Hebrews 9:1 says, “Now the First covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.”
The word worship comes from the old English word “Worth-ship”. This is a stronger term than honor and adoration you would offer to a human being—only a Supreme Being God is worthy of worship. Ironically, a word that is closely associated with this expression is one we use all the time: Anyone want to take a guess at what word this might be?
Awesome—extremely impressive; inspiring great “awe” or wonder. We might say that was an awesome dunk, or I had an awesome week for Fantasy Football, but this word really should be reserved for the greatest maximal being in the universe, who is God. Don’t get me wrong. YouTube videos showing the top 10 dunks for the week in the NBA are cool, Fantasy Football is fun, but they are not awesome. They are of little value compared to a God who created more than 10 trillion stars in the universe.
Unfortunately, all of us humans have a worship problem. Do you know what God calls this when we worship something other than Himself? Idolatry. Typically, when people hear the word idol they think of an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. For instance, when I lived in Louisville I visited the Hindu Temple and they have hundreds of gods. The god of fate, the god of wisdom, the god of death, the god of victory, etc. And they create little shrines of worship devoted to these gods. They feed them food, light candles, pray, and put clothes on them. This, of course, is idolatry.
As Americans, most of us don’t carve wooden idols in our homes and fall down and worship them. Instead, we desensitize our religious nature by calling false gods entertainment, extracurricular activities, social media, hobbies, lifestyle choices, shopping, and so on. But you know what idolatry really is? It’s simply whatever you spend the most time doing or thinking about. If someone were to follow you around for a whole week, and they tallied up the number of hours you spent on a certain thought or object, that’s what you worship!
When we put anything before God, we have a worship problem. That’s why God wants them to get focused on building Him a place of worship. He even gets real specific, but He should since He is worthy of worship. He tells them in verses 3-7 to get a tabernacle where God’s presence dwells, to get a lampstand symbolizing the light of truth and revelation, the table and sacred bread which represented Gods promised physical provision for the twelve tribes of Jacob, the golden altar of incense to produce thick smoke which concealed Yahweh’s presence over the ark.
The ark of the covenant contained a golden jar holding manna, reminding the people of the miracle God performed in the wilderness, Aaron’s rod, which budded confirming the leadership of Moses and Aaron. The whole sanctuary, everything, was meant to all symbolize and point to God. To point to His goodness, His love, His mercy, His holiness, His patience, and His forgiveness.
Read verses 8-14. Wow. So the author of Hebrews shows the difference between the earthly services of this world versus the heavenly service not of this creation. He contrasts the tabernacle constructed by the hands of men to a heavenly temple not made with hands. He talks about the external effects of animal sacrifices and ceremonial cleansing of worship to the internal effects of Jesus Christ, the only blood that truly cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve Him, the living God. Lastly, he shows how the regulations and rituals from the temple are only temporary but the promise of having a relationship with God is eternal. This is powerful.
Analyze verses 24-28. One common truth about false gods like food, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, and family is they will never truly satisfy your soul, and that’s why as Americans we suffer from consumerism overload. I have Netflix, please don’t judge me. And at the tip of my finger, I can watch over 50 episodes of my favorite television show. I can spend countless hours on the altar of my couch giving homage to the TV god. Whatever the case may be, God calls us to get rid of our idols if we want to have true freedom in Christ.
That’s my challenge for you today—if you are a believer, I challenge you to spend more time in your Bible than whatever your greatest idol is: If it’s social media, try to limit your access to it. If you get an urge to see how many likes you will receive from a picture you posted, then don’t post a picture and read the Bible instead. If you get excited this Wednesday about preparing for your Fantasy Football line-up for Sunday, and you start analyzing all the scores and teammates from other teams, try to find time in there to also read your Bible. And let’s be honest, some of your best scoring points come when you don’t prepare your line-up, so just don’t waste too much time.
If you are an unbeliever who is skeptical about God, I want you to at least be open to the fact that humans have a natural tendency to devote their attention to certain events or objects. Yes, we might call it a nice word like materialism or consumerism, but have you thought about calling it for what it is? Religious devotion? If you think this might be true, I challenge you to see if the God of the Bible is really more inspiring than a touchdown catch or a World Series victory that only lasts for a moment in time. God’s inspiration lasts for eternity.