IMPORTANT THEMES in Old Testament Worship

THEME: Worship in the Old Testament, 1st in a series 

Volume 6, No. 9 (September 2011)

1. Worship as RESPONSE

a. response to REVELATION

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘TheLord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:14-15; also 34:6-7; Romans 1:19-20)

b. response to REDEMPTION

God said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve [worship] God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12; also 6:6)

c. response to RELATIONSHIP (Covenant)

“I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 6:7; also 19:5)

NOTE: the phrase “the Lord our God” is use 440 times in the Old Testament; “the Lord their God” 39 times (obviously a hugely important concept)

d. response to REQUIREMENTS

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” (Exodus 20:4-5; also entire book of Leviticus)

“Again and again, the Old Testament makes the point that the Holy one can be approached only in the way that He Himself stipulates and makes possible.” (David Peterson, Engaging with God, p. 35)


a. contrary to a common misconception:

“the God of the Old Testament is a God of hate; the God of the New Testament is a God of love”

b. God’s fundamental nature:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

The sacrifices were not intended to earn salvation; they were the grateful offerings of an already redeemed people:

The liturgies of Israel were God-given ordinances of grace, witnesses to grace.  The sacrifice of lambs and bulls and goats were not ways of placating an angry God, currying favor with God as in the pagan worship of the Baalim. They were God-given covenantal witnesses to grace—that the God who alone could wipe out their sins would be gracious.  (James Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace, p. 60)

c. Hebrew hesed (חֶסֶד):

Translated “steadfast love,” “lovingkindness,” “love,” “mercy;” God’s loyal love to one in covenant with Him; a close Old Testament parallel to “grace.”.

Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. (Psalm 63:3; also Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:10; Ruth 1:8; 2  Samuel 9:3; 1 Kings 3:6; Ezra 9:9; Psalm 23:6; 32:10; 136:1-26; 145:8; Jeremiah 9:24) 

The God of both Testaments is a God of grace!


God always acts first to reveal and show mercy and redeem (See Worship Notes 1.5 on “Revelation and Response”).

Examples: Adam and Eve (hiding; God pursued them); Abraham (God called him when a pagan); Moses (God called him when he was tending sheep); David (God sovereignly tapped him to be king)

4. CALLING on the NAME of the Lord

Used both of private prayer and of acts of formal worship.

To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 4:26)

From there Abraham moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 12:8; also 13:4; 26:25; Psalm 116:13,17; 1 Corinthians 1:2)

God REVEALS His Name; CALLING on that Name is a response of worship:

Praise Him ACCORDING TO His excellent greatness. (Psalm 150:2)

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