The God of the Old Testament is utterly holy and thus transcendent, inaccessible, mysterious, and inscrutable Ps. But if this alone were true about God, why worship such a terrible and awesome deity? God merits worship because in his imminent presence he is able to answer those who call upon him and forgive their wrongdoings Ps. It was this intimate presence of a holy God that prompted heartfelt praise and worship Ps. And yet, this were not enough if God was not sovereign in all of his creation. The sovereignty of God indicates his absolute authority and power over all creation for the purpose of accomplishing his divine will.
The God of Israel alone rules forever Exod. All this, the holiness of God, the holy imminence of God, and the sovereignty of God, make him a unique divine being. For the prophet Isaiah, the uniqueness of God constituted a call to worship the Lord as King and Redeemer of Israel —8; — Hence, the activity of God in human history served as both a basis for Hebrew worship and justification of the worship of the particular God, Yahweh. Among all the deeds of God recorded in the Old Testament two are foundational to the idea of Hebrew worship.
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While Hebrew anthropology affirms the individual is comprised of distinguishable physical and spiritual elements, there is no systematic distinction between the material and the immaterial, the physical and the spiritual in the Old Testament. According to the pattern of ancient Hebrew thought, a human being is an indivisible totality or unity.
Thus, it is the whole person, not just the immaterial essence of an individual, which blesses the holy name of the Lord in worship Ps. This understanding of the synthetic nature and constitution of humanity by the ancient Hebrews is remarkably relevant for contemporary Christianity. The holistic emphasis of Hebrew anthropology affirms persons created in the image of God as indivisible unities, thus serving as a potent antidote for the far-reaching and lethal effects of Platonic dualism within Western thought.
Finally, Hebrew anthropology fosters the notion of corporate identity or the sense of belonging to the organic unity of humanity. This means the privatized worship of the individual finds its completion in the public worship of the larger worshiping community cf. The Practice of Worship.
Worship during the patriarchal period was either an expression of praise and thanksgiving prompted by a theophany the visible or auditory manifestation of God to human beings or the act of obedience to some divine directive e. Often this expression of worship took the form of altar building Gen. Other expressions of patriarchal worship included the erection of stone pillars and the pouring of drink offerings drink offering, Gen. The Book of Job confirms much of this assessment of pre-Mosaic religion among the Hebrews.
Like the Hebrew patriarchs, Job is cast in the role of priest for his clan as head of the family and offers sacrifices on their behalf Confession and repentance , and petition and intercessory prayer —9; —9 were routine practices for Job as a blameless and upright man. The Mosaic period ca. Hebrew religious consciousness and worship practice was largely shaped by the dramatic events of the exodus from Egypt.
The question of the existence of other gods was not an issue. The Hebrews acknowledged the existence of foreign deities. The sole task of the Hebrews was to worship their God, Yahweh, and serve him alone. The Old Testament celebrates the Passover and exodus as both the supreme act of divine judgment and divine deliverance in Hebrew history Exod.
As such it furnished the seedbed for the growth and development of the Israelite theological language of redemption.
The Passover ceremony and the exodus event exalted the covenant God, Yahweh, who redeemed Israel from the foe Ps. They also stood as a perpetual reminder to the successive generations of Hebrews that redemption leads inevitably to the worship of Yahweh Exod. The legal code forming the stipulations of the Sinai covenant also formally organized Hebrew worship. Mosaic Law legitimized and standardized the media or form and the institutions of Israelite worship of Yahweh. Worship as ritual drama for the ancient Hebrews included sacrificial worship Lev.
The exodus event and the covenant pact ratified at Mount Sinai also reshaped Hebrew understanding of time and reordered Hebrew life according to a new religious calendar. The Decalogue command to observe one day in seven as holy to the Lord established the connection between the Sabbath and original creation Exod. The divinely ordained covenant prescriptions for holiness in Hebrew life extended beyond the Sabbath to the entire calendar.
These great religious festivals and holy days corresponded to the major seasons of the agricultural cycle of the land of Palestine so that the Israelites might acknowledge Yahweh as their Provider and Sustainer. This assembling of the Hebrews for worship both reinforced the ideals of covenant community and personal piety, as well as reminded the Israelites that their physical and spiritual well-being was solely dependent upon the covenant love of Yahweh Deut.
However, biblical scholars have discerned a temple liturgy in Psalm 95 consisting of the entrance implying preparation, confession, forgiveness, and cleansing , enthusiastic praise, worship proper getting low before God , and the response of obedience. According to later rabbinic tradition the psalms were used daily in the temple service accompanying the morning and evening sacrifices.
The prominent place of music in temple worship accorded the priestly musical guilds status equivalent to the priests responsible for the sacrificial liturgy. The Institutions of Worship. The tabernacle was a portable tent-sanctuary ordained by God and constructed by the Israelites under the supervision of Moses.
The instructions for the design and fabrication of the structure, as well as the directives for implementing the worship of Yahweh there, were part of the covenant legislation revealed by God to Moses at Mount Sinai Exod. According to Exodus , 16, the tabernacle was completed in the second year after the exodus from Egypt, a little less than a year after the revelation had been given to Moses at Sinai.
The cloud of the glory of the Lord that filled the tent sanctuary then guided the Israelites in the stages of their desert trek to Canaan, the land of covenant promise Exod. The tent itself was divided into two rooms or compartments by a veil. Entrance to the sanctuary was from the east court; the bronze laver or basin and the altar of burnt offering were set in the courtyard between the court entrance and the tabernacle proper.
The direct purpose of the tabernacle was to showcase the imminence of God, a habitat where God might live among his people Exod. The indirect purpose of the tabernacle was to afford the Israelites the means by which they might honor Yahweh through carefully prescribed worship rituals orchestrated by the newly established levitical priesthood.
The very design and construction of the tabernacle, as well as the prescriptions for the worship liturgy performed there, all reinforced key theological emphases of the Mount Sinai theophany e.
No organized Hebrew priesthood functioned during the pre-Mosaic period of Israelite history. Rather, the patriarch or elder of the Hebrew family or clan officiated as the priest for that group Gen. The New Testament identifies this enigmatic Old Testament figure as the prototype of the later levitical priesthood and ultimately the prototype of the messianic priesthood fulfilled in Jesus Christ Heb.
The Mosaic covenant enacted at Mount Sinai legislated the establishment of a formal Hebrew priesthood to serve God in worship. This priesthood represented the entire Israelite community before the Lord, since they were constituted a kingdom of priests and a holy nation Exod. The Hebrew priests were employed in the service of Yahweh full-time and were supported in their ministry by the tithes, offerings, and portions of the sacrificial offerings of the Israelite community Lev.
The period of service for the priesthood was twenty years, from age thirty to age fifty Num. It appears the priests were trained for their duties during a five-year apprenticeship, from age twenty-five to age thirty Num. Unlike the other Hebrew tribes, the levitical priesthood received no inheritance of land in Palestine. Instead, the priests and Levites were allotted forty-eight cities in which to live Num. The Aaronic priests and Levites were denied territorial rights since the Lord God and service to Israel in his name was their inheritance Num.
Only males from the tribe of Levi were permitted to hold priestly office Num. Following the prescription of Mosaic Law the Israelite priesthood consisted of two orders or divisions, the priests and the Levites.
One from among the Aaronic lineage was chosen and ordained high priest for life Lev. Specifically, the Levites were non-Aaronic descendants of Levi who functioned in the service of the sanctuary in subordinate roles. Three clans or subdivisions of Levites are recognized in the Old Testament, taking their names from the three sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari Num. Duties charged to the Aaronic priesthood basically fell into two categories: superintending sanctuary worship and instructing the people of God in the Law of Moses Exod.
The high priest supervised sacrificial worship in the sanctuary Lev. The Aaronic priests officiated over sacrificial worship in the sanctuary under the direction of the high priest Lev. This levitical assistance included doing the service at the tabernacle, having charge of the sanctuary and its furnishings, and attending to the duties of the Israelites Num. Later the levitical duties were reorganized since they were no longer required as porters given the construction of the Jerusalem temple.
Becoming A True Worshipper
According to the Chronicler, David was responsible for reassigning the levitical priests to new duties that included assisting the Aaronic priesthood in temple worship, cleaning and maintenance, procuring and storing supplies, and serving as temple musicians 1 Chron. Solomon began construction of the elaborate edifice in the fourth year of his reign ca. The magnificent structure was patterned after the tabernacle and replaced that tent-sanctuary as the religious center of Israel, with the levitical priesthood continuing to officiate over the sacrificial and festival worship of Yahweh.
Unfortunately, by the time of Jeremiah the prophet ca.
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Jeremiah indignantly condemned this misplaced trust in the temple as a talisman or fetish and predicted its eventual destruction chaps. A second temple dedicated to the worship of Yahweh was erected in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile at the prompting of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah Ezra —2; Hag. The rebuilding project commenced in b. This temple complex was expanded and refurbished in grandiose style by King Herod the Great begun in 20 b. The New Testament records indicate that the sacrificial system associated with temple worship remained at the core of the Jewish religious experience, with throngs of Jews from Palestine and beyond overrunning the city during the great pilgrimage festivals.
However, the dispersion of Jews across the Mediterranean world under Greek and Roman rule prompted the rise of a competing religious institution, the synagogue. Increasingly the temple became identified with the Hellenized Jewish aristocracy of Jerusalem, sparking the growth of the synagogue among the grassroots population outside the environs of Jerusalem who were attracted to the emphasis on simple personal piety and the spiritual sacrifices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Theological Implications. The Old Testament anticipates Christian worship in theological principle, in that Hebrew worship: 1 required conscious preparation on the part of the worshiper; 2 encouraged private and family worship as a complement to corporate public worship; 3 demanded the response of the whole person to God as Creator and Redeemer; 4 encouraged congregational worship that was active and participatory; 5 focused on the redemptive acts of God in human history i.
Worship in the New Testament. The Jewish Roots of Christianity.
The Jewish character of early Christianity may be traced to three primary points of origin, including ethnicity, the Old Testament Scriptures, and the institution of the synagogue. First, and most obvious, early Christianity was essentially Jewish because the early Christians were Jews. The Old Testament was the Bible for the early church. Hence, the Old Testament was the source book for early New Testament preaching and the apologetic of early Christianity was essentially one of evincing Jesus as the Christ by appeal to this fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
In addition, they understood the church of Jesus Christ to be the new Israel Rom. Thus, while the Holy Bible contains two covenants, the Old and the New, it is a continuous and single record of divine redemption in human history. Finally, the antecedents of the form and practice of worship of early Christian worship may be found in the liturgy of the Jewish temple and synagogue. The Apostolic Church.