We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/
Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 15:21-39; Acts 21:27-40; Psalm 36, Exodus 34.
Exodus 34 is an astounding chapter on a number of fronts. The grace of God in His restoring the writing on the tablets. His stunning revelation of Himself while hiding Moses in the cleft of the Rock. The renewal of His covenant. More actually like making an entirely new covenant after the first was shattered – a precursor of the New Covenant to come. And this almost off-handed comment in vs. 20: “None shall appear before me empty handed.”
Set in the context of God outlining certain sacrificial regulations, we might be tempted to run over it too quickly. But the phrase contains an absolutely critical element of true worship. No one is to approach God in worship “empty handed.” In other words, without a fitting sacrifice. And here is how that applies to you and me today in our present context: No worship of God is acceptable apart from the context of a sacrifice for sin. The sacrifice we bring, is the Lamb slain at Calvary. There can be no true worship of the living God apart from Christ. He is the one mediator between God and man, the one acceptable sacrifice for sin.
In a generation where we tend to think of worship only in terms of the music portion of a church service, this insight is vitally important. For if our worship is devoid of recognizing and depending wholly upon the she blood of Jesus Christ on our behalf – our worship is unacceptable drivel. Oh it may be pretty. It may appeal to our senses. But if the cross is absent from the lyrics and mindset in coming to worship, it is to come empty handed.
Those who worship God aright must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth – and as Jesus inserted Himself rightly into that equation – no one can come to the Father but through Him. That is not a platitude, that is a critical fact. If we would worship God acceptably, it cannot be apart from a recognition and celebration of the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross. Otherwise, it becomes mere religion.
How we need to make sure that Jesus and His redemptive work is always front and center. May we never appear before Him, “empty handed.”