Worship in Old Testament History (Part 2)

THEME: Worship in the Old Testament, 5th in the series

Volume 7, No. 2 (February 2012) 

This month we continue to survey the practice and themes of worship found in Israel’s history as recorded in the pages of the Old Testament.

Here, as throughout all Scripture, we will see the pattern of Revelation and Response as the paradigm for all of God’s dealings with mankind. God always takes the initiative to reveal Himself and to extend grace; worship, and indeed the whole life of faith, is always and only a response to God’s prior action. (See Worship Notes 1.5 for a more detailed explanation of this crucial and foundational biblical concept.)

2.  The Patriarchal Period (Genesis 12–50)


 1) The Call of Abraham (Genesis 12) (Revelation and Response)

God’s call: leave and go (v.1)

God’s promises (vv. 2-3):

  • I will make of you a great nation
  • I will bless you
  • I will make your name great (contrast Genesis 11:4: “Let us make a name for ourselves”)
  • I will bless/curse those who bless/curse you
  • All the families of the earth will be blessed in you

God’s plan

  • A unique worshiping people: “The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise.”  (Isaiah 43:21)
  • A worldwide purpose (v. 3)

Abraham’s response

  • Obedience: he goes (vv. 4-6)
  • Worship: he builds altars and “calls on the name of the Lord” (vv. 7-8) (first act on arriving in new land is worship)
2)  The Faith Walk of Abraham (Revelation and Response)

God’s Revelation

  • Appearances
  • Names
    El Elyon  (God Most High, Gen 14:18,19)
    El Shaddai  (God Almighty, Gen. 17:1-2)
    YHWH El Olam  (God Everlasting, Gen. 21:33)
    YHWH Jireh  (the Lord Who Provides, Gen. 22:14)

Abraham’s Response

  • Faith in the Lord:  “Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”  (15:6)
  • Calling on the name of the Lord” (12:8; 13:4; 21:33) NOTE: God reveals Himself through His Names (above); Abraham responds by calling on His Name.
  • Fear of the Lord:  “He said, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’”  (22:12)
  • Building of altars (usually where God appeared to him)
    Shechem  (12:7)
    Bethel  (12:8; 13:3-4)
    Hebron  (13:18)
    Mt. Moriah  (22:9)
  • Private and public acts of worship:
    sacrifices (Gen. 12:7, 8; 13:18; 22:7)
    praise and thanksgiving (12:8; 13:4)
    prayer (18:23-33; 20:7, 17; 24:12
    petition (24:12)
    tithes  (14:20)
    intercession (18:22-33; 20:7)
3) The Testing of Abraham (Genesis 22)

The first explicit mention of the word “worship”  in the Bible (v. 5, hishtahavah)

NOTE: Here is also the first mention of “love” in the Bible, v. 2: the first love mentioned in the Bible is not that of a man and a woman, but of a father for his son; this kind of love existed first, before the creation of the universe, among the members of the Trinity.

Mingled concepts: worship, obedience, sacrifice, fear of the Lord, substitution (all looking ahead to Christ)


Revelation and Response: God appears to Isaac, repeats the promises given to Abraham; Isaac responds in worship (builds an altar, calls on the Name of the Lord)

Then he went up from there to Beersheba. The Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, for the sake of My servant Abraham.” So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord.  (26:23-25)


“One Flock, One Shepherd”
written for Missions Conference 2012
(focused on the Muslim world)
at First Evangelical Church (Memphis TN)

lead sheet

TRIP REPORT from my recent to trip to the Calvin Symposium on Worship (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Rio Vida (a Bible school in Alicante, Spain) 

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