David’s Example of Worship

DAVID’S EXAMPLE OF WORSHIP

(2 Samuel 24:18-25)

By Wayne S. Walker

     Toward the end of his reign, David committed a sin by commanding Joab to number the people, demonstrating trust in his military might rather than in God.  However, David came to understand his error, confessed his sin, accepted his punishment, and then made an offering to God as an expression of worship to stop the plague.  We understand that the forms of worship under the New Covenant are different from those under the Old, but there are certain principles which are true in both.  Therefore, we want to see what lessons we might learn from a consideration of David’s example of worship in 2 Samuel 24:18-25.

Preparation, v. 18

     First, we see preparation.  “And Gad came that day to David and said to him, ‘Go up, erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’” Before David could engage in an act of worship that was acceptable to God, he needed to prepare properly for it.  We know that God wants us to worship Him.  “Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10).  “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

While in general, worship is not limited as to time and place, God has specified a day on which He specifically authorizes His people under the New Covenant to assemble that they might worship Him.  “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).  While we may assemble at other times, it is important to remember that certain aspects of our worship do involve an assembling together.  “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Therefore, just as David needed to prepare for his act of worship, so it is helpful for us to prepare for our times of assembling for worship.  We should get plenty of sleep Saturday night so that we may be well rested.  Also, we ought to get up early enough Sunday morning so that we do not have to be rushed.  And if we have a Bible lesson or a part in the service, we need to prepare these things the day before if at all possible.  By doing these things we can be prepared to worship in a way that pleases God and have the attitude that David expressed in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”

Obedience, v. 19

     Next, we see obedience.  “So David, according to the word of Gad, went up as the Lord commanded.”  David had previously disobeyed, so now in his repentance, he understands the importance of obeying the commandments of the Lord as revealed by the prophet Gad.  In all ages, God has required people to obey His will and keep His statutes to be acceptable to Him.  This was certainly the case under the Old Covenant.  “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us” (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).

This same principle is true under the New Covenant—whether in our daily lives, the organization of the church, the work of the church, or the worship of the church, the Lord expects us to obey Him.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

So, how do we today obey the commandments of the Lord in worship?  We sing and make melody in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).  We pray (Acts 4:23-31).  We teach and study God’s word (Acts 11:26, 14:27).  On the first day of the week, we observe the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  On the first day of the week, we give of our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  And we strive to do all these things in exactly the way the Lord has instructed us in His revealed word.

Sacrifice, vs. 20-24

     Then we see sacrifice.  “Now Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming toward him. So Araunah went out and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.  Then Araunah said, ‘Why has my lord the king come to his servant?’  And David said, ‘To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the Lord, that the plague may be withdrawn from the people.’ Now Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing implements and the yokes of the oxen for wood.  All these, O king, Araunah has given to the king.’ And Araunah said to the king, ‘May the Lord your God accept you.’  Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.’  So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”  Araunah offered to give David the threshing floor, oxen, and implements, but David refused because he was making a “sacrifice.”

We do not offer animal sacrifices today, but we still have sacrifices to make.  “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).  Just as animals were sacrificed to God in worship under the Old Covenant, so our worship to God under the New Covenant may be viewed as a sacrifice.  “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

So how do we “sacrifice” to God in worship today?  We give Him our time.  We could be doing other things such as working, hunting, fishing, sleeping, watching television instead of spending time in worship, but we remember what Paul said in Ephesians 5:16, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Also, we offer Him our abilities.  We could be devoting these talents to other causes, but we must put the Lord first.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  And we even donate our money with which we could be buying other items simply to satisfy our selfish desires.  “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Reverence, v. 25

     Finally, we see reverence.  “And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.”  Reverence means godly fear and awe, something that must characterize the entire lives of those who wish to please God.  This has always been so.  “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The New Testament teaches the same principle.  “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’” (Acts 10:34-35).  Thus, all of our service to God, including our worship, must be done with deep reverence and godly fear.  “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).

David showed reverence by offering the sacrifices just as God commanded.  We show reverence by our preparation, obedience, and sacrifice in worship, but we must also be careful to behave reverently in our worship services.  “But the Lord is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habakkuk 2:20).  The idea of silence here is not that of making no noise whatever.  Obviously, when we are singing, we are making a “joyful noise.”  Rather, it is a spirit of quietness that shows reverence and awe

Conclusion

     Worship is not a spectator sport where people come to sit as an audience in the pews and be entertained by the efforts of the Bible class teacher, the song leader, those who lead in prayer and wait on the table, and the preacher.  Instead, it is a time for which we need to prepare so that we might come together in obedience to offer the sacrifice of praise to God by everything we do in a spirit of deepest reverence.  Even though David lived under the Old Covenant, there is much that we can learn from his example about the proper attitude that we need to have in our worship.

—Taken from Expository Files; May, 2015; Vol. 22, No. 5; pp. 17-20

John the Baptizer and Elijah

JOHN THE BAPTIZER AND ELIJAH

By Wayne S. Walker

     In Malachi 3:1, God speaks through the prophet, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.”  A more detailed description of this messenger is later given in 4:5-6:  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”  Another prophecy of the same messenger is found in Isaiah 40:3-8.

No Bible personification is more clearly established than that the voice of Isaiah 40:3 and the messenger of Malachi 3:1 are John the baptizer.  Each of the four gospels affirms this (Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23) [Homer Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972; p. 418].  Yet the Adventists, the Mormons, the Watchtower, other lesser known cults, and Premillennialists in general are looking for this prophecy to be fulfilled right before the second coming of Christ, which most of them believe is imminent.  Some think that Elijah himself will literally return from the dead.  Others believe in a more symbolic manifestation.  Billy Graham has even been suggested as a possible fulfillment.  Other identifications have also been made.  It is our purpose in this article to determine exactly what the Scriptures teach concerning Elijah and John the baptizer, and whether we can expect another “Elijah” to precede Christ’s second advent.

Jesus plainly stated the identity of this prophesied Elijah in Matthew 11:14, while discussing the work of John the baptizer, by saying, “And if ye will receive him, this is Elijah, which was for to come.”  He had earlier identified in John 10 as the messenger of Malachi 3.  However, the previously mentioned dispensationalists will not accept or “receive” John as this Elijah, but look for another.  When presented with this simple Biblical explanation, they generally turn to Matthew 17 and try to make some arguments from a passage in that chapter.  Let’s turn there and examine what is recorded.

In response to a question by the disciples following the transfiguration, Jesus said, “Elijah truly shall come first and restore all things” (verse 11).  Those seeking an Elijah still to come want to hold Jesus to the future tense, “shall come,” and thus conclude that John cannot be Elijah, or at least the Elijah which Jesus was speaking of in the future.  Some postulate a two-Elijah theory or double fulfillment.  To support this, they will point out that in John 1:21, the baptizer denied that he was Elijah.  So, they reason, John himself, as well as Jesus, recognized that someone else was needed to come along later and fulfill the prophecy.

J. W. McGarvey commented that the Jews expected the coming of the actual prophet Elijah to precede immediately their misconception of the Messianic kingdom, thinking at first that John was this literal Elijah. John denied this, but Jesus informs them that John, though not literally Elijah, was the person so called by Malachi, and thus fulfills the prediction of the Old Testament prophet.  John was called Elijah because the angel predicted that he was to go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:13-17) [J. W. McGarvey, The New Testament Commentary: Matthew and Mark; Dallas, TX: Eugene S. Smith, 1875; p. 99].

This whole argument rests on the claim that Jesus was talking solely of the future when He said, “Elijah SHALL come.”  Or as one man I talked with said, “Jesus said Elijah is going to come, and he will.”  However, Jesus was not necessarily speaking of a future time.  His statement in verse 11 can be explained satisfactorily in either of two ways.  Either He is saying, “In God’s plan, Elijah shall come first before the Messiah;” or possibly, “It is true what the scribes have been saying, that Elijah shall come first.”  But in no stretch of proper Biblical hermeneutics can Jesus’s words be construed to mean that preceding His second coming, Elijah, or someone similar, will be at work.

In fact, Jesus went on to say in verse 12 “that Elijah is already come.”  So we either take Jesus at His word or reject what He says.  And “the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (verse 13).  Now it is true that the disciples did a lot of misunderstanding of what Jesus taught them.  However, it is clear, when we couple these statements with the Matthew 11 passage, that the disciples did not misunderstand in this instance.

Another argument made is that John the baptizer did not “restore all things,” so another Elijah must be coming to take up where he left off.  No scriptural proof is ever offered, and I believe that the Scriptures teach just the opposite.  Malachi’s Elijah had a mission to fulfill, and in Luke 1:17 the angel quoted that mission as belonging to John the baptizer, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people for the Lord.”  Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 67), expounded on this as he talked about John further in the chapter: “And thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins” (vs. 76-77).

Homer Hailey correctly observes that this Elijah/John was to restore a right relationship between parents and children, and to restore a right relationship between the children of Israel and God [Homer Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972; p. 425].  Even William Marrion Branham, who was himself a proponent of the latter-day Elijah belief, admitted that Jesus meant that in John Elijah has “already come, and you didn’t know it.  But he did just what the Scriptures said he would do.  He restored them, and you all, that received and believed on me” [William Marrion Branham, The Revelation of the Seven Seals; Tucson, AZ: Spoken Word Publications, 1967; p. 57].  John truly did complete his mission and “restore all things” which God had given him to restore.

Acts 3:21 may be quoted in an attempt to show that the “restoration [or restitution, KJV] of all things is connected with the second coming of Christ, hence the need for a future Elijah.  However, not all expositors are certain that this verse discusses the second advent, although it most likely does.  It is admittedly a difficult passage, but I think the problem is one of two passages referring to two different restorations.  Of course, the Acts passage says nothing about Elijah preparing the way for whatever it mentions.  A reasonable explanation of Acts 3:21 is that Peter, whether he fully understood the meaning of his words, indicated that Jesus would not come back at least until all the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled.  These prophecies included the destruction of the Jewish economy which occurred in A. D. 70 (see Daniel 9:24-27).  Thus, Christ would not return before then [cf. J. W. McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts of Apostles; Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Company, n.d.; p. 63].  In any case, according to context, the restoration here is evidently not the restoration mentioned in connection with “Elijah” and John as explained previously.

The plain teaching of Scripture is that John the baptizer was the forerunner of Christ’s first coming and was called Elijah by Malachi.  Nowhere does the Bible hint that the appearance of Elijah in some sense or another will occur as a sign of Christ’s second coming.  Rather, Jesus said of His return, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36).  According to Christ, no signs will foretell His next advent.  Instead of looking for signs so that they can begin to prepare for His descent, all people need to heed the Bible admonition to be prepared always and to “watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42).

—taken from Gospel Anchor; April, 1975; Vol. 1, No. 8; pp. 2-3, 15-16