In today’s passage, Yahweh reiterates His rules for acceptable worship. Although these rules were given to Israel, the principles behind them are applicable to Christians.
Do not make cast idols.
God cannot be reduced to a man-made object. In John 4:24, Jesus tells the Samaritan women at the well—
God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.
By “SPIRIT” Jesus means the nature of the Godhead, and not the Third Person in the Trinity.
God, as a Spirit, is immaterial, immortal, invisible, and an intelligent, willing, and active being. Therefore, it is impossible to make a cast idol in His likeness.
God differs from other spirits, in that He is not created, but an immense and infinite Spirit, and an eternal One, which has neither beginning nor end. He is, therefore, a Spirit who excels and creates: God being the author and former of all spirits desires for them to worship Him in spirit and truth.
Jesus’ declaration is fundamental. Since God is Spirit, He must receive spiritual worship. Spiritual excellence raises man above the beast, and spiritual excellence in turn raises God above man.
And they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth. That is, men must offer a worship corresponding with the nature and attributes of God. We must worship Him with the truly spiritual worship of faith, love, and holiness, animating all our temperaments, thoughts, words, and actions.
The Samaritan Woman at the Well was asking, “Where should we worship?” “Which religion is right?” Jesus pointed out that the important thing is knowing the Father and this can be done only through salvation, and salvation is of the Jews. He brings her face-to-face with her sins, her desire for satisfaction, and the emptiness of her own religious faith. Her eyes are now opened to the Person of Christ, and on the authority of His Word, she trusts Him and is saved.
CONVERSION is the first step towards worshiping God in spirit and truth. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:6-8—
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
The next step towards worshiping God in spirit and truth is SANCTIFICATION. What is sanctification? This term comes from the Greek word agiasmov (agiasmos) meaning SET APART. It is often translated holiness or sanctification. For instance, 2 Corinthians 7:1 speaks to Christians—
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting HOLINESS out of reverence for God.
WORSHIP is to reverence, homage, honor, respect and esteem to God. A primary word for worship in the Bible denotes bowing down in humility. Another denotes to render religious service to the LORD, and another to show piety or holiness. All include LOVE as the motive!
PERFECTING HOLINESS is SANCTIFICATION. How do we perfect holiness? By purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. That’s what God is telling the Israelites with Exodus 34:18—
Celebrate the Feast 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 Abib, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
When God established the nation Israel, He built into the Israelites’ daily living the principle of separation from the world. Their religious observances throughout the year served as safeguards to prevent them, as unique people, from intermingling with pagans.
And of all the celebrations, the FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD best symbolizes separation from the world—a lifestyle that does not compromise with sin!
The NT application of this command is found in 1 Corinthians 5:7—
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
In other words, the Christian is to live an uncompromising life when it comes to the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Our whole life must be as it were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, since we are partakers of Christ.
As the Jews, at the celebration of the Passover, gave all diligence in removing leaven from their houses— searching every part of their dwellings with lamps, that they might remove every particle of leavened bread from their habitations—so the apostle exhorts us to use all diligence to search out and remove all sin from our life. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:19-23—
“The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
What are the EVIL DESIRES OF YOUTH? The first one Paul mentions is foolish and stupid arguments—quarreling—a wickedness that defiles one’s whole person! Young person, do you want to be useful to the Master? CLEANSE YOURSELF and FLEE THE EVIL DESIRE OF YOUTH!
CLEANSE means to confess your sin to God. 1 John 1:9—
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. .
FLEE can mean to run away from a situation, but here it refers in a moral sense to avoiding or shunning evil. In other words, not to do such things! To FLEE is TO REPENT—TO TURN AWAY from evil and to act like God wants you to act!
Whenever we are living contrary to what the Holy Spirit desires in our life, we cannot worship God. In fact, James 4:4-10 says—
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
God’s Spirit envies intensely! God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. He is jealous when we live like the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
When we take truth to heart, THE TRUTH WILL SET US FREE. And then we will be able to worship God in Spirit and Truth!
The next step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves REDEMPTION. Exodus 34:19-20a—
The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
What a strange command! Yet, not so strange! The first offspring of every womb was to be offered to Yahweh as a constant reminder of the His action in slaying the firstborn of Egypt and His deliverance of Israel’s firstborn.
Interestingly, God links man with the donkey or ass! The donkey is a stupid and senseless creature. It has less of what we call “instinct” than has almost any other beast. A donkey resembles the natural man. Proudly as he may boast of his powers of reason, conceited as he may be over his intellectual attainments, the truth is, that he is utterly devoid of any spiritual intelligence according to 1 Corinthians 2:14—
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Without the Spirit, man is as stubborn and unruly as the donkey. It should not surprise us that this connection is made here. After all God has called Israel a STIFF-NECKED PEOPLE three times since Chapter 32.
The law of redemption in Numbers 18:15-16 also links man with unclean animals—
The first offspring of every womb, both man and animal, that is offered to the LORD is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.
The owner of the unclean animals, such as donkeys, and parents of a first-born son were required to pay a silver redemption price to the priests.
The Israelite is constantly being reminded that because of GOD’S REDEMPTION, he belongs to God and He has a claim on his life. The same is true of the Christian according to 1 Corinthians 6:20 —
You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
After expounding on the doctrines of sin, redemption, sanctification, and God’s sovereignty in the Letter to the Romans, Paul writes in 12:1-2—
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our spiritual act of worship arises from God’s redemption in Christ. If we fail to ponder in our worship the price that bought us—the precious blood of the Lamb of God—there will be little desire not to conform to the pattern of this world or to test and approve God’s will.
Holiness is the consequence of redemption. The two cannot be separated. It is because our sins have been washed away, that God receives us into fellowship with Himself. Sin separates us from God and needs to be confessed when it arises. On the basis of Christ’s redeeming blood, God forgives us. That’s the point of 1 John 1:5-10—
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
Abiding in TRUTH is necessary to worship of God. When cannot abide in TRUTH if we are not forgiven and have not forgiven others. It’s Jesus that said in Matthew 6:14-15—
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The next step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves GRATITUDE. Exodus 34:20b—
No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
The first mention of the word WORSHIP in the OT, Abraham brought Isaac to God to sacrifice. The first mention of WORSHIP in the NT, the Magi brought gifts to the infant Jesus. Our hearts and mouths should be filled with praise when we come before the LORD and our hands filled with tithes and offerings. Anything less is an act of ingratitude!
Jesus said had something to say about bringing presenting our offerings. Matthew 5:23-24—
If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
The next step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves TAKING TIME TO BE HOLY. Exodus 34:21—
Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest.
God keeps repeating this command—probably because man doesn’t take Him seriously! Even at the very times our work is the most demanding and necessary—ploughing season and harvest—we are to take time to rest—to be holy! That’s not the world’s way of doing things, but it’s God’s!
The next step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves ASSEMBLING TOGETHER. Exodus 34:22-24—
Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign LORD, the God of Israel. 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.
God placed on Israel’s Calendar seven annual feasts or celebrations. Three celebrations required the mandatory appearance of Israel’s men to come before the LORD. Why? These assembles made Israel a unique people and were designed to keep them a separated people.
The NT counterpart is found in Hebrews 10:22-25—
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
CORPORATE WORSHIP in Spirit and Truth is the primary way to encourage one another to faith, love, hope, and good works.
The next step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves HOLINESS. Exodus 34: 26—
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 Feast remain until morning.
Sacrifices without yeast pictures HOLINESS. YEAST is symbolic of SIN in the Scripture. God wants us to be concentrated and strong in righteousness, not adulterated, blended, mixed, or weakened by sin. As we read earlier in Romans 12:1, we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship.
The next step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves GIVING OF OUR BEST. Exodus 34:26a—
Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.
Not to give the LORD what’s best and first is robbing Him according to the Book of Malachi.
Give God less than your best, if you want less than His best for you! Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:33—
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The final step towards worshiping in Spirit and Truth involves AVOIDING SUPERSITUTION. Exodus 34:26 b—
Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
It was a custom of the ANE heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a young goat and boil it in the milk of its mother; and then, in a magical way, to go about and sprinkle with it all their trees and fields, gardens and orchards; thinking by these means to make them fruitful, that they might bring forth more abundantly in the following year.
Satan triumphs in all that is abnormal and unnatural in the superstitions which usurp the place of the Truth, and are bound up with idolatry. Our worship of God must be in spirit and truth if we expect Him to bless our lives.