Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Covenantal Corporate Worship: Part 3


OT worship not only emphasizes how God revealed Himself (and, thus, his plan of redemption) in history, but also details how his people were supposed to respond to His initiative. They did so by remembering, anticipating, celebrating, and serving: all of which were specifically connected with cultus of the Tabernacle and then with the Temple. The overt symbolism of the sacrificial system, the priesthood, and the feasts were means whereby Israel celebrated and renewed their covenant relationship with God symbolically.[1] Passover, in particular, models most elaborately how worship can be engaging, participatory, responsive, and revelatory. However, the sacrificial system was not only symbolic, it was also “the means by which God made it possible for a sinful people to draw near to him, to receive his grace and blessing, without desecrating his holiness and so incurring his wrath against them.”[2] In this way, OT worship enacts the drama of redemption, and typologically anticipates fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The transfer from the Tabernacle to the Temple built in Jerusalem was foretold in the Song of Moses, immediately after the Exodus: “You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The LORD will reign forever and ever” (Ex 15:17-18). While the function of the Temple remained the same as the Tabernacle, its grandeur and magnificence far exceeded the moveable tent. In Solomon’s dedication prayer (1 Kings 8), he praised God for his covenant faithfulness from Moses to his father David and recognized it as the place where God had set his name and would rule over his people and extend blessing to the nations through Israel.

The book of Psalms powerfully illustrates the centrality of Israel’s covenant with Yahweh as the foundation of their songs of praise for God’s blessing and protection as well as for God’s destruction and judgment of their enemies. Each generation was to be taught the mighty acts of God (cf. Deut 6:4-10; Psalm 78), and each generation was to engage in a lifestyle of worship (in cultic and daily practice) that reflected the grandeur of the God who graciously and miraculously saved them. Moreover, it is neither necessary, nor truthful, to deduce that OT worship ignored the importance of the heart’s engagement because it involved so much outward expression. In fact, Israel’s worship differed so strongly from the nations because it engaged the heart: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might"(Deut 6:4). Hear God’s desire for his people to completely worship him: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! “(Deut 5:29). Because God extended his covenant-love (ds,x,) to Israel, he expected that they reciprocate that covenant-love back to him as well as extend it to the nations! The prophets insisted that a reformation of the heart took precedence over a reformation of ritual: cf. 1 Sam 15; Isa 1:18ff; Amos 5:21-24; Mal 1:6-14. Indeed, God’s design was for his people to reflect in their lifestyle his matchless beauty and holiness as their Redeemer King by fulfilling what was required: Micah 6:8b “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

However, Israel did not do was required and so broke her covenant with Yahweh by committing gross acts of idolatry. The prophets’ criticisms of the Temple establishment are often worded in covenant lawsuit formulas (e.g. Isa 1) and warn the nation of impending judgment for their covenant unfaithfulness. The words of Amos solemnly describe the deplorable scenes that lead the nation into Babylonian Exile:

"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 25 "Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 26 You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god- your images that you made for yourselves, 27 and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus," says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
(Amos 5:21-27)

Not only were they guilty of idolatry, but the reason for their involvement in the Temple cult was to procure their “safety” so that they could continue breaking their covenant with Yahweh and committing evil (Jer 7:1-11)! For this reason, God destroyed the Temple and used the Babylonians to take his chosen people away into captivity. However, the exiles were promised that a day would come when Yahweh would make a New Covenant, put his Spirit within his people, and dwell in the midst of his people forever (Jer 31:31ff; Ezek 36:22-38).

[1] Even the form of large portions of the cannon are structured in covenant form. As Leonard notes, “The entire book of Deuteronomy, though cast as a sermon by Moses, is actually the narrative of a ceremony of renewal of the covenant. It is complete with the historical prologue (chapters 1—9, including the narrative of the Sinai events), the laws or stipulations (chapters 12—27), the pronouncement of sanctions in blessing and curse (chapters 28—29), the invocation of witnesses and the appeal to take the oath of covenant loyalty, or "choose life" (Deut. 30:19)” in “The Biblical Covenant and Christian Worship.”
[2] Peterson, 49.


Ben & Phyllis said...

Completely unrelated comment.... when are we going to see pictures of your new house? :)


We love you!!!!!

Josh said...

Probably Tuesday. I finally found the camera! Thought it was packed away, but it was actually in our car. Wierd, huh.
Love you too, sis.