Are You Clean When You Worship God?

W. C. Hinton
Nishinomiya, Japan

While the title may at first seem to be strange we assure you that we offer these thoughts in sincerity and sobriety. To have your worship accepted by God, one must be clean. In order to show that this is a generally known and accepted fact in religious circles of varied kinds we want first to relate to you the traditional story of the "torii" or the gateway to a Shinto shrine here in Japan.

The torii dates as far back in history as the pre-historic days of Japan. The Goddess Amatarasu, ancestress of the Imperial Family, had a rude brother by the name of Prince Susanoo. According to the oldest record of the country, the prince laid waste his sister's gardens, defiled her new palace, threw a horse's hide over her loom, and proved himself wicked and unruly in many other ways. Disgusted by the repeated misconduct of her brother, the Sun Goddess hid herself behind the Ame-no-lwato (or Celestial rock door), and it is recorded that in consequence the world was thrown into utter darkness. The Eight-Million Gods sat in council at the Yasukawara (or Fields of Peace). It was decided, among other things, that TokoyoNaganaki-dori (or Perpetual-daylight-long-singing-bird), as the long-crowing cock was called, should proclaim the break of day at the entrance to the cave. The torii is therefore an imitation of the gateway on which the mythical cock perched. The gods then made music and danced before the cave, so that the inquisitive Goddess peeped out to see what all the noise was about. Tajikarao (or Prince Mighty-Power) seized this opportunity to open the rock-door. The Goddess Amatarasu was now out of the cave and sunshine began to reign again over the country.

Now, the Japanese cock has been known, from time immemorial, to herald dawn. He is such a good timekeeper that he crows or thrice announces the time regularly early in the morning. Three torii before a Shinto shrine represent the three crowing or announcements of the cock. As the cock is an announcer of the passing of night and the coming of day, so do the three torii prepare the heart of the pious worshipper for his purified appearance before the god. His passing under the god-gate expels the darkness from his heart as darkness is lifted at dawn. The torii is therefore the purifier of an unclean body and soul. When the Japanese worships at a shrine, he clasps his hands three times or sometimes twice, making a rather loud sound. Then he reverently bends his head over his hands in adoration. This clapping of the hands is called "Kashiwade" meaning "clapping of clean palms" but phonetically the hands are clapped in imitation of the young cock which flaps its wings when he crows or announces the time.

While such myths of idol worshipping nations like Japan are interesting, we want to continue in our thinking to an application of this idea of being purified or clean when one offers his worship. If the spiritually unenlightened are very interested in being free of defilement before they enter to worship that which is false, how much more should not the Christian be aware and concerned in this same respect.

A brief examination of those officiating at the tabernacle and later the temple should impress us with the fact that things that are unclean cannot be brought, pleasingly, into the presence of God. Before the priests began their ministry they and the articles of the tabernacle were purified. Various offerings were provided that the people might again be cleansed and not forever be outcasts of the community of Israel and of Jehovah himself. The High Priest was to offer for his own sins before making the annual entrance into the presence of the Holy One of Israel, thus properly presenting himself as one who could offer sacrifice on behalf of the people. It was in the vision of Isaiah that he realized he was one of unclean lips and was living among a people of unclean lips (6: 5-8.) One of the seraphim with a live coal flew to Isaiah and touched his lips, thus transforming him for the task ahead -- speaking the Word of the Lord.

Today the people of God, Christians, are a purified people. This was accomplished not in and of themselves but by a complete submission to the way of truth and an earnest obedience to it (Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:22). But my question of the moment is--how many times have we assembled ourselves together and not been in the proper attitude or character for engaging in the worship? How many times have we refused to hear the lesson, closing our ears, due to the dislike for the teacher, preacher, or elder? How many times have we refused to ''amen" a prayer because of our miffed feelings with the brother in question? How many times have we sat on the other side of the building and possibly glared at a member who offended us? Was there ever a time that we were so interested in the other activities of the family on the Lord's Day that we could not even concentrate on the lesson, Lord's Supper, or worship in general? How many times have teen-agers sitting together passed notes or whispered during the service? Could we dupe ourselves into thinking that such is proper on our part as we worship God in the presence of His Son, Jesus Christ.

I am not suggesting that the door to the meeting place be the same as the torii of the Shinto shrine in that those who pass under are cleansed and are proper subjects for worship. But I AM saying that each of us must prepare himself to worship God. The admonition of Paul seems appropriate yet today, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (1 Tim. 2:8). Holy hands and consecrated hearts of worshipers at peace with God and man are the real objectives. Let us all try to cleanse ourselves before we come into the presence of Jehovah to offer our worship. In fact, our forgiveness in the mind of God is directly contingent on the forgiveness that we mete out to our fellowman (Matt. 6:14, 15). Truly, much worship rises no higher than the ceiling. But by arriving early to periods of study and worship, maintaining a proper dignified attitude equal to the occasion, allowing the overpowering love of God to correct the defects between you, your God, and your fellow man, coupled with worship contained in and directed by the Word of God, one need not fear that his worship will be rejected by the Holy One of Israel and of all men. "Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28b, 29).

Truth Magazine VIII: 4, pp. 10-11 January 1964