THE WORSHIP OF GOD AND THE CELEBRATION OF THE WEEKLY SABBATH AND ANNUAL FESTIVALSBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
The rituals and sacrifices through which the ancient Israelites worshiped the Creator God were intended to be vehicles through which the knowledge and understanding of the Creator God's ways would be transmitted to the worshiper. Moreover the rituals and sacrifices were methods through which communication between God and his chosen people could be established and maintained.
To many of the elect today, the observance of the weekly Sabbath, the Passover, and the annual festivals is meaningless ritual that provides little or no physical or spiritual benefit. And to many, the study of the Bible, prayer to the Father, and the attendance of formal assemblies of his elect children is done without truly understanding that these present them with the awesome opportunity to come into the very presence of the Sovereign God and his Son, the Savior of humanity.
While speaking to a woman of Samaria, Jesus explained that there would come a time when the existing worship system of ritual and sacrifice would be set aside and those who worshiped God would do so in spirit and truth.
John 4:19-24 Paraphrased
"The woman said to him, Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where it is necessary to worship. Jesus said to her, Woman believe me that an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is of
the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such ones who worship him. God is a spirit, and the ones who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn.4:19-24 Para.).
Many view what Jesus said as a philosophical statement and believe that Jesus was only trying to convey that people would eventually worship God with a different attitude. However, Jesus says something completely different; Jesus is speaking of the ability to communicate with God the Father in a way that is very personal and meaningful.
Today, during the gospel age of salvation, God the Father wants his children to worship him in spirit and truth with a clear understanding of whom they are worshiping and the reasons for this worship. Moreover, the Father intends that, through physical and spiritual rituals of worship and praise during the weekly Sabbath, the Passover, and the annual festivals, his children will internalize spiritual knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors that will be a part of their character for all eternity.
This study shows why the practice of worship, praise, gratitude, and supplication to the Father and his Son during the weekly Sabbath, the Passover, and the annual festivals is important to one's spiritual growth. Moreover, this study reveals many aspects of worship and praise of the Father and his Son that have been forgotten since the demise and disappearance of the early church and it shows that how one practices worship and praise is a reflection of one's attitude and desire to please the Father and his Son and enter into the divine Family and Kingdom of God. Additionally, this study shows that it is through the vehicles of worship and praise that one can acknowledge and honor the Father and his Son's greatness and express one's love, submission, commitment, needs, and desires to them.
WHY WORSHIP GOD?
It is clear from many scriptures that God requires his people to worship and praise him. But, why does he require this?
It is impossible to understand why the Father requires his people to worship and praise him without first understanding the reason for the human creation. Once one understands that the Father's goal is to create spirit-sons (1.Jn.3:2) who will have the same character traits and quality of life that he possesses and that he intends to share all that he has created or will create throughout eternity with them, the worship and praise that he requires can be understood in the context of a father-son relationship:
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God," (Jn.1:12 KJV).
"Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1.Jn.3:1-2 KJV). See also 2.Cor.6:18; Heb.2:10; Rom.8:14,19.
When one understands the effort, planning, and sacrifice that was made in order to make a person a part of the Family of God, it is plain to see that the Father loves us. However, it is difficult for us to love the Father and his Son in the same way that they love us. In order to help us develop a strong loving relationship with him and his son, the Father requires worship and praise by his children. When we do this with the proper attitude and the understanding of what the Father wants to give us and the kind of love that he has for us, our love for him and his son will grow deeper and stronger. Moreover, the bond between a son and father will become harmonious and unbreakable.
Worship and praise of the Father is part of the process of spiritual growth in the Family of God. It is the building of a close, loving, father-son relationship in much the same way as the child-parent relationship grows in love and to maturity in a physical family under the loving care of a parent and the reciprocal love of a respectful and obedient child.
According to Jesus the most important law of God is the law of love:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your life, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like the first, You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt.22:36-39 Para.). See also Deut.6:4-5.
Because the law concerning one's basic attitude toward the Father is the most important of all his laws and is the foundation on which a harmonious relationship with him and his Son is built, it is vitally important to understand what the love of God is. Through this understanding comes the understanding of why true worship and praise of God is important to God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the elect of God.
God is Love
1.John 4:6-10 Paraphrased
"We are of God; the one who knows God hears us. Whoever is not of God does not hear us. Because of this understanding we can know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love each other: for love is of God; and every one that loves is of God: and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. One that does not love does not know God; for God is love (vs.6-8).
The kind of love that John speaks about is not the same kind of love that people without the spirit of God have for each other. God's love has its foundation in a knowledge of the true God which can only come from him. With this understanding comes a certain discernment between truth and error. John says that everyone who has love that is based in the knowledge of God is one of God's children. This is because one cannot have godly love unless it is given to them by God the Father; therefore, only those with this kind of love are God's children.
Although faith is one of the most powerful of God's spiritual gifts, godly love is the most important attribute, because, a person must have and grow in love to remain a child of God (1.Cor.13:13):
"One that does not love, does not know God; for God is love" (1.Jn.4:8 Para.).
All the things the Father is, his infinite energy, his power, and his presence are centered around and defined by the words, God is love.
It is because God is love and will not change (Mal.3:6) that his children have the assurance that he will fulfill his awesome plan for humanity.
The Father and Jesus' Love
"In this was the love of God the Father manifested toward us, because he sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins" (vs.9-10).
The Father's great love for humanity can be seen through his act of allowing his only Son to give his life for us. Neither the Father nor his Son had ever been human. The risk was enormous, and there was no guarantee of success. If his Son had failed to keep the law perfectly, he would have died forever. The Father would have lost his only Son and companion who is the only other immortal being to ever exist. Moreover, the Father would have been alone for eternity:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (Jn.3:16-17 KJV).
Jesus, Before He Was Human
Before becoming human, Jesus was an immortal spirit-being (the Creator God) who possessed the highest form of existence: life that springs forth from itself, never dying or decaying. This immortal being who was not subject to death emptied himself of his glory, power, and immortality to become a mortal man in order to attempt to live a sinless life in the flesh and sacrifice his life as payment for the sins of all humanity (See 1.Cor.6:20; 7:23).
John 4:11-21 Paraphrased
"Beloved, if God the Father so loved us, we ought to love each other. No one has seen God the Father at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and his love having been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him, and he in us, because of his spirit he has given to us" (vs.11-13). See also Lk.24:46-49; Acts 5:32.
It was God the Father who sent the Creator God to earth to become his physical son and the Savior of humanity. Only those who truly understand and acknowledge this fact will have the Father's spirit and love residing within them and they will show godly love toward the Father.
The examples of God the Father's willingness to send his only Son to earth in an attempt to save humanity and the Creator God's willingness to risk his immortal life to save humanity shows that godly love is an outward expression of divine and righteous character:
"And we have known and have believed the love which God has in us. God is love, and the one abiding in love abides in God, and God in him. Our love is perfected when we have confidence in the day of judgment, that as he is, we also are in this world" (vs.16-17).
"There is no fear in love; because perfect love removes all fear: because fear has torment. He that is fearful, does not have perfected love. We love the Father, because he first loved us [Rom.5:8]. If a man says I love God and hates his brother, he is a liar: how can one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, love God who he has not seen? And we have a commandment from him that one who loves God must also love his brother" (vs.18-21).
When John said that we love the Father because he loved us first, he was not speaking of the concept of worldly love, he spoke of godly love that is spiritual in nature. We could not have a godly love for the Father if he had not loved us first and placed his spiritual love within us. Godly love is expressed as true love for all that God is and cares for.
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loves him that begat [i.e., the Father], loves him also that is begotten of him [Jesus Christ]. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his law. For this is the love of God, that we keep his law: and his law is not burdensome" (1.Jn.5:1-3 Para.).
In John's summation of the Father's love toward us, he said that it is because of our belief in Christ that we are born of the Father into his family. Moreover, he said that, when we show love to the Father, it is evident that we also love his Son. Having godly love toward the Father and obeying his law allows us to understand the reason we love other people who are called to salvation. John also says that true spiritual love (the love of God) is expressed through the practice of the Father's holy law.
Expressing One's Love During the Festivals
It is clear from many scriptures that, in order to prove one truly loves the Father and his Son, a person must express true spiritual love toward them through a righteous attitude and diligence in practicing the letter and spirit of God's law.
The law of God encompasses all of the instructions in the Bible pertaining to one's attitude and behavior toward God and man. Moreover, these instructions contain information about how to properly observe each of God's festivals and how to properly worship him on these special days. If we follow these instructions, we can express our love, praise, and gratitude to the Father in a manner that is acceptable and pleasing to him. Thereby, it is possible to maintain a harmonious relationship with him and his Son and receive the benefits that come through this relationship.
Today, much of the joy, excitement, and meaning of God's festivals does not exist in the personal and formal worship of God. Although God's people observe his annual festival days and the weekly Sabbath and many attend formal worship assemblies, the way in which the formal worship of God was intended to be practiced during the annual festivals and the weekly Sabbath has not been practiced on a continual basis, since the destruction of national Israel and the disappearance of the early church.
The Father clearly honors the sincere efforts of his children to worship and honor him on these sacred days; however, the prophecies reveal that, just before the return of Jesus Christ, God will restore much of the faith that was once delivered to his people. A part of this faith that will be restored is the knowledge and understanding of how to worship and please God during his weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals.
The prophet Daniel was told that the understanding of the things that were revealed to him were for the elect who would live during the end of human rule on earth:
"And the angel said to Daniel, Go your way Daniel: for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Dan.12:9-10 Para.). See also Rev.1:1-8; 17:8.
This prophecy shows that, during the end of the age, many will be called to salvation, purified (have their sin removed) and made white (become righteous). It is to the ones who are being purified and made white that an understanding of God's ways will be revealed. This understanding not only pertains to prophetic events, but also to growing in grace and knowledge and how to practice the things that are revealed.
A MAJOR KEY TO WORSHIPING GOD
One of the major keys to worshiping God more effectively during this age is understanding that all worship and praise of God is to be projected toward him; it is to be God-centered and not self-centered.
When the Father's elect children gather to formally worship him, all activities should be designed to communicate and fellowship with God the Father and his Son. If proper worship toward the Father can be accomplished through a collective effort (e.g., singing, music, prayer, study, and teaching), the blessings that the Father promises to those who please him in worship and praise of him can be obtained.
Although the Bible records little that shows how the early church structured their formal worship of God, the record of how Israel was instructed to worship the Creator God shows that worship of God is to be for his glory, his honor, and his pleasure. Moreover, the Bible shows that the worship of God is done for him, not for our entertainment or personal gratification. However, when one comes to truly understand the reasons that the Father requires his children to worship him and performs this worship with this understanding, one cannot help but have a great sense of personal fulfillment, well-being, and satisfaction in knowing that one has pleased the Father and is in good standing with him.
Another major key to worshiping the Father more effectively during this age is to realize that, when the Father's elect children initiate private worship of the Father or participate in formal worship of him, they are drawn into the presence of the Father and his Son.
THE FIRST COVENANT WITH ISRAEL
Under the first covenant with national Israel, the Creator God established a formal worship system that contained festival days on which the nation of Israel had to cease their regular work activities and present themselves before the Creator God to worship and praise him.
These special days were great celebrations in which the people enjoyed fine food and drink1, and fellowship. These were days in which special offerings were given to God and special sacrifices and rituals were performed.
1The only exception to eating and drinking on a festival day under the first covenant with national Israel was the Day of Atonement. On this festival both Israelites and non-Israelites who were considered a part of the nation were commanded to fast. However, today the children of God are not required to fast because they are under a different covenant and have no need to fast on this day (See our study about the Day of Atonement and the reason for the fast).
These were days in which there was an outpouring of praise to God through formal public prayer. During the festivities on these days, the organized activities included the reading from the Book of the Law, poetry, singing songs, blowing trumpets, and playing music. All of these activities were dedicated to God and meant to acknowledge and proclaim his personal attributes and great works. These festival days were also to be days for reflecting on one's personal relationship with God and giving gratitude to him for the blessings he had bestowed.
CREATED FOR HIS PURPOSE AND PLEASURE
"You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure [i.e., purpose] they were and are created" (Rev.4:11 KJV).
Many scriptures clearly show that God the Father created all things through Jesus Christ for his purpose and pleasure. With the creation of Adam and Eve, he began the process of creating children who will become spirit-beings as he is with the same philosophy of life that he has. See Phil.3:21; Jn.1:12; 1.Jn.3:1-2; 2.Cor.6:18; Heb.2:10; Rom.8:14,19.
"But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him" (1.Cor.2:9 KJV).
God the Father and Jesus Christ are spirit-beings who derive great pleasure out of life; they are not somber individuals who live a dull uninteresting existence. One of the primary reasons for the Father's expansion of his family is to increase his pleasure and enjoyment by sharing all that he has and all that he will create throughout eternity with his children.
"You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psa.16:11 KJV). See also Psa.36:7-9.
"The Lord takes pleasure in them that have deep feelings of reverence and awe for him, and in those that have hope in his mercy. Praise the Lord O Jerusalem; praise your God O Zion" (Psa.147:11-12 Para.).
Jesus says that it gives the Father great pleasure to give to his children and share in their lives as they grow toward spiritual maturity (Matt.7:7-11; Lk.12:32). From many scriptures, it is clear that the more we seek to please God the Father with our life the more he will bless us and the more real and fulfilling our spiritual lives will become.
THE RESTORATION OF TRUTH
One of the major prophecies for the end of the age concerns the restoration of truth through the ministry of Elijah:
"Behold I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction" (Mal.4:5-6 Para.). See also Mal.3:1.
The reference to fathers and sons by Malachi is a reference to the fathers who taught the truth of God, such as the Patriarchs, Moses, the Aaronic priesthood, and the Apostles. The sons are a reference to those who are taught the righteous ways of God through these teachers of righteousness.
The Things to be Restored
"And Jesus replied, Elijah truly will come first and restore all things" (Matt.17:11 Para.).
The reference to Elijah's restoration of all things by Jesus is a reference to the restoration of God's worship system, which includes the sacrificial system and Jesus' teachings concerning the salvation of humanity and the spiritual relationship between God the Father and his elect children. See our study papers about the covenants and the sacrificial system that will be established after the return of Christ.
The message of the third Elijah is centered around the restoration of the truth of God. Therefore, we should expect the third Elijah to restore an understanding of how the worship system that God instituted at Mount Sinai and the worship system that Jesus Christ instituted at Jerusalem work together in the salvation of those who believe and worship God the Father in truth.
When the Father's worship system is understood in connection with his plan for the salvation of humanity and is believed by those whom he calls to salvation, it can truly be said that the hearts of the fathers have been turned to the sons and the sons' to the fathers. Indeed, belief in and adherence to God's true worship system will result in harmony between the fathers who taught righteousness (i.e., the Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, the Apostles, and others) and those who are taught righteousness and believe.
The Third Elijah's Message
A review of the ministries of the first Elijah and the second Elijah (John the Baptist), reveals that both of them had one major thing in common; they both preached a powerful warning message to God's covenant people. This warning was for God's people to repent and return to the true, uncorrupted worship of God so they would not have to face God's wrath.
The primary emphasis of the first and second Elijahs' ministries concerned the restoration of a spiritual relationship between God and his chosen people. It is also evident by what is said of the third Elijah's ministry that this will also be one of his messages.
In order to establish the kind of spiritual relationship that the Father and Jesus Christ want between them and the elect of God, the formal worship of God the Father on the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals must be restored and practiced as originally intended. When this is done, one will be able to please the Father and Jesus Christ in a more dynamic way on the Sabbath and festival observances. Additionally, one will be able to reap more of the physical and spiritual benefits that are promised as a part of these special days.
It is when these days are observed as God the Father and Jesus Christ originally intended that fellowship and communion with them and the elect children of God will become the kind of joyful, exciting, and fulfilling experience that it is intended to be.
TWO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
1. If one is fulfilling one's responsibility to fellowship with God's people and learn about God and his ways during the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals, what can be done to enhance this experience and make it more pleasing to the Father and Jesus Christ and more beneficial to one's spiritual life?
2. If one is unable to meet with other children of God during the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals, how does one make their communion with the Father and his Son an increasingly meaningful experience on these special days?
The information needed to answer these two questions can only be found through a study of the various concepts and instructions in the Bible that explain how to worship and praise God. This knowledge is almost totally missing from the teachings within most of the congregations of God today, because most of the knowledge of how to properly worship and praise God was lost when the dynamic and powerful church that Jesus established on the Feast of Pentecost in 30 A.D. ceased to exist after the death of the apostle John.
Although the true spiritual Body of Christ never completely lost the understanding of the most basic truths that are necessary for salvation, it did accept much false teaching and made many departures from the truth of God. Some of the knowledge and understanding that was allowed to be lost pertains to how one is to worship and please God the Father during the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals. This lost knowledge has resulted in the majority of God's people structuring their personal and collective worship of the true God after that of false Christianity.
An Honest Analysis
An honest analysis of the worship structure of false Christianity shows that the singing, the music, and the messages are primarily intended for the entertainment of the worshipers and does not reflect the kind of worship and praise of God that is recorded in the Bible.
The scriptures clearly show that the worship and praise of the true God is not to be done for the entertainment and pleasure of the worshiper. Nevertheless, by its very nature, the proper worship and praise of God will result in a pleasurable experience for the worshiper. However, proper worship and praise of the true God is done to establish and maintain a harmonious relationship with him and please him.
The historical and scriptural records show that the formal worship of the God of Israel on the Sabbath, the annual festival observances and other special events, such as the bringing of the ark to the City of David, the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, and the daily sacrifices, were carefully planned and executed in order to properly worship and praise God.
The elect who worship and praise God the Father today should seek to please him like the ancient Israelites and the early church did with their praise, songs, music, and dance for his pleasure.
Because we are about 4,000 years removed from the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and about 1,900 years removed from the early church, it is difficult to understand how the Father wants his elect children to worship and praise him in an individual or formal collective way during this age of the church. In order to discover how to worship and please God on his weekly Sabbath and annual festival days, this study will make a detailed analysis of the following subjects:
BLESSINGS FOR OBEDIENCE
God promised the Israelites that, if they were faithful in their observance of the annual festivals and in bringing the required tithes and offerings to him at the place where he placed his name and presence, he would give them unimaginable physical blessings (See Mal.3:10-11). Today, if we obey God's instructions to truly rejoice during his festivals, we will also receive great spiritual blessings now and in the future:
"And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks; that you may learn to fear [to have deep feelings of reverence and awe] the Lord your God always" (Deut.14:23 KJV).
In order to be at peace with God and to perform his will in their lives, the Israelites had to learn to love him, have deep feelings of reverence and respect for him, and stand in awe of him. A major part of this learning process concerned contact with God through the formal worship system at the location he chose to place his name and presence. There, they had to remember, speak of, and meditate on the great things that God had done and was doing for them individually and nationally.
Through the repetition of the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals and through practicing God's law and way of life, the Israelites were constantly reminded of God's greatness and his love and concern for them. Today, these same basic concepts apply to the elect of God.
Isaiah 56:1-7 Paraphrased
"The Lord says this, Keep justice and do righteously, for my salvation is coming near, and my righteousness [Christ] will be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man that grabs hold, and keeps my Sabbath without defiling it; and does not practice all kinds of evil" (vs.1-2).
In this prophetic promise, Isaiah records God the Father's thoughts, which are given to him by the Creator God. Those to whom salvation is offered and who have seized this opportunity are encouraged to continue to live righteously, because they will be blessed for their proper observance of the Sabbath while maintaining a righteous lifestyle.
"Neither let the son of the foreigner that has joined himself to the Lord say, The Lord has cut me off from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Look, I am a dry tree. For this says the Lord to the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and grab hold of my covenant; Within my walls and within my house I will give them a place and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall never cease" (vs.3-5).
Under the first covenant with national Israel, there were certain people who were excluded from participating with the congregation in the formal worship of God (See Deut. chap.23). However, God says that these people should not worry about their physical circumstances, because he will not cut them off from the promises he has made to bless them for their obedience to him. These individuals are special to God because they love him, believe in the promises that are in his agreement with them, and have made an effort to keep the Sabbath holy and to do the things that please him on this special day.
"And the sons of aliens who join themselves to the Lord to serve him, and to love his name, and become his servants and everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath and grabs hold of my covenant. These I will bring to my holy mount and make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar . . ." (vs.6-7).
Because God is pleased with those who seek to please him, he will bring them into his most holy place and make them happy there. It is important to understand that it is because these people do things that please God on his Sabbath that he is especially pleased with them and will accept their offerings and sacrifices (atonement for sin and gratitude to him).
Clearly the weekly Sabbath is not to be observed and celebrated for exactly the same reasons as each of the annual festivals. Nonetheless, the weekly Sabbath is a day on which the Father's children should celebrate and rejoice.
Since the disappearance of the early church, many have taught that Isaiah 58:13-14 says that no personal pleasure, entertainment, or strenuous physical activity is allowed on the Sabbath; however, this is not true. Just because we are commanded to cease from our labor on this day, it does not mean that we must be totally inactive on the Sabbath. God intended just the opposite. The Sabbath is holy time, which God has specifically set aside for humanity's benefit and enjoyment:
"If you will turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your own pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, not finding your own pleasure [will], nor speaking your own words: Then shall you delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it" (Isa.58:13-14 KJV).
If the King James translation of verses 13-14 is correct, the logic of this text is flawed, because it is impossible to call the Sabbath a 'delight' if one is forbidden to do anything pleasurable or delightful on it. However, the Bible is a very logical book without contradiction; therefore, there must be an error in the King James translation.
The first verse of Isaiah 58 shows that the context of the whole chapter is a condemnation of Israel for their rebellion against God and their violation of his law, including the breaking of the Sabbath:
"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isa.58:1 Para.).
The problem in understanding what Isaiah recorded in verse 13 comes from a mistranslation of the Hebrew word 'hepes', which has been translated as 'pleasure' in the King James Translation. The Hebrew word 'hepes' actually means 'will' or 'purpose'; it has nothing to do with a celebration, entertainment, or recreation. The reprimand in verse 13 is an instruction to refrain from doing one's own will or purpose on the weekly Sabbath.
The Jewish translation of Isaiah 58:13 reads, "If you turn away your foot because of the Sabbath, from pursuing your business on my holy day. . . nor pursuing your business, nor speaking thereof."
The New English Bible reads, "If you cease to tread the Sabbath underfoot, and keep my holy day free from your own affairs, if you call the Sabbath a day of joy. . .. If you honor it by not plying your trade, not seeking your own interest or attending to your own affairs."
The instruction in verse 14 is to make the Sabbath a delight and a pleasurable experience by turning one's attention toward God and his wonderful and awesome purpose for humanity.
Isaiah 58:13-14 has nothing to do with prohibiting pleasure, entertainment, or recreation on the Sabbath. The admonition is to refrain from violating the Sabbath by working or having one's thoughts focused on one's occupation, trade, profession, or whatever one does to earn a living or increase one's wealth. When a person observes the Sabbath the way God intended, one will reap tremendous blessings.
The Sabbath, the Festivals, and Pleasure
God says to rejoice on the Sabbath and the annual festivals, but he does not intend that we should totally fill these days with the pleasures of this life. God's instruction to rejoice does not cancel one's responsibility to keep these days holy and to commune with him.
In addition to the worship and praise of God on the festivals, there are many other things that one can do on these days that will help make them delightful. For example, there is no prohibition against swimming, playing tennis, fishing, gardening, sewing, doing artwork, picnicking, barbecuing, playing ball, and fellow-shipping with friends and neighbors.
The Sabbath and the annual festivals should be a delight for ourselves, our family, and our friends with no more restrictions than we would have on any other day other than those things specifically prohibited by God's law.
Christ came to teach us the spiritual aspect of the law. A converted mind seeks the wisdom (Jms.1:5) of the spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law. Moreover, a truly converted person should not need a long list of things which are and are not permitted on these days.
David summarizes the attitude that one should have toward God and the joy that one should have in keeping the festivals with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Father's children:
"As the deer pants after the stream of water, so my life pants after you, O God. My life thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, Where is your God? When I remember these things, I pour out my very being: for I went with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of rejoicing and praise, with the multitude that were keeping the festival" (Psa.42:1-4 Para.).
WORSHIP WITHIN THE CONGREGATIONS OF GOD
The writer to the Hebrews urged those who are called to salvation during the end of the age to gather together for the following purposes:
"And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the day approaching" (Heb.10:24-25 KJV).
Whether or not we are living just before the return of Jesus Christ, we still need to understand and practice the things that please God the Father in our worship and praise of him, so that we can grow in grace and knowledge and have a closer and more harmonious relationship with him and his Son. One of the great opportunities to do this is during the weekly festival of the Sabbath and the annual festivals when we can fellowship with others of like mind.
Paul's instruction to assemble together is followed by many of God's elect today, but most of them use the worship format of the churches of this world as a guide for their formal worship of the true God. The problem the elect have today in structuring a formal worship assembly after the format of the early church is that we do not know how their worship assemblies were structured. Moreover we live in different times and under different circumstances from the early church. Therefore, we cannot do many of the things in the same way that were done in the past to worship and praise God. However, it is obvious that more is expected than has been practiced since the demise of the early church.
But, how does one practice the things that obviously please God the Father and Jesus Christ in a formal worship assembly today, in order to make the Sabbath and the annual festivals more meaningful in our personal and collective relationship with the Father and his Son?
ORDER WITHIN THE CONGREGATIONS
When the elect of God assemble together, they must conduct themselves in an orderly, harmonious manner. Within the reprimand to the church at Corinth for their unacceptable behavior when they met to fellowship and worship God, the apostle Paul says:
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints . . .. Let all things be done decently and in order" (1.Cor.14:33, 40 KJV).
In both the Old and New Testaments, all of the instructions and examples pertaining to the formal worship of God dictate order and harmony. Clearly, any formal meeting of the elect of God should not be conducted with uncontrolled emotionalism, which is done in the charismatic religions of today. See our study about the inappropriate behavior and disorderly conduct within the church at Corinth as they observed the Passover and assembled to worship God on other occasions.
"Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion" (Jms.1:26, The Jerusalem Bible).
Although the apostle James was instructing the elect in how to conduct their daily lives, what he says about controlling what comes out of one's mouth also applies to one's behavior during a congregational meeting of the elect.
Order within the congregation should not restrict one's worship of God in anyway, but it should enhance one's opportunity to grow in grace and knowledge and give praise, glory, honor, and gratitude to God the Father.
Chaos Versus Order
"If the whole church assembles together in one place, and all speak in different languages, and people come that are not skilled in these languages, or unbelievers come to your assemblies, will they not say that you are insane?" (v23 Para.).
Paul says for the church as a whole to speak in different languages at the same time would give the impression that those who spoke were insane. The Corinthians did not correctly understand or practice the spiritual gift of languages.
"But if all prophesy [if all speak divine counsels], and there come in one that believes not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all [shown his sinful state], he is judged of all" (v24 KJV).
The Taylor translation renders the phrase "he is judged of all" as "and his conscience will be pricked by everything he hears." This translation seems to be more logical; in that, it would serve no purpose for the congregation to pass judgment on an unbeliever unless the unbeliever began to understand what was being taught.
Verses 23-24 clearly show that Paul instructed the Corinthians how to correctly conduct themselves in a formal worship assembly and how to teach things that would benefit those who don't have very much understanding of Gods truth:
"The proper kind of teaching will result in people understanding their inner being and then be convinced they need to change and worship the true God. Because of this kind of proper conduct and teaching, they will also know that the spirit of God dwells in you . . .. Let all things be done to edifying" (vs.25-26 Para.).
THE EIGHT FESTIVALS
"And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts" (Lev.23:1-2 KJV).
The following eight festival days are noted in Leviticus chapter 23 as specific days on which there are to be holy convocations:
1. The Weekly Sabbath 2. The First Day of Unleavened Bread 3. The Last Day of Unleavened Bread 4. Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) 5. Trumpets 6. The Day of Atonement 7. The First Day of the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering 8. The Eighth Day
Through these eight festivals and days of holy convocation, God the Father reveals his plan of salvation to those he calls to become a part of his family and kingdom.
The Passover Begins the Annual Festivals
Although the Passover is called a feast in Luke 2:41 and John 13:1, it is not a festive occasion; the Passover that occurs on the first day of the first festival of the sacred year begins the festival days of the sacred year and is extremely important because it pictures the beginning of God's plan for the salvation of humanity.
It is during the beginning of the evening portion of the first festival day of unleavened bread that the elect partake of the Passover rituals, through which they acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Savior and renew their covenant with God the Father. Through this, they show their willingness to serve him, his son, his elect children, and humanity.
It is also during this first festival of the sacred year that the lift offering was presented to God that symbolized our Savior being offered to the Father as the firstborn of the New Creation and the sacrifice for the sins of humanity.
During the festivals the Father's children are to meet with him on an individual and collective basis for the following reasons:
Clearly, some of the things that can be done during these special days can also be done at other times; therefore, if we are to understand what makes one's worship of the Father more pleasing to him on these days than at other times, we must first understand what the love of God is and why God the Father and Jesus Christ love us. When one understands this awesome truth, one can begin to understand why the Father requires certain acts of worship and praise of him to be performed in an intensified manner during his festivals and holy convocations.
THE WORSHIP OF GOD
Satan has deceived the world for centuries through false Christianity and most of the elect of God have been called out of Satan's religious system; however, true Christians have been greatly influenced by various forms of false Christianity in the way that they personally and collectively worship God the Father. Therefore, it is no great surprise that congregations of God throughout the world differ greatly in the way that they conduct and behave in their formal assemblies.
At one extreme, there are those who practice uncontrolled emotionalism like the charismatic churches of this world. And at the other extreme, there are those who are structured and solemn to the point of being antiseptic and ritualized in their worship of God. What is abundantly clear from both the Old and New Testaments is that neither of these two extremes are pleasing to God.
In order to gain any true understanding of what type of formal worship is acceptable and pleasing to God during this gospel age of salvation, one must first understand the concept of worship as set forth in the Bible.
The Word 'Worship'
The word that is often translated as 'worship' in various English versions of the Bible comes from the following Hebrew and Greek words 'shaha', 'shahah', 'proskuneo' and 'sebomai.'
The Hebrew words 'shaha' and 'shahah' basically mean 'to bow down', 'to lie down', or 'to be brought low'. And the commonly occurring term 'hishtahawa' means 'to prostrate oneself.'
The Greek word 'proskuneo' literally means to 'prostrate oneself in homage', 'to reverence', and 'to adore.' And the Greek word 'sebomai' means 'to adore' and it connotes 'devote religious worship.'
Both the Hebrew and Greek words infer bringing oneself into submission to something that is superior to oneself. When these words are used in relation to God, they denote bringing oneself into submission to God and giving him the honor, respect, praise, and gratitude that is rightfully his to receive.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek words that have been translated in various English versions of the Bible as 'worship' are verbs that connote a person doing something positive toward God. Therefore, it is the thing that one does that defines one's worship of God. The Bible clearly reveals two categories of worship toward God the Father and Jesus Christ. The first constitutes one's personal and private worship. The second constitutes a formal collective worship of God by his people. The Bible also clearly reveals that both of these categories of worship must be performed in accordance to how God wants to be worshiped.
Although the physical conditions that dictate the place where one can personally and collectively worship God have changed from the initial creation of humanity and will continue to change until the Kingdom of God rules the earth, the basic requirements of true worship toward God will never change. The kind of worship that gave the Sovereign God and the Creator God pleasure during the times of Adam and Eve, the Patriarchs, national Israel, and the early church, remain the same today. It is only our concept of what is required to please God that has changed throughout the ages.
Ancient Israel observed the weekly Sabbath as well as the annual festivals. Under the New Covenant, the early church also observed these festivals. Moreover, these festivals will be observed after Christ returns to rule the earth. For those who want to worship God the Father and follow the example of Jesus Christ, the question of how to worship and praise the Father and observe his weekly and annual festivals today in a way that is pleasing to him and his Son must be answered.
In order to find an accurate, logical, and helpful answer to the above question, we need to first explore the following four themes of Sabbath observance, because almost everything that is said about the weekly Sabbath also applies to the annual festivals:
1. Ceasing from the work by which one earns a living or increases one's wealth
2. Remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy
3. Celebrating the Sabbath day by rejoicing before God
4. Coming before God to worship, praise, and fellowship with him
WORK AND THE SABBATH
"You shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy to you: every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever does any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever does any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death" (Ex.31:14-15 KJV).
God instructs that the first six days of the week may be devoted to one's personal work; however, the Sabbath day is holy time, which belongs to God. On the Sabbath day one's personal work is prohibited. Notice that this pollution of the holy Sabbath is a capital crime that is punishable by death.
The prophet Jeremiah records that to violate the prohibition against working on the Sabbath pollutes the sacredness of this holy time. Other scriptures show that this same instruction concerning the cessation of work also applies to the annual festivals.
Jeremiah 17:19-24, 27 Good News Bible:
"The Lord said to me, Jeremiah, go and announce my message at the People's Gate, through which the kings of Judah enter and leave the city; then go to all the other gates of Jerusalem. Tell the kings and all the people of Judah and everyone who lives in Jerusalem and enters these gates, to listen to what I say" (vs.19-20).
"Tell them that if they love their lives, they must not carry any load on the Sabbath: they must not carry anything in through the gates of Jerusalem, or carry anything out of their houses on the Sabbath. They must not work on the Sabbath; they must observe it as a sacred day, as I commanded their ancestors. Their ancestors did not listen to me or pay any attention. Instead, they became stubborn; they would not obey me or learn from me" (vs.21-23).
"Tell these people that they must obey all my commands. They must not carry any load in through the gates of this city on the Sabbath. They must observe the Sabbath as a sacred day and must not do any work at all" (v24).
"They must obey me and observe the Sabbath as a sacred day. They must not carry any load through the gates of Jerusalem on that day; for if they do, I will set the gates of Jerusalem on fire. Fire will burn down the palaces of Jerusalem, and no one will be able to put it out" (v27).
What is Work?
Because ceasing one's work is a major aspect of keeping the Sabbath holy (Ex.20:9-10; 31:14-15), it is important to understand exactly what kind of work God prohibits on his Sabbath day.
In the purest sense, physical work is defined as expending physical energy in order to cause an action to take place in this physical dimension of existence.
What one does to earn a living, including a person's occupation, trade or profession, or what one does to increase one's wealth is defined as work in scripture, and is prohibited on the Sabbath. However, as we will see, under certain circumstances physical work may be considered spiritual work if it is done for a righteous reason.
In the purest sense, spiritual work is work that is done using spirit-energy for spiritual reasons. There is no prohibition against the performance of spiritual work on the Sabbath or the annual observances. As we will see, spiritual work is not only allowed on the Sabbath, it may be required under some circumstances in order to keep the Sabbath holy.
HARVESTING ON THE SABBATH
"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" (Mk.2:23-24 NIV).
It is important to note that there is no law that prohibits a person from eating on the Sabbath. The law that the Pharisees referred to is their law, not God's law. What the Pharisees accused Jesus and his disciples of was harvesting on the Sabbath (i.e., working on the Sabbath), and harvesting on the Sabbath does violate the Sabbath.
Christ answered the Pharisees with the example of David going into the house of God and eating the consecrated bread that was only lawful for priests to eat (Mk.2:25-26). Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mk.2:27-28 NIV).
There are at least four things that can be learned from this account in Mark 2:23-27:
1. Human rules can never alter, replace, or supersede the law of God.
2. Christ and the disciples were not harvesting; they were not working in order to earn a living or increase their wealth. They merely picked the grain because they wanted something to eat. Eating on the Sabbath is permissible and is not considered work.
3. It is permissible to set aside certain rules in order to take care of human needs. David and the High Priest both understood this principle; therefore, David and his men were given bread from the tabernacle. See 1.Sam.21:1-6.
4. Jesus who is the Creator of the Sabbath knew how to keep the Sabbath holy and he has the authority to say what can and cannot be done on this day.
Emergencies and Humanitarian Work
The religious leaders of Christ's day were constantly criticizing Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. In reply to this criticism, he often admonished them for their hard-heartedness, and he sometimes said that they were kinder to animals than they were to their fellow men:
"You hypocrite, does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" (Lk.13:15-16 KJV).
"And behold , there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? . . . And he took him, and healed him. . . Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightaway pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (Lk.14:2-5 KJV).
There are a number of basic principles that can be learned from these two accounts:
Was Jesus working on the Sabbath when he healed people? Yes, Jesus was working on the Sabbath when he performed these acts of compassion (Jn.5:17; 10:32). However, he was not performing the kind of work that was prohibited (i.e., earning a living or gaining physical wealth). Jesus was doing spiritual work which is lawful to do on the Sabbath.
Physical or Spiritual Work?
When does physical work become spiritual work? Physical work becomes spiritual work when it is done for a righteous reason. The basis for these righteous reasons can be found in the two great commands of the law:
"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked . . . Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt.22:35-40 KJV).
The law to love God includes the way one should conduct their entire life in relationship to God and man. If we love God, we will also love our neighbors. Therefore, performing work in order to help a fellow human in the event of a real emergency or an extreme need is a part of spiritual work and worship on the Sabbath.
For further details concerning types of work, professions, and occupations that are legal to pursue on the Sabbath see our study entitled Questions, Answers, And Comments About The Sabbath.
REMEMBRANCE AND SACREDNESS
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex.20:8 KJV).
Our minds were made with a tremendous ability to store and recall information. This mental process is structured so that some information is automatically prioritized and used for our physical survival, while other information is dependent upon a conscious effort on our part to keep it current and accessible. The latter case is the way we deal with information that pertains to our spiritual walk with God.
The English word 'remember' in verse 20 is the Hebrew word 'zakar', and means to think (about), meditate (upon), pay attention (to), remember, recollect, mention, declare, recite, proclaim, and invoke. The very nature of the Hebrew word 'zakar' demands that action be taken and effort be expended toward being aware of the Sabbath and its importance.
King David, who diligently sought after the way of God (Acts 13:22) reveals to us an easy and effective way to keep the important things of God in the forefront of the mind:
"Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate day and night" (Psa.1:1-2 KJV).
"O how love I your law! it is my meditation all the day" (Psa.119:97 KJV).
Keep the Sabbath Holy
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex.20:8 KJV).
The English word translated 'holy' in Exodus 20:8 is from the Hebrew 'qadash', which connotes the state that belongs to the sphere of the sacred.
Remember that only God can make a thing holy, and because the Sabbath is holy time, it belongs to God. No thought, action, or desire of any individual can make the Sabbath any holier than it already is. The instruction is to keep the Sabbath holy, but how does one keep something holy?
In the books of the law and the prophets there are many examples of how the priesthood were to keep themselves and the things of God holy. One of these instructions had to do with their personal behavior and mental alertness while they officiated in the tabernacle:
"Do not drink wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: And that you may put a difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean" (Lev.10:9-10). See also Lev.11:43-47; 20:25-26.
Alcoholic beverages alone are not evil; however, even a small amount can affect one's judgment and physical performance. The performance of the priesthood's duties required that they be mentally alert as well as physically fit. It was a gross error in judgment concerning holy and unholy things that led to the pollution of the tabernacle and the death of Nadab and Abihu (Lev.10:1-12).
Nadab and Abihu polluted the holy things of God with their lack of respect for his law; they did not keep holy things holy, and they did not make a difference between the holy and the unholy. See also Lev.6:14-23; 21:6-23; Mal.1:6-7.
ANCIENT ISRAEL'S WORSHIP OF GOD
Although ancient Israel often observed and practiced all of God's festivals, and worshiped him with great zeal, he continually sent prophets to them to urge them to return to the worship system that they had originally been given.
After the death of King Solomon and the division of Israel into two separate nations, and with the passage of time, the northern ten tribes of Israel (House of Israel) totally departed from the worship system that God had originally given them. Only the House of Judah continued a worship system that closely resembled the original system given to them by God. However, the prophet Isaiah shows that the House of Judah's attempt to worship God in a way that they thought would please him was totally inadequate.
Pollution of the Sabbath
The prophet Ezekiel records the process by which one is able to keep the Sabbath holy and the process by which it can be polluted:
"And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them. Moreover I also gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my Sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, and consume them" (Ezk.20:11-13 KJV).
It is rebellion against God and a refusal to do what he has instructed that constitutes the pollution of his sacred festivals.
"There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed the difference between the clean and unclean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them!" (Ezk.22:25-26 KJV).
Because the violation of God's law is the root cause of polluting things that are holy, in order to keep the Sabbath and the annual festivals holy, one must observe them with a proper attitude, and obedience to God's instructions pertaining to their observance.
Remembering the Sabbath is not only being conscious of the day of the week on which the Sabbath occurs but also bringing to mind all that the Sabbath is. This includes understanding its creation, its purpose for humanity, and its symbolic, contemporary, and prophetic meanings.
Pollution of the Sabbath and Other Commanded Observances
Isaiah 1:10-19 Paraphrased
"Hear the word of the Lord you rulers of Sodom (House of Judah); listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah (Jerusalem). To what purpose are your many sacrifices to me? I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of young bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come before me, who has required you to tread my courts? Do not bring anymore vain oblations; your incense is an abomination to me; the observance of new moons and the sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear them, they are lawlessness to me, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts, I hate: they trouble me, I am weary of them" (vs.10-14). See also Isa.5:11-12; Mal.2:1-10.
Although these people were worshiping the Creator God through observing his commanded assemblies and festivals and performing the sacrifices along with the many rituals that were a part of the original worship system that he had given to national Israel, their worship was in vain, because God was not pleased with what they did.
"And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; yes when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, clean yourselves, put away your evil practices from before my eves; stop practicing evil. Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (vs.15-17).
God did not accept their worship of him, because their hearts were evil. God requires certain physical acts to be performed as one worships and praises him; however, if these physical acts are not accompanied by a righteous attitude and righteous behavior, the worship and praise of him is done in vain and will not be accepted by him.
"Come let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be as white wool. If you are willingly obedient, you shall eat the good of the land" (vs.18-19).
The key to having one's worship accepted by God, is understanding what God expects and performing what he expects in a willing and obedient attitude.
Worship During Jesus' Lifetime
During Jesus' lifetime the sacrificial worship system was being practiced and administered from Jerusalem through the Levitical priesthood and the teaching of God's law by the scholarly orders of Scribes and Pharisees. However, Jesus says that their teachings and practice of worship toward God were unacceptable:
"Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, This people draws near to me with their mouth, and with their lips honor me; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the ordinances of men" (Matt.15:7-9 Para.). See also Isa.29:13; Ezk.33:31-32.
Jesus clearly says that doctrines and ordinances of worship that are not in conformity to God's word are useless. The point is this: God the Father is only pleased with worship that is directed to him and sanctioned by him; all other worship directed to him does not please him and is done in vain.
Just Before Jesus' Return
There are many prophecies that reveal God's great displeasure with the way that his chosen people often practiced the worship system that he gave them when he formed them into a nation in the wilderness of Sinai. Moreover, there are many prophecies that show this same displeasure with the false worship systems that they have adopted and practiced throughout the ages. The prophecy of Amos reveals God's disapproval of the Jewish (the Israelis) festivals and sacrifices, which they will observe and perform shortly before the return of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Amos 5:20-23 KJV
"Shall not the day of the Lord be dark, and not light? Even extremely dark, having no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell your solemn gatherings. Although you offer me burnt-offerings and your food-offerings, I will not accept them neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take away from me the noise of your songs; for I will not hear the melody of your viols."
Amos 8:9-11 KJV
"And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in a clear day: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day. Behold, the days come, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."
These two prophecies clearly show that God expects any worship of him to be performed correctly and in a righteous attitude. These warnings to the Jews should not be taken lightly by anyone who is serious about pleasing God the Father and Jesus Christ in their observance of the weekly festival of the Sabbath or the annual festivals. Although the elect of God are not required to offer animal sacrifice, they are required to worship God in a manner that is pleasing to him.
While speaking to a woman of Samaria, Jesus explains that there would come a time when the existing worship system would be changed, and that those who worshiped God would do so in spirit and truth:
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such ones that worship him. God is a spirit, and the ones that worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn.4:23-24 Para.). See also Phil.3:3.
Many people believe that, when Jesus spoke of worshiping in spirit and truth, he was only speaking philosophically and that he was only trying to convey that people would eventually worship God with a different attitude. However, Jesus was saying something completely different. He was speaking of the time when the Father would move his place of worship from the temple in Jerusalem to a temple of flesh, where his spirit would reside. Moreover, he was also speaking of the time just before his return when the Father's true worshipers would worship him correctly (i.e., in truth), in the way that he wants to be worshiped by them. See also our study about the New Creation.
WORSHIP THROUGH PRAISE
There are hundreds of scriptures that clearly show that God's people are required to praise him, and that he gets great pleasure from praise given to him by his people. Moreover, several prophecies show that, before Christ returns, the elect of God will again understand how to worship and praise God the Father in a way that is pleasing to him. However, the kind of praise that God requires is almost totally missing from the formal assemblies of his people today. In order to understand how to praise him, we must first understand the original concept of praise as it was practiced by ancient Israel and the early church.
The Word 'Praise'
The English word 'praise' conceptually means, 'an expression of approval', ‘favorable judgment', 'to glorify', 'to worship', or 'to give thanks'. However, the words that are often translated as 'praise' in various English versions of the Bible have conceptually different meanings in Hebrew and Greek.
The Hebrew Word 'Yada'
The primary meaning of 'yada' is 'to acknowledge or confess sin, God's character and works, or man's character'. The basic difference between the verb 'yada' and its synonym 'halal' is that 'halal' connotes 'acclaim of ', 'boasting of ', or 'glorying in' an object, but 'yada' emphasizes 'recognition' and 'declaration' of a fact. The word 'yada' is used in three basic ways to express the concept of praise toward God:
First, 'yada' is used to convey the acknowledgment of individual and national sin.
Second, 'yada' is used to express one's public proclamation or declaration (confession) of the attributes of God and his works. This concept is at the heart of the meaning of praising God. The clear intent of praise to God has to do with what God is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what will do.
In the English versions of the Bible, 'yada' is usually translated as 'to thank.' In the Old Testament scriptures there is no verb that has the singular meaning of 'to thank.' Most of the time when the English word 'thank' is used in the translation of the Old Testament, it is translated from Hebrew words that do not mean 'to thank God'; it is translated from Hebrew words that are meant to convey the concept of 'yada' (praise) to God.
Because there is no independent concept of thanks set forth in the Old Testament like there is in the English language, it is clear that the concept of thanks to God is included in praise ('yada') to and of God.
Third, 'yada' (praise) also connotes 'confession', because when a person confesses or declares God's attributes, truth, or works, God is praised; in that, his greatness is acknowledged and honored.
The word 'yada' is found in Hebrew poetry as a synonym for such words as 'hala' ('to praise'), 'zamar' ('to praise with musical instruments'), 'rum' ('to exalt)', 'zakar' ('to remember'), 'kabad' ('to glorify'), and 'nagad' ('to declare').
Praise, Thanksgiving, and Gratitude
Clearly, 'yada' (i.e., praise), thanksgiving, and gratitude to God are inseparable, because when one acknowledges and declares God's attributes, his truth, and his works, one cannot avoid being thankful and grateful to him. Therefore, praise to God leads to gratitude and thanksgiving to him.
The Hebrew word 'Toda'
The cognitive noun 'toda' is derived from 'yada', and it basically means 'confession' of sin or of God's character or works. 'Toda' is often translated into English versions of the scriptures as 'praise', 'sacrifice of praise', 'thanks', 'thanksgiving', or 'thank-offering.'
'Toda' is used extensively in reference to the sacrificial system. One could bring a 'thank-offering' (peace-offering) in which a declaration of sin and/or a confession of sin was made to God as the sacrifice was being offered. When the offering was accompanied by a confession of sin, the offering was called a peace-offering, and it was offered to make peace with God, so that the offerer could be accepted by God into his fellowship.
The Greek Words Aineo, Ainos, and Epaineo
The three Greek words 'aineo' ('to extol'), 'ainos' ('to relate a story'), and 'epaineo' ('to applaud', 'commend', and 'laud)' are words that convey the same basic concepts of the Hebrew words 'yada' and 'toda' in relation to praising God in that the giving of praise to God is a confession or declaration of God's attributes, truth, or works; his greatness is acknowledged, declared, and honored.
The Biblical Definition of Praise
The biblical definition of praising God both privately and publicly encompasses the expression of an acknowledgment and a declaration of his many attributes and great works to him.
In the biblical record, praising God is expressed through offerings, prayer, poetry, song, music, dancing, and the clapping and raising of hands.
Expression of praise to God is always directed to him, and its central theme is the desire to honor and please God through expressing an acknowledgment and declaration of his many attributes and great works in an attitude of love, submission, and gratitude toward him.
Commanded to Praise God
In light of Paul's instruction to Timothy concerning all the scriptures being written and recorded for instruction in righteousness (2.Tim.3:15-17), Psalm 100 can be taken as a command from God to perform certain acts of worship when one enters into his presence:
"Shout joyfully to the Lord with gladness; come before his face with joyful singing. Know that the Lord, he is God; he has made us, we did not make ourselves his people and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with praise (Heb: Yada), and his courts praising him; bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting, and his faithfulness from generation to generation" (Psa.100:1-5 Para.). See also Psa.107:32; 111:1-10; Eph.5:19-20.
King David and Praise to God
King David is mentioned in the Bible more than any of God's other servants: "I have found David the son of Jesse, to be a man after my own heart, who shall fulfill my will" (Acts 13:22 Para.).
One of the reasons that David found such great favor with God was that he understood that God loved him as a son. Because David understood this, he communed with God often through prayer and meditation, and he expressed his love and respect to his Creator through acknowledging and declaring God's greatness often:"Seven times a day I praise you because of your righteous judgments" (Psa.119:164 KJV).
David wrote many things about God's character, love, mercy, power, and works; however, the things he wrote about most were the praises that should be given to God, and the necessity for those who serve God to acknowledge and declare his many attributes and great works in many different ways. Below are a few of the things David says about praising God:
"I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth all your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in you: I will sing praise to your name, O you the Most High" (Psa.9:1-2 KJV). See also Psa.13:6; 18:49.
"Praise you the Lord. Praise you the name of the Lord; praise him, O you servants of the Lord" (Psa.135:1 KJV). See also Psa.113:1;
"Praise you the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation" (Psa.111:1 KJV). See also Psa.149:1.
"Praise the Lord with harp: sing to him with the psaltery and the instrument of ten strings. Sing to the Lord a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise"(Psa.33:2-3 Para.). See also Psa.47:6-7; 66:1-4; 100:1-5.
"Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs" (Psa.150:4 KJV).
David shows that the acknowledgment and declaration of God's great attributes and works should be done by people and spirit-beings. He also says that even the creation itself acknowledges and declares God's magnificence. See also Rev. 5:11-12; 19:5-6:
"Acknowledge and declare the Lord. Acknowledge and declare the Lord from the heavens: acknowledge and declare him in the heights. Acknowledge and declare him, all his angels: acknowledge and declare him all his hosts. Acknowledge and declare him, sun and moon: acknowledge and declare him all you stars of light. Acknowledge and declare him you heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens. Let them all acknowledge and declare the name of the Lord: for he commanded and they were created" (Psa.148:1-5 Para.).
In the psalms David speaks of praising God with one's whole heart, mind, and being through one's daily life. And he shows that the assemblies of God's people should praise him through song, music, poetry, dancing, the clapping and raising of hands, the spoken word, the making of a joyful noise, and various other expressions of praise to God.
The clear picture of praise to God presented by David is one of careful consideration of the thoughts and acts of praise that one expresses to God, and is an enthusiastic, heartfelt, and joyful presentation of these thoughts and acts.
The overwhelming impression that one gets from reading the Psalms of David is that praise to God must be done with great enthusiasm and with the purpose of glorifying and extolling his greatness and his works. This should be declared, not only in private worship of him but also as a public witness, acknowledgment, and declaration of his many attributes and great works and love and concern for his people.
The biblical instructions to praise God and David's examples of how to praise God are just as valid today as they were under the first covenant with national Israel and during the days of the early church.
A Prophecy of Jesus' Praise to God
The following two prophecies show that a major aspect of Jesus' ministry was to proclaim God the Father's attributes, works, name, love, and concern for his people through the spoken word and the singing of hymns and praises to him in the midst of those who were being called by the Father to salvation.
"I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the covenant people for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs: So that the Gentiles might glorify [Greek, 'dorozo': to 'esteem','honor', 'magnify'] God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess [acknowledge] to you among the Gentiles, and give praise [sing praises or to praise with music] to your name. And again he says, Rejoice you Gentiles, with his people. And again, praise [extol] the Lord, all you Gentiles: and laud him all you people" (Rom.15:8-11 Para.).
"For both he that sanctifies [the Father] and they who are sanctified [the elect] are all one: for this cause he [Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brothers, Saying, I will declare your name [the Father's name] to my brothers, in the middle of the church will I sing praise to you" (Heb.2:11-12 Para.). See also Psa.22:22.
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
The example of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a colt (Lk.19:29-40) reveals that rejoicing and praising God through the shouting of God's attributes and great works was still practiced during Jesus' lifetime. When some of the Pharisees asked Jesus to stop his disciples from shouting their praises to God, Jesus informed them that, if his disciples did not praise God, the stones would cry out in praise to him.
Although Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of his disciples to assume rule as king and restore Israel as a sovereign nation at that time, this event seems to have some prophetic significance. Perhaps, this is a warning to the elect of God who live during the end of the age that they should not fail to praise him in the way that he wants to be praised and proclaim his Son's coming with great enthusiasm and loud acknowledgments of the Father's awesome attributes and great works.
The Early Church
Although we know that the elect of the early church assembled together on the weekly Sabbath, the Passover, and the annual festivals, there is very little recorded about the way they conducted their formal worship assemblies, except that they assembled to learn God's word and his ways and to fellowship together. However, what is recorded reveals some information that is important for us today if we want to worship and praise God in a way that is pleasing to him.
The report of Peter and John to some of the brethren after the Jewish religious leaders questioned them about their teaching of a resurrection and the healing of a lame man in the name of Jesus is an example of proper worship and praise of God.
Acts 4:23-31 KJV
"And being let go, they went to their own people, and reported all that the chief priests and elders said to them. And when they heard what had been said, in agreement they raised their voices, and said, Lord, you are God, that has made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all that is therein. Who by the mouth of your servant David have said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ (vs.23-26).
After hearing the apostle's report, the elect who were assembled began to speak as if they were of one voice and praised God the Father and quoted 2.Chronicles 2:12 and Psalms 2:1-2. During their praise of God they acknowledged to the Father that the prophecies about the Messiah had been fulfilled:
For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together, for to do whatever your hand and counsel determined before to be done" (vs.27-28).
A Collective Prayer
At this time in the history of the early church, the practice of audible unified praise and prayer was sanctioned when the elect of God were gathered together for the purpose of doing his will.
"And now, Lord, behold their threats: and grant to your servants, that with all boldness they may speak your word. By stretching forth your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of your holy child Jesus" (vs.29-30)
It is unclear from verses 24-26 whether these people were led in their collective praise of God by a person in the assembly or were all inspired and moved by the holy spirit to speak the same thing at the same time. And it is equally unclear if anyone led the prayer in verses 29-30. What is clear is that, after the group had finished their praise and prayer to the Father, there was a physical manifestation of the Father's approval through the shaking of the place where they were assembled and the giving of power through the holy spirit to those who were proclaiming God's truth:
"And when they had prayed the place was shaken where they were assembled together: and they were all filled with the holy spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness" ( v31).
The Sacrifice of Praise
While speaking of Jesus Christ as the supreme atoning sacrifice for the sins of humanity, the writer to the Hebrews says that the children of God should offer their praise to the Father through Jesus Christ (our high Priest) as a sacrificial offering:
"Through him [Jesus Christ] let us offer the sacrifice of praise to the Father continually, that is, the fruit of the lips acknowledging and confessing his name. But do not forget to do good and share, for the father is pleased with such sacrifices" (Heb.13:15-16 Para.). See Num. chp.15.
The point that the writer to the Hebrews makes is that the Father views praise to him from his children in the same light as the animal sacrifices, which were offered to the Creator God to honor and please him.
The Inhabitants of the Rock
"Let the wilderness and the cities thereof raise their voice, the villages that kedar does inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the islands, The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealously like a man of war: he shall cry, yes roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. For a long time I have held my peace; I have been still and refrained myself: now I will cry like a travailing woman: I will destroy and devour at once" (Isa.42:11-14 KJV Para.). See also Psa.57:8-9; 96:1-4.
This prophecy foretells a time just before Christ's return when some of the Father's elect children will have the knowledge of how to properly worship and praise him. At that time, these elect will be acknowledging and declaring God the Father's many attributes and great works as acts of worship and praise to him. In addition, this acknowledgment and declaration of the Father's many attributes and great works will probably be used to announce his Son's return.
WORSHIP GOD THROUGH SONG AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
From the very beginning of the nation of Israel, the singing of praises to God that speak of his glory, honor, power, and great works was a major part of the private and formal worship of him. After their exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea, the Israelites sang the following song in praise accompanied with music and dance to the Creator God:
"Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord. I will sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name . . ..And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand and all the women went after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam said to them, Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea" (Ex.15:1-3, 21 KJV Para.). See also Rev.15:3.
When David brought the ark to his city he presented his first psalm to be sung in praise to God.
"Then on that day [the day the ark was set in the city of David] David delivered his first psalm to praise [Hebrew: 'yada']the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brothers. Give praise to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among his people. Sing to him, talk of his wonderful works, glory in his holy name: let the heart of them that seek the Lord rejoice" (1.Chron.16:7-10 Para.).
When Solomon finished the construction of the temple, it was dedicated with song and music in praise to God:
"The Levites which were singers, clothed in white linen, and having cymbals, psalteries, and harps stood at the east end of the altar, with 120 priests sounding trumpets, and when the singers and trumpeters became as one sound praising the Lord; and when they raised their voice with the trumpets, and cymbals and instruments of music and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; his mercy endures forever: then the house of the Lord filled with a cloud; so that the priests could not minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God" (2.Chron.5:12-14 Para.). See also 2.Chron.29:25-30; 30:21.
There are many scriptures that speak of the singing of songs accompanied with musical instruments in praise to God during the sacrifices, and many of the psalms were set to music and meant to be sung as praise to God. The following are just a few examples of the psalms of praise that were set to music:
"I will sing praise to you O Lord with my whole heart. I will show forth all your marvelous works, I will be glad and rejoice in you: I will sing praise to your name, O you most High" (Psa.9:1-2 KJV).
"Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous: for praise is appropriate for the upright. Praise the Lord with harp: sing to him with the psaltery and the instrument of ten strings. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise" (Psa.33:1-3 Para.).
"Sing to the Lord, you who are separated for his purpose and belong to him, and acknowledge and declare his greatness when you remember his holiness" (Psa.30:4 Para.).
"I will praise the name of God with song, and will magnify him with praise. This shall please the Lord more than sacrificial offerings of animals. The humble shall see this and be happy: and your heart shall be alive and seek the Lord . . .. Let heaven and earth praise him, and the seas and everything that moves therein" (Psa.69:30-32, 34 Para.).
When the preparation of the sacrifice was complete, the priests who stood on the right and left of the table on which the fat of the offering was laid, blew their silver trumpets (Num.10:10), cymbals were struck, and the singers of the Levites began to sing praises to God accompanied by musical instruments. It is said that, during the time of the first temple, the people joined in singing praise to God while the sacrifices were being offered. David says that this praise to God was more pleasing than the offering of the sacrifices.
Paul understood that meditating on the things of God and the praise to and of God were an important part of Christian life; therefore, he encouraged the Ephesians to be wise, understand the will of God, and meditate on psalms and songs that speak of God:
"See that you do not behave as fools, but be circumspect and wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand the will of God. Do not become drunk with wine; but be filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves with psalms and songs and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph.5:15-19 Para.).
The apostle John describes a scene that is set before the throne of God the Father in heaven after the return of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. Notice that these sons of God who will have become spirit-beings are singing the song of Moses accompanied with music in praise to the Father:
"And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and those that had gained victory over the beast, his image, his mark, and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sang the song of Moses the servant of God [Ex.15:1-20], and the song of the Lamb, saying Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways you king of holy and sacred ones" (Rev.15:2-3 Para). See also Acts 16:25; Rev.14:13.
It is clear from the scriptures that the singing of songs and the playing of music has and always will be and important part of praise to God. However, in today's world it is extremely difficult to find songs and music that are appropriate to sing and play in praise to God.
The Father's elect children should be very careful when they attempt to use or adapt lyrics and music that are used by false Christianity for the purpose of worshiping and praising the true God. Although some of the lyrics from the songs of false Christianity may sound nice when accompanied by music, much of what is sung has perverted concepts and false teachings about God's truth.
It is safe to say that one of the reasons the psalms of praise were recorded in the Bible is so that the elect of God would have a guide as to the lyrics and music that please the Father and his Son. The psalms can be used as a guide to lyrics and musical praise to the Father and his Son, but they are not the only lyrics and praises that please God in song and music.
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY
The Creator God inspired the writers of the Bible to use words that would convey the exact intent and meaning of what he wanted to say. None of the words in the Bible were put there just to fill space or because of the way they sound; they are all intended to convey meaning. Therefore, it seems that the elect of God should exercise great care when choosing words for the purpose of acknowledging and declaring the attributes, truth, and works, of the Father and Jesus Christ in prayer, praise, or songs in private or in public.
The apostle Paul said the following about the use of different languages within the formal assemblies of God's elect:
"I suppose there are hundreds of different languages in the world, and all are excellent for those who understand them, but to me they mean nothing. A person talking to me in one of those languages will be a stranger to me and I a stranger to him. . .. For if I pray in a language that I don't understand , my spirit is praying but I don't know what I am saying . . .. I thank God that I speak more languages that the rest of you. But in public worship I would much rather speak five words that people can understand and be helped by, than ten thousand words while speaking in a foreign language" (1.Cor.14:10, 14, 18-19).
The point Paul makes in his reprimand to the Corinthians concerning their use of different languages in their formal assemblies is that language is meant to transmit a person's thoughts to God or to people; therefore, one should know what one is saying in order to do this effectively.
Many people use spiritual sounding words such as 'hallelujah', 'hosanna', 'praise', bless', and 'glory' in teaching, prayer, or song without truly knowing what these words mean and without the intent to convey some clear meaning. Although these words do have meaning, unless such words are used with the intent to convey meaning, it seems that Paul's reprimand also applies to those using such words.
Because the elect of God must strive to make their walk with the Father, Jesus Christ, and their brothers and sisters in the faith a meaningful and mutually beneficial experience, one should carefully choose the words that one speaks or sings to please the Father and Jesus Christ and edify the Body of Christ.
THE PHYSICAL POSITION OF WORSHIP, PRAISE, AND PRAYERBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
Although the physical position that a person assumes while worshiping, praising, or praying to God the Father may not seem to be a major point to worry about in the overall scheme of things, the words that are often translated as 'worship' in various English translations of the Bible seem to indicate that it is important.
The following words are often translated as worship in various English translations of the Bible:
Because of the meaning of these Hebrew and Greek words that are used to describe true worship and praise of God, it is clear that the physical positions that a person assumes during the act of worship, praise, or prayer are important. They are important because these physical positions can reflect one's attitude toward God. Therefore, it is important to review some of what is said in the Bible about this aspect of worship, praise, and prayer to God.
Although there are few specific examples in either the Old or New Testaments of people standing while worshiping, praising, and praying to God, these examples do show that this is an acceptable position in which to approach God both privately and publicly in order to acknowledge him, declare his greatness, and petition him. See Ex.15:1-21; 1.Kgs.8:22-54; 2.Chron.29:25-30; Lk.18:13-14; 19:29-40.
Bowing, Kneeling, and Raising Hands
The following are a few of the many examples of God's people kneeling, bowing, and lifting their hands toward God while worshiping, praising, and praying to him:
"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker" (Psa.95:6).
"Behold, bless you the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands, in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord" (Psa.134:1-2 KJV).
When Solomon led the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, he gave God praise and prayed to him while kneeling with his hands raised toward heaven (2.Chron.6:13-42):
"Solomon had made a bronze scaffold five cubits long, five wide and three high, and he stood on the platform and knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven" (2.Chron.6:13 Para.). See also 1.Kgs.8:54; Psa.143:5-6.
The act of raising one's hands toward God in prayer and praise seems symbolic of asking with outstretched hands with the expectation of receiving what is asked for, or of presenting something to God with the expectation of God accepting what is presented.
On two occasions, the apostle Paul knelt down with the others of the church in a formal setting and prayed with them (Acts 20:28-38; 21:3-5). In his letter to the elect at Rome, Paul quotes Isaiah:
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom.14:11). And to the Ephesians he wrote: "According to the eternal purpose which he [the Father] proposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith in him. Wherefore I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory, for this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph.3:11-14 KJV).
Every Knee Shall Bow
"I have sworn to myself, the word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to me every knee shall bow,. . ." (Isa.45:23 KJV). See also Rom.14:11.
There is no doubt from this and other prophecies that, when Jesus returns, every knee shall bow in submission to his authority and in honor and respect of him.
Speaking of the worship, honor, and respect that is owed to Jesus, Paul says:
"Wherefore God [the Father] also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil.2:9-11).
Prostrate Oneself Before God
"The proper kind of teaching will result in people understanding their inner-being and then being convinced they need to change and worship the true God by falling upon their face before him. Because of this kind of proper conduct and teaching, they will also know that the spirit of God dwells in you . . .. Let all things be done to edifying" (1.Cor.14:24-26 Para.).
The word that is translated 'worship' in most English versions of verse 25, comes from the Greek word 'proskuneo', which means to 'prostrate oneself in homage'. Paul's reference to the repentant person falling upon his face to worship God clearly illustrates that assuming this type of position is pleasing to God and shows a submissive and respectful attitude toward him.
Paul Goes Before Felix
When Paul was brought before Felix to answer Tertullus' accusation that he was a trouble-maker and leader of those who are called Nazoreans, he said that he had indeed gone to Jerusalem to worship (i.e., prostrate himself before God), but he denied that he went there to cause trouble:
"Twelve days ago I went to Jerusalem to worship [Greek, 'proskuneo': 'prostrate'], and they neither found me arguing with any man, or causing an uprising among the people in the temple, or in the synagogues, or in the city . . ..But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, I worship [Greek, 'proskuneo': 'prostrate'] the God of my fathers, believing all the things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:11, 14 Para.).
The Book of Revelation mentions twenty-four elders who worship before God along with the heavenly host. One reason that this account is important is that these elders represent twenty-four of the Father's elect children who are giving praise to him either before or after the return of Jesus Christ:
"After this I looked, and before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God" (Rev. 4:1-5 NIV).
"Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks [worshipful gratitude] to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev.4:9-11 NIV).
These elders prostrated themselves before God the Father and praised him by acknowledging who he is and declared his attributes and great works:
"Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals . . .. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. . .. You [Jesus Christ] have made them to be a kingdom of priests to serve our God [God the Father], and they will reign on the earth . . .. And the four beasts said, be it so. the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped him [God the Father] that lives forever and ever." (Rev.5: 5, 8, 10, 14 NIV).
Chapter five of the Book of Revelation shows both God the Father and Jesus Christ being praised by the heavenly host and the twenty-four elders. In verses 5,8, and 10 we see praise being directed toward Jesus Christ by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders as they prostrate themselves before his throne. And in verse 14, we see God the Father being praised in the same way:
"And after these things I heard a the voice of many people in heaven, saying, Hallelujah [Praise you Ya]; Salvation, glory, honor, and power to the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he has judged the great whore, which corrupted the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Praise you Ya. And her smoke rose up forever and ever. And the twenty four elders and four
living creatures fell down and worshiped God that sat on the throne, saying, be it so; praise you Ya. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you servants, and you that fear him, both small and great" (Rev.19:1-5 Para.). See also Rev.14:1-3; 15:2-3.
Although the Book of Revelation is mostly prophetic and shows the things that will come to pass during the end of this age of human rule on earth, it contains many examples of how to worship and praise God the Father and Jesus Christ. Clearly, praise to them will be given forever by those who love and serve them.
The physical act of bowing, kneeling, prostrating oneself before God, and the lifting of the hands toward him in praise and supplication mean nothing by themselves. However, if these things are done individually or collectively in a proper attitude with the intent to worship, praise, and commune with the Father, these acts are very pleasing to both the Father and Jesus Christ.
When combined with true love, respect, and submission to the Father, these physical acts help one to give him the honor, praise, and gratitude that are rightfully his to receive. It is clear from the scriptures that the act of bowing, kneeling, prostrating oneself before the Father, and the lifting of one's hands toward him while worshipping, praising, and praying to him are acceptable and very pleasing to him. It is also clear from the scriptures that these physical acts combined with worship, praise, and prayer are acceptable to him, whether they are done in private or in the formal assemblies of his elect children.
CELEBRATE AND REJOICE BEFORE GOD
The weekly Sabbath and annual festivals are not only special times of worship and praise to the Father but also times to come before the Father to celebrate and rejoice because of our special relationship with him, his Son, and his people.
The elect of God have much to celebrate and rejoice about. We should truly rejoice in the fact that we have been given an opportunity to participate in the first resurrection, called to be kings and priests in the Family of God, and promised awesome rewards in God the Father's kingdom.
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts [appointed times] of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest [the weekly cessation], an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings" (Lev.23:1-3 KJV).
Verse 1 pertains to the specific times that God set aside for sacred gatherings of his people. The first of these is noted as the weekly cessation (the Sabbath). The Sabbath is a day of festivity and a day on which people are commanded to gather in a sacred assembly to worship God. God, the Creator of time, made this specific period of time holy and he said that it belongs to him and is to be used for his divine purpose. See also Num.chps.28-29; Deut. chp.16; Isa.58:13.
Three Festival Seasons
"Three times you shall keep a feast [celebration] to me in the year. You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread: (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it you came out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God" (Ex.23:14-17 KJV).
In these verses, the English word 'feast' is a translation from the Hebrew word 'hag', which is used to denote 'keeping a feast' or 'celebrating a holiday'. It normally describes the three seasonal pilgrimage festivals of God (i.e., the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Shelters/Ingathering). The noun 'hag' means 'pilgrim-feast' or 'holiday' (a day or season of religious joy).
Solomon was inspired to say that "A feast is made for laughter and wine makes merry" (Ecc.10:19 KJV). The festivals of God are not to be like every other day of the week: They are to be looked forward to with anticipation and preparation, because one is coming before the Sovereign God and his Son to fellowship and celebrate with them on days that have great meaning in the plan for the salvation of all humanity: past, present, and future.
The following two examples of the instruction to rejoice in the seven-day feast of the seventh month clearly show that rejoicing is a major part of the festivals of God:
1. "And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Lev.23:40 KJV). See Nehe.8:14-18.
The English word 'rejoice' in verse 40 is translated from the Hebrew word 'sameah', which means 'to be joyful' and 'to be merry.' 'Sameach' comes from the root s-m-h, which denotes being glad or joyful with one's whole being. The usage of the word 'rejoice' indicates that this festival was to be a feast of great joy and merry-making. It was to be a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving before the Lord for the blessings of the past year.
2. "You shall observe the feast of tabernacles [shelters/Ingathering] seven days, after that you have gathered in your grain and your wine: And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a solemn feast to the Lord your God in the place where he shall choose; because the Lord your God shall bless you in all your increase, and in all the works of your hands; therefore, you shall surely rejoice" (Deut.16:13-15 KJV). See also Deut.14:23-27.
The Israelites had a great deal to rejoice about throughout the year, because they lived under the guidance and protection of the Creator God. As they came to these very special days, they were to remember and rejoice in the fact that they were the only people on the earth that God claimed as his children and his personal treasure that he would bless and care for. They were also the only people on earth whom God had chosen to be his representatives to other nations. The Father's elect children today have even more to rejoice about than the ancient Israelites because they have been given many more blessings and promises from him and his Son.
"Glory you in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually" (1.Chron.16:10-11 KJV).
The English word 'Glory' in this verse is translated from the Hebrew word 'halal', which means 'I shine.' In the context of this verse, the concept of this word connotes the state of having a bright and cheery disposition that expresses joy and happiness. It is this kind of happiness and cheerful disposition that our Father and our Savior want us to have while observing the weekly Sabbath and the annual festivals.
The following are a few of the many exhortations in the Psalms to rejoice because of God's love, mercy, salvation, and care for his children:
"Serve the Lord [the Father] with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son [Jesus Christ], lest he becomes angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled a little. Blessed are they that put their trust in him" (Psa.2:11-12 KJV). See also Psa.33:21.
In this prophetic psalm, we are told to have deep feelings of reverence and respect for God the Father, while standing in awe of him. We are also told to rejoice before him in deep awareness of the powerful being that we serve. Those who understand and comply with this awesome truth are truly blessed because they trust in the great love and mercy that the Father and his Son have for them:
"Let all who put their trust in you be joyful: let them always give a joyful shout, because you defend them, and let them that love your name rejoice in you" (Psa.5:11 Para.).
The apostle Paul also expressed this same thought when he said:
"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom.8:31 KJV).
"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart" (Psa.32:11 KJV). See also Psa.33:1.
Both Jesus and Paul spoke of the need for the children of God to rejoice, because of the blessings that were promised to them for their belief in God and service to him.
On one occasion, Jesus told his disciples to rejoice and be very happy that they were going to receive a great reward in heaven for their efforts. On another occasion, Jesus told his disciples to rejoice because their names were written in heaven (Matt.5:12; Lk.10:20).
In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul exhorted those who had labored with him in his ministry of the gospel to stand fast in the Lord and to always rejoice in the Lord, because their names were written in the Book of Life (Phil.4:1-4). And in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul exhorted them to rejoice in the truth (1.Cor.13:6).
The elect of God of all ages have these things and more to rejoice about, because they have been given an opportunity of awesome proportions that is only afforded to a very few among the billions of humans that have existed or will ever exist.
WORSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP
God's children today are his temple where his spirit dwells and they can worship and praise him in private on the festivals if they want to do so; however, the scriptures clearly show the festivals are days of a commanded assembly to worship, praise, fellowship, celebrate, and feast. There are many benefits to be derived from assembling together, which is noted by the writer to the Hebrews:
"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful who promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as some is; but exhorting one another: and so much more, as you see the day approaching" (Heb.10:23-25 KJV). See also Mal.3:16-18.
A major factor that should contribute to one's enjoyment and spiritual growth is that of being with others whom God has called to salvation, because as "Iron sharpens Iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend" (Pro.27:17 KJV).
Assembling together to share experiences, build friendships, praise God, and hear God's truth and ways spoken of in a formal structured setting can be extremely enjoyable and rewarding.
First Things First:
On the Sabbath and the annual festival days, one should set one's mind to think about God, his love, and his plan and purpose for humanity. Moreover, one should plan to speak to him in prayer, study his word, and examine one's spiritual condition while seeking to please him with one's spiritual growth and development. If one does these things, one will be keeping the spirit of the festivals.
The key to enjoying the festivals while pleasing the Father and his Son is to balance physical and spiritual activities so that these days are a beneficial and uplifting experience.
The fact that there is a problem finding a balance is the very reason the Pharisees felt they had to legislate many restrictive rules concerning the Sabbath and the annual festival observances. These people did not have God's spirit to give them the wisdom they needed to make judgments about what was right or wrong, but a child of God does have this ability; a child of God only needs to exercise this ability to accomplish a positive outcome. See 1.Cor.4:10; 10:14-15; 12:7-8; Jms.1:5.
If one places one's energy and thoughts selfishly toward one's own business, entertainment, or recreation above the spiritual intent of God's weekly and annual festivals, one will miss out on the blessings of these days.
One should be at peace in one's mind on these sacred festivals and remember that the law of God is not a law of bondage; it is the law of liberty, which brings true freedom.
The weekly and annual festivals should be a positive experience, both physically and spiritually. One should work hard at making these days profitable, both physically and spiritually. When a festival day ends, one should be both physically and spiritually refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of daily life.
PREPARATION FOR THE FESTIVALS
In order to receive the maximum benefit from God's festivals, one should have a plan for the day. The festivals are holy time; therefore, the first priority should be things that are spiritual in nature: communing with God, praying, studying, and attending formal worship assemblies, if possible. If these things are our priorities, we will be observing these days as God intended.
From the few instructions given in scripture concerning how to observe the Sabbath and the annual festivals, it becomes clear that these days should be prepared for in order to eliminate or, at least, minimize activities that tend to distract one from the intended purpose of the Sabbath and the annual festivals.
The first indication that one should prepare for the weekly festival of the Sabbath is recorded in Exodus 16:4-5, 23-30. In this example, the children of Israel are instructed to gather extra manna before the weekly Sabbath.
In the New Testament account of the crucifixion of Jesus, we see a number of references which show that, during Christ's lifetime, the sixth day of the week was being used to prepare for the weekly Sabbath (Mk.15:42-46; Lk.23:53-54). See our study about which day to observe the Passover for details of these accounts.
Preparation for the festivals is an important part of being able to make these days enjoyable and physically and spiritually beneficial. If one plans for these days by taking care of normal everyday chores in preparation for these days, one will be free to pursue activities that rejuvenate the body, the spirit, and the mind.
From what we have reviewed about what God the Father expects in worship and praise of him, it is apparent that he and his son are very pleased when we observe and celebrate his festivals correctly. It is also clear that there are many things that we can do during these festivals to properly worship and praise him and show our gratitude for the awesome opportunity that he has given us.
Pleasing the Father
In order to be in harmony with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and their plan for our lives, we should always strive to do the things that please them. Jesus, whose example we are to follow said, "And he that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I always do the things that please him" (Jn.8:29 Para.). The apostle Paul said, "Finally brethren, we urge and encourage you by the Lord Jesus to live as we instructed you, so that you will please the Father and greatly prosper" (1.Thes.4:1 Para.). The writer to the Hebrews said that God rewards those who diligently seek him (i.e., seek to please him) (Heb.11:6). And Ezra the priest encouraged the people of God to do the things that pleased God (Ezr. 10:11). See also 2.Tim.2:4.
If we obey the Father's law and ask him for guidance through his holy spirit as we study and meditate on his word, the question of how to please God the Father and Jesus Christ in our worship and service to them in order to receive the blessing that are promised is easily answered (Matt.7-11).
"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (1.Jn.3:22 KJV).
Praise, Gratitude, and Supplication
How, when, where, and why the elect of God practice the acts of praise, gratitude, and supplication to the Father and his Son are extremely important aspects of the spiritual growth process, because the practice of these things is a reflection of an attitude and desire to please the Father and his Son and enter into the divine Family and Kingdom of God. When the following three acts of praise, gratitude, and supplication are practiced properly by the Father's children, they are extremely pleasing to him:
These acts of praise, gratitude, and supplication can all be expressed to the Father and his Son as separate audible or silent thoughts, either individually and privately or publicly and collectively in an assembly of the elect of God.
Whether it is in a private or a formal setting the worship of God is to be a thoughtful and heartfelt projection of one's genuine feelings toward God. Because the worship of God is an individual as well as a collective matter, each person must decide for themselves through prayer to the Father, Bible study, and meditation on God's word what constitutes proper physical and spiritual worship and behavior before God. Not only must one consider their own relationship with God but also how their worship and behavior affects other people in and out of the body of Christ. Using the word of God as a guide, each person can and must make their own decision as to what constitutes a proper relationship with the Father and his Son.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE FORMAL ASSEMBLY OF GOD'S ELECT CHILDRENBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
Although there are many formats that would be appropriate when the Father's elect children assemble together to worship him, the following is meant to be an analysis of specific aspects of formal assembly formats that are common among various congregations of God. The purpose of this analysis is to show the logic of performing each aspect of a formal assembly of God's elect in a way that will conform to biblical instructions and concepts concerning the formal worship of God.
There are many reasons for the elect to assemble together in a formal, structured way; however, one of the primary reasons to assemble together during the weekly Sabbath and the annual observances and festivals is to give honor, respect, and praise to the Father and his Son, and to rejoice before them.
The historical biblical evidence concerning the formal assembly of God's elect for the purpose of worship and praise to God shows us that it is extremely important to the Father and Jesus Christ that when the elect come into their presence, it is for the right reasons and done in accordance with the law of worship. Therefore, the elect who participate in a formal assembly before God should be focused on the reason that they are there. Moreover, they should make an effort to present themselves in a way that is pleasing to the Father and his Son and in a way that is beneficial to others who are assembled with them.
An Important Understanding and Attitude
An important understanding and attitude that one should internalize if one wants to please the Father and Jesus Christ during a formal assembly of God's elect is the understanding that, when the elect of God are assembled together, they are truly drawn directly into the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ. One should also understand that the reason for being in the presence of the Father and Jesus Christ is to manifest one's heartfelt desire to praise, honor, and please them in a formal way. If one has this understanding and attitude, one's participation in the formal assembly will truly praise, honor, and please the Father and Jesus Christ.
ELEMENTS OF A FORMAL ASSEMBLY
A short study of the scriptures will show a clear distinction between praising and giving gratitude and other activities during or after an assembly of God's people; therefore, the following elements of a formal assembly are separated into two distinct categories:
1. Praise and Gratitude
2. Study and Fellowship
CALLING THE ASSEMBLY TO ORDER
Who is authorized to call to order a formal assembly of the Father's elect children for the purpose of formally worshiping him: men, women, or children?
Although this may not seem to be a major point to consider, it is important because the scriptures clearly show that before, during, and after the advent of the Messiah, only men were placed in positions of spiritual leadership by God (e.g., the patriarchs, the priests, the apostles, and the elders). Therefore, it seems appropriate that an assembly of the Father's elect children that is held for the purpose of formally worshipping him should be called to order by the male spiritual leader or a male member of the assembly who is authorized to perform this task for or in place of the spiritual leader.
APPROACHING THE FATHER
Who is authorized to approach the Father and speak to him on behalf of a formal assembly of his children: men, women, children?
Although the scriptures show that those in positions of spiritual leadership within the congregations of God must be men and these men must exercise leadership in spiritual matters, there is no specific instruction that would prohibit other men, women, or a young adult from approaching the Father on behalf of the congregation, as long as certain prerequisites are met. It must be remembered that only those of humanity who are of the New Creation are authorized to come into the Father's presence (Eph.2:11-19); therefore, it seems that only those who are considered to be among the elect should be allowed to approach the Father on behalf of an assembly of his elect children for the purpose of communicating with him.
Approaching the Father on behalf of an assembly of his children is a responsibility that must be taken seriously. Care should be taken to thoughtfully prepare what is going to be said to the Father, in order to obtain a favorable response from him and in order for what is said to him to reflect the thoughts of the assembly. If the opening comments to the Father are sincere and appropriate, the entire assembly can concur with the words that are spoken on their behalf by saying amen (be it so).
What should the opening comments to the Father on behalf of the congregation contain?
Almost all of the models in the Bible that show how one should approach God to seek an audience with him begin with an acknowledgment and declaration of his attributes, truth, and works and they give honor to his greatness. The example of Solomon's approach and presentation to the Creator God (2.Chron.6:1-42), Jesus' model prayer (Matt.6:5-13) and instruction to ask in his name (Jn.14:13-14;16:23-24), and Paul's instruction to the Philippians about worship (Phil.4:6) show the following aspects of communication with God:
These three examples contain the three fundamental elements of communication with God—praise, gratitude, and supplication. Because there are many examples in the Bible of communication with the Creator God (Jesus Christ) and God the Father that incorporate these three elements, it seems appropriate that these elements should be a part of one's request to the Father for an audience with him and for him to accept his children's worship of him.
The following are some of the things that one might want to incorporate in each of the foundational elements of communication with God the Father:
Praise: Things to acknowledge and declare to the Father.
His great works
What he has done and will do for his people
Gratitude: Things for which to give the Father gratitude
Supplication. What should one ask for?
Unless one has already said to the Father in one's opening comments that the congregation is coming before him through the authority of Jesus Christ (in Jesus' Name), it is appropriate to do so at this time and ask him to hear and honor the things that have been said.
The final statement should give the congregation the opportunity to concur with what has been said by saying, "We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ," or "be it so according to your will Father," or "in Jesus' name, Amen (be it so)."
It is clear from many biblical references that singing as an act of praise and gratitude to God and rejoicing before him gives him great pleasure. Because singing songs to the Father is not meant for the entertainment of the congregation, but is meant to be a presentation to the Father for his pleasure, the selection of congregational songs should be carefully made to avoid heresy. Moreover, the beauty of the music and lyrics that truly reflect God's ways and his children's worship and praise of him should be taken into account.
There are a number of questions that should be asked and answered when selecting songs for a congregation to sing:
There are many scriptures that will help to answer the above questions. Moreover, the psalms are a primary source of many excellent models for congregational songs of praise and supplication that are pleasing to God.
Other Presentations, Music, Songs, or Dance
The historical and biblical records clearly show that all formal worship and praise to and of God were done much as singers and musicians perform before an audience of people today. Therefore, the presentation of music, songs, or dance by individuals or groups other than the combined assembly should be presented for the same reasons as congregational music and songs and should fulfill the same requirements as congregational music and songs. It is important to clearly understand that these types of presentations are not to be presented for the entertainment of the congregation or for the personal aggrandizement of the individuals making the presentation. As with congregational songs, the focus should be on presenting something to the Father that will acknowledge his greatness and give him pleasure.
SERMONS AND SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS
The scriptures clearly show that those in positions of spiritual leadership of the congregations of God must be men, and that these men must exercise leadership in spiritual matters; however, there is no specific biblical instruction that prohibits the spiritual leadership from authorizing other spiritually mature and capable men to teach the elect in a formal assembly.
The teaching of the Father's elect children is a responsibility that is to be taken very seriously and should be approached with prayer, study, and the attitude of humility with the goal of presenting the word of God for the edification of those who are present.
Special Presentations Other Than Sermons
There are many things that can be presented to the elect in a formal way that can be spiritually enlightening and beneficial. The following are some of these things:
Clearly there are some special presentations that should be given by the spiritual leadership or other men who are authorized by them; however, there is no prohibition against a sister in the faith or young adults presenting things of a spiritual nature that do not violate the letter or spirit of the law concerning spiritual leadership.
In this age, many view the giving of testimonials before the church in the light of what takes place in many of the charismatic Christian churches; however, this is not the example that is put forth in the Bible. All the scriptural examples show testimonials to be God-centered, not self-centered. And they are shown to be witnesses to other people of the awesome power, goodness, mercy, and works of God. The examples of testimonies in the Bible are mostly the relating of specific events to show what God has done or is doing in order to acknowledge his hand in the events, give him honor, and give encouragement to his people.
Many of the psalms relate situations in which God's hand is shown to be present, attest to his greatness, and to his care and concern for his people. In the New Testament, there are a number of accounts that are in the context of testimonials, such as Peter and John's account of being released by the Jewish elders and chief priests after they had been arrested for preaching Christ and healing a lame man. Moreover, after they had related these events, the elect that heard their report, praised God and were encouraged to continue preaching Christ (Acts 4:23-31).
ENDING THE FORMAL ASSEMBLY
The ending of the formal assembly should follow most of the overall guidelines that were given for approaching the Father at the beginning of the formal assembly with the following comments added as closing statements:
Unless one has already said to the Father in one's opening comments to end the formal assembly that the congregation is coming before him through the authority of Jesus Christ (in Jesus Name), it would be appropriate to do so at this time; then, ask that the Father to hear and honor the things that have been said.
The final statement should give the congregation the opportunity to concur with what has been said by saying, "We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ," or "be it so according to your will Father," or "in Jesus' name, Amen (be it so)."
Fellowship before, during, and after a formal assembly of God's elect should be conducted in a manner worthy of a holy people (1.Cor.14:40), because this is time that has been set aside to acknowledge the Father and his Son, to celebrate and rejoice before them, to grow in grace and knowledge, and to speak of things that pertain to the profession of a child of God.