Sunday, November 25, 2012

Worship and the Ark Narrative of 1 Chronicles, pt. 5

After release from captivity in Babylon, the Chronicles provided hope for the future, very much wrapped up in the Davidic covenant.  1 Chronicles starts with David, David, and more David.  And what set David apart from other kings, besides the covenant, was worship.  Worship sits at the apex of 1 Chronicles with the ark narrative in 1 Chronicles 13-16.  In chapter 15 (v. 2), David gets back on the right track by following Scripture in the worship of God.  He failed out of the box with innovation in transporting the ark.  The correction tells a tale.  Worship must be sanctified.

We know sanctified at least means according to God's Word.  Jesus said that we're sanctified by the Word of God.  That provides a barrier to separate an activity from the mundane.  David says that they should have sought out God first, and this is rule number one in worship.  What does God want?  In evangelicalism and fundamentalism, it starts, it seems, with creativity.  That might seem right, but creativity is subjective rather than imitative.  Worship should look to God, not to what sounds good to us.  God is the Creator and we should look to Him for what is beautiful, since He defines it.

Worship must have sanctified people operating in a sanctified manner.   It wasn't a matter of taste or opinion or feeling.  "[T]he priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel" (15:14).   Peculiar people sanctified themselves for a God ordained task.   What all did that entail?   They kept themselves from what was common and profane to be distinguished for unique use of God.   It was akin to pulling out the best silverware for a special occasion.  The regular, everyday stuff wasn't good enough.  Extra time was put into even physical purification and cleansing to make this as much about God and as little about us as possible.

The worship was sacred.  It was different.  It was special.  You didn't go about it in whatever way met your fancy.  It wasn't poll tested.  God must be revered with what is separate from what is ordinary.  When a culture stops having anything that can do this, it has stopped thinking about God.  When it doesn't matter, it is even worse.  It was at the least scriptural, but there was something to sanctification that met a test of excellence assumed to be understood by the Word of God.

I mentioned in the last edition of this series that the musicians were skillful.  A definition of art is "skill in doing anything as a result of knowledge and practice."  Verse 22 doesn't tell us what skillful is.  It says just that Chenaniah, chief of the Levites for song, instructed about the song because he was skillful.  It is assumed that we know what skillful is.  It is at least, but more than, hitting the right notes.  Harps were played to excel.  To excel, one must understand also what doesn't excel.  There is again an assumption that we can know, that standards of judgment exist in God's world.

Instrumentation was a given.  Musical instruments of various types were crafted and played.  Technology is acceptable to God as long as it is fashioned according to God's nature and will.  Some of them were even percussion, such as "cymbals of brass."  Instruments are first for worship and not for comfort against the harmful effects of the curse.

Certain dress was sanctified, extraordinary clothing for the occasion.  It is described as "fine linen."  As a participant, David wore something fitting of the occasion, and the passage makes purposeful note of that.  He considered less about personal comfort and more about what would please God.

(more to come)

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