Leader: Faith Oduro
Biblical Patterns of Worship
Let us consider firstly worship in the Old Testament:
Worship was first a family thing. The patriarchs did not visit any temples and did not participate in congregational forms of worship. Their worship may have been informal and unstructured but they certainly worshiped, and how! Their worship led them to close fellowship with God.
PRAYER was a major element in their worship (Gen 12:8), leading to a close relationship. For us to communicate God to others through worship and praise, we need to communicate and have a very close fellowship with God. Because if we know how to worship God in private, then we’ll most certainly know how to worship God in public. For whatever is in the heart will manifest itself on the outside.
SACRIFICE was another major element of worship. The details in Leviticus of the sacrificial rituals seem a dead letter to us. But they served three purposes:
a) They enabled the worshippers to make atonement for their sins (i.e. The blood of the animals made a covering for their sins) and for breaking of their covenant.
b) To express thanks to their God.
c) To enter into communion or to express loyalty to their Lord. The back bone of worship, both in the tabernacle and temple were sacrifices, and although Christians don’t engage in ritual sacrifices as part of worship, it is the sacrifice offered up by Jesus for our sins which is central to all that we do in worship (Heb 8:1-10, 18).
If God can give his Son for us as a sacrifice, we should give him back our time, and our best behaviour.
THE PRIESTS, TABERNACLE AND TEMPLE
Public worship in Israel commenced after the Exodus from Egypt which gave rise to the Passover as a meal of great significance (Exodus 12).
We can see here that Egypt is a type of sin and the Passover meal is a type of Jesus’ sacrifice. Like the Israelites, we need to eat of the Passover meal and come out of Egypt in order to worship God in Spirit and truth.
That means our hearts have to be pure and our hands clean, and we can only have pure hearts and clean hands if we are in constant fellowship with God who is able to show us our faults. No wonder God said “David was a man after his own heart”. It is not because David didn’t sin, but because he always searched his heart and always repented as a result of close communication with God.
WORSHIP REVOLVED AROUND FESTIVALS
The most frequent of these festivals was the Sabbath, but most were annual events focussing on one or other aspects of the work God did for them. So the PASSOVER (Deut 16:1-8) reminded people of their deliverance from Egypt. Likewise, when we come to worship God, we should always remember our deliverance from sin by the blood of Jesus.
FEAST OF PENTECOST was possibly their harvest celebration. Pentecost to us today may remind us of the day when the 120 received the Holy Spirit, but it should also remind us of all that God has provided for us.
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLE (Booths’ Deut 16:13-15) reminded them that the land was a gift from God. We don’t have this kind of feast, but we can be reminded that God has given us the best gift, that is the gift of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. This more than anything else should make us praise and worship God all the more.
THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (Lev. 16) ensured that sin was taken seriously and atoned for properly. Today all we need to be concerned about is to ensure that we have no sin in us. We don’t have to worry whether Jesus has atoned for our sins properly. His redemption is perfect and of course there can be nothing more perfect than God himself.
The feasts were of great excitement and celebration, and for the three major ones, after their settlement in Canaan, all Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem for the festivities. God knew not only that people soon forgot even fundamental truths and so need regular reminders, but also that people need to enjoy worship.
I thank Jesus that it is not just the males that go up to Jerusalem, but everyone that believeth in God. Today we have the Holy Spirit to remind us of everything. We also have weekly meetings that free our spirits and excite us. Sunday is a day when all Christians meet to celebrate and rejoice in God’s house. It is also the day when some sinners come out to church.
MUSIC WAS MUSICAL
Music played an increasingly important part in the worship of Israel. (1 Chronicles 25 and numerous other references point us to this. Take Psalms 150 for example, it captures the note of joy, thanksgiving and celebration which was characteristic of Israel’s worship as it is ours.
It is often assumed that the prophets were unhappy about Israel’s worship and stood in opposition to it and in condemnation of it. That is not so. It is true however, that they exposed emptiness of much of Israel’s worship with glistening forthrightness. Their concerns revolved around the accusations of formalism in worship. The mere recital was of no value unless it was matched by obedience in the rest of life to the commandments of God. It was their formalism which gave rise to their repeated cry that sacrifices and offerings I do not require (e.g. Psalm 40:6, 51:16, Isaiah 1:10, 58:1-14).
Amos expresses God’s disapproval most vehemently. I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs. I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream (Amos 5:21-24, Micah 6:6-8 brought a similar message to God’s people.