Those of us who are older have long accepted as fact that there is only one appropriate worship mood. The only appropriate mood is solemness. Anything other than being solemn in worship is a human invention that is unknown to God.

People are to approach God with reverence. In the Churches of Christ [and in many other churches as well] in the 20th and 21st century, reverence meant solemn. Any worship mood that failed to be solemn was declared totally inappropriate for worship. The common opinion: proper worship is founded on death [sacrifices, and Jesus' crucifixion]. There is only one appropriate mood to be associated with death. That appropriate mood is solemn.

Jesus' birth as recorded in Luke 2 was a time of celebration, but we have no occasion for celebration in our worship. Jesus' presentation as an infant at the temple was a moment of joyful thanksgiving for Simeon and Anna in Luke 2, but we have no occasion for joyful thanksgiving. The baptism of Jesus an occasion of joy in which God Himself declared that He was well pleased, but we have no occasion for expressing joy in worship.

I have difficulty believing that the marriage feast at Cana or many of the healings were not occasions for spiritual celebration and joy. God acted in wonderful ways! It is difficult for me to imagine that a leper being healed, or a blind man seeing, or a lame man walking, or a demon possessed person being freed, or a dead person being raised to life would produce only solemn spiritual thoughts. It is impossible for me to see these people worshipping God in anything but joyful thanksgiving for the great blessing received.

One of the earliest Christian miracles occurred in Acts 3. When Peter by Jesus' power gave the gift of walking to a man lame from birth, the man stood up with a leap and entered the temple walking, and leaping, and praising God. He was in the holiest place they knew, but what he did was not solemn. Neither was it irreverent. God enabled this man who had never taken one step to walk, and he was thrilled beyond words! He had to praise God for his gift!

  1. The fact that worshipping God includes many moods comes from God Himself.
    1. Jewish expressions of worship were either commanded by or sanctioned by God.
      1. Some of their special occasions of worship included these:
        1. Passover and the feast of unleavened bread.
        2. The feast of weeks, also known as the feast of harvest or the day of first fruits.
        3. The feast of tabernacles, also known as the feast of booths or the feast of ingatherings.
        4. The Sabbath occurring on the seventh day of each week.
        5. The day of blowing the trumpets.
        6. The day of atonement.
        7. The feast of Purim.
        8. Jubilee
      2. Most of these were feasts that involved worship centered around sacrifices and eating with joy.
        1. God commanded His people to have occasions of celebration as they honored and praised Him--a part of remembering was celebration!
        2. The idea and thought of people joyfully praising and glorifying Him have never been foreign to God.
    2. We truly need to distance ourselves from the human idea that God is offended when His people worship Him in the joy of gratitude for His kind and gracious gifts and blessings.
      1. All the men of Israel made pilgrimages from all over the land on special festival days, which we would call occasions of worship.
        Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.
      2. It was a sight unlike anything we have ever seen as thousands and thousands of people flooded the roads to the Jerusalem temple.
      3. As these thousands and thousands of people made their pilgrimage, they sang as they neared Jerusalem and the temple.
        1. Their songs were know as the songs of Ascents.
        2. As thousands of Israelites sang as they "went up" to Jerusalem, these songs echoed through the valleys with increasing volume as they neared their destination.
        3. Psalms contains some of those songs, and those songs reflect a variety of moods--and one of those moods is joy.
        4. Listen to some of the words in those songs:
          Psalm 121:1-4 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.
          Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord."
          Psalm 126:1,2 When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." (Probably a song sung after the captivity.)
          Psalm 135:1-3 Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord; Praise Him, O servants of the Lord, You who stand in the house of the Lord, In the courts of the house of our God! Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.

  2. I want you to think and consider as we note some of the holiest Jewish occasions of worship.
    1. The Passover and feast of unleavened bread:
      1. The Passover primarily was a time of remembrance in Israel when they celebrated the fact that it was God with His great power who freed Israel from slavery.
      2. Think about it! It celebrated the wonderful things God did for them, not the horrible things they did to God.
        1. God acted powerfully on their behalf--that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
        2. God ended their existence as slaves--that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
        3. God made them a nation--that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
        4. God led them to a country of their own--that is not a mournful, downcast memory.
      3. Listen:
        Exodus 12:14 Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.
        Exodus 13:11-16 "Now when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' then you shall say to him, 'With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.' So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt."
      4. Passover was about the joyful memory of God's deliverance through God's powerful act.
        1. They are to never forget what God did for them.
        2. The feast of unleaven bread was a continual memorial to remind every Israelite yearly of how quickly Israel left Egypt.
        3. It was a feast, a meal, not a fast.
        4. It remembered how deeply indebted Israel was to God.
    2. The feast of weeks [also known as the feast of harvests or the day of first fruits]:
      1. Notice again that this is a time of feasting.
      2. It was held at the completion of the spring grain harvest.
      3. Listen:
        Deuteronomy 16:9-12 You shall count seven weeks for yourself; you shall begin to count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
    3. The feast of tabernacles [also known as the feast of booths or the feast of ingatherings].
      1. Again, notice this was a time of feasting.
      2. This was a festival that occurred at the end of the harvest which also marked the end of their year.
      3. It was a week of joyful remembrance: God brought us out of Egypt; God preserved us in the wilderness; God gave us this harvest; God is our Provider Who Protects us.
      4. Listen:
        Leviticus 23:39-43 On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
    4. The day of atonement (Leviticus 16):
      1. I want you to notice the contrast.
        1. Passover, the feast or festival of weeks, and the feast or festival of tabernacles were occasions of joy combined with feasting which celebrated the powerful acts and blessings of God.
        2. The day of atonement was a day for the nation to focus on their sins, their failures, their unholiness before the holy God.
        3. There was no feasting; only a remembrance of their failures and their need for atonement [forgiveness].
        4. The high priest cleansed himself, then cleansed the sanctuary, and then cleansed the nation.
      2. Listen:
        Leviticus 16:17-31 When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel. Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and put it on the horns of the altar on all sides. With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it. When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there. He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on his clothes, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. Then he shall offer up in smoke the fat of the sin offering on the altar. The one who released the goat as the scapegoat shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp. But the bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp, and they shall burn their hides, their flesh, and their refuse in the fire. Then the one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water, then afterward he shall come into the camp. This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.

  3. I focus your attention on this fact:
    1. There is no "refocusing" of the concepts of worship in the Christian age--worship of God was worship of God.
      1. Forms for expressing worship changed, but worship as a concept did not change.
      2. Lessons learned from the concepts God gave Israel for worship are truly relevant for our Christian concepts of worship.
    2. In worshipping God, there were occasions to joyously celebrate the gifts and power of God--by God's own choosing and direction!
    3. In worshipping God there are occasions to mourn our sinfulness--by God's own choosing and direction!

The basic understanding in worship is simple. If the focus is on God and His powerful acts and blessings, the mood is a joyful celebration. If the focus is on us and our sinfulness, the mood is somber. This is what God revealed, not what we decided.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 22 February 2004
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