One modern human failing is the belief that we have something to give to God. I know, that sentence sounds really terrible, but think it over. Do you and I have anything good to offer to the Lord? Can we improve his day? Have we the power to withhold goodness from the Creator? Can we make him miserable if we attack him?
`Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Lord does not care about us. Neither am I saying that God is not honored as we obey him. But we do not make him bigger, stronger, or more glorious. We do not have the power to manipulate his mood the way that we can for others. Neither do we have, in ourselves, a level of personal goodness that we can offer him a gift to impress him.
Ponder the words of God to the people of Israel in one of the commands just after the delivery of the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:25 – If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.
As the nation of Israel camped near Mt. Sinai, they were not to shape altars for the Lord. Later, the Lord would show the people exactly what kind of altar to build, and he would empower skilled craftsmen to build it. But, originally, the Lord has something important to say to the people about what they must do. They were to build altars of earth or stone. And, notice, if they built a stone altar, they were to stack it by hand. They could not shape it with tools. And, if they did use a tool on it, God said they profaned it.
That concept of profaning the altar is what grabbed my attention and reminded me that, in myself, I do not have something to give to God to impress him. Because, you see, shaping the altar with a tool would be exactly the kind of thing I would think to do. If I were building a stone altar for the Lord, it would cross my mind to put a little of myself into it. I could shape this thing. I could make it better. I could make it nice for God. I’ll bring a little pizzazz to it.
But God is quite frank with the people. If they try to shape the altar, if they try to put a little of themselves in its design, they do not make it better. Instead, they profane it. They take stones that the Lord shaped through creation, they touch them, and they turn them common, ordinary. If the people used their tools, shaping worship in their way, they took the holiness away and left only that which made things ordinary and unacceptable to the Lord.
What is the application? God is holy. He defines what worship is acceptable to him. We are sinful. We have nothing to bring to the table on our own. We do not impress God. God does not look at us and ask us to come up with new, creative, personally fashioned methods of worshipping him that he did not think of. We do not have the power to improve on the commands and ways of the Lord. And, when we touch those commands, reshaping them to our creativity, we profane them.
I do not believe that this forbids human artistic expression or creativity. We write songs that express truth about God. Some write poetry to declare the glories of God. Pastors preach sermons, communication that we creatively shape, to help the body of Christ to know the Lord and obey his commands. So, I do not think creativity is forbidden any more than I think it was wrong for God to later have artisans shape stones for the temple or to craft the bronze altar of sacrifice.
Instead, what I see is that God, before he allows creativity in any form, first showed us that our creativity does not improve on him or his ways. We cannot reshape God or his worship for ourselves. We cannot impress God with the skills we bring to the table. He is greater than us. He is a better artist than us. He is a greater poet than us. He is a greater builder than us. He is holy while we are sinners. We cannot improve him in any way.
So, our right response is humble obedience. Sure, we continue to sing his praises. We will continue to write new songs and speak the word of God in truth. But, we should never make the mistake of thinking that God needs us or is impressed by us. He is gracious to us to allow us to worship him. He is merciful to us to include us in his plans to build his kingdom for his glory. May we humbly obey, and love every minute of the joy of the glory of God. And, may we never think we have really helped out the one who is infinitely more glorious than we could ever imagine.