"When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, but in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you." (Deuteronomy 12:10-14)Worship is to be preformed in the presence of God. What made every other place of worship different from the place God chose to be worshiped was His presence. There were many "high places" where Israel could have offered their offerings to God, but there was only one place where His presence, His tangible, manifest, and visible presence, abided. There and there alone were they to worship and offer their sacrifices. The same is true for us today. When we worship, we should do it in the presence of God. The psalmist exhorts us saying, "O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms." (Psalm 95:1-2) When we worship, we should do so "before His presence."
It is true that God is omnipresent, but there are also times when He is more present then at other times. For example, consider the promise made to us by our Lord Himself. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20) Its not that He wasn't there previously, but when we gather together in His name, He is amongst us in a special way.
I have come to see that it is possible to worship apart from the presence of God. Even in some of the churches I have been apart of, there have been times when we went through worship as merely going through the motions. It was as Isaiah said of the children of Israel, "this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." (Isaiah 29:13) Our services had the patterns of worship but what was lacking was the presence of the one we were worshiping. We had become so comfortable and familiar with our times of "worship" that we became like those to whom Jeremiah prophesied, "The priests did not say, 'Where is the Lord?' and those who handle the law did not know Me." (Jeremiah 2:8) Yet the truth is that, if God is not present when we worship, then we might as well all go home.
I think it is time that we ask ourselves, "Where is the Lord?" If we don't know, or if He has become distant, than perhaps it is time to seek the Lord afresh.
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