Are You Still Worshipping at the High Places?
I Chronicles 14:3 [King] Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places,…
II Kings 23:5 Then [Josiah] removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places … and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven.
The high places back in ancient Israel were a fascinating combination of godly worship and idolatry. Some were centers of idol worship, and stayed that way. Others were formerly centers of idolatry, but were now used for worshipping the One True God. But they were always a temptation for God’s people. Even when the high places were replaced by the permanent Temple in Jerusalem, and worship was to be centralized, the high places remained.
But after a time, it was clear to all of God’s worshippers that the feasts, the sacrifices, and the worship of God was to take place at that one central location—the Temple in Jerusalem. Yet the high places remained because people wanted to worship the Lord the way they wanted to worship the Lord. It was what they had gotten comfortable with, and traveling to Jerusalem was so…inconvenient. Yet it was clear that to please the Lord, you worshipped and sacrificed at the Temple.
While His love is great, His blessings fall on everyone, and He “fills heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 23:24 and I Kings 8:27), He has given us the ways to worship Him and carry on His work. When King David didn’t pay attention to how the Ark was being transported, for example, it resulted in the death of one of the Ark’s carriers (II Samuel 6). It was no little thing to God at that moment how His Ark was to be carried.
Are we still worshipping at our own high places? Our homes, for instance, can be places of true worship, and then can turn into a high place when we skip church and tell ourselves that God is just as happy with our Bible reading and prayers that day. Or we can think that enjoying God’s beautiful creation is a valid substitute for 1) worshipping with God’s people, 2) letting His Spirit move among us, and 3) hearing the word of the Lord that God has prepared for us to hear as a gathered body. Nature is beautiful, but we can let it become a high place for us. (Worship of nature was always one of the big stumbling blocks of God’s people.)
Israel had the hardest time getting rid of its high places. We do, too. The remnants of our fallen nature insist that we can worship God in whatever way, and wherever, we choose. That’s simply independence, which is first cousin to the sin of rebellion.
Following God’s ways is not always “convenient,” and our culture applauds individuality. Yes, He loves us individually, but He has His own plans for how He is to be worshipped. If we love Him enough, that isn’t an issue.
Prayer: Lord, please cleanse me of “my own ways” when it comes to worshipping You, obeying You and giving You the glory. I want to make a divine exchange of my ways for Yours. Where I’m substituting my wisdom for Yours, please show me. Thank You that You know best.