Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Worship - God's Presence Brings Worship


Worship for the Believer

God’s presence brings worship

Exodus 33:10 (KJV 1900)

10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.

The sin of the people of Israel was great.  They made and worshipped the golden calf in the presence of God.  They decorated themselves with all the material images of the bondage in Egypt, effectively renouncing God’s deliverance, God’s promises, and God’s values, and God’s sole right to be worshiped.

Exodus 32:19–20 (KJV 1900)

19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. 20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

Moses returned with the commandments of God in stone tablets of stone.  Upon seeing the people worshiping the calf, his anger was so great that he broke the tablets before the people.  This action was symbolic of man’s constant battle with God, always challenging and breaking of the commandments of God.

Although angry, Moses did not forsake the people, but confronted the people about their sin.  Moses called them to repentance based upon his advocacy for them, atonement for sin, and God’s forgiveness.  This is the perfect picture of man’s relationship with God.  God gives his law.  Man breaks that law of God.  A messenger from God calls for repentance based upon the atonement of God.

Exodus 32:30–33 (KJV 1900)

30 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. 31 And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. 33 And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

Moses wisely pitched a tent outside of the camp, and there God chose to come with his presence.  This tent outside of the camp would from this point forward represent the separation of God’s presence from His people.

Exodus 33:4–6 (KJV 1900)

4 And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. 5 For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. 6 And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb. 
When the people saw the presence of God, they worshiped the Lord because God had humbled them with His unwillingness to bring His presence into their camp.  The picture of this tent would forever remind the people that their sins would always separate them from the close presence of the Lord.  God would always require them to come to him outside of the camp to honor his presence.  God does not come to man, but man must come to him outside of the camp, their normal abode and circumstances, recognize his presence and humbly worship the Lord.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Worship - Commonalities in Synagogues and Early Church

Worship for the Believer

What occurred in the synagogues that was incorporated into the Early Church?

The synagogues offered a place for teaching and preaching of God‘s Word.

Jewish elders met together with Ezekiel in exile in Babylon (Ez 8:1; 14:1; 20:1). Yet there is no positive evidence of actual synagogues at this early stage. In Nehemiah 8:1–8 the postexilic community gathered in Jerusalem, and Ezra the scribe brought the law, read it from a wooden pulpit, and gave an interpretation so that the people understood the reading. When Ezra blessed the Lord, the people bowed their heads and worshiped. These were the basic elements of what came to be synagogue worship. The first undisputed evidence of a synagogue comes from Egypt in the third century bc. From the first century bc onward, the evidence of synagogues is abundant. (Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (1229). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.)

Matthew 4:23 (KJV 1900)

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Luke 4:16–19 (KJV 1900)

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Obviously, it was common for Christians to attend the synagogue and participate with the inclusion of their new faith in Christ, the Messiah.  It was not until the expulsion of the believers and persecution by the Jews that this practice began to cease.  However, the common practices remained in the basic DNA of the Jews who dominated the composition of the early believers.

If the early church did follow the pattern of the Jewish synagogue, as indicated in the above verses, there should be examples in the New Testament of Scripture reading, teaching, and preaching.   would indicate that the synagogue regularly held assemblies.

Paul settles this with his admonition to Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:13–16 (KJV 1900)

13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Paul clearly admonishes Timothy to give attention and meditation to reading, teaching, and preaching of doctrine in the early church.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Worship - Early church location of assembly

Worship for the Believer

Liturgical worship, sacrifice, is in the Temple of Holy Spirit, our Bodies.

John 4:19–24 (KJV 1900)

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe :me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Worshipful sacrifice for the Christian is in the new prescribed temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies; but was there a physical place of Jewish worship to replace the Tabernacle and Temple which impacted the early church.

 As a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, the first temple was completely destroyed.  The destruction of the only place to liturgically worship left a vacuum for appropriate and complete Jewish worship of God.  What did the Jews do after the destruction of their temple when they were taken into exile in 586 BC?  What did those who were left behind in Jerusalem do to appropriately worship God without the sacrifices of the Temple? 

With the prescription of the Temple all other places of sacrifices were replaced.  The obvious conclusion is that worship through sacrifice in the prescribed temple of God was lost to the nation until a new temple could be erected on the original site of the old temple.  However, the lowly and abundant synagogues offered a welcome replacement for corporate practices which would keep the Jewish traditions of prayer, scripture reading, and ceremonial practices alive until the rebuilding of the temple.

The synagogues did not require a building although they were well known in most cities as buildings.  In the case of Paul’s encounter with Lydia, the place of Jewish worship was by the river in an open meeting.  It was there that Paul preached and Lydia was converted.  It is possible that Lydia’s home was the place for the early church in Philippi.

Acts 16:11–13 (KJV 1900)

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. 13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

It was from this example of the synagogue that the early church benefited.  The early church’s pattern, by circumstance, also had very local buildings, usually homes, where the traditions of Christianity could be formed.  The first mention of such a place was in Acts 1:13.

Acts 1:11–14 (KJV 1900)

11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 12 Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

It was in this upper room that the early church formed and began its ministry.  It was from here that the great inauguration of the church took place on the Day of Pentecost.  These small places of worship in homes or small buildings across the cities of the Roman world provided for the gathering of the churches.   A general Biblical acknowledgement of such home churches can be found in Colossians 4:15; Phlm 2; Rom 16:3-4.  Although there are more this is sufficient to demonstrate the pattern of the meeting place of the early church.

This is important to the worship of believer’s today.  It is significant that we remember that our place of meeting is not in a Temple of stone, which limits possible worship because of liturgical considerations.  Our worship is in the temple of the Holy Spirit, our bodies.  That is where sacrifice should occur.  The place of gathering to demonstrate the inside-sacrifice is the assembly place of the church.  It is there that prayer, Bible reading, and other results of our temple worship are perpetuated.

Worship - Liturgical locations

Worship for the Believer

Jesus answered the argument of liturgical worship locations

John 4:19–24 (KJV 1900)

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

The Old Testament worship system required a liturgical worship location.  In order to establish the examples which would explain the death of the Christ, such a worship system was required, even a mobile worship place such as the Tabernacle.  God gave the Tabernacle while the Israelites sought the Promised Land and the permanent Temple when they were established in the land.

Because there is a strong attachment to a place of liturgical worship, estrangement as a result of dissension will always require a new place of worship to be established.

The Hebrews were guilty of syncretistic or artificially mixed religious practices. The temples built by Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the first king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) after its break from the Jerusalem-centered Kingdom of Judah, were probably dedicated to such worship. When these temples were established in Bethel and Dan, Jeroboam the King “made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt’ ” (1 Kings 12:28) This mixing of the gold calf—a symbol of Baal—with the worship of the God who delivered the Hebrews from their Egyptian bondage was false worship. (Cresson, C. B. (2003). False Worship. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen & T. C. Butler, Ed.) (555–556). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.)
1 Kings 12:27–30 (KJV 1900)

27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

Jesus acknowledges the weakness of liturgical locations for worship.  Man’s inconsistency will creep into the true worship and create alternatives which make alternative liturgical location worship, leading to false worship.  He also gave reference to the eventual destruction potential for the true worship site of a liturgical based system. He refers to this destruction in Matthew 24.

Matthew 24:1–2 (KJV 1900)

And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

What does this mean to the New Testament church?  Buildings and locations are not as important as the place which God chooses to place his name..

Deuteronomy 26:1–2 (KJV 1900)

And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; 2 That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.

Our bodies are the place God chooses to place his name in the New Testament.  Our worship should begin in the Temple of God, our body.

1 Corinthians 6:18–19 (KJV 1900)

18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

We are to worship in the temple which God ordained to replace the Old Testament chosen places, the temple of our body. We are to utilize our mind, emotions, heart, and physical being to always remain in the state of worship.  We are to love the Lord our God in this physical temple which replaces the Old Testament temple and tabernacle..

             Matthew 22:37 (KJV 1900)

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.