Cross Words: God still requires acceptable worship

By Isaiah Pauley

The book of Leviticus is a challenging read. It’s a detailed history describing the priesthood, offerings, sacrifices, and other laws given by God to His people. Because of this, it’s easy to view Leviticus as an outdated, confusing book about the “old days.” After all, God’s people no longer rely on priests to sacrifice animals in a tabernacle for the forgiveness of sins. But the book of Leviticus is more than bloody altars and gruesome stories. It’s a book about worship.

“And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting [tabernacle], and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. And Moses said, ‘This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.’ Then Moses said to Aaron [the High Priest], ‘Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded’” (9:5-7 ESV).

Aaron is about to give God an offering. Why? Because the people are unworthy to be in the presence of God. And the only way for them to experience the glory of God is through the forgiveness of sins—which, at this time in history, comes through the sacrifice of animals.

As the passage continues, we learn that Aaron makes an acceptable offering unto the Lord.

“And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (v. 23-24 ESV).

This is a story about acceptable worship. The offering Aaron presents to God is done in accordance with the Word of God, and thus the glory of God appears among the people. In response, the people “shouted and fell on their faces” as verse 24 explains.

But in the very next chapter, things fall apart. After a beautiful example of acceptable worship, the author of Leviticus provides an example of unacceptable worship unto God. Let’s take a look.

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized [or strange] fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (10:1-2 ESV).

Here’s one of those gory stories. But it’s real. Aaron’s sons decide to disobey God’s Word and offer strange fire before Him. As a result, they are scorched to death. It’s a sobering example of unacceptable worship unto God.

Now, we don’t offer sacrifices any longer because Jesus Christ is our perfect High Priest who forgives our sins and brings us into the presence of God (see Heb. 10:19-22). But make no mistake about it, God still requires acceptable worship.

The Bible says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29 ESV).

The Bible also says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2 ESV).

God still requires acceptable worship. But what is acceptable worship? It’s worship that conforms to the Bible. It’s worship that aligns with God’s will as expressed in His Word. And it involves approaching the Lord with a healthy fear. After all, He is a consuming fire.

We must offer God acceptable worship. Both in our personal lives and corporate worship services. Truth is, “strange” and unacceptable worship still exists among God’s people today. Worship that is contrary to the Bible and more focused on attracting people than pleasing God.

It’s time for us to ponder the truth of Scripture and worship God as He rightly deserves.

God still requires acceptable worship.

By Isaiah Pauley

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at

Isaiah Pauley is the Minister of Worship for Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va. Find more at