Thursday, December 06, 2012

Mathetes 3 - Folly in worship

This is a continuation of my series on Mathetes letter to Diognetus. If you are unfamiliar with Mathetes or his letter to Diognetus, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Mathetes not only contrasts the worship of Christians with the worship of idolaters, but he also contrasts Christian worship with the worship of the Jews.
"And next, I imagine that you are most desirous of hearing something on this point, that the Christians do not observe the same forms of divine worship as do the Jews. The Jews, then, if they abstain from the kind of service above described, and deem it proper to worship one God as being Lord of all, [are right]; but if they offer Him worship in the way which we have described, they greatly err." (Mathetes 3)
Mathetes points out that its not what we call ourselves that is important but rather how we choose to worship God. Even a Christian, should they revert to worshiping "god" in the manor of an idol, they would greatly err, even though they be called a Christian  While Mathetes acknowledges that the Jews of his day did not worship idols like the heathen, they still worshiped God without knowledge of the truth and their worship amounted to the same folly as the idolaters around them.
"For while the Gentiles, by offering such things to those that are destitute of sense and hearing, furnish an example of madness; they, on the other hand by thinking to offer these things to God as if He needed them, might justly reckon it rather an act of folly than of divine worship." (Mathates 3)
It must be remembered that Mathetes was not talking about the worship that was proscribed by God through Moses, rather he was describing how those commands had been translated through the centuries down to his day.

Mathetes instructs us that, even when worshiping with our offerings to the one true God, when we do so from a wrong attitude or heart motive, then our worship is folly. The Jews of Mathetes day offered to God either thinking that He needed such offerings or that such offering were honoring to Him. However, both attitudes are wrong and nether shows the proper respect due to God.
"But those who imagine that, by means of blood, and the smoke of sacrifices and burnt-offerings, they offer sacrifices [acceptable] to Him, and that by such honours they show Him respect, —these, by supposing that they can give anything to Him who stands in need of nothing, appear to me in no respect to differ from those who studiously confer the same honour on things destitute of sense, and which therefore are unable to enjoy such honours." (Mathetes 3)
While today we do not offer burnt sacrifices and offerings as was done in Mathetes day, we too can err in our hearts in the same way as the Jews did back then. When we offer material things to God thinking that they are needed by Him for His work or His Kingdom, or when we offer thinking that our material gifts somehow show honor and respect for Him, then we too err the same as the idolaters and the Jews of Mathetes day. Our worship, in presuming that somehow we are merited with God for our material offerings, is simply folly.

In our worship, God is not after our gifts, He is after our hearts. God stands in need of nothing, but He desires our love and affection. God wants us, not our sacrifices or offerings. Such is the worship God desires, such is the worship He as asked for, saying,
"I shall take no young bull out of your house nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me." (Psalm 50:9-15)
David Robison

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