Thoughts On Worship Taught By Three Women – by Mike J. Farag

 

Introduction: 

 

WORSHIP.  I wonder what crosses your mind when you hear this word – worship.  The imagery associated with this word in the mind of man has changed from age to age.  For example, Moses did not know what worship was going to look like as soon as the Lord delivered His people from Egypt.  He expressed this in his conversation with Pharaoh when he said,

“And Moses said (to Pharaoh), thou must give also sacrifices and burnt-offerings into our hands, that we may sacrifice to Jehovah our God. Our cattle also must go with us: there shall not a hoof be left behind; for we must take thereof to serve Jehovah our God; and we do not know with what we must serve Jehovah, until we come there.Exodus 10:24-26

 

After the Lord delivered the Jews out of Egypt, He opened the door for whomever desired to come and offer Him something out of gratitude – this became a sweet savour to Him.  The Lord said:

“And Jehovah called to Moses and spoke to him out of the tent of meeting, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them, When any man of you presenteth an offering to Jehovah, ye shall present your offering of the cattle, of the herd and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt-offering of the herd, he shall present it a male without blemish: at the entrance of the tent of meeting shall he present it, for his acceptance before Jehovah.” Lev 1:1-3

“A perfect one, he doth bring near, unto the opening of the tent of meeting he doth bring it near, at his (the person’s) pleasure, before Jehovah (Youngs translation)”

 

In a way, the Lord was saying, if anyone would like to come and offer me something, this is how he/she should do it and this is how I want it.  Some of the sacrifices were not for atonement of sins.  On the contrary, it was a voluntary act of a heart responding to the many blessings of Jehovah in his/her life - bringing an offering (a korban or a gift Lev. 2); something that is “of a sweet savour unto the Lord (Lev. 2).”

After the Lord clearly showed Moses what he ought to worship Him with in the wilderness, the similes and ideas of worship in people’s minds were no longer “we do not know with what to worship (Ex 10:24-26)” On the contrary, they now have a meticulous structure of worship/service.  Now, if the people hear the word worship/service, it is no longer a state of “I don’t know” the word ‘worship’ would bring to their minds thoughts such as going to the Tent of Meeting with something in your hand to give to the Lord.  For you could not come to Him empty handed (Deut. 16:16).  You could not show up to the temple unprepared.  You were required to present something - the right thing - to Him.  The word  “worship” also brought many connotations to the minds of the people such as: (1) a full hand of the substance to be offered/given.  (2)  a designated place of worship  (3) Moses. 

 

Today, when you hear the word “worship,” what imagery and ideas are associated with this word in your mind?

Some of the connotations that this word bring to your imagination could be:

v      Sunday morning breaking of bread meeting

v      Brothers who have been given the public priesthood of offering sacrifices of praise audibly

v      The preparation and readiness of those who are offering

v      The promise of the Lord that He will be in our midst as we are gathered unto His name to remember Him

v      And a lot more…

 

Regardless of what your thoughts of worship may be, I invite you to come with me to learn some important lessons on worship from the following three women:

 

The Samaritan woman:  principles of worship. 

The sinful woman:  the conduct, pattern and quality of worship.

The Shulamite:  His heart’s desire toward us to come and worship Him.

 

 

 

 

Lessons on worship from the woman at the well: John 4

Scene One:  The Lord and the Samaritan woman

 

What I find marvelous is that when the Lord Jehovah in the New Testament first spoke on the subject of worship, He did not look for a Moses as He had before.  He did not come in thunder and great clouds as He did (Heb 12:18-24).   On the contrary, He walked a very long distance to meet with a very insignificant, sinful woman with whom He discussed the topic of worship.

 

The woman brought up the issue of worship in her conversation with the Lord.  The Lord Jehovah in His amazing grace responded and cooperated by engaging in a conversation with a woman like herself on a subject so divine as worship.

 

Why oh Lord would You continue in this subject with one who is totally unfit for the topic, does not belong, and will have no role in worship anyway?  She might not even qualify to understand all these “DEEP” thoughts you said about “worship!”

 

I reserve certain advanced topics to talk about with those that I think can handle them and may be worth it.

I wouldn’t talk about how to design a meticulous structure with a blind man.  I wouldn’t talk about astrophysics with a culinary student.  I just shouldn’t.

I shouldn’t talk about nanotechnology with a homeless bum.  I just shouldn’t even if they bring up in their hasty conversations anything alluding to it.  I just wouldn’t.

 

This woman should be the last one to talk about worship.  I think there are bigger, more important issues at stake  here that she needs to consider about her life before she opens her mouth on the subject of worship.

Maybe the Lord should not have gone along with her in this subject.  He could have wisely changed subjects.  But He did not.

Oh Lord what has just happened at the well?  You did not save the right thoughts for the right people.  You threw away gems to someone who would not appreciate them nor has hands to catch them.

Lord, “WORSHIP” is a very sublime subject.  It takes those that are learned to even dare exchange thoughts on it.

 

Why tell it to a woman when only men are going to get up and give worship?

Why tell it to such a sinner when only those that are holy and fit are qualified to give worship?

Why tell it to a woman who had nothing to give in worship?  For she was thirsty, lonely, and found wanting both morally and psychologically.

Why O Lord, when you ever talked about “worship” in your documented life, you gave that honor to a woman?  A woman that even if she grasps the depth of “worship” she still will remain inept and helpless to do anything with what she has learned about worship from you!

            She has no leading role in the worship meeting, she has no right to speak, and for what she is, it seems like she would have nothing to offer.

 

Even the disciples marveled; they would have been more astonished if they found out the revelations that the Lord was bestowing upon her and what was the theme of their conversation.

 

The Almighty revealed some truth about worship that could have remained concealed if it wasn’t for His grace in revealing it.  Grace not only to reveal truth, but also grace to reveal truth to such a vessel as herself.

 

“The woman says to him, Sir, I see that thou art a prophet.  Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship. Jesus says to her, Woman, believe me, [the] hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father.  Ye worship ye know not what; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews.  But [the] hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for also the Father seeks such as his worshippers.  God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth (Jn 4:19-24).”

 

 

THE LORD REVEALED THE FOLLOWING TRUTH ABOUT WORSHIP:

 

1) You can worship anywhere.  We don’t need Jerusalem or this mountain or any particular place to worship the Father.  Unlike what the Jews knew that worship is associated with in an earthly temple - a specific place that God commanded to use and warned them against using any other place but that one place (Deut. 12:13-19).

Just an observation:  The Lord said that worshipping the Father is neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  So where is that place of worship and what is its name Lord?  The Lord does not say or give a name.  May we compare this observation with our mindset regarding the name and the place of worship.  If our conventions of having particular names for the places of worship in our gatherings today have driven us away from the Truth our Christ has just presented the Samaritan woman and perhaps have added to the partitioning of the universal body of worshipers, let us go back to these simple words He said to this woman on worship.

            Throughout my cherished fellowship with all types of the Brethren, I’ve come across about seven different names for the Brethren assemblies.  I’ve noticed that few of them were identical.  However, they did not welcome one another comfortably ONLY because of the title differences.  I realize that having certain names help us, the believers, to sort of comprehend the set of beliefs, practices, conventions, stereotypes of that particular assembly.  It helps us to better understand the particular body of believers.  But if two assemblies have different names, yet are identical in their practices and beliefs, then the fact that they are not comfortable with worshipping/serving with one another only because they have different titles is, I boldly say, a matter which both will give an account of in the day of the Lord Jesus, this same Jesus who spoke to the Samaritan woman.

 

2) You must worship The Father.  The Samaritan woman was erroneously persuaded that her worship was more right than that of the Jews for the following reason: Our fathers worshipped in this mountain…” It was her connection to ‘our fathers’ that made her and the rest of the Samaritans decide to go against the flow and suffer ridicule from the rest of the nation of Israel by worshipping where ‘our fathers’ worshipped.  Although they were wrong, they honored ‘our fathers’ deeds and continued to prolong ‘our fathers’ tradition and legacy.  They had done all of this for ‘our fathers.’ The Samaritans had erred because they regarded their earthly fathers as their justification for how to worship.

In response to her rationale behind where the Samaritans worshipped (namely, our fathers), our Lord introduces ‘The Father” to reveal to her something about worship.  He says, “Woman, believe me, [the] hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father.He uses her convictions of worship associated with her fathers to reveal to her that Worship is in association with “The Father.”  ‘The Father’ is whom you ought to regard when it comes to Worship, and not “our fathers.”  It is so important to keep this in mind.  For I fear that traditions in the assembly and connections to ‘our fathers’ and how we were raised may lead us astray from the proper mind of worship - “worship the Father.”  Thus, let us sincerely and in humility examine our worship before the Lord.  Is my coming to worship here in this place because of ‘our fathers’ or because of ‘The Father?” 

 

3) You must worship someone you know.  The knowledge of the Divine being will produce worship in you.  Worship without knowledge of Him you worship is not worship.   Christ as a Jew said, “We worship what we know.”  Christ’s worship as a Jew was one that He could testify of as ‘we worship what we know.’  Those that worshipped in the Old Testament, the Lord was hidden from them.  They couldn’t come close to the mountain, they couldn’t see Him, and they couldn’t be in a personal relationship with Him INDIVIDUALLY.  But now we can enter boldly into the throne of grace and claim Him as our Abba Father, just as our Christ addressed the Father in prayer (Gal 4:6 and Mark 14:36).

 

4) NOW is the hour to worship the Father.  You need not ascend to the house of the Lord only in the appointed dates and feasts.  The Father is ready to receive true worship at any time- not later, but now.  Now He is waiting for your worship; now He is listening.  Now He is seeking those true worshipers.  Now, don’t linger.  “NOW,” the Christ said; Don’t make the Father wait.

 

 

 

5) The Father SEEKS such worshipers.  God is not a mystery or a hidden treasure to be traced.  For the Creator and the creature to meet one another is not a pursuit of only the infirm and needy creature but is also the pursuit of the Father –  the Worshipped.  Your God is in search of you, O true worshiper.  He is seeking you.  Do you see Him?  He desires your worship as much as you long to give Him true worship.

 

6) You must worship Him in Spirit and Truth.  John 4:24 “God [is] a Spirit, and those worshipping Him, in spirit and truth it doth behove to worship (Youngs’ translation).  The way in which to worship such a Father is in Spirit and Truth.  Christ pointed this out twice (vs 23,24.)  It is far more sublime to the available notions of worship at that time- e.g. an animal, a sacrifice, and materiality - (physical rather than metaphysical).  You, the worshiper need not only a sacrifice, but also must worship in spirit and truth[1].   David said, “Behold, thou desirest (is pleased with) truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6).”   This is the place where the Father desires for the truth to be – the inward parts of  our hearts.  It is far more than just a picture of Matt 18:20 hanging on our walls.  The price of the truth was our Lord coming into the world.  Our Lord said to Pilate, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice (Jn 18:37).   This verse links both the spirit and the truth.  The truth engenders a concomitant capacity to hear the voice of God.  When we come to worship the Father in the truth, the truth will enable our spiritual senses to hear His voice leading the priests in His meeting.  Yes we can have a spirit lead worship meeting if only we have the truth.

 

7) God is Spirit.  In the Old Testament, we read many times about ‘the spirit of the Lord’ or ‘the spirit of God’ but not that God is Spirit.  I don’t think that the “spirit of God” and “God is spirit” are the same statement.  At least, one cannot fully conclude and understand the latter thought from the first. 

Regardless of our awareness of this revelation that God is Spirit, and regardless of our understanding of its implications, it is pointed out that Christ handed this revelation for the first time to this woman.

 

Oh Lord, I do not know what you have done here.  I envy this woman.

 

Therefore, worship is for anyone regardless of their mental capacities, regardless of their education, knowledge of the scripture, and regardless of their state of physical and non-physical needs.

By virtue of this account in John 4, worship then is not only for men and women, but let me say, women and men.  I wonder how would this change our perception of the “worship meeting” on Sunday morning, given our perception of the role of women in the worship meeting!  I wonder how would this change the worship of each woman in the assembly as she is reminded of the Lord’s private and innovative conversation on worship NOT with a man who will be up front, forerunner, a leader or a public worshiper, but rather, to a woman who -if she becomes a believer - would end up being in silence yet worship-full (or at least should be).  May this fact persuade all women to recognize their significance and relatedness to the subject of worship.  There’s more to be learned on this matter from our next teacher: the woman in Luke 7.

           

 

 

Lessons from the Woman in Luke 7:

Scene Two:  The Lord and the woman in the house of the Pharisee

 

Luke 7:37 “And behold, a woman in the city, who was a sinner, and knew that he was sitting at meat in the house of the Pharisee, having taken an alabaster box of myrrh…”

 

THE ROAD TO THE FEET OF CHRIST - THE PLACE OF WORSHIP - WAS FILLED WITH THORNS:

 

This sinful woman knew where the Lord entered – a place that she would never be welcomed – Simon’s house, the Pharisee.

If I were this woman and found out that the Lord was in the house of a Pharisee, I would NOT have gone to see Him there.  How could I enter this man’s house?  I know what he thinks of me – “a sinner.”  I have no place there.  They would treat me as if I am a vice in the place.

If this woman had actually entertained all these thoughts in her mind before she went into the house, she would have been right.  For when Simon saw her, he referred to her not as a “who” but a what this woman is” (vs 39).   How degrading! 

            In the sight of Simon and his friends, this woman was unworthy of their notice.  Simon may have felt that seeing her could defile him.  She was not considered worthy of his notice.  The Lord calls Simon (and all of us) to look at the woman.  He says, “And turning to the woman he (the Lord) said to Simon, Seest thou this woman? (7:44)  I think that if it was not for the Lord pointing Simon to see this woman, Simon would not have turned to look on his own.  Thus, I bid all of us to consider our Master when He “turned to the woman” and asked Simon, “Seest thou this woman?” to do likewise - turn to this woman as our Lord did and see her.  For the Master chose her to be an object to demonstrate some lessons we need.       

 

NOTHING STOOD IN HER WAY

TO REACH THE FEET OF CHRIST. 

 

The box of alabaster was like a fire in her bosom that needed to be quenched by pouring it on the Lord.  She came from behind Him and stood there.  It seems as she had no eye contact even with the Lord, initially.  She was not abrupt; she did not make a sound; she did not say greetings; she did not ask for permission; she did not get any glory, attention or recognition from anyone save the Lord.  She did not have a grand entrance or a microphone handed to her.  It seems she would have much preferred to be invisible.  Even the Lord did not make any remarks of recognition to her until He heard Simon’s thoughts of her.  And even if He never had, it seems to me that it would not have mattered to this woman at all, for she had given up recognition long ago the moment she decided to enter the house of the Pharisee.  For worship is not about any recognition we get, (and I am not referring to recognition from man at this point) but that of God, it is about giving all the recognition to Him.  Is it that she had forgotten where she was – the Pharisee’s house surrounded with all his friends?  Could it be that she gave up whatever little dignity she had left if it would stand between her and the feet of our Lord?  If we ask, “How did she do it?” the Lord answers this on her behalf in Luke 7:47.

            Her entry was so discrete.  She did not seem to necessitate any further preparation or special arrangement or a common protocol prior to her act of offering.  All she needed was to get there.  As Brethren, the word ‘tradition’ is something we tend to detach ourselves from and even sometimes assume our innocence of, just because we are the Brethren – the historically accredited tradition-free gatherings.  I regret to break the news for you, but the truth is, we have traditions[2].

There is one such tradition that I have noticed common among many assemblies in North America.  I have observed, as you perhaps have in the past, that the brother did not stand up to offer thanksgiving unless he spoke something from the scripture first.

When we examine such practice with the simple act this woman demonstrated, we may begin to realize our sophistication.  Let us honestly ask ourselves before the Lord:  why do I speak first before I give thanks?  Can’t I just pray, or can’t I just speak?  Why do the two have to come hand-in-hand?  I am not pointing this out as a fault in our practices.  I am making mention of it because sometimes when we don’t acknowledge such patterns, we inevitably leave them to time to be nurtured until they become unshakable traditions.

 

“SHE LOVED MUCH” LUKE 7:47

 

This was the explanation of everything she gave and everything she endured[3].  The spirit of indignation which filled the place could not overcome her much love for our Lord.  I’ve been in some situations where I almost justified my poor worshipful state for reasons such as:  The conduct of so and so or the presence of so and so was an irritant, a distraction that swayed me from giving worship.  Although these things may have some weight on the outcome of my reasonable worship, I am convinced that the bottom line is “LOVE.”  If I have “loved much” as the Lord said of this woman, nothing around me, let it be a spirit of a Pharisee or unwelcoming gestures[4],  would detain me from reaching His feet and pouring my thanksgiving there.  Mrs. Thompson writes:

Precious moments at Thy table, From all fear and doubt set free;

Here to rest, so sweetly able Occupied alone with Thee…

Here rejoicing in Thy nearness, Gladly by Thy Spirit led;

(Hymns of Worship and Remembrance # 157)

 

“SHE FROM THE TIME I CAME IN

HAS NOT CEASED KISSING MY FEET.”  LUKE 7:45

 

This is another testimony of Christ about this woman – her timing; she did not waste time.  Notice, Christ DID NOT say:  She from the time she came in has not ceased kissing my feet.  On the contrary, He said, “…from the time I came in…” This means that this woman was there before Christ arrived to Simon’s house.  She was watching and ready for His entrance so that as soon as the Lord was seated, she was at His feet kissing them ceaselessly.  What a glorious testimony of the punctuality and promptness of a worshiper!

Even the time we come in before Him to meet at His feet is something He appreciates and values.  It does not go unnoticed by our Lord.  He takes note of it. 

 

Father, this woman puts me to shame. 

Forgive me for the times I did not make it a priority to honor you in my timing.  For I occasionally come in few minutes late after the meeting has already begun rather than early.  Father, if you take notice of when I come in to worship, I pray that you would grant me to strive to please you in this area – the time I come in before you – as a sign of my love to you for I do love you Lord. 

In His most precious name.

Amen.

 

 

“SHE FROM THE TIME I CAME IN

HAS NOT CEASED KISSING MY FEET.”  LUKE 7:45

 

I wonder if this is a testimony that Christ could say about us when we are gathered around His feet to worship Him.  I am reminded of many of our morning corporate worship meetings where Christ’s testimony of it (us) would not have been so.  The Lord is present in the meeting as He promised to be, yet many of us, sometimes myself, delay and/or cease kissing His feet.  We wait to the last minute; I am not sure for what reason.  But this woman used it all.  She was there before He came and she did not leave until He dismissed her from His presence.  Doesn’t our Lord deserve that we would not cease kissing His feet when we come to meet with Him in His meeting where He is the Head?  Isaac Watts writes:

 

How sweet and holy is the place With Christ within the doors,

Where everlasting love displays the Choicest of her stores!

With joyful hearts we raise our song, As those who have been blest;

Each one thus cries with thankful tongue:  Lord, why am I a guest?

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast, That sweetly forced us in:

Else we had still refused to taste, And perished in our sin.

(Hymns of Worship and Remembrance # 158)

 

            One of the things that characterizes the brethren worship meetings is the moments of silence.  Silence is a fundamental element when we are in His presence (Ecc. 5:1-6).  It is the ‘Selah’ found in the psalms (about 75 times in the Old Testament).  It orchestrates the melody of our worship and defines it.

There is a silence that soothes and constrains one’s heart in worship.  And there is a silence similar to the hiss that comes on the TV channel after the broadcasting is over for the day – a sign that a disconnection took place. 

The kind of silence is a diagnostic symptom of our state as a body of worshippers.  Being born and raised in the Brethren assemblies, I would like to bring this to our notice.  After few years of practicing worship, our clever flesh had become very well trained in the things of God.  We learned what hymn goes with what theme.  We learned what hymn fallows what hymn.  We figured out how to display coherence in our worship.  There is nothing wrong with any of this if it is done in the spirit.  My point is that we can have the appearance of a spirit lead meeting while the inner reality could be emptiness.  Although coherence in our thoughts and worship sounds like a characteristic of the things of God, it is not a determinant per se for the Spirit orchestrated gathering of worship.  For our flesh, at least mine, can do things so close as if it’s by the Spirit of God when in essence, it’s all by my own might.

The truth is, we know how to fill the time.  We know how to cover up the embarrassing uncomfortable gaps of silence with proper things.  But we are only covering the symptoms.  We know how to make a fire and where to place it[5].  For this, I believe, it is prudent to examine our silence in the presence of the Lord during the worship meeting to see if it’s an indicator of our emptiness or if it’s a part of our melody of praise to Him. 

O blessed hope! With this elate, Let not our hearts be desolate,

But strong in faith and patience, wait Until He come!

(Hymns of Worship and Remembrance # 148 George Rawson)

 

 

THE LORD DID NOT DEMAND

THESE ACTIONS FROM THE WOMAN.

 

Our Lord contrasts what the woman did when she wasn’t expected to do anything with what Simon was expected to do as a host but cared not to do.

We see Simon failing to do the average that was due to his guest.  Christ’s testimony of Simon was that he did not give Him:

“Water to my feet (vs. 44)…One kiss (vs.45)…Oil for my Head (vs. 46).” 

 

On the other hand, we see the woman doing far more than what was expected from anyone.  Nothing she did went unnoticed by Christ.  Our Lord said of her:

 

She washed My Feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Vs. 44

She has not ceased kissing My Feet since the time I came in. Vs. 45

She anointed My Feet with Myrrh. Vs. 46

 

Notice that the Lord only brought up this contrast between Simon and the woman both when He wanted to defend this woman and to meekly deal with Simon’s thoughts of both Him and his thoughts of the woman who was sitting at His feet.  Christ’s response to Simon demonstrated to Simon that He could read his mind and that He is the creditor who could impute forgiveness to sinners. 

We invite the Lord to come to our meetings and be in our midst as He promised to come and supper with Him.  I wonder how He would assess our hospitality, our meeting with Him.  Would His testimony of us be that we have washed His feet with our tears, that we have not ceased kissing His feet since the time we came in, that we have poured out at His feet the best we have?  Or will His testimony of us be as of Simon whom, as the host of Christ, should have at least brought water for His feet, should have at least displayed a simple and common gesture of friendship by greeting Him with a kiss on His cheek and should have at least anointed His head with something so affordable as oil?  In all sincerity, I recall few occasions where we as worshipers have failed to give even the minimum, just like Simon.  May He open the eyes of our minds to help us be just in our assessment of our collective worship meetings at His table.

 

 

Thus might I hide my blushing face, While His dear cross appears;

Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt my eyes to tears.

(Isaac Watts, Hymns of Worship and Remembrance # 143)

 

 

“HER MANY SINS ARE FORGIVEN.” LUKE 7:47

 

I marvel that the Lord did not undermine the sins of this woman nor magnify the sins of the Pharisee.  The Lord’s answer may strongly suggest that this woman had much to be forgiven of - a lot more than Simon.  Yet, the Lord does not negotiate sin because of what she offered. 

May this truth be present with each one of us - whether I am one who is conspicuous or common in the assembly - as we come before Him to worship: I have much to be forgiven of.  May the joy of being forgiven of many sins be manifested in our praise to Him as “the redeemed of the Lord.”

 

 

THIS WOMAN LOVED HIM MUCH

BEFORE SEEING WHAT HE WAS ABOUT TO DO FOR HER.

 

She loved Him much even before she witnessed Him

 

Nailed upon Golgotha’s tree – Faint and bleeding.  Who is He?

Hands and feet so rudely torn, Wreathed with crown of twisted thorn.

Nailed upon Golgotha’s tree – Mocked and taunted.  Who is He?

Scorners tell Him to come down.  Claim His kingdom and His crown.

Nailed upon Golgotha’s tree – As a victim.  Who is He?

Bearing sin, but not His own, Suffering agony unknown.

(Hymns of worship and remembrance # 163)

 

She loved Him before seeing Him dying on the tree.  She loved Him, not yet hearing His crying agony.  She loved Him, not yet recognizing His full humility.

But we have seen His love for us at the cross.  How much more should we love Him, and run to His feet, ceaselessly kissing them?  How much more ought our eyes fail to hold back a teardrop at the sight of His sufferings and immense love toward us?

 

 

WHAT SHE DID BROUGHT CHRIST ALL THE GLORY

AND POINTED THEIR ATTRACTION TO THE MAN SHE LOVED MUCH – OUR BELOVED LORD AND HIM ALONE.

 

The ointment, which this woman poured at the feet of Christ, did not quickly fade away from Christ’s body.  I am sure everyone who came in contact with Christ many days later wondered about His smell; there was something of a sweet fragrance, some pleasant aroma, a cogent beauty around Him.  Certainly the entire house with all the guests at the table enjoyed that wonderful and sweet savor that now was identified with Christ.  May we calibrate our worship and offerings to Him so that they will be such that would bring glory to Him alone.

 

The greatest man that was born of women (Matt 11:11) said, “He must increase, but I [must] decrease” (Jn 3:30). We could clearly see this demonstrated in the acts of this woman.  The Lord increases as she crowns Him with her ointment and she decreases in a materialistic sense as she pours her alabaster that is of great commodity and decreases in metaphysical sense as she is despised by the crowd.

We as brothers with a public role must bring this attitude of John the Baptist as we exercise our service of worship before Him; He must increase and I must decrease.  Personally, to continue reminding myself of this while I am in His presence, I have begun doing something which some have found interesting.  I carry a veil folded in my Bible cover all the time.  Yes, a veil, a head covering.  For I believe the ordinance of the head covering (1 Cor. 11) instituted by our God is not only for the woman to wear but also for the man to observe.  It is another significant emblem in the gathering in His Name.  The Lord designed it such that when the men and women and Christ the Lord are gathered all together, the glory of man and the glory of woman be concealed/covered; Only the glory of Christ is to be revealed/uncovered.  The scripture said that the glory of man is the woman (1 Cor. 11:7).  This glory needs to be covered.  The scripture also said that the glory of the woman is her hair (1 Cor. 11:15). This also needs to be covered.  The head of the man is to remain uncovered, for Christ is the head of every man (1 Cor. 11:3).  Also, “For a man indeed ought not to cover [his] head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God” (1 Cor 11:7).  Christ and the image of God are not to be covered.  Everything else must disappear while He alone is to be seen in the scene.

As men in the body of Christ, our priesthood many times takes a public form.  With such a manner of service, we are vulnerable to falling in a position where our glory and image become a touchy matter.  Our flesh may allure us to do things that could bring us some glory while we are in His presence.  This activity of the flesh could take its role in many ways.  For example, in our glamorous choice of words in prayer or speech, in our tone of voice, in the length of time we occupy and even in the clothes we wear.  I remember a dear brother who is frequently used by the Spirit to stand up and speak during the worship meeting.  He happens to be very affluent.  Whenever he raised his left hand while he was speaking, some of us could not help but notice the three thousand dollar watch he was wearing.  I am very certain that this dear brother did not intend to broadcast any glory of his by this silent act of wearing such an expensive watch.  Nonetheless, our flesh has its clever ways to poke some holes in that veil so it can breathe.  My point here is NOT about what clothes to wear.  I am much more occupied with the state of our hearts as we are present before Him than I am occupied with the appearance of things.  For we all know that the two can be very far apart. 

Every time I stand up to participate as a male priest publicly, I cannot help but notice the heads of the women are covered while the heads of the men are uncovered; it is a continuous reminder to me that I and any other glory are to remain covered while His glory appears alone.  With this truth in my conscience and the physical emblems before my sight, I am careful in my words, my thoughts, my attitude and my conduct in His presence that none of this would be of glory to anyone but the Christ who is in our midst.  Each time I raise my head and look around me, I observe the covered glory of man and the revealed glory of Christ symbolized by the head covering in the gathering in His Name.  And since this ordinance is not just a formality for the women but ought to be a living truth in the hearts of both man and woman, I took one of the head coverings that my mother makes and made it my own – an emblem of whose glory ought to take the center of my life both during and after the meeting.

 

 

I wonder how this realization ought to transform the perspective of all the women in the worship meeting.  For what they do silently at the feet of Christ in worship is so powerful.  The sisters can lift up the entire worship meeting.  Worship is not just the men’s responsibility and function in the meeting.  The sisters’ silent function can fill the entire place with a sweet savour unto Christ.  After the meeting, everyone would confess that it was a pleasant time during the Lord’s Supper, not necessarily because of so-and-so’s audible worship, but because of the sweet aroma with which the sisters buffered the meeting, silently.  The sisters, thus, need not feel limited by the actions of the brothers in the assembly.  The assessment of the worship meeting is therefore based on both the sisters’ silent function and the brothers’ public responsibility.

 

 

THE LORD DISMISSES HER FROM HIS PRESENCE[6].

 

He says to her, “Thy sins are forgiven…Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace.” Luke 7:48, 50

As one who loved the Lord so much, it seemed she made His feet her final destination.  She was not anxious to leave.  The Lord told her, “Go.”  Even if her ointment ran out and there were no more tears to shed on His feet, she was at His feet to remain.  She forgot where she was – the Pharisee’s dining room.  She forgot about the rest of the guests who knew who she was.  She saw no one but Him.  That was why she could remain there in the haven and refuge of the Lord’s feet until He told her, “Go.”

Sometimes this is not a testimony of us when we come before the Lord.  It is so easy to depart from His presence.  I have been to some assemblies where I was taught this wonderful lesson.  When gathered around Him, if all our offering of praise and worship comes to a close, let us not assume that the meeting is over.  For perhaps the Master wants to say something to us.  Let Him dismiss us from His presence as He did to all those that came falling at His feet.  We can leave His presence with the wonderful delight of not only beholding His face but also receiving something from Him[7].  In the case of this woman who loved Him much, she left with both forgiveness of sins and peace.  With this principle in mind, I noticed that in such an assembly, after the signs that the meeting is concluded (e.g. the offering plate has been passed or whatever cue the assembly was accustomed to as the end,) the brethren did not begin to ruffle or change the spirit they were in or rush into the “announcements.”  On the contrary, we continued in the same spirit in our seats for few moments in quietness at the feet of Christ, allowing ourselves the opportunity to hear the Spirit speaking -either dismissing us to go in peace or speaking to us what was on His mind – that which is of the Son (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15).

 

May our presence round His table steal all future thoughts beyond;

Making His dear feet a place where an eternity starts. (MJF)

 

Mrs. Thompson wrote this hymn that I believe expresses in part the state of the woman in Luke 7 right before the Lord dismisses her from His presence:

Jesus, Lord, I’m never weary, Looking on Thy cross and shame;

Gazing there I seem so near Thee, Dear to me each throb of pain.

Ever near Thee, Ever near Thee, Ling’ring here I would remain.

 

Jesus, Savior, I have found Thee All my utmost need required;

In Thyself, Lord, Thou hast found me All Thy loving heart desired.

I would praise Thee, I would praise Thee From my soul by love inspired.

(Mrs. Thompson, Hymns of Worship and Remembrance # 156)

May this be a testimony of us as we come before Him.

 

 

 

Lessons from the woman in Song of Songs 4: The Shulamite

Scene Three:  The Lord and His earthly bride

 

 

King Solomon, whose name means king of peace wrote many songs.  But there is only one song that he regarded as the song of all his songs.  It was the song he sang displaying his thoughts and love of his beloved Shuwlammiyth, whose name is the feminine version of the name ‘Solomon,’ also meaning peace.

 

When taking applications from the Song of Songs – the dealings and thoughts between the Lord and His earthly bride – let this question be in mind: if this is how much He thinks of her (His earthly bride), how much more does He regard (His heavenly bride) whom He purchased with His own blood?

 

            The main lesson we can take from the Shulamite is how precious is our Love and Myrrah to our Lord.  We will see His calling voice and inviting words and welcoming replies and yearning gesture for us to come before Him.  For He longs and looks forward to being with us far more than we do.  May our understanding of this truth change our thoughts toward Him to much bolder ones.  May this knowledge awake in us reciprocating feelings as we come before Him.

 

 

THE PROGRESSION OF HER AWARENESS OF HIM AND HIS LOVE:

 

Stage one:

             “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” Sgs 2:16  KJV

Stage two:

“I [am] my beloved's, and my beloved [is] mine: he feedeth among the lilies.” Sgs 6:3  KJV

Final stage:

            “I am my beloved's, And his desire is toward me.” Sgs 7: 10 KJV

 

In Stage one: She begins with what is in it for her - her self interest and what she could benefit.  It is all about her and her needs and satisfaction.  She says, “My beloved is mine,” then she says, “I am His.”

 

Stage two:  She has matured in her love to him.  She no longer places herself and her needs first.  Instead, she reverses what she said in stage one.  She says, “I am my beloved’s,” then she says, “and my beloved is mine.”

 

Stage three:  what is “mine” in no longer a factor in her view of her relationship with Him.  She no longer says, “My beloved is mine.”  Instead, she says, “I am my beloved’s.”  It’s all about him now.  Not her.  She says, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”

 

She no longer says, “He feedeth among the lilies,” an indication that he is somewhere far from her being satisfied by other things.  Instead, this time she says, “His desire is toward me.”  His love has developed her to realize what she truly is to Him.  His desire is toward her.  It is not just about what is his and what is mine. It is far more sublime than just that, far greater than a give and take relation.  She has become aware of his love to her that is far greater than her love to Him.  His love surpasses hers to him.  She finds herself helpless but to give herself saying, “I am my beloved’s and His desire is toward me.”

The following thoughts are to demonstrate some of His desires that are toward her.

 

 

CHRIST THE BRIDEGROOM VALUES HER LOVE AND MYRRH FAR MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE.

 

 

The woman in Luke 7 had much in common with the Shulamite.  They both loved and they both possessed and introduced ointments; the Lord valued their love and ointments much.  Just like the woman who anointed the feet of Christ with her myrrh because of her love, the Shulamite did likewise.  We learn this from her declaration, “While the king is at his table, My spikenard sendeth forth its fragrance” (Sgs 1: 12).  She had this unwritten ritual that while her beloved was seated at his table, the fragrance of her spikenard would fill the place – an indication that her ointment has been poured for him in his presence.  May we take this practice as our own.  That as long as we are at His table seated around Him, let the pouring of our ointments fill His circle with the fragrances of which our Lord is worthy.  For the glorious Bridegroom of our hearts values both our love and ointments much.  We believe this because He said, “How fair is thy love, my sister, [my] spouse! How much better is thy love than wine! And the fragrance of thine ointments than all spices!” (Sgs 4:10).  The love the Shulamite had for him, although not as strong as His, the Bridegroom still cherished her love.  To him, her love is fair and far better than any wine.  Wine was a reliable source of joy to people of that time.  The fragrance of her ointments he esteemed far more than all other spices.

 

Amidst us our Beloved stands, and bids us view His pierced Hands;

Points to the wounded feet and side, Blest emblems of the Crucified.

Thou Glorious Bridegroom of our hearts, Thy present smile a heaven imparts!

O, lift the veil, if veil there be, Let every saint Thy glory see!

(Charles H. Spurgeon, hymns of worship and remembrance # 144)

 

 

THE BRIDEGROOM PERCEIVES HER AS

HIS PERSONAL PARADISE

 

Here is a portion of their dialogue:

The Bridegroom:

             A garden enclosed is my sister, [my] spouse; A spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” Sgs 4: 12 

The Bridegroom: 

            “Awake, north wind, and come, [thou] south; Blow upon my garden, [that]   the spices thereof may flow forth.” Sgs 4: 16

The Shulamite:  when she realized what she was in his eyes, she cheerfully invited him to come into his garden.  She said,

            “Let my beloved come into his garden, And eat its precious fruits.” Sgs 4: 16

 

I know it sounds unbelievable that our Lord would think of us with such a high degree, namely, to be unto Him as a paradise.  It is too much to take in or accept.  It is unbounded love mingled with an overwhelming grace that bewilders our minds when we attempt to understand it.  I pray that our futile attempt to understand this mystery may not corner us in a state of incredulity but rather, a kneeling posture of worshipfulness. And if we lose sight of this truth from time to time, as we sometimes may, let us remember His words that He finds His delight in the congregation of the saints - you and me (Ps 16:3).  When our eyes are opened to the depth of His love toward us and how much we mean to Him, it will be a mind changing, life changing, and worship changing realization.  When we come to meet with Him in the place in which He promised to be - our midst, knowing that He is anxious to see us knowing that He is longing to be in His garden (us) and to receive its fruits, we will be encouraged to bring our best to Him.  These thoughts should make us come before Him boldly, for we understand how (or more accurately, we believe how) He perceives us as His paradise.  This boldness that we now have is not based on our own merits but on His love to us; realizing this gives us the confidence to come before Him and delight in His shadow.

 

The Bridegroom:  In response to her willful invitation for Him to com into His garden, He responds by saying,

“I am come into my garden, my sister, [my] spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, beloved ones!” (Sgs 5:1)

 

With this truth, I say that our Lord enjoys meeting with us in His name.  It is something that He looks forward to.  He does respond to our genuine invitation for Him.

 

 

THE BRIDEGROOM’S INVITATION FOR HER

AND ALL OF US TO COME AND MEET WITH HIM. 

 

Here is what the invitation card says:

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

 

For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over, it is gone:
The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land;
The fig-tree melloweth her winter figs, And the vines in bloom give forth [their] fragrance.

 

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!

 

My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the precipice, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice;

For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.

Sgs 2:10-14

 

This shows us that not only does He respond to our invitation to Him to come into His garden (us) but He also invites us to come and meet with Him.

What could be our hearts’ response to such an invitation but to cling to it.  May the truth of His enthusiasm about meeting with us create enthusiasm in us to come and meet with Him in His name with each saint, declaring that “My beloved (The Lord) is mine, and His desire is toward me (Sgs 7:10.)”  Let us come to Him pronouncing Him “As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so [is] my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit [was] sweet to my taste” (Sgs 2:3).

 

 

 

Conclusion:

 

It is very evident that this paper is not a scholarly thesis.  For this reason, I felt some liberty to disregard the mention of various qualifiers, disclaimers, nor have I given in to the ‘elaborate or you’ll get shot’ pressure.  Therefore, I hope that my weary reader should not waste his/her time constructing any postulates from any of its content, for this will be a disaster. 

All the points made in this paper, although in regard to corporate worship in particular, they are so pertinent to our every day personal walk.  The motive of this paper is to produce more worship to ascend from our hearts to our Lord.  It was written with the “Brethren” denomination in mind with all its sub-branches.  It was written as an invitation to those who have so great of a truth to continue calibrating their worship in accordance with the New Testament principles and continue to examine their practices, conventions and patterns of worship with the spirit of the scripture.  It was written in simple speech and common words not because I am trying to be unpretentious, but because that was honestly the best I could come up with.

I pray that it will cause our worship meeting to NEVER be ordinary, but real.  I pray that I have not written anything that will be of any offense to any brother or sister that calls on the Lord out of a pure heart.  I pray that when we fail to measure up to any truth this paper may have shed some light on, to at least never stop admitting it.  May we continue to judge our worship the way our Lord would.  And that we would never blind our eyes from the occasional weaknesses thereof.

I remember going to some of the elders after the worship meeting and asking them, “So, how was the meeting this morning?”  Their opinion and judgment of it was totally different than what I had seen with my own eyes.  It was as if we both were present in two different meetings completely.  I thought it was very dry.  They sanguinely replied, “It was nice.”

No doubt one’s individual spiritual state will affect their views and judgment of things around them; I still think it is prudent to bring the subject of our worship meeting to honest scrutiny.  And even if after a sincere look, we realize any infirmity in us as a body of worshipers, may we admit it rather than seeming as if all is well and recognize that it is because we are infirm and weak that we need His grace to be in our midst.  Our infirm condition may remain the same, but our awareness of it would be a reminder to us of the grace we have found in His sight.

I am reminded of Moses in Exodus 33 and 34.  The Lord was angry with His people and decided not to be in their midst anymore.  The Lord’s reason was that His people were a stiff-necked people” (Exo 33:3).  Moses, the man of God, pleaded with the Almighty to go before them and be in their midst.  Moses pleaded, “And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.  And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance” (Exodus 34:8-9).  The same reason that the Lord wanted to destroy His people and depart from their midst, namely, being a stiff-necked people, was the same reason that Moses used to convince God to remain with them.

Isn’t this so accurate of us today?  That it is because we have failed in many areas that we need our God in our midst and not much because our meeting was all done accordingly but rather because of the favor we have found in His eyes toward us.

Our ways, although founded on scriptural principles, need to continuously be measured after the shekel of the sanctuary[8] (Exo 30:13).  The only shekel that will not change is that of the sanctuary.  Any other shekel, regardless of how correct it was the first day, with time, is doomed to be altered.  For this reason, we need to come and measure the same shekels we’ve been using for years to see if they still measure up to that of the sanctuary.  It is likely to be very close, but that is the concept of calibration; the unbiased re-measurement of it.

 

 

Lord Jesus, You are worthy of all our love and worship.  I do not know why You have brought creatures such as ourselves to give worship to You.  What good could You expect from us unless Your mercy finds us and changes our hearts to love You and worship You as we ought to?

If all the love You have lavished unto us does not bring us on our knees to worship You as we ought to, I don’t know what will.

For this I place my soul and my heart before You to give it a beat again and again to make a melody you are worthy of.

In Your most precious Name – Jesus.

 

Oh Love that will not lot me Go,

I rest my weary soul in Thee.

I give Thee back the life I owe,

That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer, fuller be.

 

O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to fly from thee.

I lay in dust life’s glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be.

(George Matheson)

 



[1] There’s a lot more to be said here about spirit and truth and their immediate corollaries to our worship today that it be found pleasing to the Father.  Not what I deem best, not what I think is good, and not necessarily what I hold valuable.  Abel in Gen 4: 3-7 could tell us more on this.  I don’t’ know if I should get into it. 

[2] I do not believe that tradition is categorically evil.  Christ in His ministry did not attempt to change or make it a point to oppose tradition.  His main dislike of tradition was when it nullified the commandment of God (Matt 15:6) and when people began to teach these conventions/traditions of man as if they were the oracles of God (Matt 15:9.)  For people gleaned to it as a means to obtain righteousness which was not ordained by God.  I believe we could have some format/conventions that are consistent with a spirit of obedience.  The danger comes when we elevate our conventions and patterns to a degree as if God Himself decreed them.  The apostle Paul exhorts us of this in 1 Cor 4: 6-7. That ye might learn in us not to think [of men] above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.

[3] There is also an interesting factor that the Lord mentions about her – Faith (Luke 7:50.)  I am not occupied to write about it at this point.

[4] This is mostly common among the Brethren.  It is the general report of not only the Brethren of one another but also the report of the brethren among non-Brethren body of Christ.

[5] Leviticus 10

[6] All those who met with the Lord and enjoyed His mercy and compassion could not depart from His presence.  They wanted to remain there with Him.  And if it wasn’t for the Lord Himself dismissing them to leave, they would have remained where they had found their life and all - with Him.  The only exception to this phenomenon is Luke 17 where the Lord healed ten leprous men and only one returned.  The Lord wondered about that.  But still, He dismissed this man, “Go.”

[7] In the Old Testament, the individual came with a full hand to give to the Lord an offering of some kind.  However, in some cases, that same individual was also to leave satisfied by feeding from the same sacrifice of Christ that was offered to God as well. For example, in Lev. 6 and 7 and numerous other places, the Lord allowed for the priests to partake from that which had been offered to eat at the place where it was offered.

[8]  The phrase is mentioned about 24 times in the Bible.