Friday, June 17, 2011

Milk or Orange Juice?

As I preached through the life of Saul the past few weeks I have been struck by the theme of obedience. Saul’s failure as king was due to lack of obedience to the Lord’s commands. Samuel’s confrontation with Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13 is typical: “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom.”

This theme of obedience is especially related to worship. Saul fails to obey the Lord’s command at Gilgal to wait seven days for the return of Samuel before offering sacrifices. He acts pragmatically and presumptuously takes matters into his own hands before Samuel returns (see 1 Samuel 13:8-11).

In 1 Samuel 15, Saul is told to utterly destroy the Amalekites, but he decides to spare the best of the men (King Agag) and the best of the livestock. When confronted, Saul claims the people spared these to offer worship to the Lord at Gilgal (15:21). This is when Samuel offers his classic rebuke: “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

In preaching this text last Sunday, I used this illustration:

Imagine a father who tells his son, “Son I want you to go the store and buy a gallon of milk.” And the son goes out and brings the father a truck filled with orange juice, and he says, “Dad, here’s your orange juice! Aren’t you pleased with me?” The stunned father replies, “But son I asked you to bring me a jug of milk, not orange juice.” Then the son replies, “But Dad don’t you see that to bring you this orange juice I had to empty my bank account and borrow this truck. This took all my money and all my time today to bring this gift to you.” And the father responds, “But son, this is not what I asked you to do.”

One of the applications at the close of the message was on the importance of worshipping the Lord not according to our preferences but according to his commands (what is typically referred to as the Regulative Principle of worship):

What is the most important thing for God’s people to give to the Lord in worship? Is it effusive sacrifice? Is it effusive energy and exuberance? No, the thing that that honors the Lord most is obedience.

And so the key question in evaluating worship is not “What do I prefer?” but “What does the Lord require?”

Have we brought the Lord orange juice rather than milk?

.[Note:  This illustration is, of course, necessarily flawed.  Orange juice, for example, though not what the father requested is, nevertheless, still a healthy drink.  It might well be argued that offering worship without Scriptural warrant is not merely benign but wicked and foul in the Lord's sight.  In that case one might substitute "whiskey" for orange juice or even "putrid swill" or  "strychnine.”]


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