October 1, 2012

Approaching God

It is important to consider how we are to approach God if we want Him to meet with us at this camp meeting. We find instruction regarding this as we look at how Israel was commanded to come before God.

At Mount Sinai, the Lord gave Moses the commandment concerning a central place where the people of Israel would come to worship. He said, “There shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes . . .” He went on to say that in that place “ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants” (Deuteronomy 12:11-12).

In the Book of Exodus, God spoke from the mountain giving instruction regarding how to build the Tabernacle and set it up. In Leviticus, God spoke from the Tabernacle giving instruction regarding how the worshipers were to use that sacred place and approach God. The principles we find in the Book of Leviticus regarding the proper approach to God are still valid today. They provide us with a four-part instruction on how we are to come before a holy God. First, we should approach the place where God meets with His people reverently. We should approach prayerfully, and sacrificially. And finally, we should approach collectively, in company with other believers.

Whether we are here at camp meeting for one meeting or for the entire two weeks of services, if we apply this approach, we will obtain results.

Approach Reverently

Moses learned about approaching reverently at the burning bush. While he was out tending flocks in the desert, he saw a bush that was on fire but was not consumed. He turned aside to see what was happening, and he heard the voice of God saying, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).

Wherever God is present is holy ground! When we come to the house of the Lord, we want to remember that we are coming into the presence of God, so we approach reverently.

In Leviticus 10, we read what happened when individuals approached God recklessly. Nadab and Abihu came bringing strange fire before the Lord, and they ultimately perished. God said, “I will be sanctified [set apart as holy] in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified” (Leviticus 10:3). We are not approaching a politician or an important figure of this world. We are approaching the Creator of the heavens and the earth! We are approaching our Redeemer, so we want to approach Him reverently.

In Leviticus 26:2, the Lord commanded, “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.” The word sanctuary comes from a Latin word meaning “sacred” or “holy.” When our churches are dedicated, they are set apart for a holy use. The prayer on the day of dedication for any church is that God will inhabit that place, that it will be a meeting place where God will dwell among His people.

In Leviticus 1:1, the meeting place was called the “tabernacle of the congregation.” It could be called the “tabernacle of the meetings” or “the tabernacle of the appointments.” God designed church to be a place where He could meet with you and me. When we came here today, we had an appointment—an appointment to meet with God.

The Tabernacle in the time of Exodus and Leviticus was a temporary structure, but a reverent approach is no less important in a permanent structure such as this. The Psalmist said, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psalm 89:7). The prophet Habakkuk said, “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). Then the prophet went on to pray a prayer, and in it he linked revival with reverence. He said, “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid [in awe of God]: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years” (Habakkuk 3:2).

Can you imagine what would happen if there was a revival of reverence in churches throughout the land? It could lead to a revival of our spirits! In the New Testament, in the Book of Hebrews, we find a similar injunction. We are to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).

There are simple actions that each of us can take that will indicate our reverence. First of all, we should approach the house of God as a sanctuary—a hallowed place. Here in Portland, we have a separate, dedicated part of our building that is the sanctuary. Whatever the design of the building, when a structure is being used as a church, we are not coming to an auditorium or a multi-use facility. We are coming to a place where we meet God, so we want to approach it as a sanctuary.

We want to approach respectfully rather than casually. That is why we dress up instead of dressing down. We are not just stopping by here on the way to the beach or the mall, or just before we go out into the yard or work on the car. This is our destination, and we are coming to meet with God Himself. So we show our respect for Him by dressing suitably for that event.

We do not applaud for musicians who have a part in our services. We applaud for performers, but those who participate in our services are not performers; their purpose is not to entertain but to point us toward God. In a Gospel meeting (with some exception for the children), we want to say “amen” rather than applauding.

God’s presence is why we say “amen” in our services. “Amen” is a Biblical term. It voices affirmation—it indicates “so be it” to what “thus saith the Lord.” We want to have zeal for what “thus saith the Lord.” In fact, when David delivered what the Bible refers to as his first psalm, he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the Lord” (1 Chronicles 16:36). Voicing our affirmation for the Word of God is one way we approach God reverently.

Approach Prayerfully

We approach prayerfully. When Jesus saw the Temple being desecrated by buying and selling, He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and chased out those who were making God’s house into a marketplace. He said, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). Church is not the place to conduct business, talk politics, or discuss the outcome of yesterday’s ballgame. We come to meet with the Lord! We are happy to see one another, of course, but we come to the tabernacle of the congregation to worship God. This is not a social event. We enjoy fellowship, but prayer is the target at the end of our services. Everything from the first notes of music to the final benediction has a destination in mind, and that destination is getting on our knees to meet with our Maker. Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised that those who “keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me. . . . even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:4,7).

Approach Sacrificially

We are to approach God sacrificially. In the first chapter of Leviticus, we find these words: “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord” (Leviticus 1:1-3).

God had designed a place where the congregation of Israel would meet with Him and would hear His voice, and He ordained that offerings be presented on a continual basis. This indicates that we are to bring when we approach God. We are not to come empty-handed.

Oftentimes we encourage people to come to camp meeting expecting to receive. Let us come to camp meeting expecting to give, and give, and give some more! We live in a society where an entitlement mentality or the perspective that we are “owed” is common. We even hear that God “owes” us one call. God owes us nothing! It is the grace of God that extends mercy to us. So we do not come to God’s house to see what we can get. We come saying, “Lord, what can I give?” If you come giving, you are going to receive what God would have you receive.

When we give to the Lord sacrificially, we bring something that costs us. The Israelites were to bring of their flocks or herds. They were not to go out and find a wild animal they could snare or capture and bring that to the Lord. That type of sacrifice would not have cost them anything. They were to bring a sacrifice from their flocks—an animal they had invested in—and they were to bring it sacrificially.

We are to offer voluntarily. Leviticus 1:3 says, “. . . he shall offer it of his own voluntary will.” When children are young, they are brought to the house of the Lord by the parents. When they get older, some come only because their parents require it. However, the day will come that they must make a decision to come voluntarily, and to come sacrificially.

Approach Collectively

Finally, we are to come before God collectively. Sometimes people say, “Oh, I don’t do the church thing. I like to go out into the mountains, or in the woods, or by a lake, to commune with God.” However, God has ordained that we worship Him collectively. He says, “This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory” (Exodus 29:42-43).

That was in Old Testament times, but in New Testament times the writer of Hebrews admonished, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Jesus himself said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). What a wonderful promise! We know the Lord is with us here today, because we have come according to God’s Word.

The Results of Obedience

When the Children of Israel finished the Tabernacle according to God’s direction, and approached Him in the manner that He had prescribed, there were results. We read in Exodus 40, “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). The Children of Israel saw the manifestation of the power of God.

Having the glory of the Lord fill this tabernacle is not beyond our reach today. As the people of Israel obeyed and applied what God had said, they went away a blessed people. That can be our experience as well.

Will you apply this simple approach to God? If you do, you will see results. God will meet with you.

apostolic faith magazine