July 20 Explore the Bible: The beauty of worship
Jul 3, 2014
By MARK A. RATHEL
A leading theologian described the importance of worship. “Christian worship is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life.” Does the terms momentous, urgent and glorious describe the worship services at your church?
Worship is momentous, urgent and glorious. The Bible sets forth a pattern of God judging His people for faulty worship. Ezekiel the priest served a people experiencing God’s judgment for their worship practices. Because of idolatrous worship of the worship leaders and people, God used the Babylonians to destroy the temple and carry many of the people into exile.
Fourteen years after the destruction of the temple, Ezekiel received a vision of a new temple (Ezek. 40-48). Biblical scholars disagree regarding the details of the prophecy. Some interpret Ezekiel’s vision as a literal future temple during the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ. Since Revelation used many of the images from Ezekiel 40-48, other Bible scholars interpret the vision as a symbolic description the heavenly city of Revelation. The conclusion of Ezekiel’s vision of the temple, however, expresses the central focus of worship, “Yahweh is There” (Ezek. 48:35).
Ezekiel 43 sets forth key principles of worship. What may contemporary believers learn about worship from the prophet-priest Ezekiel?
First, worship focuses on the glory of God (Ezek. 43:1-5). The Hebrew term translated “glory” literally means, “to be weighty or heavy.”
Applied to people, the term described influential, honorable people. The English expression in reference to a person of great influence expresses the same thought, “John carries a lot of weight (influence and honor).” God’s visible glory of God’s presence filled the tabernacles (Ex. 40:34-38) and Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) as a bright light. In contrast, Ezekiel observed the departure of God’s glory or presence from the Solomon’s temple and the city of Jerusalem (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19). In the earlier passages, the visible glory of God departed toward the east; now the glory of God returns to a new temple from the east (v. 4)—the direction of the Mount of Olives. In one sense, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy as He traveled from the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem and the temple during His triumphal entry.
Second, worship highlights the holiness of God (Ezek. 43:6-10). The holiness of God is the attribute of God most frequently mentioned in the Bible. A Holy God desires His people to reflect His holiness (Lev. 11:44). God condemned three faulty worship practices. First, God condemned idolatrous worship, a practice the prophet called “religious prostitution.” Ezekiel 8 described the religious leaders combining worship of idols with service of the one true God. Second, God condemned either burial of kings near the temple or some type of cult of the dead (v. 9). Third, God condemned the close association of the religious center (the temple) with the palaces of the king (v. 8), thus condemning the intrusion of royal politics into temple affairs. God desired for Ezekiel’s vision to lead the people to shame and repentance (v. 10). Throughout Ezekiel, shame for sinful activities precedes God’s mighty redemptive activity (Ezek. 36:32-33). Ezekiel challenges us to repent of our unholy religious practices that fail to honor God. Repentance is the path to renewal and revival. True biblical worship involves obedience (Ezek. 43:10-12).
The person and ministry of Jesus illuminates Ezekiel’s message, although parts of Ezekiel’s prophesy may be yet future. Jesus is the visible manifestation of God’s glory (John 1:14). Jewish rabbis referred to God’s glory visible in the tabernacle as the tented glory of God. The incarnate Jesus dwelt (or tented) among humans. Jesus claimed to be the temple of God, the one way in which a holy God and sinful humans can come together (John 2:19-22).
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