People, being at root self-idolaters, think they can worship God on their terms, rather than worshipping Him as He has instructed us to. The difference between right worship and wrong worship is the difference between smoked brisket and burnt hair. If you don’t believe me just ask Cain, or Nadab and Abihu, or Ananias and Saphira.
1 Chronicles 16:29
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Worship Faux Pas
Worship in modern evangelical parlance has come to mean, almost exclusively, music. To be more exact, the sort of music that consists of three chords and the truth, give or take a chord, and give or take the truth. While we ought not to disparage the musicality which has come to pervade much of Protestant worship, we shouldn’t think of worship as confined to the musical aspects of our service. I just used the word service and it would be good for us if we began to think of worship and service as synonyms (Rom. 12:1). In other words, our worship service contains music, but music is too small a thing to contain our worship.
King David, in our text, is consecrating the restoration of the Ark of Covenant to the Tabernacle. He does so by way of “burnt sacrifices and peace offerings (1 Chr. 16:1).” But of great import is the offering of another type: a psalm (16:7). In this song of thanks, we are summoned to give glory to the Lord, bring an offering, and come before Him. We are not only told what to do (i.e. bring glory), but how to do it: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. We must worship not in common garments tailored to current fashion, but in garments of holy beauty.
The way we worship shapes what we believe. Ugly worship results in ugly faith. Thoughtless worship will produce a thoughtless faith. As an example, a deep bond of love and loyalty is formed in a family as they share meals together, go on walks together, laughing and talking. They might not realize how those routine elements of their family liturgy are shaping and fortifying their view of family. If a family becomes a bubble or two out of level, oftentimes a deliberate return to those basic “rituals” help to dispel some of the relational funk.
An important adjective for our weekly Lord’s Day worship should be familiar. In one way, we shouldn’t notice our liturgy. When you first learn the guitar every placement of every finger is a painful labor. But once you are well-practiced, those fundamentals fade. Not because they’re unimportant, but their purpose is to provide the framework for glorious strums, progressions, and scales. If we don’t deliberately look at what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it, we can grow flabby in our execution of what we’ve been told to bring: glory.
And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation.Leviticus 1:1
The book of Leviticus begins with God calling unto Moses with instructions as to how the Israelites were to bring their worship to Him. In fact, the Hebrew name for this book is (ויקרא) which means “And He [the LORD] called.” Worship begins and ends with God and at His initiation. We aren’t Aborigines with rain sticks hoping to make a loud enough clamor to get the gods’ attention. God calls, we answer. God initiates, we respond.
In the OT, God is continually coming to and calling to those whom He has set apart for His redemptive purpose. When He initiates His covenant there is a distinct pattern. But Man doesn’t summon God, rather it is He who calls to us, and invites us into His covenant life. He invites us to a meal.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.Psalm 51:16-17
Before you can enjoy communion with Him, something must be done about the black tar of sin that is caked on you three inches thick. Though David invites us to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, outside of Christ, the most beautiful thing we can offer is the rasping of dead bones, ornately decked out in soiled grave-cloths. God summons us, and the first thing we realize is that we’re wretched, blind, and filthy. Unless our sins are covered, we cannot come. So we confess not only the vile truth about ourselves, but also the new creation which God has begun in Christ.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.John 15:3
But in being cleansed by the blood we are set apart for service. When the priests were consecrated, they were adorned in such a way as to tell the world that they were busy with sacred work (Cf. 1 Pt. 1:15). Their uniform declared their occupation. So we are consecrated to go about the work which God has called us to which is to hear the Word of Christ, in hearing we are renewed by that Word, to keep that Word (Deu. 6:17). Now our prayers and offerings of praise ascend to Him and are accepted by Him, because they are offered in the person of His Son (Heb. 13:15-16).
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.Psalm 63:5
God calls us, cleanses us, and consecrates us in order to commune with us. The Peace Offering followed the Sin Offering and Ascension Offering (Cf. Lev. 9). This sacrifice was a shared meal: the LORD has his portion (Lev. 3:9-11), the priest/mediator received a portion (Lev. 7:31-32), and finally the worshipper partook of this offering (Lev. 7:15).
It’s no small wonder that Christ took the Passover seder (the pinnacle of the entire sacrificial system), and renovated it into a simple meal of bread and wine. Jesus didn’t disconnect it from what came before. The final sacrifice would be Himself. Thus the Peace Offering He offered on our behalf, ensured that we might partake with the Father and the Great High Priest of that covenant meal. What Christ offered was the blood of the new testament (Mk. 14:22-24).
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.Mark 16:15
We’re commissioned because we have been equipped and filled for the task for which we’ve been set apart. Arrangement is always made for the successful completion of the covenant. In the instance of the New Covenant, we are assured that Christ will give us His very Spirit to guide and comfort us. He will be with us. Our practice of weekly Covenant Renewal service isn’t because we’re worried the Covenant will fail week to week.
Glory Upon Glory
The long and short is this: order and ardor are not at loggerheads. We worship with joy unspeakable and full of glory, but we do so with reverent fear. Your worship and service will only be accepted if it is offered in Jesus.
If we think we’re confined by an orderly liturgy, we are likely in danger of indulging ourselves in worshipping the way we want to, rather than the way in which God has commanded us to worship Him. The OT order didn’t become irrelevant because of the fulfilling work of Christ, any less than an acorn becomes irrelevant because it turns into an oak.
Hebrews 10:19-25 makes this abundantly clear for New Testament believers: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”