our salvation, He would not accept worldly saints. This does not mean God will disown or revoke someone’s salvation if they live an unseparated life. It means He will not be pleased and will not bless them as obedient children. God made it plain that His children will live godly, separated lives. Disobedient or immature children may exhibit worldly behavior, but obedient and mature ones will become less like the world and more like Christ. Consider the words of Paul to the Romans: 

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”              – Romans 12:2

Sanctification is not a new idea. It was something God made great effort to instill in His people Israel as an example to us in the church. Consider these passages where God placed great emphasis on their appearance and clothing being set apart and distinct: 

“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God.”                      – Deuteronomy 22:5

“Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I [am] the LORD.” – Leviticus 19:28 

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes…” – Exodus 19:10

“And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.” – Exodus 19:22

“And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” – Exodus 28:41

“And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office.” – Exodus 29:44

“And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.” – Exodus 30:29

“And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” – Exodus 40:13

God wanted His people to be distinct and identified as a special people not like those around them. We have already established the fact that even the world recognizes what people in Church look like versus  people going to a secular event. Of course some reading this are already thinking, “But these verses applied in the Old Testament to the Levites and priests.” Well, we do not get off the hook that easily, because according to the New Covenant, all believers are priests. Consider the words of Peter: 

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” – I Peter 2:5

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;” – I Peter 2:9

Now consider these New Testament passages that continue the command of God for us to be separated and holy in how we live.  

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” – I Timothy 2:9-10

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” – I Peter 3:3-4

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” – I Corinthians 6:19-20

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.” – I Corinthians 3:17

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”              – I Corinthians 10:31

It is the plan and will of Christ that His bride, the church, be sanctified “set apart” from the world and sanctified as holy people–just like the people of Israel were set apart from all the pagan nations. Consider these verses:

“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – John 17:17

“And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” – John 17:19

“That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…”                      – Ephesians 5:26

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.                              – I Thessalonians 5:23

“Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.” – Hebrews 13:12

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”                   – I Peter 3:15

Facts To Consider:

God does not accept worldly and unsanctified people as obedient, mature children. 

We are commanded to be set apart and distinct from the world in every area of life. 


God Does Not Care How I Dress For Church

   At some point people will normally throw up the argument, “In James, it tells us not to be partial to well dressed people and that God is not either. Therefore how I dress at church is irrelevant.” They are referring to James 2:1-3. 

“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:” – James 2:1-3

The common faulty interpretation of this passage is that God is not interested in whether or not we dress nice for worship. The problem is James is not talking about dressing nice for worship. He is making the case for being impartial towards people who come to church–whether they are dirt poor or quite wealthy. The context of the passage makes this clear. This passage has been hijacked by those who want to dress down for church. The case holds no water. 

Externals Do Not Matter; God Sees The Heart

   The classic passage twisted by those who want to dress down is I Samuel 16:7 where Samuel is reviewing the sons of Jesse in preparation for anointing the king to replace Saul. What God tells Samuel in this verse has been twisted so many times by unbelievers and believers alike that it may be one of the most twisted verses in Scripture. Nevertheless, it does not say what many want it to say. Let us examine it: 

“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” – I Samuel 16:7

The topic of God’s words to Samuel was moral character and had nothing to do with clothing. Samuel was looking for a king, tall and handsome like Saul. The LORD told Samuel in essence, “I know you can see the outward, but I can also see the heart.” It is not that the outward is not important, but God looks on both the external and the internal. God pointed out here that while man can see the outward, God also sees the heart. If our conclusion here is that the external does not matter, we are fools. The entirety of Scripture tells us that our outward presentation and testimony sends a message for everyone to see and judge by. The outward is important, but God sees beyond into the heart. If someone tells me that God is not concerned with the externals, then I know they have never read Leviticus, the much of the Old Testament and much of the New Testament. 

We Are Not To Judge; Only God Can Judge Me

   It always amazes me how some folks who know virtually nothing of Scripture, yet they can quote passages that suit their preferences. The most famous it seems is the one where Jesus turned water in wine at Cana. Of course, deeper study of the topic of wine in Scripture shows that Jesus did not make alcoholic wine and it was impossible for that to be what happened. Anyhow, folks sure know their Bible when it comes to taking obscure verses out of context and without cross examining other passages that show the full meaning of what is being taught. Such is the case with the next verse:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” – Matthew 7:1-2 

This verse is not saying it is wrong to make judgments concerning what people are doing. Jesus is saying that if you are quick to judge or use superficial judgment, others will judge them with the same rash judgment.  Jesus commanded us to make Biblical judgments based on fruit and based on comparing people and things to the written Word of God. Consider these verses: 

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”        – Matthew 7:16

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” – Matthew 7:20

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” – Hebrews 5:14

“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” – Matthew 7:24

We cannot and are commanded not to make judgments in the place of God. We cannot judge people’s hearts and motives. Only God can see these things. But we can judge the fruit people bear. Paul tells us that some people bear such evil fruit that we are to name them and mark them as people to avoid, even cast out of the church. Consider these verses: 

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” – Romans 16:17-18 

On several occasions Paul made public judgment about individuals by name. That would hardly fly in the “no judge” culture of today. Yet, Paul was not wrong to make judgments based on folks’ actions, choices and fruit. To say that we are never to judge is to err severely and to ignore the vast amount of Scripture that teaches God’s people to use discernment concerning whether people are obeying the Scriptures or living in clear violation of God’s Word. The emphasis in Scripture is not that we judge people as much as we should judge their fruits. 

Is Not Worship A Cultural Issue? 

   Many say that worship dress is simply a matter of local culture and therefore it matters not how I dress for church because as long as God sees my heart, the externals are simply cultural. Well, we have already established that externals do matter to God. So we must establish whether or not worship dress is a cultural issue. The answer is yes and no. Does worship attire change from culture to culture? Yes. Obviously worship dress in the Philippines and Westminster Abbey will look different. Does the principle of dressing up for church change? No. The person in the poor village with one set of clothes wears that same set to church. Why? Because he wants to dress down? No. Because he has nothing better to wear and he is honoring God with the best he has to offer, like Abel. But someone who deliberately dresses down is doing the very same thing Cain did by not offering their best. The same application was true in the Old Testament, the life of Jesus and today. 

   I readily grant that many people have never been taught and some simply do not know what the Scriptures teach concerning worship, giving our best and such, but I also submit that the vast majority of Christians who have been saved many years and still insist on dressing down are doing so because they simply like to dress that way and have a lesser view of God’s holiness which affects their attitude towards worship and dress. 

    In Western countries, it is a historical fact that people have dressed up for church more so than everyday events. This fact has already been established earlier in this article: even unsaved people know it is morally proper and culturally expected for people to look sharp at church because it is special and done out of respect for God. Today there is an overwhelming lack of respect for God–even within the church. That really is the key problem with worship, music and dress. The reverence and respect for God is shamefully lacking. 

What About David Dancing Before The LORD? 

Many point to the account of David dancing before the LORD as license to dance and flail about in church as something God commands and expects. This is a grave error and goes against everything the Scripture teaches concerning corporate worship. First of all, what David was doing was nothing even remotely close to the sensual and wild dancing of today. Examine the passage: 

“And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.” – II Samuel 6:14

The Hebrew word for dancing in this passage means to whirl in a circle, much like a child at play.  It was an innocent, joyful celebration at the return of God’s Ark of the Covenant. Of course some like to say, well David was naked when he did it or he exposed his nakedness. Three factors prove this false. First, David was in a public event where the priests and Levites were ceremonially carrying the Ark and recently God had struck dead someone for improperly handling the Ark. David would have insane to be underdressed at this event and God would have seriously reprimanded or even caused judgement to fall on him. Second, the parallel passage in the Chronicles tells us that David had this linen ephod over his other clothes. So even more so the nakedness argument is shredded. Michael accused him of uncovering himself, but that accusation was in regards to the fact that David lept and swirled for joy so enthusiastically that his ephod flew up and revealed his regular clothing and it made him look like a silly child at play and Michael was embarrassed. God judged Michael by not giving her children in return for her criticism of David’s joy. So David did nothing wrong here. Third, the passage in Chronicles 15:27 makes it plain that David was outside in a sort of parade when he danced for joy. He was not in the Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue or Church. To say that David’s dance of joy is license for modern styles (wordly styles) of dancing and swaying in church is ludicrous and embarrassingly poor hermeneutics.  


Facts To Consider:

Man can only see the outward, and therefore it does matter. 

God does care about externals. 

How we look sends a message to others. 

Others are commanded to judge our actions and fruit. 

You do not have a license to do what you want without others making righteous judgment. 

We cannot judge others motives and heart, but we can judge their fruit. 

Even unsaved people recognize their should be reverence and respect for God.

Modern Christianity is shamefully lacking in reverence and respect for God. 

David’s dancing was not immodest in any way. 

David’s dancing resembled a child skipping for joy and was nothing like modern dancing. 

David’s dancing was not in a worship service and in no way sets a pattern for worship services. 


We Must Worship In The Spirit And In The Truth of Scripture

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24

   Everyone loves to quote this passage as justification to do whatever they want in church and blame it on the Spirit within them. They say, God wants us to worship Him in the Spirit. The problem is they leave out the last three words of the passage: “and in truth”. The truth is the Scriptures and ALL they teach concerning worship. If people adhered to ALL the Scriptures taught on worship, the controversies of modern worship would immediately disappear, because there is no controversy in Scripture. Everything is black and white ink on the pages of God’s Word. 

   We are called to be different. That is inconvenient to many,  but does not change the fact. Consider the words of Peter: 

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” – I Peter 2:9

We are called to live in the light of God’s holiness and His Word. When Christians insist on worshipping like the world, using music like the world and looking like the world, there is no light in that, only darkness. There is no salt in that, only a worthless testimony. There is no value to a Christian’s life unless it is light and salt in this dark, corrupt world. Our worship is determined by our view of God’s holiness. 

   Choosing to live as salt and light will draw heat not only from the world, but from Christians who are living in disobedience. There is no way to avoid being persecuted if you live a godly life. Consider the words of Paul to Timothy: 

“Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” – II Timothy  3:11-13 

The simple, yet profound choice you must make regarding worship is the same choice Joshua put forth to Israel. Your choice will be based on your view of God’s holiness, your reverence for God and your love for Him as the One who is “High and lifted up”, the One at whose name the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”. 

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15


Copyright – 2020 – Voice In The Wilderness Ministries – Rev. Kenneth D. Willis

What Should Worship Look Like? Part I

What Does Scripture Say Worship Should Look And Sound Like?

Rev. Kenneth D. Willis


   I posted two photos on facebook: one of a rock concert and one of contemporary Christian worship. I captioned the post with the following: “If you, a Christian, can’t tell which one is a rock concert and which one is a church service, just remember…the lost probably can’t either.” Public and private comments immediately came. Some were genuinely curious and some heated. If there is any topic in Christianity that draws more immediate fire than that of worship style or music, I would love to know what it is. Why such passion over a subject? We could talk for hours and days on many technical issues until we died of nausea, but the simple answer is: people like what people like. Any attempt to shed light on this sensitive topic will inherently encounter quick and fierce resistance from one side or another, or both. 

   This article will seek to avoid getting into passionate rhetoric and dive straight into what the Scriptures–the supreme and final authority for the lives of believers–says concerning what Biblical worship looks and sounds like. I will remind the reader that I cannot do anything to change anyone’s mind. I cannot change anyone’s heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do those things. And only someone who is sincerely seeking the truth can be changed by it. The Scriptures are filled with folks that had the truth clearly presented to them and yet they utterly rejected it. 

   We will examine several core Scriptures on this topic, many other passages that shed light on it and three main questions that arise while examining this topic. They are: 

  1. Does it matter what style in which we worship God? 
  2. Does our worship music matter to God?
  3. Does our dress in worship matter to God? 

In addition to these questions, we will also consider key facts concerning the issue and prominent arguments opponents of conservative style, music and dress bring up.


Early In History God Established That Not All Worship Is Acceptable

“And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” – Genesis 4:2-8

Too many times people feel that how we worship is a matter of the heart only and that God accepts all kinds of worship with no regard for what manner in which it comes. This is a grave and elementary error. As early as Genesis chapter four, we see plainly that God does not accept all forms of worship. He does set parameters on worship. Some may argue that these parameters only applied to nation Israel and those living under the Mosaic Law, yet here see clearly the parameters of Godly worship in full force before there ever was an Israel or the written Law. The LORD expected that worship follow His pattern set forth after Adam’s sin in Eden—a lamb, a living sacrifice. He also expected it to be the very best. Abel worshiped within these parameters and God respected Abel’s worship. Cain however, violated both parameters and God did not respect or accept Cain’s worship. Another testament to the reality of God’s rejection of his worship was Cain’s bitterness over that rejection. It led to the first homicide in history. The first murder was over divinely rejected worship. 

   Some folks say that The God of the Old Testament is harsh and exclusionary but the God in the New Testament is loving and inclusive. This is another grave fallacy. God is God; He is the same forever. Nothing has changed, except for people and their poor theology; that seems to spiral downward as Paul said it would. 

Facts To Consider

God has always placed parameters on worship. 

God does not accept all worship. 

God demands and deserves our best worship. 

God has not changed. 

CORE SCRIPTURES #2 & #3: ISAIAH 6:1-5  & REVELATION 1:10-18 

God’s Holiness Demands Reverence

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” – Isaiah 6:1-5 

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;  And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”                       – Revelation 1:10-18

   In both these passages we see the terrifying glory of God Almighty. Both the Father and the Son’s glory and holiness cause mortal men to fall to their knees and become overwhelmed by the holiness of God in whose presence they found themselves. Isaiah immediately repented of his unworthiness to be in God’s holy presence. God is the only truly holy thing in the universe. Nothing is as holy as He. He is distinct and separate from all things. No one can stand before His awe inspiring holiness without being overcome by it. Even Moses had to turn his back when God’s glory passed by him. God’s presence and holiness demands reverence. Today in most churches, I dare say there is an extreme lack of reverence for the same God witnessed by Isaiah and John. 

  Consider the account of John on Patmos as he witnessed a vision of the resurrected Christ. John was the closest human being to Jesus–as the Gospels make plain. If anyone could call Jesus his buddy, it was John. Yet when John encountered Christ, he fell as a dead man. Many Christians are in for the wake up call of their lives when they meet Christ. They will discover with terrifying vividness, the paralyzing realization of a sinful, mortal creature who is standing in the terrifying presence of the Holy, Almighty Creator. These poor unfortunate creatures will realize in a moment–while shaking in paralytic dread–that the God they have had so little reverence for is the One for whom they tremble. To dumb down the doctrine of reverence and God’s holiness is a grossly ignorant and terrifying blunder. 

Other Scriptures To Consider

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” – Psalm 103:1

“Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” – II Samuel 7:22

“Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our maker.” – Psalm 95:6 

“There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” – I Samuel 2:2

Facts To Consider

God is holy, unique, exalted and worthy of pure worship. 

Coming into God’s presence requires reverence and causes repentance. 


God Does Reject Sincere Worship When It Violates His Parameters

“And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.” – Exodus 32:1-19

   Exodus 32 provides the clearest image of contemporary worship in Scripture and is a classic expose of how God feels about His people adopting popular worship methods and applying them to His truths. It may shock you to know that in the incident described above, the Israelites were not offering worship to some foreign or obscure deity. Aaron declared the coming day of worship to be a special feast of worship to the LORD or Jehovah! So do not make the mistake of blaming error on the sin of idolatry. Their sin was using the worship styles they learned from the world around them. Instead of remaining seated and hearing from the LORD, they rose up to play. They wanted everybody to get on their feet and get into the “worship”. Much to the surprise of many who employ this very same strategy in their worship services, God was not amused. He was infuriated. He did not say to Moses, the people are worshiping me in their own way, or style. He said in essence, they have corrupted themselves and I want to annihilate them. They violated God’s parameters for worship by adopting the use of objects and worshiping the objects rather than the Creator. God did not accept their worship, but said they had turned aside from His commandments and had replaced His preferences of worship with their own. I submit that this still goes on in many churches today. Though they may not have a literal golden calf, they worship objects and methods of worship over the very One who deserves their reverent worship. And I also submit that rather than accepting their style of worship, He is revolted and infuriated and if it were not for the grace of God through Christ, He would wipe them out as well. This is a sad thing. God said these people were stiff necked or stubbornly rebellious and disobedient. The churches of our day for the most part are no better than the Israelites in Exodus 32. God wanted to consume them in His righteous wrath. What gall we have today to think the same Holy God in Exodus 32 is not the same God so many have been stiff necked against today? May God forgive and help us. 

   The LORD in His sovereignty even addressed the issue of worship music in the above passage. Joshua heard the deviant worship and told Moses, “I hear the noise of war in the camp”. It is worth noting that the music of Egypt which they were using was nothing compared to the hard rock beats used in churches today, and yet Joshua recognized it was not music of praise or reverent worship, but that reminiscent of noise on the battlefield. Their song service sounded like a war zone. I dare say Joshua would drop dead if he heard what was passing for worship singing today. What Joshua heard was not sanctified, reverent music uplifting the Holy name of God, but was carnal music that sounded like the music of the lost world and that which incurred the anger and wrath of a holy God. 

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” – Leviticus 10:1-2

   Nadab and Abihu were the sons of Aaron the High Priest. They chose to use a different recipe of incense and burned it in their priestly incense pots. God had given clear instruction of how they were to worship and yet they deviated from His parameters. God did not applaud them for their expressionism of their preferred style;  He killed them with His holy fire and later made a public example of them by having their defiled censors melted down and made into a monument of sorts for all Israel to see. Their names and their sin is rehearsed many times in the Old Testament as an example of rebellious, disobedient worship that God not only rejected, but punished with lethal effect. 

Facts To Consider

It is possible for sincere worship to be rejected by God and incur His wrath. 

Music that sounds like the world’s music does not please God. 

Worship that focuses on anything other than God’s holiness is wrong and unaccepted by Him.