The Eternality of the Liturgy (Part Two)

6 12 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November  2010 – Vol. 16 Issue 10 – The Eternality of the Liturgy (Part Two) – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Eternality of the Liturgy (Part Two)

Rev. Robert S. Liichow

In this short series we are considering whether or not God has handed down to us a specific manner in which He is to be worshipped. I was born an American and was raised on a diet of self-sufficiency, having it my own way, Yankee ingenuity and inventiveness. This attitude really belongs to most of us and it is certainly seen in the way in which worship services are conducted. Being immersed in apologetical (1) thinking for many years I have come to the conslusion that there are no grey areas when it comes to “God.” (2) Either something is right or it is wrong. Oh I suppose I will admit to there being another position taken by many in the pews, that of lukewarm, that comfortable mixture of equal parts “hot” and “cold” (or shall I say “right” and “wrong” resulting in a dandy shade of gray). Those who prefer to straddle the middle ground, neither being hot or cold make God nauseous to the degree of vomiting them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16).

Either the manner in which we worship God is acceptable in His eyes or it is not. It cannot be both, truth matters it really does. Regarding worship there are only three possible origins of our practice: (1) divinely revealed by God (3), (2) created out of man’s fallen desire, (3) inspired by Satan and demons. I readily acknowledge that as sinful beings we are not capable of achieving 100% divinely inspired and operated church services in this life. Yet I firmly believe that as God’s people it behooves us to strive with our all to come as close to following God’s pattern as revealed to us in the Bible. Lastly, I see no biblical authority for the congregations to ever depart from what God has revealed as acceptable worship. Times and cultures change, music styles change, but God does not change (Malachi 3:6). Truth by its very nature is changeless.

The Liturgy as Practiced in the Old Testament

What sets Judaism apart from all other religions is that God reaches out to humanity and reveals Himself to His chosen people. Every other religious system (4) is man’s vain strivings to create a god(s) after his own image and tastes based on an incomplete general revelation that some God does in fact exist (Roman 1).

God Himself is the aggressor, the One who seeks Adam to walk with him in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). The Ancient of Days is the One who spoke to Abram first (Genesis 12:1) and it was no less than Jah (Psalm 68:4) who addressed Moses in the bush that burned but was not consumed in Exodus 3:2.

It is beyond the scope of this brief article to detail the manner in which people worshipped the true and living God from Adam until the formation of the Hebrew nation. Suffice it to say it was only with the advent of the Hebrew nation that God’s will was codified by God on tablets of stone and then through Moses. As the unique people who bore God’s name before the world His directions for worship should be examined especially in light of the reality that the Church was birthed as the fullest expression of Judaism.

The Twelve tribes leave Egypt under the guidance of Moses (Exodus 6:6). After some trekking they arrive at Mount Sinai where Moses goes up alone to meet with the Lord. In his absence the people prevail upon Aaron to “make us gods, which shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1) which Aaron does and the people sing, dance and play around the god of their own making (Exodus 32:6).

This man-made idolatrous (5) worship kindles the wrath of God who is in the midst of fellowshipping with Moses. God is so angered by the false piety of the people that He declares that He will destroy them (Exodus 32:10) and offers to make of Moses a great nation instead of the Israelites. Moses intercedes on the people’s behalf and God’s wrath is turned away at the cost of several thousand stiff necked Israelites at the hands of the tribe of Levi later on in the same chapter.

Without recounting all of Israel’s desert dealings with God suffice it to say that Moses receives the law written by God for the people and a little later on God reveals to Moses the exact pattern for His tabernacle and the worship therein.

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. Exodus 25:8-9

If you will take some time and re-read Exodus chapters 26-29 you will read about just some of the exquisite and exacting details God ordained for His place of interacting with His people. Moses and the artisans were not allowed to be “creative. On the contrary they built according to the pattern shown by God to Moses. God even gifted the craftsmen (see Exodus 31:2-14). From start to finish God alone was to receive the glory. It is a charismanic adage is true “where God gives the vision, He supplies the provision” and this is certainly evident in this case; He supplied the vision, the layout if you will, and then anoint (6) or gifts the workers to carry it out exactly as shown. What was shown to Moses? He saw the layout of the true spiritual sanctuary in heaven:

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount. Hebrews 8:5

From what the Scriptures detail of heaven it seems to me that a portion of it is reserved for the specific worship of our Triune God. All of us are familiar with the account given by Isaiah in Chapter 6. His account is paralleled by the Apostle John who wrote the following:

In Revelation 4 and 5, the Apostle John was shown a vision of heaven. He witnessed worship before the throne of God. He records the presence of twenty-four elders before the throne bowing down before the Lord. Angelic creatures are praising God saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come” (verse 8). He sees tens of thousands of angels worshiping the Lamb who was slain (5:11-12), and “every created thing which is in the heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them” worshiping the Lamb (5:13).

Thus far we have read about the fact that the place of true worship was by divine design. As one studies through Exodus one discovers that God also ordained specific men to serve as priest, even though the whole nation was a nation of kings and priests (see Exodus 19:6)

And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21

Even the layout of the tribes surrounding the tabernacle was ordered by God, as were the garments in which the priest stood to minister in (today we call them “vestments”). What I hope you are noticing as you re-read these chapters in Exodus is that worship was all about God. Considering He is the One being worshipped it only makes sense that He would show His people how He desires to relate to them.

The Old Testament basis For Christian Worship

One goal is to understand that the genuine orthodox liturgical forms (9) B. & Anstall Williams wrote much of the following, but it gives you a fairly good overview of Jewish liturgical worship and how it relates to our next portion of this article.

Jews at the time of Jesus Christ had already had a history of worship almost 1500 years long. Their history was full of interaction with God Who called them to be His people, and Who had revealed to them specific instructions as to the offerings and sacrifices which were part of the way in which He was to be worshiped. The Bible is clear that God revealed to Israel how to worship, and it was patterned after things in heaven. These specific forms or liturgies of worship were first seen in the Tabernacle of the early Israelites, and were consummated in the Temple worship which took place later in Jerusalem. The worship of God in the Temple in Jerusalem was the first and most prominent focus of Jewish worship, which included the form and frequency of prayer and sacrifice.

For Judaism there had always been a constant cycle of prayers, blessings and meals: daily, weekly, monthly and annually. These constituted the second focus of worship for the Jews. In its most regular form it included practices in the daily hours of prayers and the annual High Feast Days. The High Feast Days included the sacrificial offerings of the Temple and contained Jewish messianic expectation. These meals included the “breaking of bread” and the “blessing of the cup”, and contained parallels with both the temple sacrifice and the messianic feast.

As Fr. Louis Bouyer points out, “The synagogue worship, already before Christ, had its necessary complement in the ritual of the meals: the family meal, and better still at least at the time of Christ, the meals of those communities of the faithful brought together by a common messianic expectation…” (11)

There was a “meal liturgy” for the prayers of the meals, and in principle they were required for every meal. However, it took on the greatest importance in family meals and especially the meals of the Holy Days. The entire structure of the Last Supper as recorded by St. Luke mirrors the meal liturgy as practiced within Judaism at the time. (12) These meal prayers and their structure contributed directly in the formation of the early Christian celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

The third and last focus of worship was that of the synagogue. For the average Israelite, the Temple was a place of worship only on certain days of the year, and it was most specifically a place of sacrifice. During the Babylonian captivity, worship in the Temple was impossible. A new form of worship came into being, a form focused patterned on temple worship, but without the sacrificial element which took place only in the Temple, and with a strong didactic element of teaching and remembering. These two elements of Jewish worship — synagogue and temple — together formed the very basic components of the form or order of the liturgy for the early Christian Church.

Besides the structure or order of worship that came from Judaism into Christianity, one can also find the cycles of liturgythe daily, weekly and yearly cycles of worship-coming from the Old Testament as well. Acts 2:46 says that “day by day, continuing steadfastly with one acord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart”. On a daily basis the Apostles continued their Jewish worship practices in the temple, and on a daily basis broke the bread of communion. This regularity of time is further confirmed in Acts 3:1 where Peter and John were going to the temple because it was the hour of prayer. Not only did they continue in Jewish worship practice, but they kept the liturgical cycle of daily prayers at set hours of the day as well as the major fest days.

Christian worship, then, was a Christ-centered pattern that continued and preserved the traditional structure of synagogue worship and the meaning of temple worship that the Lord had established in Israel. This basic structure included the Old and New Testament practices of liturgy, baptism, and Paschal fest that became the Eucharist, and certain of the feast days.

One of the blessings that has come into my life over the last several years is becoming part of a truly liturgical congregation. After all the years of foolishness and hoop-la in charismania it is wonderful to come before God with His people and encounter and participate that which is both ancient and also divinely revealed.

In the next article we will look at the development of liturgy within the Church.

Copyright ©2010 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. I am merely following the example of the Apostle Paul who also “created” new words, “apologetically” does not yet exist, but it does now even as does “charismaniac” and Neo-Montanist”.

2. I admit my thinking may be “grey” at times, but the fault lays with me. There is a correct answer for every question, whether we arrive at that answer in this life is open to debate.

3. Obviously in saying this I mean “revealed” via holy Scriptures not revealed in the sense of a subjective experiential encounter which is probably better attributed to poor quality pizza than of a divine orgin.

4. I do not mention the Church because we are grafted into the “stump of Jesse” as it were, Paul reminds the Gentiles of this in Romans 9.

5. It is safe to consign all man-made doctrine and worship to the category of idolatrous.

6. No brag just fact: DMI has the only book in publication on the “anointing.” In it every term from both Old and New Testament are examined in their original language and context. Then the popular misuses and false doctrines by many popular SINistries are considered and corrected. All for a mere $15.00 donation to DMI. The title is: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Anointing* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).

7. Taken from http://www.liturgica.com/html/litEChLitHW.jsp but somewhat modified by this author.

8. I would certainly recommend the “Life Light” Bible study book on Exodus, available through www.CPH.org

9. Orthodox is used here not to indicate specifically Greek or Russian “orthodoxy” but simply to mean correct Christian biblical tradition versus manmade novelties.

10. Consider Exodus Chapters 12 &13, 25-31; Isaiah 6; Daniel 7; Revelation 4 & 5, among others.

11 Louis Bouyer; Liturgy and Architecture, Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, p. 23

12 Louis Bouyer; Eucharist; Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, p. 78

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