Divine Worship --Part 3

Divine Worship
Part 3

Nelson Brooks

In our examination of the subject of worship as presented in the Word of God, we must now consider collective worship in the assemblies of the saints.

Congregational Worship

This aspect is illustrated by the several occasions on which the children of Israel gathered together for worship. These occasions suggest that worship may occur in different relationships.

Worship and Ministry: To Israel, in deep trial and affliction in Egypt, two messengers were sent from the Lord with a ministry of comfort and hope. This message embraced:

God’s faithfulness, “The Lord God of your fathers.”

God’s presence, “Appeared.”

God’s interest, “I have surely visited you.”

God’s sympathy, “And seen that which is done to you.”

God’s comfort, “I will bring you up out of the affliction.”

God’s power, signs that they could believe.

When the reality of the Lord’s presence and sympathy were believed by the congregation, they bowed their heads and worshipped (Ex. 4:31). What a blessed ministry! It brought to their hearts the realization of the presence and power of God. Moreover, what a blessed response on the part of the audience! The entire congregation bowed in reverence, wonder, and thankfulness before their God. This truly is the ultimate objective of all Spirit-led ministry.

Worship and Evangelism: The provision of the passover lamb (Ex. 12) is one of the clearest types of the gospel in all the Old Testament. Moses held a good news or gospel meeting on the occasion (Ex. 12:21). He told the children of Israel that a way of salvation was available, a means of saving their condemned firstborn children. As the people heard that the Lord would pass over their blood-sprinkled doors and that He would protect their little ones, they worshipped and obeyed. “The people bowed the head and worshipped. And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord commanded Moses” (Ex. 12:27-28). The people’s bowing in reverence before Jehovah is linked with their obedience of faith. A similar response to the gospel of Christ is necessary for salvation today. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9, R. V.).

Worship and Prayer: A great prayer meeting is described in 2 Chron. 6. It was held at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. “When Solomon had made an end of praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and how the glory of the Lord came upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever” (2 Chron. 7:3). During Solomon’s great prayer in which he presented the nation’s need to Jehovah, no mention of worship is made although Solomon kneeled down. Nevertheless, when the visible evidence of God’s presence was seen in the fire and in the glory cloud, the people bowed to the ground in worship. This act of homage, of obeisance, of bowing was incumbent upon a people who were consciously in the presence of their God. After thus rendering their homage, they praised and sacrificed to God (2 Chron. 7:4-6). “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of His saints and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him” (Psa. 89:7). It is striking that the glory of the temple building, which was the most magnificent palace on earth, is given no superlative description; all the wonder is directed to the glory that excelleth, the glory of the Lord’s presence.

Worship and Remembrance: The presentation of the burnt offering in the Old Testament portrays the death of Christ in a manner similar to the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup in the New Testament. In the burnt ofering there was the shedding of blood and the giving and breaking of the body of the victim, for it was divided into its pieces and laid on the altar. Christ’s New Testament promise, “There am I in the midst of them,” was paralleled by Jehovah’s promise concerning the altar of burnt offering, “There I will meet with the children of Israel” (Ex. 29:43).

A splendid forepicture of a New Testament remembrance meeting may be seen in 2 Chron. 29, “And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began … And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: And all this continued until the burnt offering was finished” (2 Chron. 29:27-28). On this occasion, as the priests presented the burnt offering, the congregation prostrated themselves before the altar of Jehovah’s presence in worship (2 Chron. 32:12). The Levites at the east end of the altar (2 Chron. 5:12) praised the Lord with singing, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever.” Other priests blew silver trumpets over the burnt offering in accordance with the instructions of the Lord (Num. 10 :10 ) .

Trumpets speak so frequently of the ministry of the Word of God. In this instance they were blown over the burnt offering in order to draw attention to its importance. The blowing of the trumpets marked the day as a glad day, a solemn day, a memorial day. Such also is the Christians’ remembrance feast at which the public reading of the Word of God is most important to draw attention to the value of the great offering of our Lord Jesus. The Levites also sang to bring to remembrance (to record), to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel (1 Chron. 16:4).

In this beautiful illustration, we have pictured:

Hearts presenting Christ to God.

Hearts prostrating themselves before God.

Hearts praising the mercy of God.

Hearts proclaiming the virtues of Christ’s sacrifice.

In the Old Testament passage, three different ranks of persons performed these functions, but in the New each saint has the high privilege of performing all four functions. We, as holy priests (1 Pet. 2:5), have liberty to draw near to offer the sacrifice of praise, giving thanks to His name. As God’s peculiar people, a people of God’s own possession (1 Pet. 2:9 and 1:17), we prostrate ourselves in spirit in the presence of God to the honour of His Deity and Kingship. As redeemed and separated saints (1 Pet. 1:18, 22), pictured by the Levites, we can, through the experience of redemption, sing of the mercy of the Lord to us. Finally, as royal priests (1 Pet. 2:9), we may open the Scriptures and proclaim the virtues of Him Who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

To praise the Lord Jesus in song, and co magnify Him with thanksgiving will please the Lord more than an ox or a bullock. Furthermore, the Father Himself also seeks that His saints honour Him with homage. The Lord Jesus said, “The Father seeketh such to worship Him” (John 4:23).

The proper spiritual response to the presence of our Lord in the midst of His gathered people was given by Thomas when he bowed in spirit and worshipped saying, “My Lord and My God.”