Friday, October 03, 2014

Reverence and Solemnity: Essential Aspects of Biblical Worship, part 8 of 8

            Fifth, some further musical styles and sounds are not appropriate because they are not reverent and solemn.  The worship of the sanctuary is specified constantly as solemn and reverent praise of God, and never once designated as entertainment of men, children, or any other group.
M. R. DeHann wrote:
Remember also that the bread on the table with the frankincense was the only thing placed upon the table [in the Tabernacle] as the food of the priests. . . . [A]ll that is necessary for faith and life . . . [t]he sustaining food of the believer . . . is the Word of God, both the living Wor[d] and the written Word . . . [with] the frankincense, the Holy Spirit. . . . There were no sauces and spices and pickles and olives and fancy salads or pie à la mode; just bread. We have drifted far, far away from this simple formula today. Instead of believers coming together to fellowship around the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, without all the extraneous paraphernalia, and just to feed on His Word, we have too often turned our services into a carnival. The Word has been pushed aside into a secondary place. Instead, we have an hour and a half of preliminaries, with singing of silly choruses and empty spirituals, and joking and laughing and horseplay. Entertainment has taken the place of worship . . . [and] preaching[.] . . . [Finally we have] a fifteen-minute sermonette, highly spiced and sensational, in order to keep people awake after all of the wearying entertainment. And then we wonder at the worldliness and the shallowness of Christians today. We have added pickles, olives, radishes, and highly seasoned extras, and have relegated the Word of Life to a side dish, which few will touch. . . . The assembly of the saints should be first of all a time of worship and devotion and feeding and feasting upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and not a matter of shallow entertainment. (pg. 94, The Tabernacle, M. R. DeHaan.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1955)
 Bozo the Clown playing a kazoo may be entertaining, but it is not solemn or reverent.  Nor are the many songs written to entertain the young or the spiritually immature, rather than to offer God holy worship, solemn or reverent.  Scripture never specifies a special category of “children’s music” which, allegedly exempt from the qualities of reverence and solemnity that accurately represent Jehovah, can simply be fun and frothy.  Nor can honesty conclude that the solemn and majestic heavenly praise of Revelation 4-5 sounds like a country-western, Southern Gospel, or bluegrass hoedown.  The overwhelmingly rural, simple, and country people that filled the land of Israel offered God in worship the profound, deep, and rich words of the Psalter with the “solemn sound” (Ps 92:3) that He commanded.  Both the lyrics and style of music must accurately represent God—whether or not the holy worship of the sanctuary fits in with popular culture, or is attractive to the majority of the population, is an indication of whether a land is ripe for judgment or blessing, but not an indication of what God’s people should bring before the Holy One who rules in heaven.  Is the music you offer to the Lord solemn and reverent?
            Sixth, the worship of the house of God is formal, not informal, in keeping with the holiness of He whose house it is.  The garments worn were modest, for the exposure of nakedness in the dwelling of the King could lead to immediate death (Ex 20:26; 28:42). Furthermore, the garments worn by the priests when they entered Jehovah’s presence were costly and formal, designed “for glory and for beauty”—they were the best that Israel had (Ex 28).  Their apparel properly represented the reverend and holy One into whose presence they were coming.  They did not wear the apparel appropriate for toiling in the fields (cf. Zech 3:5) when they appeared in the house of God.  In the like manner the royal priesthood of the Lord’s blood-bought people should wear garments that are clean, modest, and formal in the sanctuary.  Unkempt, dirty, or casual garments may be appropriate when repairing one’s car or cleaning a pigpen, but the reverence and solemnity appropriate for appearing in the presence of the dread King of heaven requires otherwise.  The members of the Lord’s church make a statement of what they think about God when men come into His presence in neat suits and ties and women come in formal and modest dresses.  When they do not fear to come into His presence dressed like hippies or hillbillies they likewise make a statement—one of lightness and irreverence.  Do your clothes represent the reverence God requires of you both inwardly and outwardly?
Seventh, those who truly delight themselves in the Lord (Is 58:14) will consider the principles in Isaiah 58:13 on the Lord’s Day.  The Master commands His people, “turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and . . . honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.”  Those who revere their holy Redeemer will set apart the entire Lord’s Day for His glory, not only one hour every Sunday morning.  As they will honor the entire Lord’s Day, they will be especially careful to guard themselves when they enter the house of God, recognizing that they are entering a holy place (Ecc 5:1).[1]  They will get to church on time—indeed, they will arrive early.  Because they long to come into the presence of God, they will do whatever is in their power to never miss services (Ps 42:1-2), that they might see His power and glory in His sanctuary (Ps 63:1-2).  They will be very quick to hear and obey the preached Word (Jam 1:19-24), knowing that Jehovah looks to the believer who has a poor and contrite spirit and who trembles at His Word (Is 66:2).  They will sing with reverence and grace in their hearts to the Lord.  They will approach the Lord in corporate prayer with the solemn gravity due to His exalted majesty and with a deep awareness of and humble repentance for their own sinfulness—a practice that they will maintain also in private and in family prayer.  They will not say Amen flippantly, but say it solemnly and reverently, considering its signification as an address to God.[2]  They will speak words of godly edification one to another instead of discussing the vanities of the world, as people who know that the Lord hearkens and hears them, and records their words in His book of remembrance (Heb 10:24-25; Mal 3:16).  They will take with extreme seriousness their identification in baptism with the name or character of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Mt 28:19) and be scrupulous and careful to participate in the communion ordinance worthily, recognizing it for what it is—the holy memorial and remembrance of their Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 11:29).  They will honor Him by treating His Person, Word, and worship with weightiness instead of flippancy and lightness.[3]  Those who delight in the Lord in this manner show Him solemn reverence.  Do you do so?

This entire study can be accessed here.

[1]           The idea behind the command, “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God” (Ecc 5:1), is “[i]n going to worship, go with considerate, circumspect, reverent feeling. The allusion is to the taking off the shoes, or sandals, in entering a temple” (JFB) as a place that is holy ground (Ex 3:5; Josh 5:15).
[2]           Brakel explains:
Amen is a Hebrew word which means truth. Sometimes it is used singularly, and sometimes it is repeated: Amen and Amen. At times it is used singularly and at times with an addition: Amen, Hallelujah; Amen, Oh Lord; Amen, the Lord do thus.
(1) Sometimes it is approbation and a subscribing to what has been said. . . . Deut 27:15 . . . Neh 8:6. This approbation indicates that we comprehend the matter, as well as that we wish and desire it. . . . 1 Cor 14:16. (2) Sometimes it is expressive of a strong desire for a matter, and a desire that it be thus and come about as such . . . Jer 11:5. (3) Sometimes it signifies veracity, certainty, and steadfastness—upon which one can rely and trust in . . . 2 Cor 1:20.
The believing supplicant who has prayed everything with both his understanding and his heart, acknowledges the veracity and certainty of God’s promises, that He will hear prayer[.] . . . The supplicant has prayed with his heart, knows that the matters he has prayed for are according to God’s will, believes the goodness, omnipotence, and veracity of God, expects the fulfillment of his desire (subjecting himself to its time, manner, and measure), and longingly adds to this: ―Amen, so be it; it shall most certainly be true [Rev 22:20]. (pgs. 588-589, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, vol. 3, Wilhelmus á Brakel. trans. Bartel Elshout, ed. Joel R. Beeke.  [Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007])
[3]           For, after all, the word group for honor in the Old Testament (dEb;Dk) is that of weightiness or heaviness, while to treat someone lightly (llq/hlq) is to dishonor him (cf. 1 Sam 2:30; Ex 20:12; Deut 27:16; Pr 12:9).


Anonymous said...

Just stumbled onto this (God)! and agree with the solomnity, etc (saw a man in my Church actually wearing sandals, no socks)! It seems the Church's in the East/Midwest are more conservative in dress, here in UT very informal, why? Also, what do you know of Will Galkin? Heard back East he uses 'the Bridgers' (Townsend, Soverign Grace, etc) - why? We must really be in the End Times? Thanks for your input!

KJB1611 said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for the comment. I don't know a whole lot about the people you mentioned; perhaps has more information.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind reply :) Actually I've just recently found some info on "the recent songwriters who write content-rich songs (names Gettys, Townsend, Bob Kauflin, etc - all charismatics)! This from pg 54 of The New Calvinists, Changing the Gospel, by ES Williams. Scary stuff, they are sure not the old traditional Calvinists in the vein of Spurgeon, etc! It seems to me we have Lots of "content-rich" hymns in our hymn books (why do I never hear 'Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness' ever sung?? (and yes, I really believe we are nearer to the Rapture than ever before)!