Summary: The need for pattern, and order, in the worship of the Lord.
OLD PATTERNS, NEW WORSHIP
In Mount Sinai the LORD gave Moses specific instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and for the conduct of worship therein. God spelled out every detail from the dimensions of the tent to the hanging of the curtain around the Ark of the Covenant, and from the type of utensils that were used to the amount and type of sacrifices that were to be made. No detail was left out.
The carrying of the Ark in those nomadic days of early Israel was appointed to the priests alone, and in a specific manner: they had to carry the Ark upon their shoulders. This was the pattern which the LORD Himself gave as to how things should be done. The breach of this law caused the death of at least one man, when King David later tried to bring the Ark into the City of Jerusalem without due order (1 Chronicles 13).
King David later corrected this error (1 Chronicles 15:2), and brought the Ark up into the City in the prescribed manner. Being told that he would not be the one to build a house for God in Jerusalem in Israel’s post-nomadic era, David set in order the “the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit” (1 Chronicles 28:12) for his son Solomon to build the Temple. Every item of furniture, its material and its weight, the LORD made David to understand “in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19).
The earthly sanctuary shadows forth the true tabernacle where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Hebrews 8:1-2). The patterns of Temple worship no doubt reached their ultimate fulfilment in the death of Christ, when He gave His life as a ransom for His people and the Great High Priest offered the full final and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of His people. Sin has no more dominion over those who believe in Him, and they need no longer live under types and shadows as the reality of God-with-us is discovered in Him.
In the New Testament era, too, we have patterns. We are to worship no longer in temples, but “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This is not to lessen the God-centred-ness of our worship, but to refocus it. Our God is not a god of confusion, so there still has to be a certain order to our worship.
The Apostles lived on the threshold of history. The old was passing away: the ignorance of the Gentiles which God winked at (Acts 17:30). The old law of Judaism was passing into the liberty of the Gospel.
However, along with the discontinuity between Biblical Judaism and Christianity, there is also continuity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. We must be careful that we do not use our liberty as a licence to do as we wish without reference to the patterns for life and devotion which the LORD has given us.