WILDERNESS: Why Worship Matters So Much


May 29, 2020

Exodus 34:15-28 (NIV)

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

17 “Do not make any idols.

18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.

19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. 20 Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.

“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

21 “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.

22 “Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23 Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. 24 I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.

25 “Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.

26 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.


So much to comment on here in today’s text. Too much. Rather than excerpt the text, I decided to print it all. I love how God addresses even the smallest things like yeast and then gardening and the offering of not just first fruits but “the best of the first fruits.” He references not just Sabbath keeping here but says to keep it even during seasons of plowing and harvest—when it seems insane. It reminds me of our observation from yesterday, “God is as real to us as our worship is real to him.” These commands, THE LAW, is not about laws but the lawgiver; not about “the rules” but the worship of the Ruler. 

Look back over the list and almost every command has to do with the worship of God. It is interesting how he repeats this notice about making treaties with other nations twice in the span of four verses. “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. v.12 What’s wrong with making a treaty with a foreign nation? Nothing. The problem is with their gods.

for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.

All about worship: 17 “Do not make any idols.

All about worship: 18 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

All about worship: 19 “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock.

All about worship: “No one is to appear before me empty-handed.

I could go on. You get the point. All of life is all about worship. We were made to worship. Worship is first, middle and last, all about living a comprehensive life of bonded and secure attachment to God. The truth is, we are all pretty good worshippers. Addicts are some of the most voracious worshippers on the planet.

The question is not whether we worship; it’s who or what we worship.Whatever or whoever it is that we order our lives around in order to make them work—that is our God. Worship is about security—personal security, family security, community security, national security. Whatever we turn to and attach ourselves to for security—that is who or what we worship. For most it is money. For many it is image and physical appearance. For others it is reputation. Only Jesus Christ can deliver true security. Everyone and everything else that promises security, in this life or in the life to come, is a false god. God is so adamant about these commands and this covenant not because he needs our worship. It’s because he wants us to be free. Everything other than worshipping the one true and living God whose name is Jesus Christ is slavery. 

The wilderness wills to clarify our worship. It will take the Israelites another forty years to learn the biggest lesson of the wilderness—that slavery is not a place or a condition—it’s an identity. Worship matters so much to God and to us because it is the very path to freedom. In fact, the right worship of the true and living God is freedom itself. 

Let’s give Paul the last word today from his brilliant word to the Corinthians.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

It’s the perfect setup for tomorrow. Stay tuned. 


God of the wilderness. God of the wild. You first gave the covenant of the Law and then you gave the instructions for building the tabernacle. In this way you inextricably bind together the Law and the Love of God; the will of God and the worship of God. Search my heart and reveal to me the hidden places where I am attaching my security to a source which can’t deliver. Bond my heart to you that I might run in the path of your commands. In Jesus name, Amen. 


Deeply personal question: What is your level of insecurity and in what places does it show up and to what or whom do you attach in order to alleviate it? How are you growing in a bonded attachment to God, who is your only true source of security? 


Monday, June 1, we will dive into our first New Testament series of 2020, with Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. We are working on a special limited edition COVID-19 edition of WILDERNESS. You may pre-order it here. Note: it will take several months to get this finally pressed into a book, printed, and shipped.

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

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