Break the Ruts!

Genesis 8:20-21 And Noah built an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour…

It seems an amazing thing that Noah would express his worship to the Lord by burning the flesh of animals and birds. It seems even more amazing that the Lord would find it acceptable, much less smell a sweet savor. Yet Noah’s offerings were pleasing to the Lord. In fact, God prescribes this mode of worship under the Law of Moses. The burnt offerings became a very integral part of worship among God’s people. However, the day came when God was no longer pleased. I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though yo offer Me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them. Amos 5:21-22.

Why was the Lord pleased when Noah built an altar and burned the flesh of animals and birds? And what happened to make God change His mind about the burnt offerings? At first the Lord is pleased with the burnt offerings. He prescribes them under Moses, and then He later rejects them. Why?

The Bible says that “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). It wasn’t the smell of burning flesh that the Lord found pleasing; it was the worship and dedication rising up from Noah’s heart that was a sweet savor to Him. The day came, though, that the burnt offerings were nothing more than an act; the fervent love and dedication were missing. When the offerings became a routine, a tradition without heart worship, the Lord no longer found them acceptable.

The history of the burnt offerings in the Old Testament reveals a very serious problem in today’s Christianity. Christian organizations vary in their modes of worship. Some are more ritualistic, while others are more emotional. Some are ostentatious and stately in their worship, while others tend to reject anything that leans toward worldly adornment. Regardless, nearly all have allowed their modes of worship to become a routine. Routine worship (probably better described as “rut-worship”) is devoid of life. It is also characterized by the rejection of the manner in which other Christian groups worship. The deeper the rut the more they usually despise others, and the more defensive they become of their own. This should never be! And this is when God says, “I despise your manner of worship.”

It is not the mode of worship so much as it is the intensity of a fervent love for the Lord that matters. One could worship the Lord by cutting down a tree if his heart was right. He could say, “Lord! This is how much I love and worship You!” Then pick up an axe and start chopping that tree with an intense fury that leaves every muscle in his body quivering.

Does that sound ridiculous? On one occasion, when Syria had risen up against Israel, King Joash was perplexed and did not know what to do. While the prophet Elisha was on his death-bed, King Joash went to him for council. Elisha told him to take a bow and shoot an arrow out the window; and the king did so. Then Elisha told him to take the arrows and smite the ground. Joash took the arrows, hit the ground three times and stopped. Elisha was angry at Joash’s lack of intensity. Because the king’s intensity was limited, his victory would be limited (II Kings 13:14-19). Joash should have taken those arrows and beat the ground until there wasn’t a feather left in them. Intensity in our love for the Lord pleases Him. It gets His attention.

While Israel was encamped in Shittim, God pronounced a plague upon them for their whoredom with the daughters of Moab. When one of the Israelites took a Midianite woman in his tent to satisfy his lust, Phinehas took a spear and followed them into the tent. He then drove the spear through both man and woman, and the plague was stayed. Then God told Moses, “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for My sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace. And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel!” (Numbers 25:11-13).

I’m not saying that we need to cut a tree down, or beat arrows on the ground, or kill someone that is sinning against the Lord. I’m saying that we need to be intense in our relationship with Him. If one goes to war without that intensity, he’ll probably end up dead. And without that intensity in our worship we’ll end up spiritually dead. Worship is warfare, too. Human nature always opposes this intensity of heart. If you want to worship the Lord with all your heart, you will have to put a sword to the opposition of your own nature. Sadly, most Christians can’t do that. Anyone that desires to love the Lord totally will find himself being opposed from two directions. His own nature will oppose him, and other Christians who do not share the same desire will oppose him. A walk with God can be a lonely walk.

How God relates to us is determined by how we relate to Him. If we reject Him, He will reject us. If we love Him a little, we will only experience a little of His love. If we draw nigh unto Him, He will draw nigh unto us (James 4:8). If we give unto Him all that we are, then we will experience all that He is. We determine how much of God is in our lives.

Many Christians begin with a fervor and then lose it. It’s easy to get in a rut. So often older Christians in a church are apathetic in their relationship with the Lord. After a while the newer Christians tend to lose their zeal and slip into the same mold. We must be intense in our worship.

Intensity of heart is one of the most important ingredients in our relationship with the Lord. If you’re in a rut, break it! Change your form of worship. Do whatever it takes to break through to God. Refuse lethargy; put a sword to it. If you don’t slay it, it will destroy your relationship with the Lord. Take a cold shower! Go out and kick a tree stump – do whatever it takes to shock your spirit loose from the passivity of this age. Many Christians are dying spiritually and don’t even realize it. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Ephesians 5:14.

Copyright © 1995 by Henry DuBose