Thursday, April 2, 2009

Worship History and Styles – Part 1

In an earlier series of posts I talked about the importance of worship. In this next series, I’d like to demonstrate how God put a desire and inclination to worship into all people. I would also like to review historical forms of worship, the background of Israelite worship, and modern forms of worship.

As we learned in my series of posts on worship, it is important to God, so it should be important to us. It is our main purpose in life, as A.W. Tozer put it: “God made us to be worshippers. That was the purpose of God in bringing us into the world.” Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, stated that worship on earth is a rehearsal for what we’ll be doing in heaven – worshipping God.

I. Archeological evidence of Worship

Artifacts of worship have been discovered in just about every culture over thousands of years. It appears, given the consistency of the archaeological evidence, that God has put into the hearts and minds of human beings the following:

1. Supreme Being

First, God has given us the innate knowledge that there is a supreme being who created everything and must be honored. Over time, this knowledge became corrupted and many societies worshipped multiple deities instead of the one true God revealed to Adam and Eve. These cultures developed a god for every major aspect of life: fertility, weather, war, water, sun, moon, etc.

2. God Expects Worship

Second, God has given us the innate knowledge that God expects worship from the people he created. Occasionally this knowledge became corrupted, and was replaced by the concept of an angry god who needed to be constantly appeased. Nothing is farther from the truth. God is to be worshipped, we now know, because he is worthy, not angry.

3. Animal Sacrifice

Third, God has given us the innate knowledge that God expects animal sacrifice to atone for our transgressions as part of that worship. What God instilled in us is spelled out in Leviticus 17:11:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement. NRSV

Hebrews 9:22 in the New Testament echoes what is stated in the Law of Moses:

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. NRSV

Altars for sacrifice have been uncovered in many different ancient cultures all over the world. Unfortunately this understanding of the need for sacrifice became corrupted, so human and even child sacrifice emerged in various societies.

4. Eternal Spirit

Fourth, God has given us the innate knowledge that we have an eternal spirit that lives on in the afterlife. We can see evidence of that belief in the burial customs in different cultures.

More on the history and styles of worship in a future post.

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