2012 is apparently my year for country band concerts. I’ve already seen several pretty big groups and have in my possession tickets with many more names listed. Great shows, so far. And they’ve all been amazing. Great shows with big lights, big sound, big energy, big crowds and big entertainment. Great shows that probably cost big money and took big amounts of time to set up, execute and clean up. There have only been a small handful superstars or groups on stage but they couldn’t have done what they did without of the hundreds of people behind the scenes to make it all happen.
That’s a lot of effort for one night, if you think about it. Lots of jobs, money, time, resources…all spent on a few hours of live music. Now, I’ll take a honky tonk bar in the middle of nowhere over a crowded venue with thousands, but these nights have also created some good stories. What can I say? This girl loves her country music, jean skirt and cowgirl boots.
There’s a book in the Bible that tells the story of such a good show that DreamWorks made it into a cartoon movie: The Prince of Egypt. It’s the fireworks display of God’s great power freeing the Israelites from slavery. There are all kinds of crazy things that happen, the kind of crazy that gets the attention of middle school boys because it’s “so cool” or “so gross.” There’s the poor little baby rescued by a princess, too, and the shy, stuttering hero who gets help from a friend. It’s a good story. God’s fireworks display of miracles that show how powerful He is, how big He is and how important the Israelites are to Him.
Act Two is a little less…exciting. At first glance, one might be disappointed by the second 20ish chapters of Exodus, the book in the Bible where this story is recorded in history. It’s a little disappointing, too. The Israelites have just witnessed this massive and awesome display of God’s power, so one might think that their WOW factor would be so off the charts that they couldn’t help but praise God and stand in awe of Him. But, not so much. Similar to us today, they forgot. Quicker than one might assume (or at least I assumed when I read this for the first time all by myself), they forget. They whine. They complain. They get impatient. They go as far as to ask Moses if they can go back to living in slavery because they don’t know what God is doing and don’t so much like how He’s doing it.
God, you’d think, would give up. Or at least I would if I just freed several thousand people from slavery and their response was to whine about it.
Fortunately, God is God and I am not.
Instead, He starts telling them how to live. He also tells them how to worship. These people, who have been slaves for centuries now have instructions on how to worship this great big God who freed them from slavery with His fireworks style display of miracles. He gives them what takes up a dozen or so chapters in the Bible with measurements, listed materials, guidelines and a how-to manual for building the items and location for worship. It consumes them. It gives everyone a job, according to what they like to do and at which they are skilled. It uses all of their valuable resources and takes up all of their time. Preparing for worship is their life.
Yes, preparing for worship is their life.
As I read through the lists of cubits and clothes, pomegranates and plans, I started to think that this was a little odd, to be honest. I wondered why God, a God who doesn’t actually need us but chooses to loves us, a God who has no ego and is not dependent on the way we feel about Him, has the Israelites spend so much time and energy on worship?
Because it wasn’t for Him.
Worship isn’t for God as much as it’s for us. God doesn’t need an ego boost. He doesn’t need people to remind Him how great He is or to recount the awesome things that He’s done. He just doesn’t. If He did, He’d be weak and pathetic. He would be like an insecure middle schooler who feared leaving the house every morning with a self-image at the mercy of his or her peers on the school bus. And that god wouldn’t be powerful and big and worth any worship.
God doesn’t need worship. But we sure do. We need worship. We need worship to remember the One who is worthy of worship. We need worship to remember that we’re not the ones around who our lives revolve. We need worship to remember that our jobs, families, bank accounts, hobbies, dreams…our everything…hinges on one great big God who created us and is involved in our lives today. We need worship to put into perspective who God is. We need worship like our life depends on it.
Oh, wait, it does.
The bigger deal we make out of something, the bigger deal that it is to us. I imagine that if any of those country bands showed up unannounced at any given venue on a Saturday night and just walked up on stage to start playing with no bells and whistles, it would be rather underwhelming and pointless. No fans would have been invited. No sounds would be amplified. No lights would show their faces. Overall, it’d be no big deal. No pictures posted. No stories told. No memories made.
So if the effort and time and resources and energy poured into a concert are what makes it significant, one might think that we should do the same with the way we worship The Living God…because, oh yeah, He’s a BIG DEAL.