Monday, October 29, 2012

Worship and the Ark Narrative of 1 Chronicles, pt. 4

The individual psyche of a post-exilic Israelite was wrapped up in national hope (real hopey-changey).  In addition to explaining again how they had gotten there, it provided a basis for confidence for the nation.   The God of the ark narrative (1 Chronicles 13-16) was the LORD (Jehovah), the covenant keeping God of Israel.  His mercy (lovingkindness, Old Testament love) endured forever.  God would deliver out of faithful love for His people.  We will see this point made in the psalm of 1 Chronicles 16.

The central figure of God's plan is David, featured as the main character of the genealogies (1-9), superseding Saul (10), and divinely enthroned via mighty men (11-12).   The Davidic covenant pointed to the eternal king, who would sit on David's throne, a buoy of hope to an Israelite treading water in a diminished new national era.  Recorded as David's first act is bringing the ark to Jerusalem, an attempt met by great failure.  Again in the final chapter (16), that defeat came from a wrong thinking about God, a necessary underpinning for the true and eternal worship God sought from men.

I believe an amazing statement is made by David in his fruit of repentance (15:2):  "None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever."  Last part.  The Lord chose the Levites "to minister unto him for ever."  Forever.  You read that right.  If God chose the Levites to minister unto forever, that meant that (1) God wasn't through with Israel and (2) He wanted to be and would be worshiped for ever.  This worship in this period of Israel's national history was a cross section or microcosm (whichever way you might choose to look at it) of eternal worship.  The Levitical worship was a shadow of the eternal reality.  And, of course, Jesus makes us both kings and priests.  Perhaps we see here that worship in the eternal state might be an eternal reality reflected in the Levitical worship.  We know that a similar worship will occur in the millennial kingdom.  Whatever worship we're doing now even in our churches operates within a larger context of perpetual worship of God.  We're in a line of worshipers with God's purpose fulfilled in worship.

David went back to God's Word to remember what God had said.  Remembering, functioning based on inspired written record, is a primary message of the ark narrative.  The priests bore the ark on the staves "as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord" (15:15).  The LORD had chosen them to carry the ark of God.  David was God's choice as king.  Others were God's choice for other tasks.  Worship required different offices of men (the male gender) who met specific qualifications.

From 15:3 to 15:26, the Levites are listed who led this worship.   You cannot miss music here.   They carried the ark.  They played music.  Singers.  Instruments of music.  Psalteries.  Harps.  Cymbals of brass.  Trumpets.  Chenaniah "instructed about the song, because he was skilful" (15:22).   Someone could judge whether people were good or not.  For there to be skill, there must also be a lack of skill in some.  The unskilled were excluded.  I read that once or twice a year, W. A. Criswell, at First Baptist Church in Dallas, had a night where an hour or two of special music was sung by people who wanted a chance to sing a solo. That's how he dealt with that unique problem.  Churches have strayed widely from the point of music in worship.

The Levites had a process of sanctification they went through.  They had a means God ordained to set themselves apart for this task for God.  These worship tasks should not be seen as ordinary or mundane.  They are holy to God.  The worship of churches becomes more and more casual, more worldly, and purposefully so.  It's called contextualization.  Man has become the center of church worship instead of God.  We don't know who God is killing because of it, like Uzzah, but He isn't happy with it.

Sanctification related to proximity to God.  The ark not only represented God's presence, but His special presence was in fact there, like God's presence was in the burning bush with Moses. Moses had to take off his shoes, not because there were different elements in that ground, but because he was nearer the special presence to God.  The approach to God must be different, special, sacred.  To have something be sacred, something must be able to be sacred.  There must be something sacred.  We can know what the sacred is.  We've known it in the past, because we cared about the sacred.  Today churches are rushing to the common.

The worship of fundamentalism and evangelicalism has in large become common and profane, driven by man-centeredness.  Much of this relates to what is convenient to and comfortable for men.  Another idea is that it is evangelistic, and a perversion of the incarnation is placed upon it with a term, incarnational.  The church is becoming like the world like Jesus became man by taking on a human body.  This is a deep, dark, twisted deviation from God.  It's bad enough that they are doing it, but even worse that they think of a theological justification that attacks the incarnation of Christ.

The profanities of fundamentalism and evangelicalism are different.  Fundamentalism has often taken to the kitsch, the carnival and merry-go-round, Western bumpkin every man.  The idea has perhaps been accessibility to a certain segment of people, who are entertained by a toe-tappin' hoe-down, and somehow equivocate that with some spiritual happening or revivalist tradition.  Evangelicalism just sent the worship form and method to the non-essential and almost anything goes.  They will use the most vile and profane with almost nothing barred from acceptability.  These are violations of sanctity.  The sacred is lost and God is not worshiped, despite what the intentions might be.

(more to come)


Jon Gleason said...

Kent, thank you for this series, I'm appreciating it.

It appears that you might be suggesting that "what I like" isn't the right standard for determining what music we should use in worship.

Next, you'll be saying that we're made in God's image, rather than the other way around.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Jon.

It's good to regulate our doctrine, practice, and worship by the Bible.