Worship, OT

Worship was significant to God’s OT people.  At the very beginning, Moses asked Pharaoh to let Israel go, that they may serve God.  This concept, often expressed in the OT, included ritual worship.  But it involves far more; especially a life of obedience to God.

Ritual worship.  The OT law specifies how God is to be worshiped with sacrifice and when annual worship festivals are to be held.  It also indicates that a Sabbath day of rest be kept.  Over time, Israel’s public worship developed around these three regulated elements of religious life.  In David’s time, and at other times of revival, music played an increasingly important role in public worship.  Later psalms of ascent (120-134) were sung by the people as they journeyed toJerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Hallel psalms, 113-118, were sung at Passover.  Psalm 148 is for the beginning of Passover, 136 for its end.

Private and family worship.  Little detail is given in the OT of family worship practices.  More is known of the pattern in later Judaism, which included prayers, memorization of Scripture, family keeping of festival practices, and talking often of God’s words, as the law requires (Deuteronomy. 6:7, 8).  Many symbols of faith were also found in homes (6:9).  We do read in the OT of the prayer life of many OT saints and many moving personal prayers are recorded for us.

Response to God.  It is a mistake to try to understand OT worship by observing either the emotions or the practices of God’s people.  This is because, essentially, worship is a response to God as he initiates relationship by self-revelation.  David’s prayer on the occasion of bringing the ark to Jerusalem illustrates this.  He was deeply affected emotionally.  But his psalm of thanks (1 Chron. 16:7-36) does not focus on himself or on his emotions.  The psalm focuses on the Lord.  David speaks directly to God.  He praises God for who he is, and for how he has acted for his people.  Thus the heart and center of true worship, however that worship may be expressed — in ritual, in dancing or in quiet privacy — is the person of the Lord himself.

True and false worship.  True worship in Israel involved personal response to God in his great, historical revelation.  False worship might be bowing down to an idol or a god of surrounding peoples.  But it might also be careful observance of prescribed ritual — without that heart response to God which will always find expression not only in ritual but also in daily obedience to the Lord.

For study:  Deuteronomy 10:12 f: 1 Chronicles 16:7-36:  1 Samuel 2; worship psalms.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *