For my final few days, I want to focus on the biblical principle of worship, our reaction to God revealing His power. Throughout the Old Testament, we can find examples of the Israelites worshiping God’s glory — as well as the consequences that occur when they don’t worship Him appropriately.
“You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will keep you healthy.”Exodus 23:25
The Israelites were chosen by God to receive His blessings and protection, and they had the added advantage of actually experiencing God’s majesty in person. As the Chosen People, the Israelites were given exact instructions in how to react to those encounters with God, including sacrifices and rituals that would help them to focus their attention and praise on God alone. Central to worship in any form, however, were always two distinct elements: confession and celebration. Their entire year and organization were designed around those elements; holidays occurred regularly, and the houses of worship stood in the middle of their communities.
Regular worship in the Temple or the Tabernacle encouraged the Israelites to both confess their sins and celebrate their Lord. This time of worship incorporated the entirety of the Israelites’ attention, drawing on all of their senses as they became immersed in God’s wonder. When laying their sacrifices on the altar, the Israelites were expected to physically touch the gifts, symbolizing that the offering was replacing themselves and their past sins. On the altar, these sacrifices created a smell that the Israelites would be able to sense long before they’d approached the Temple. The appearance of the actual buildings were designed to impress upon the Israelites both their own smallness and the greatness of God. The music, singing, and prayers from within and around the compound would urge all those who could hear them to join in praise. Finally, this time of worship often occurred in the midst of festivals that included symbolic flavors; even a food’s taste of sweet or bitter would remind the Israelites of their historic sufferings or future blessings.