Matthew tells us of Magi from the east who came to see the Christ child. They brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. William Barclay suggests that gold is what you would give a king; frankincense is for a priest (it was offered on the altar of incense in the holy place—Exodus 30:34); and myrrh was what you would give to someone who was going to die since it was used in embalming (John 19:39).
Someone has made the observation that they brought something else—hearts intent upon worshipping. It’s true, for when they arrive in Jerusalem they want to know where the King of the Jews is because they “have come to worship Him,” (Matthew 2:2). No one knows exactly where the Magi came from but they had traveled hundreds of miles for the purpose of worshipping the Messiah and they weren’t returning home until they did just that.
By comparison, Herod, the chief priests, and scribes come off quite poorly. As far as Herod is concerned, he is the only King of the Jews that matters and will do anything (even order the slaughter of children), to guarantee his throne. The chief priests and scribes are only a little better. While they possess no murderous intent, their knowledge of Scripture is wasted as they can identify the Messiah’s birthplace but show no interest in using what they know to find the Messiah. Knowing the Scriptures is no substitute for knowing the Lord (John 5:39-40).
All of this should give us cause to pause and think about our worship. By worship, I simply mean those times when we are fully focused upon seeking God. It might be in the assembly or outside it. It could be with a group of disciples or all by yourself. Like the Magi, do we approach the Lord with a heart intent upon worship or do we need to de-clutter our worship?
What are some things that can clutter our worship?
1. Instead of worshipping God, we can worship our understanding of God. Do you know more about God than you did last year ? Do you think you will know more about God next year than you do now? Worshipping our own understanding will always put us behind the curve. Besides, we don’t follow a set of facts and concepts—we follow the One whom those truths are about. Paul said, “I know whom I have believed,” (2 Timothy 1:12). We worship God according to our understanding, but we do not worship our understanding. That means it’s imperative to leave in our understanding room for mystery (what we don’t know), and correction (what we think we know).
2. Instead of worshipping God, we worship our worship. In public assemblies, this has to do with our preferences—that unless things are done exactly the way we like, we can’t “worship fully.” In all situations, it has to do with confusing worship with achieving a certain emotional state so that if we don’t end up with feeling that way, we are under the impression we haven’t worshipped. We’re correct that we haven’t worshipped God, but it had nothing to do with our feelings.
3. Instead of worshipping God, we worship our blessings. It is right, true, and good to give thanks to God “for everything,” (Ephesians 5:20), but we are not to worship any of those things. We must not confuse the gift with the Giver (James 1:16-17). Recognition of this will keep us from being fair weather worshippers.
May we have hearts intent on worshipping Him!