“Prepare to meet thy God.”
“‘I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto Me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto Me?’ saith the Lord. And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Order of Contents
O.T. – Ex. 12:15; 13:7; 16:4-5; 19:10-11,22; Lev. 11:44; 20:7-8; Num. 11:18; 15:5; Josh. 3:5; 7:13; 1 Sam. 7:3; 16:5; 1 Chron. 15:12; 29:17-18; 2 Chron. 12:14; 19:3; 20:33; 27:6; 29:5-6, 31-36; 30:17-20; 35:6; Ezra 7:10; Job 11:13-15; Ps. 4:4; 6:6; 17:3; 26:2; 63:6; 77:6; 139:23; Isa. 40:3; Isa. 57:13-15; Amos 3:3; 4:11-12; Mal. 3:1
N.T. – Mk. 1:2-3; 15:42; Lk 1:17; 12:47; Acts 24:16; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; 1 Cor. 11:27-29; 2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Tim. 2:16-17,19,21-23
Our culture expects everything instantaneously; Christians are often no different: many just show up and expect that God will bless them as they are. The puritans, of a godlier day, in contrast, were known for their thorough, careful and precise preparation for spiritual exercises, taking time for self-examination, repentance and meditation in order to get their hearts in a fitting frame before coming to God in his ordinances. This, in fact, is what the Bible teaches, and it is no wonder then that the puritans so greatly relished and received so much spiritual food through God’s ordinances, where the unprepared heart does not.
In the Old Testament the saints had to take diligent circumspection of their cleanliness according to ritual law; this was a physical picture in daily life to train them how their hearts should be clean before the Lord in all that they do (2 Chron. 30:17-20; 1 Cor. 5:6-8). They had to carefully prepare physical sacrifices to bring to God’s altar, just as we are to take due care in the spiritual offerings of praise that we offer to the Lord (Ps. 27:6; Jer. 17:26; Rom. 12:1-2).
Spiritual preparation takes time. God often told his people to cleanse and prepare themselves for the following day. Hence, the twilight hours of Saturday evening have been known at times in Church history as ‘earnest hours’, hours which deserve special earnestness in preparing for the Lord’ Day. The Southern Presbyterian William Plumer wrote a book entitled Earnest Hours, being material profitable in helping one to use this time profitably.
Preparation was also specially made in regard to the Lord’s Supper, as Scripture specifically attaches self-examination to this ordinance (1 Cor. 11:28) in a way not as intensively ascribed to the other ordinances of God. This is because the Lord’s Supper has a special blessing (1 Cor. 10:16) that comes with it, or curse to those who do not judge themselves (1 Cor. 11:27-32), as it is a closer and weightier fellowship with God: it being not only the Word indiscriminately preached, but the Word of the Covenant of salvation sealed by physical signs to particular believers. Thus, there is more preparation for the Lord’s Supper than for the other ordinances of God’s worship.
The puritan practice of spending days before the Supper in spiritual preparation is often looked on today as undue introspection and navel gazing; it was known by David in the Psalms as spending nights upon one’s bed in tearful repentance in communion with God and the trying of one’s ways (Ps. 4:4; 6:6; 17:3; 26:2; 63:6; 77:6; 139:23, etc.). Some persons think that if there is no obvious external sin in their lives, what need is there? They need to read the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) again; the first instructions of Christianity. Some such people claim to be reformed; they need to read the Westminster Larger Catechism on the 10 Commandments (#99-153) again, and then the same on spiritual preparation for the Lord’s Supper (#170-175).
Preparation is not meritorious, nor does it wring God’s sovereign hand. Nor is it to be done with a servile disposition. Rather, we prepare to meet with God because we love Him, want to be in conformity with his will, and desire to have our full attention and devotion upon Him, in fellowship with Him, without distraction.
Let us become more acquainted with the will of God in Scripture and conform our lives to it.
“Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”
[This outward rite attached to the communion Feast of Unleavened Bread was symbolic of spiritually cleansing our lives, 1 Cor. 5:6-8]
“Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.”
“Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”
[The Israelites were to make preparation on the 6th day of the week for the Sabbath. In Christ’s day this was known as the Preparation Day (Mk. 15:42). While some physical preparation is necessary to having a day of rest, the larger teaching of scripture shows that spiritual preparation is much more necessary: hence the ‘earnest hours’ mentioned in the Introduction above.]
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.”
[The weight of the significance of God revealing his Word at Sinai called for more preparation than normal; hence the three days. We though, are come unto spiritual Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:22), which is of much greater weight.]
“And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.”
[The many outward preparations of the O.T. priests were symbolic of coming to God in the spiritual uprightness of heart that He prescribes in his Word. We are spiritual priests, 1 Pet. 2:5]
“For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy:”
[Here is the reason why we are to come to God with hearts purified by repentance, because He is holy.]
“Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.”
“And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and you shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.”
“And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb.”
[This is only one of the many verses (and chapters) that speak of carefully preparing one’s physical sacrifices for offering it to God, symbolic of the spiritual carefulness we are to offer our spiritual offerings of praise with to God (Ps. 27:6; Jer. 17:26; Rom. 12:1-2).]
“And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
“Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”
1 Sam. 7:3
“And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If you do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
[This shows, amongst other things, that preparation in the O.T. was spiritual as well as physical.]
1 Sam. 16:5
“And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice.”
[As there were no outward physical preparations the common person needed to come to the Tabernacle other than already being ceremonially clean, this verse speaks of spiritual preparation.]
1 Chron. 15:12
“And said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves, both you and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it.”
1 Chron. 29:17-18
“I know also, my God, that Thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:”
[True preparation involves God preparing our hearts for Him by his Spirit through the means of grace.]
2 Chron. 12:14
“And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.”
[One cannot adequately do what one is not prepared for.]
2 Chron. 19:3
“Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.”
[Part of rightly preparing to seek God is the reformation of our lives.]
2 Chron. 20:33
“Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers.”
[The high places were groves of idolatry. While we may not be physical-idol worshippers, do we have any spiritual idols of inordinate affections, covetousness, etc.? Col. 3:5]
2 Chron. 27:6
“So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”
1 Chron. 29:31-36
“Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings into the house of the Lord. And the congregation brought in sacrifices and thank offerings; and as many as were of a free heart burnt offerings…
But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests…
And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.”
2 Chron. 30:17-20
“For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the Lord.
For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.
And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.”
[These verses show that the physical teachings of the O.T. were shadows of spiritual teachings. Here you have them both together, with the priority being on the spiritual.]
2 Chron. 29:5-6
“And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place, for our fathers have trespassed and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs.”
[The temple was symbolic of Christ’s Body, the Church. 1 Cor. 6:19; 1 Pet. 2:5]
2 Chron. 29:34
“But the priests were too few, so that they could not flay all the burnt offerings: wherefore their brethren the Levites did help them, till the work was ended, and until the other priests had sanctified themselves: for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.”
2 Chron. 35:6
“So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the Word of the Lord by the hand of Moses.”
[Here is a reason to prepare ourselves well, so that we can better be doers of God’s Word.]
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”
“If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward Him; If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:“
[Here is a promise attached to preparing ourselves: the blessing of God and a clear conscience.]
“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”
“I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.”
“Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.”
“Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.”
“When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”
“I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.”
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts.”
“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
“When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;
And shall say, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of my people.
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
[This shows that one goal of preparation is to get a humble and contrite heart before the Lord.]
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?“
“Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple“
[While this verse speaks of John the Baptist who would come just before the coming of the Messiah, the principle stands true: when hearts are prepared through repentance and cleansing of one’s life (as John the Baptist exhorted to in his ministry), the will bless this with a sudden coming of his Spirit and presence.]
“As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
[We are to prepare the way of the Lord, by making straight our lives according to the narrow way of his Word.]
“And now when the even was come, because it was the Preparation [Day], that is, the day before the [weekly] sabbath,”
[This good practice of the Jews of preparing for the weekly Sabbath was derived from Ex. 16:5.]
“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
[One idea contained in this verse is that God’s people are to be prepared for the coming of the Lord because He deserves it. God deserves our preparations, and to have our full attention and readiness, as a King that makes his appearance before his court.]
“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”
“And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.”
1 Cor. 5:6-8
“Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us:
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.“
1 Cor. 11:27-29
“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [die].
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”
2 Cor. 13:5
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
2 Tim. 2:16-17,19,21-23
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their word will eat as doth a canker… The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity… If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.”