This past November I had the privilege of travelling to New York City with my two sisters. We spent four days touring the city and had the opportunity while we were there to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. I have always loved the movie, and the live performance was absolutely spectacular (or should I say it was, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”). Sorry, I couldn’t resist! We ordered our seats on-line and when we got to the theatre we found that we were on the back row of the mezzanine. Needless to say, we weren’t as close as we’d hoped to be, but we learned that there are really no bad seats in a theatre like that; it is designed in such a way that you can see everything quite well, no matter where you’re seated. The small binoculars my sister brought helped seeing the actors and props “up close.” We were a distance away, but we watched in fascination and had an unforgettable evening.
This morning as I read Exodus 32 and 33 I read the story of the children of Israel asking Aaron to make them a god since they figured Moses had gone off and left them for good. Their great sin against the One true God disheartened Moses and angered the Lord. When Moses came down from the mountain it says in chapter 33 that he went out to the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp. In verse 8 we read that Moses went out to the tabernacle. Everyone must have been peeking out the door of their tents, because they all saw Moses go to the tabernacle. It reminds me of a child that has disobeyed and has been sent to their room. They sit at the door quietly, knowing that mommy is not happy with them, and they crack the door open and just watch her from their vantage point.
The Israelites watched until Moses disappeared into the tabernacle, but they keep their eyes alert. They then saw the cloudy pillar descend and they knew that Moses was worshipping God inside. Their response? They rose up and worshipped at their tent door. They had a seat in the Mezzanine – and were looking on this great scene from a distance when they could have had a “front row seat! It’s sad that their hearts were in such a condition that they were removed from what was going on at the tabernacle. Perhaps they didn’t feel they could draw nearer and gather outside the tabernacle because of their sin.
It’s also possible for us to worship while peeking out from our “tent door.” We go to church for the worship service and while worship is going on all around us our hearts are disengaged. We’re simply standing at the tent door observing. If our hearts are cold or sinful, we are only bystanders. We sing the songs while our mind is a million miles away. The cloud of God’s presence could descend quite near us, but our mind and thoughts are somewhere else and we are only observers instead of participants.
How can we keep ourselves from being distanced from the Lord while we’re at church?
1. Pray before going to church. Make sure your heart is clean.
2. Ask God to speak to you through the entire service.
3. Be alert through the entire service and be looking for God to speak. It’s easy to get sluggish, isn’t it?
4. Position yourself in the church in a place where you can concentrate. If you can’t hear well, or if there are little people near that distract you, don’t just complain about it, move closer to the front.
5. As you’re singing concentrate on the words. If you’re singing about God’s promises, think of some of those promises while you’re singing.
6. Pray while others are praying.
7. Don’t allow yourself to be a distraction. Try not to leave the service or move about in your seat in a way that would draw attention to yourself.
8. Come prepared to take notes on the things the Lord says to you.
9. If the Lord prompts you to write or call someone that’s absent, write it down so you don’t have to think about it during the service.
10. Summarize the message in a sentence or two and write it down.
Don’t allow yourself to only watch worship taking place from a distance. Draw near to the tabernacle instead of observing from your tent door!