I think the thing to which we all are striving is to know God in his fullness.
We want to grasp the ultimate. And God is the Ultimate. He is the creator of the universe. All good things come from him. To be close to him is to be close to the One who can make us complete, who can provide full protection and blessing on our lives. We want to be safe with him.
We want to be saved. We want eternal life – life free from sin and the decay and death that it brings. To come close to him is to come close to all of those things.
God is the end to which our lives are pointing.
When we gather for worship, we’re stopping all of our worldly pursuits – the pursuit of food, clothing, shelter – in order to dedicate ourselves only to seeking God. Of course, we can worship God even as we do our daily work, but there’s something important about putting all of that aside – and everything else – to focus solely on him. We gather to worship weekly, and it is a special thing. We want to come close to God when we gather like this.
The people of Israel’s first formal worship service is recorded in Leviticus 9. You will notice the whole point of the worship service was “that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.”
And you also will notice the steps by which the people came close to God’s glory. They sought atonement through sacrifice. They offered a burnt offering – a symbol of their giving of their whole selves over to God. They offered a grain offering – an offering out of their gratitude to God. And they offered a peace offering, celebrating their relationship with God. They ate together.
Aaron, the high priest, blessed the people. And then he and Moses went into the tabernacle, where God’s presence was, and returned to bless the people again.
And the glory of God appeared to the people. God’s fire consumed the burning sacrifices on the altar. And the people fell down in worship.
This is a picture of a people moving from separation from God because of their sinfulness into his presence by way of atonement. The people gave their very best to God. They celebrated their peace with God. And God showed up. He made himself known to them.
Our worship – our coming into God’s presence – operates no differently than this. Before we can even think about drawing near to God, we must have a sacrifice. We must have atonement. And Jesus Christ is that sacrifice, dying on the cross for our sins.
And then we offer the best of ourselves – our “grain offerings,” of sorts. We take up our crosses, and we follow him. And we celebrate the peace we have with God through the Lord’s Supper.
Through all of this, God’s presence dwells inside of us through his Holy Spirit. But I think the fire burns brightest when we follow this pattern of fully surrendering ourselves to God, day by day, minute by minute – “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
And so, I suppose, that’s the question for today.
If we really want to draw near to God – to see his glory – we first must accept by faith the sacrifice of Christ. And we must live out that faith by offering the best of ourselves to Him.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).