Here is a simple yet significant warning. Be careful attempting to worship the Lord in the way that seems most natural to you. Why? As a sinful human being, your choices, your natural instincts, your most comfortable ideas are apt to be wrong. It is very possible that a person might come up with a sincere plan to please God. The plan may seem logical and even meaningful. But, if it is not in accord with the will of God, that plan will be nothing but offensive to God.\
I thought of this while reading through Deuteronomy. Take note of the warning God gives Israel early on in his reiteration of his law regarding worship.
Deuteronomy 12:1-4 1 “These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.
God told the people that, when they enter the land to possess it, they are to physically destroy Canaanite temples. Why? Look to the final verse. God tells the people, “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.” Why would God have to make this statement? It is because the people would have naturally chosen to worship in that way. God was warning them, not against something that was no temptation, but against something that is the most common of human temptations. God was warning them not to worship in a way of their own devising.
Friends, the truth is that we will very naturally come up with all sorts of things we think must be great ideas for worshipping the Lord. But God had to warn people early on not to come up with new plans, new strategies, new methods of worshipping him. God had a very clear will as to how he should be worshipped.
Does that bother you? He is God after all. God has every right to say what pleases him and what does not. God is in no way obligated to accept human worship at all. God is certainly not obligated to accept human worship which he finds offensive. And God is not obligated to be pleased with our ideas for worship. This truth is doubled when we realize that God has told us how to please him in his word. God gave Israel instructions in the desert. God has given his church instructions in the first century. How dare we determine to go our own way?
But, beware. The reason the command had to be given is that it is in our sinful nature to attempt to worship in ways that do not please the Lord. Remember, the thing that made Cain most angry early on was the fact that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and his was not. Remember that Aaron’s two sons died for offering a fire to the Lord that the Lord did not authorize. Remember, from right here in Deuteronomy, that God had to warn the people not to worship like the Canaanites. Understand that, if you leave things to your own best ideas, if your worship is not governed by the word of God, you will displease the Lord in the very act of what you think is worship.