Rev. Gerson Freire – winter 2011
1. Some Considerations before we go on studying the Holy Scripture
My intention today in our class is to observe how the concept of Worship was developed in the bible. We will travel through the verses of Genesis and find out how this term entered in the holly canon.
However, in order to understand what’s in the bible we should take a look on things that were around the bible as it was being written.
A better understanding of the bible is always a work of three cooperative forces. They are:
1. The Text
2. The context
3. The interpretation.
You might ask: “Pastor how about the holy spirit?” Well, the Holy Spirit is the one that reveals the word in the three forms we mentioned before. The only reason you consider this word holy is because the major force of God’s grace has been put in you through faith and that is the engine which causes you to seek god and his word. Praise God for that.
So, because of that, we can study the word of god knowing that The spirit of God is already working in us. Then we can jump into the word using these three tools we mentioned.
1. The Text: Is the divine inspiration word written by simple men chosen by God. The text is perfect in essence even if historically and grammatically we can find some errors in the originals. (Case of David) - But that does not put the holy text in aplace to no be trusted. In some cases even those discrepant texts reveals some of God’s amazing grace to us. There is a risk when someone use the text alone without the other two tools. Great heresies and distortion of God’s principles happened in history because of this approach to God’s Word.
2. The Context: is the environment, the emotions of the writer, the situation when the scripture was produced. A good understanding of the context can help us to soak in God’s word and see the greater picture of it. Also there is a risk of theological liberalism when people use this tool alone.
3. The interpretation: is the action someone do towards the holy text and define what that text is trying to teach. The risk in this case is what we call “Free interpretation” where people use any kind of “feelings” force God’s word to say something that it is not saying at all.
4. Anthropological Aspects: We see in humankind history that no matter where in the globe, no matter when, men always try to worship a divine being. In Brazil for exemple, we still have some tribes that have no conection to eastern world. When our government discover them ans start to study their habits, well, there it is!!! They have the habit of worship. We see that in our sphereas of mankind history, Wine for example is a drink that has been always connected to a form of worship. In the Arts we can see that same aspect. Literature: study the ancient greek, fenincian, Egyptian, Sumerian literature and you will find out about their faith. I’m saying this because it shows me something: Man was created to worship. This is an anthropological truth.
After we considered this aspect of how to study the scripture, let’s see when the concept of worship appears in the Bible. Let us read the text in Genesis 22.1-5.
The Text: This text is a record of how a man had his lifes impacted by God’s word. A better reading for this text is to start in chapter 12. The text records how God’s grace and trial’s had an intentional purpose in Abraham’s life. We can divide this text in four parts. We can notice that there was a calling, a time of perseverance, and time of change and a time of establishment. When we read this text we tend to believe that Abraham was a kind of superhero of the old testament. Wrong!!! He was a man chosen by God, but a simple man, yet a man of courage to believe. We can read this whole text in half hour. That’s why we tend to believe he was a superman.
The word worship here has a very interesting lexical meaning. The author does not use the common word for worship in the old testament: Barack: which means to kneel down. But intead, he uses the word Shachah. Dr. Skip Moen presents that word as “a word that describes an act of obedience. It is the word for prostrating oneself on the ground before a superior. But it is not simply an outward, physical act. Hishtachah, a derivate word, describes an inner attitude of worship even when there is no associated outward ritual. We see this attitude in the servant of Abraham when he meets Rebekah (Genesis 24:26). We find it in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5), in David’s desire to seek God’s face (Psalm 5:7) and in the final purpose for all men (Isaiah 66:3). Yes, it’s worship, but it is not the kind of worship that we typically find in today’s congregations. Shachah is your soul, spirit, mind and strength facedown on the ground, in humble adoration, and total commitment to the only One Who is worthy of worship. Shachah is deep devotional prayer permeating life”. The great Reformer of the century XVI, John Calvin, also dealt with the issue saying that “The ceremonies are subservient, as helps or instruments, in order that, in the performance of divine worship, the body may be exercised at the same time with the soul.”
The text here then points to an inner attitude followed by an action.
The context: If we pay attention to the dates in the text we will be surprised of how many years passed till God calls Abraham to Moriah. Before that calling Abraham had lied to Pharaoh about his wife, he had to come back and to restore some of the altars which were destroyed, He had to deal with problems in his family, He had to deal with his attitudes regarding God’s promise. And finally, he had to learn the way to worship. The word worship here appears in the verse 5. So, the best way to understand the context is to make questions. Questions don’t mean doubt. Remember the difference between the question of Zachariah and Mary? They both questioned the Angel but the priest twisted his question into doubt. So, some good questions for our text here. Who was giving Abraham the command? When was it? Why he did go without Sarah? How old was Isac? Why three days of walk?
The answers of theses questions can lead us through a very intense study of worship in the Bible. (Discussion of the questions)
Interpretation: Well, after we discussed theses questions here comes the time when we need to do the interpretation of the text and the context. We here need to use a powerful tool in Christian history. It’s called the “principle of the first appearance”. This is a principle of interpretation that guides us throughout the bible keeping the orthodoxy of the scripture. That means that the central meaning of worship in all the bible is related with this text we are studying right now.
Remember all of this will be enlightened by God’s spirit who dwells in us.
First thing we see here is a man. Yes, not a superman, but a man being trained and lead to exercise his faith in God.
Also, we see a man learning to live God’s promise no matter the circumstances of his life. (lie, prosperity, wars, devotion, family crises, and obedience)
After years of training we see that man responding to God no matter was the request.
We finally we see also a man who learned to listen to God’s voice e be redirected.
Worship in the context of the Congregational Service Today
We have a challenge right before our faces. How can we bring this meaning and perspective of worship and put this in the daily life of a church congregation. Worship in our context is more connected with music itself than with obedience and surrender.
I really believe that music has a special place in our spirituality. It’s a great way to express deep feelings and to communicate to other vision and values. However, if that music only touches emotions there is a risk of this time we call worship period becomes only a group therapy. Nothing against group therapy, I even like it very much, but Worship is not that.
I believe that discipleship is the key for that. A bible based church will always invite its members to study the word of God and to respond in a practical way to it. Most of the Christian disciplines has more to do with actions than feelings. An act of faith is an act of worship, because at the end we are saying: God your word is true, your ways are true; you have the final decision on that matter, that’s why I’m acting like this. That’s why I forgive, that’s why I plant my seed, that’s why I read your word… and it can go ad eternum. Arthur Pink concludes “against all this delusion we have the words of Christ in John 4:24, which are startling in their plainness and pungency: “God is Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
Let us worship him the way he created us to!
Let us pray.