Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Key Biblical Words for Worship

Here are excerpts from David Peterson's excellent book, "Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship":

“From one point of view, worship in the Old Testament is an attitude of homage [submission/allegiance] or adoration to God as a great king. It could be expressed in silence or by a simple gesture. It could be indicated by that gesture in association with praise or the offering of sacrifices.

“In the final analysis, it is the attitude of the heart that really matters. Such responses were made spontaneously, in recognition of some new disclosure of God’s character and will, or in the course of some regular pattern of ritual activity.

“Adoration was not a form of intimacy with God or an indication of special affection towards him, but rather an expression of awe or grateful submission – a recognition of his gracious character and rule…..

“From another point of view, acceptable worship in the Old Testament is service rendered to God. With the use of such terminology, the focus is again on the acknowledgment of his divine kingship in national and personal life.

“Moreover, Scripture indicates that it was possible to serve the Lord acceptably because of his gracious initiative, rescuing his people from bondage to other masters, and revealing his will to them. [cp. Ex.20:1-2, 3-17; cp. Deut.5]

“The service to God demanded obedience and faithfulness in every sphere of life, with cultic [religious/liturgical] activity being viewed as a particular expression of Israel’s dependence upon and submission to God. The service of priests and Levites within the prescribed cult [system of religious worship/ritual] was designed to facilitate the service of all Israel to God.”

Reverence or the fear of the Lord in the Old Testament means faithfulness to all the covenant demands of God. While this found expression in cultic [religious/liturgical] activity, the reference was normally to the honoring of God by total lifestyle. When Christians imply that reverence is essentially a matter of one’s demeanor in church services, they show little understanding of the Bible’s teaching on this subject!”

“Thus, acceptable worship in Old Testament terms involves 1) homage, 2) service and 3) reverence, demonstrated in the whole of life. A common factor in these three ways of describing Israel’s response to God is the assumption that he had already acted towards them in revelation and redemption, to make it possible for them to engage them with him acceptably. By contrast, the worship activities of the nations are considered to be offensive to God because they are human inventions, arising from misconceptions about God and ignorance about what pleases him.” (p. 74)

“The gospel is the key to the New Testament teaching about worship. The gospel declares to us the ultimate revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the ultimate redemption in his sacrificial death. He fulfils and replaces the whole method of approach to God associated with the Sinai covenant.

“The teaching and practice of the Old Testament is not discarded but is transformed in the New Testament. It becomes the means for understanding the work of the Messiah and how we can relate to God under the new covenant.

“Through the gospel message of God’s mercy in Christ, and through his Spirit, men and women from all nations are united in his praise and service.” (p. 288)

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