Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why We Worship – Part 2

This post is the second in a series of posts concerning the importance of worship. The first post gave a brief history of worship before the giving of the Law to the Israelites.

2. Giving the Law

Eventually, God formalized worship when he gave the Law to Moses and instructed him to build a tabernacle in the wilderness. The tabernacle was portable so it could be disassembled and transported wherever the Israelites went during their 40 years in the wilderness. It was critical to God that the people worship him in the way he specified, using the tabernacle he designed as the center for worship. Eventually Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem, and that became the new center of worship for the Jews.

3. The New Covenant

Later, Jesus talked about worship under the New Covenant with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:21-24):

“Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” NRSV

The worship under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ has these attributes:

(1) The location of worship is no longer centered in the temple in Jerusalem, but can take place wherever God’s people gather.

(2) People can worship God with a fuller understanding now that Jesus, the true Word of God, has been to earth.

(3) Worship is inspired by the Holy Spirit, with the focus on Jesus Christ and what he has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us.

(4) Worship is not a duty requiring animal sacrifices, but is a joyful experi­ence, a time of spiritual renewal, of learning God’s truth, and of fellow­ship.

(5) The purpose of worship is no longer to atone for our sins by offering sacrifices, but to give thanks and praise for what God did for us in Jesus.

We don’t have to atone for our sins again and again at the temple, the main form of worship before Jesus died on the cross. However, the one thing we must remember is that worship is about God, not about us. God uses the worship of his people as his throne, as we read in Psalm 22:3: “You sit as the Holy One. The praises of Israel are your throne.” (NCV) We benefit from the worship experience when we worship in spirit and in truth, but we are not the focus of worship, God is.

More about worship in a future post. Note that some thoughts in this post are based on the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. © 2007 Robert Schnase

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