Transitions in Worship
Liturgical World 04
Transitions in Worship
I offer this post simply as an observation and an attempt to connect what I am seeing after reading Leithart’s From Silence to Song. Please feel free to critique it and offer suggestions. Thanks!
One interesting thing about tracing the movement of worship throughout the Bible is noticing the times of transitions. After Adam’s sin his children could bring gifts to God to be either accepted or rejected (Gen 4) yet after the flood this is no longer the case. Now Noah brings his gift to God through the fire of the burnt offering. The transition took place as a result of the 40 days and nights of rain bringing the flood (and thus the removal of the garden of eden where gifts could be brought). From the time of Noah the burnt offering is the normal way of worship we see throughout the Bible until the time of Moses.
In the time of Moses God sets up the Levitical system bringing new offerings (Sin, Peace ..etc) and new regulations. Now instead of anyone being able to build an altar anywhere and perform a burnt offering this action is limited to the levitical priests and to the place of the tent of meeting. This transition happens after another flood of sorts (Pharaoh’s army is drowned in the Red Sea crossing) and we see the people of Israel struggling with it (rebelling against Levi’s position ..etc) over the next 40 years in the wilderness. This system lasts unchanged until the time of David and Solomon.
When we come to David things begin to change when he brings the Ark into Jerusalem. He has pitched a new tent with a new offering and new regulations. Here the Levites whose’s job was to carry the ark are now tasked with singing before the ark. They offer the sacrifice of praise morning and evening according to the liturgical calendar. This has taken place after another exodus of sorts. The ark had been captured by the Philistines and as a result the Philistines were overcome with plagues and tumors; they sent the ark away with gifts of gold. The ark was in Isarel yet separated from a place of worship for about a hundred years until David brought it into Jerusalem. During David’s reign as King there were now two places of worship, the tent of meeting in Gibeah and David’s tent in Zion (Jerusalem). One was primarily sacrifical and the other musical. This situation lasted about 37-40 years until Solomon built the temple. Then the two different tents were disamantled and the ark was brought into the temple. Now the sacrifice of animals and of praise were combined.
Jumping to the New Testament (over the exile and destruction of the temple system and it’s restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah to the time of Christ) it is remarkable how the time before the destruction of Jerusalem (70AD) reflects the time of David. Jesus through his death and resurrection (true exodus) has set up a new and living way to draw near to God by the Spirit. The church’s worship no longer includes animal sacrifices but seems to be musical (filled with prayers, the breaking of bread, the word of the apostles and psalms, hymns and the songs of revelation). There again are two places of worship next to each other, the temple in Jerusalem where animals are sacrificed and the church which offers the sacrifice of praise. Like the time of David this situation also lasts about 37-40 years until the temple is destroyed in 70AD. From that time until now animal sacrifice has ceased and the sacrifice of praise has continued. We could rather simplistically arranged this into a sort of chiasm.
The sacrifices thus fulfilled in Christ’s passion, and on that basis, we may say it is God’s will for people to draw near to Him through the sacrifice of praise.
Looking at this some things stand out. Each transition seems to be connected to an exodus kind of event and also to a period of 40days or years. The next transition to come would be the eternal state which would mirror/fulfill the pre-fall condition.