Advent: Reforming our attitude to worship
When we meet in Church, is it just a mere gathering? Is it just to observe a tradition of getting together once a week, and to go through some routine motions whereby we act certain roles? Does it matter to us whether Heaven is paying attention? Do we care if God is expressing any approval or disapproval? Is this not where the root of our spiritual bankruptcy is? Let us see the burden of these passages:
Matt. 18:19-20 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” This clearly shows that the gathering of believers should be fully conscious of the Presence of God among them. He should be acknowledged in their agenda, prayers, decisions, and methods.
Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me… (Isa. 1:13. See also Isa 58:1-4)
Isaiah was not alone in upholding the sanctity of worship. (See also Prophet Elijah’s words in 1 Kings 18:21; Prophet Habakkuk in 2:20; and Prophet Zephaniah’s reassurance in 3:17.
The Abomination That Causes Desolation Today
The purity of the Temple worship was a great concern to the Lord Jesus. During His earthly ministry, He had cleansed the Temple by chasing away those who converted the place of worship into a marketplace, whose operators were primarily concerned about their business, rather than the purpose for which the Temple was built: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56: 7, ESV). They had made it what the Prophet Jeremiah had called “a den of thieves,” (Jeremiah 7:11-14).
Towards the end of His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus responded to some questions His disciples asked about the End Time and referred to Daniel’s prophecy. In Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11, Daniel prophesied about the “abomination that causes desolation” repeatedly, and the Lord Jesus raised it in His response to the question about the destruction of the Temple: Matthew 24:15, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—” (NIV). This is a reference to Daniel 11:31: “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. According to Josephus Flavius, the famous Jewish historian, King Antiochus Epiphanes invaded the Jerusalem Temple, and after taking the treasures and articles of gold, destroying the city, murdering some of the inhabitants and taking about 10,000 women and children captive, he built an idol altar on God’s altar and sacrificed swine on it. (See his book, The Antiquities of the Jews).
While that prophecy and Christ’s reference belong to periods that appear buried in the rubble of history, here again in our day, the personality cult has become the abomination that causes desolation standing in the holy place. Personalities and practices of various descriptions and levels of absurdity have taken the place reserved for God in worship.
This strikes right at the heart of the very first two commandments. God has declared that He would not share His glory with anyone.
“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11).
The Most Revd Emmanuel Egbunu is the Bishop of Lokoja, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).