Last week, in the post “Worship is a Verb” I discussed various Biblical and liturgical forms of physical worship. In my previous discussion we came up with numerous expressions from communion, to baptism, to the raising of hands, etc… In the comments section on my blog Brian shared William Hendrickson’s examination of bodily praise in the Old Testament. Interestingly one of the physical forms of worship we didn’t even mention in our previous discussion was the most frequently mentioned practice in the Old Testament! Here is Hendrickson’s tabulation:
Bowing heads: 4
Standing with reverence: 6
Lifting eyes to God: 9
Lifting hands to God: 14
Lying prostrate before the Lord: 28
For the purpose of this discussion I would like to categorize the physical forms of worship into the two different areas of liturgical movement, meaning a prescribed formulaic form of worship, and charismatic movement, meaning (for the purpose of this article) a spontaneous or unplanned form of worship.
In the Old Testament we see numerous examples in both categories. God prescribed numerous liturgical forms that we see observed within the tabernacle and temple (Deuteronomy, 1-2 Chronicles). Though there are not a lot of direct Biblical references to the synagogue in the Old Testament some scholars believe that these Sabbath gatherings may have began as early as the time of Moses. Though we don’t have much information on these gatherings they included public teaching and likely other liturgical forms of worship (including the reading of the law). In the Psalms we see numerous commands to worship the Lord in what appears to be a physically spontaneous manner including clapping, singing, bowing, kneeling, lifting hands, shouting, playing instruments, dancing, and standing in awe. (Ps 47:1, Ps 95:6, Ps 134:2, Ps 33:1, Ps 149:3, Ps 22:23).
In the New Testament we see that Christ himself would participate in what could be classified as liturgical forms of worship within the synagogue. In Luke 4:16 we find that he attended the synagogue weekly where he would teach and publicly read the scripture. He implemented the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 14:12-26 (which transformed the meaning of the Passover meal). In Eph 5:19 we are commanded to sing in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and in Luke 24:50 we see Christ lifts his hands to deliver a blessing for the people. In 1 Corinthians 14 we read that the charismatic gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues were practiced in early church worship gatherings.
Though this is a very quick overview on various worship forms within the scriptures, it does establish that both liturgical and charismatic forms of worship were practiced all throughout the Bible. For the average non-charismatic Evangelical in the United States, this could be a troubling reality to grapple with. Especially since, in comparison with the scriptures, we sparsely observe practices that appeared commonplace throughout Biblical history. This leads us to the question, should any or all of these practices be observed in today’s church? If so, to what degree should these practices be observed?
The Bible does give us some guidance in answering these questions. I will attempt to address these questions in a post next week.