IT WAS THE MISSION OF JESUS, during the time when He walked as a man on the earth, to establish a new order of worship for all true believers. Regarding true worship of the Father, Jesus said: “Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
It is important for us today to determine what “true worship” is and not hold to any preconceived notions about what God desires as a display of devotion to Him. Preconceived ideas about worship have a way of clouding the plan of God for our lives and the Church.
The Old Testament histories recount the journey of God’s people out of Egypt into the Promised Land of Canaan as God Himself sought to create a glorious kingdom out of a nation of slaves. From the wilderness of sin, Egypt, to the center of God’s presence, the Holy of Holies, was an arduous journey and a period of preparation for God’s people.
In studying the different types of worship in the Old Testament, we can get an understanding of the form of worship that God desires for us today. We can also see that much of the Church continues in a form that is inferior to the true worship which was the mission of Jesus to establish.
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness
We are admonished in Hebrews 3:7-8, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.”
What exactly was this provocation?
From the very beginning God desired to have a people to praise Him. When the Jews came out of Egypt into the wilderness, God instructed them through Moses that they were to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation; each believer would have the privilege of true worship, which is ministering to Him.
God instructed them, “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5,6).
But instead of pressing into God, the people shrank back. When Moses delivered the covenant that they were to obey in the form of the Ten Commandments, God also displayed His great power:
“And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us lest we die’” (Exodus 20:18,19).
True worship is the process of entering God’s Presence, hearing His voice and obeying Him. Sounds very simple, doesn’t it? But the Hebrew people were too stubborn to have it this way and they provoked the Lord to anger. Instead of taking a great honor upon themselves they were afraid of God and asked Moses to be their mediator.
What was the end result of this provocation?
God honored the people’s desire to have a mediator by choosing Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel to minister to God in a complicated ritual of daily sacrifices. The Levitical Priesthood was established to do the work of the ministry and only Moses was allowed to come directly into God’s Presence. The people were not even allowed to draw near to God and the elders could only worship at a distance. The God of Israel hoped that the drudgery of service in a ritualistic system of religion would cause the people to yearn for something more.
Even within this system, there was still a provision available for those who would still repent and serve God. When two men in the camp who were not a part of the seventy elders of Israel began to prophesy, Joshua was indignant and asked Moses to restrain them. Moses knew the heart cry of God, however, and replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)
So we see that even under the Old Covenant, God provided a way out of legalism. We see that from the very beginning God desired all His people to have His Spirit – that they might know Him and be His prophets.
God summoned Moses to Mount Horeb (Sinai) to receive instructions for the construction of a tabernacle. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was to be a burdensome system of worship requiring bloody sacrifices day after day as a continual reminder to the people of their carnal nature. Under this system, only Aaron, the High Priest could enter God’s Presence, and then only once a year.
But even while God was giving Moses these instructions, the people had devised their own system of worship. They fashioned a golden calf and danced around it singing, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 19:8) The Hebrews were merely imitating the idol worship they had seen in Egypt. In their time of slavery God had become a concept, the religion of Egypt had become acceptable to them. Although they had heard about the God of their ancestors, they did not know Him.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people’” (Exodus 32:9). God’s anger burned against them and Moses had to plead with God to keep Him from destroying them. Yet even in His anger, God promised Israel that there would always be a prophet in the land like Moses to speak the Word of the Lord to them. Ultimately God Himself came as a man in an attempt to secure a remnant of Israel who desired true worship. As we shall see, this was a long and arduous process.
Today under the New Covenant, Jesus has made a way for all people to come to the Father. The old system of worship under the Law is no longer required since Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled the requirements of the Law. We are now able to enter into God’s Presence through a new and living way. Through the Blood of Jesus we can worship God in the Spirit.
Yet like Israel, the Church has done the same thing to provoke God. Instead of the life and freedom available through the Holy Spirit, many churches have imposed a dead system of religion on the people. A liturgy has been invented and an endless list of prayers, creeds, and legalistic proceedings abound which are nothing more than an Old Covenant form of religion.
Many churches have set apart a class of Priests who are responsible for ministering to God. The people, or the laity, are viewed as being separate from the Priests and do not share the same responsibility to minister to God. Although there is some truth in this system, it is still a man-made form of religion. Dead formalism is not God’s plan under the New Covenant and it is impossible to breathe new life into an order which has passed away.
It is God’s plan and purpose for every believer to push on into perpetual communion with Him. God desires for us to soften our hearts – to open our ears to hear His voice – and to gladly obey His commandments.
The Tabernacle of David
Five hundred years after the Lord had established the Tabernacle of Moses as a place of worship, King David finally succeeded in driving the Jebusites out of Jerusalem. David captured the stronghold of Zion and lived there calling it the City of David. David fortified Mount Zion desiring to bring in the Ark of the Covenant, which had been in the Tabernacle of Moses on Mount Gibeon.
“Now David built houses for himself in the City of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, ‘No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God, and to minister to Him forever … Now David was clothed with a robe of fine linen with all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the singing with the singers …
“Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the horn, with trumpets, with loud-sounding cymbals, with harps and lyres … And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. When David finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. And he distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake” (1 Chronicles 15:1,2,26-28;16:1-3).
What a contrast this was to the provocation in the wilderness! In contrast to the gloom and doom of Mount Sinai that led to the establishment of Moses’ Tabernacle, the celebration on Mount Zion was a joyful occasion. We are given samples of the songs that Israel sang on Mount Zion in the Psalms:
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
From this description in Psalms we see a festive celebration. God desired His people to be joyful. The presence of the Ark of the Covenant, now in the open, indicates that God desired to dwell among His people. The God of Israel was shattering the religious notion that He was a like the pagan gods who lived only in temples. No, He is an all-present God who desires to dwell among men and He desires all of us to live and move and have our being in Him.
The important point to consider here is that Mount Zion was only an indication of something greater to come. The worship on Mount Zion was open for the people to observe, but the musicians – the worship leaders – were still a part of the Levitical Priesthood.
Although the people were allowed to take part in singing the high praises of God, only the Levites were able to take the responsibility of handling the ark and the playing of the instruments. Then David made offerings to God, blessed the people, “And he distributed to Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake” (1 Chronicles 16:3).
Doesn’t this sound like many of the Church’s meetings of today? We begin our meetings with a few lively praise songs, interrupted by the worship leader with “pep talks” (C’mon praise Him! Lift your voices!). This is followed by two or three worship songs. Maybe at some point one, two or three of the more “spiritual” people in the church will give a prophetic utterance. This is followed by prayer and a sermon from the pastor, then the offering and the announcements – and finally the end of the service when people finally get to interact in fellowship – (this is the part of the service that usually has the most life to it).
Although there is more life in this type of a meeting than in the dull, repititious, liturgical services that resemble the worship in the Tabernacle of Moses (see Numbers 7:11-88), God has an even higher plan for us than this! We should be careful that we do not become so satisfied with what is good that we miss God’s best. God desires for each one of us to walk behind the veil and enter into His Presence. Hebrews 7:20 tells us that we are able to do this because “Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a High Priest forever according to the Order of Melchizedek.”
From the Epistle to the Hebrews we can know a couple of things about the Order of Melchizedek. First, it isn’t a Priesthood determined by patrilineal descent, that is, it doesn’t matter who you are. You can be a Jew or a Gentile. You don’t have to be genetically related to Abraham, Levi, or Aaron. You don’t have to be in the full time ministry; you don’t even have to be very old in the Lord. God is no respecter of persons.
Second, the Levitical Priesthood is far inferior to the Order of Melchizedek. The High Priest under the Old Covenant only served for a period of a year. At the end of the year the High Priest came into the Presence of God once – and then resigned his office. But Jesus Christ is a High Priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek, and He ministers in the Presence of God continually. Under the New Covenant this Priesthood has come upon every child of God.
In the time of King David, the minstrel office was a part of the Levitical Priesthood – a priesthood inferior to the Order of Melchizedek, which is now available to every believer. This becomes significant when we find that there is no ministry of singing or of music in the New Testament. The fact that no musical instruments are ever mentioned in New Testament worship does not rule out music ministry. However, the absence of the minstrel office does indicate that the responsibility to minister to God has come to each and every believer.
In the New Testament, the office of worship is the responsibility of every believer – not the pastor, not the worship leader. We are not to come to be entertained or to judge “how good” the worship was in a particular service. The worship “in spirit and truth” which Jesus refered to in John 4:24 is a state of heart preparation. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
This should be a festive time; but it should also be a sober time. We should be excited about what God intends to do; but we should also cultivate a healthy fear of missing God. In view of God’s holiness we should be worshipping Him in reverence and awe. Yet there is so much noise and so little of His Presence in most of our meetings that we should wonder if we are missing something.
Some may argue that we already have a “measure” of the Presence of God in our meetings – that there have been outpourings and blessings that indicate we are experiencing a “measure” of revival. Many confuse the hype of a “good” service with the actual Presence of God. We are told that we can “just enter into the Presence of the Lord,” but there is a world of difference between a few neat little feelings and the experience of entering into the actual Presence of God.
Are you prepared to enter into true worship?
The Temple of Solomon
After bringing the Ark to Mount Zion, David went back to Mount Gibeon to offer bloody sacrifices to God.
“And he left Zadok the high priest before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering continually morning and evening, even according to all that is written in the law of the Lord, which He commanded Israel” (1 Chronicles 16:39-40).
Even though the Ark of the Covenant had been moved to Zion, the daily sacrifices were still being carried out at Mount Gibeon because the law required them to be made. After seeing this, David inquired whether or not he should build a temple on Mount Zion which would be the permanent dwelling place of God. Through the prophet Nathan God spoke, saying that David was not to build the house of God; that task would fall upon David’s son, Solomon.
Solomon realized that it was not for God’s benefit that this house was built, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this house I have built” (2 Chronicles 6:18), but it was for man’s benefit that God desired to dwell among His people.
Solomon built the Temple of the Lord on Mount Moriah, a hill to the north of Mount Zion. It required the work of over 150,000 men and took 20 years to build. The gold, silver and bronze utensils and ornaments that adorned the temple were in such a great quantity that their worth was beyond measure. The priests sacrificed so many sheep and oxen for the burnt offering that they were beyond numbering. Then the priests and the singers brought the ark of the covenant to Mount Moriah. They sang and praised God with musical instruments and the temple was filled with a cloud and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. Then Solomon stood at the altar and facing the people he prayed.
“Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house. And all the sons of Israel, seeing the the fire come down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the Lord, saying, ‘Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.’”
When the Presence of the Lord came in its fulness, even the priests were unable to enter the temple to minister. The division between the priests and the people had been erased. All Israel worshipped and gave praise together. Once the presence of God came in its fulness, these divisions were unnecessary.
It is interesting to note that during the time when David had moved the ark from Mount Gibeon to Mount Zion, the daily ritualistic sacrifices went on as usual. The Law still required them to be made even though the ark had moved on to Jerusalem. Later Solomon moved the ark to Mount Moriah.
This should be an illustrated warning to those of us who like to camp around doctrines, traditions, rituals and formats of worship. While we go on with our programs and rituals, God is doing something new today. He will not be constrained by the religious systems devised by men. We may like our present forms of worship, but where has the ark gone? Where is God’s Presence abiding?
“An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers” (John 4:23).
The Charismatic Renewal of the past three decades is over – the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches of the world today stand at the crossroads. The new awakening that is coming will be a revival of the actual Presence of God. When the Holy One comes, He will come with more power than we have yet experienced. The Lord Jesus Christ shall come suddenly to His temple and there will be a return to true worship.
“And the Lord whom you seek shall come suddenly to His temple, and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s soap. And he will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness” (Malachi 3:1-3).
In this century, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been restored to the Church. Many Christians have witnessed miracles and signs demonstrating that Jesus is alive today. But it is important not to confuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit with the Presence of God. It is true that God’s Presence is almost always accompanied by a supernatural display of power, but gifts may be displayed with or without the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As evidence of this, we see that in the New Testament all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were available after Pentecost were available before Pentecost. Even before Jesus died, was raised from the dead and poured out the Holy Spirit, His disciples healed the sick and cast out demons, the dead were raised and lepers were cleansed.
This is true because the Holy Spirit has no gifts of His own to give. Every one of the gifts mentioned in the New Testament are given by Jesus. We call them “the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” but they are just as much “the gifts of Jesus.” In Ephesians 4:7,8, we are instructed:
“But to each one of us grace was given according to Christ’s gift. Therefore it says:
‘When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.’”
The gifts were all available before Pentecost because they emanated from Jesus. In fact, the only gift not manifested before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. And even here we are admonished:
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
This is an allusion to the praise in the Tabernacle of David in Psalm 150:
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
While speaking in tongues is something that every Christian should desire, the gift of tongues – or the display of any gift – when not accompanied by love is just a lot of noise to God. The true worship of God is not so much characterized by the display of gifts as it is by devotion to Him. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is characterized by a passionate desire to experience the Presence of God. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of love; and if you haven’t experienced this love, then you are not filled with the Spirit.
Those who have really tasted something of the Manifest Presence of God speak only of loving Jesus. Their lives are so overflowing with His love that no one doubts that they have had this experience. The love that they give to others is all the evidence they need to show.
Have you experienced the Manifest Presence of Jesus? Do you have a burden to see true revival? Are you distraught at the current state of the Church?
If you are grieved at the shallowness and the hype that is being passed off as the power of God, know that God is calling you to stand in the gap. Biblical concepts are being taught, hollow words are being spoken, yet God is raising up saints who will not be satisfied with doctrines until they are backed up by actual spiritual experience.
If you share this burden, know that you can be instrumental in bringing about revival. Pray that God would reveal Himself to you in this added dimension. Pray that the people around you would catch a desire to experience His Presence and never be satisfied until they see the fulness of His glory.
If you begin to adopt this burden as a lifestyle of prayer, you will have entered into the Priesthood of Melchizedek. God will begin to change you and will use you to reach others around you in ways that you never dreamed were possible.