Worship is fun! I mean that, seriously. It is fun. Some of the best times I’ve ever had in my Christian life have happened during worship. I have laughed, cried and felt a wide range of emotions during worship. That goes for personal and corporate worship.
This is between me and God. It’s my private time with the Lord of Heaven. Personal worship is about love and hope, devotion and great joy. The Bible gives us so many examples of believers praying, singing, rejoicing, and enjoying their time with God. People bow before Him. They express their love for Him. They shower Him with adulation and praise.
One of the most beautiful stories about personal worship is in Genesis 22. It’s the story of Abraham and Isaac, a father and his only son. God asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice and Abraham went up into the mountain to “worship” God. It is also a beautiful picture of the love God has for the world and how He provided the ultimate Sacrifice: His Only Son. Look as Abraham laid the wood of the sacrifice on Isaac’s shoulders, even as God would later lay the wood of the Sacrifice on the shoulders of Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Note also that the mountain where this happened was in the “land of Moriah.” According to 2 Chronicles 3:1, Mount Moriah is where King Solomon built the Temple of the Lord. It’s where the Lord appeared to his father David, “at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” Mount Moriah is an elongated ridge and may have also been the location of Christ’s crucifixion. Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives are nearby. How appropriate that the mountain God told Abraham to take Isaac to sacrifice would later be the place of both the worship of God by Israel and the Sacrifice of the Son of God on the Cross. What significance this place has for personal worship.
“Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’ So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’ Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’ So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.”
Mount Moriah is also the location of Solomon’s Temple, also known as the Holy Temple (Hebrew – Beit HaMikdash – House of the Holy). The corporate worship of Israel began in the desert between Egypt and the Promised Land as the people of God followed Moses and the Cloud of God. Their worship developed further in the Tabernacle as they worshiped God through sacrifice and obedience to God’s Law. Hundreds of years later God directed King Solomon in the building of the permanent structure of holy worship known as the Holy Temple.
Corporate worship has always been important to God and His people. It’s about God’s chosen standing, kneeling, bowing and lying prostrate together in heart-felt agreement about the Greatness and Holiness of God. It was a place of gladness and rejoicing for the provision and protection of God.
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’ Our feet have been standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built As a city that is compact together, Where the tribes go up, The tribes of the LORD, To the Testimony of Israel, To give thanks to the name of the LORD. For thrones are set there for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good.” Psalm 122
The Lord did not allow David to build His Temple, but gave that work to David’s son, Solomon. Look at the deep burden Solomon had for a sanctified place to worship the Almighty Creator of the Universe.
“Then Solomon sent to Hiram king of Tyre, saying: As you have dealt with David my father, and sent him cedars to build himself a house to dwell in, so deal with me. Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel. And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods.” 2 Chronicles 2:3-5
One of the saddest experiences in the history of God’s people was the destruction of the Holy Temple. How heartbreaking that must have been for those who were taken into captivity. Their center of corporate worship was gone. They could still worship God privately, but having the Holy Temple was so important to them and their faith.
One of the happiest experiences in the history of God’s people was the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. How encouraging that must have been for those who returned from captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Their center of corporate worship was restored. They could worship God privately and corporately. It was a happy day!
The Holy Temple of God was destroyed again in 70 A.D. when the Roman Army under the leadership of General Titus, son of the Emperor Vespasian, ransacked Jerusalem and tore down the Temple. This was just one generation after Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah and demanded that Rome kill Him on a Cross. Jesus rose from the dead and gave Israel more opportunities to accept Him as their King, but they refused and killed Christ’s followers. God responded by turning to the Gentiles and offering them salvation. That is the condition Jews and Gentiles find themselves in to this day.
Corporate worship today occurs in hundreds of thousands of Christian assemblies around the world. Millions of God’s people come together on Sundays and many other days of the week to worship together and praise God for all that He does for all of us.
God has not left His people wondering how they should worship Him corporately. The Lord has given us specific instructions about what pleases Him. It is of utmost importance that we obey His Word.
Here’s what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about corporate worship.
“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:26-40
Corporate worship is a time for God’s people to express their love for God and each other through their spiritual gifts. It’s interesting that God first informed the Corinthians about the proper spiritual conduct for the Lord’s Supper in Chapter 11, the proper use of spiritual gifts in Chapter 12, the proper use of spiritual love in Chapter 13, and the proper use of spiritual worship in Chapter 14. Look at the main points of each chapter:
“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!” 1 Corinthians 11:17-22
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:26-40
May it be as God commands in the church. May we be one in spirit and in truth. May our private worship and our corporate worship be a blessing to God and to others.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Good post. It is easy for me to overlook the importance of corporate worship, but as you said, it has a long important history.