Summary: What brings the glory of God to worship? Discernment of where we are in God’s plan and a willingness to grow the gifts of God’s people.
What a clattering cacophony, that day in Jerusalem! What an assault on the ears! You could hardly hear yourself think. I don’t suppose they had rock concerts three thousand years ago, but it must have been a little like a rock concert. With noise, noise, noise! Loud, boisterous, uncontrollable!
The clank of cartwheels as a team of oxen made its way up the stony streets. The lowing of oxen and the bleating of hundreds of sheep, all of them jammed into a makeshift corral; and, every few minutes, pitiful moaning from these animals, doomed for the altar of sacrifice. Noise! Too much noise!
The people themselves were noisy too. The whole nation had gathered in the city, and the sounds of street vendors mingled with the gossipy laughter of the women, the raucous joshing of the men, and the impromptu games of the children. Everywhere there was noise.
Even where you might have thought there might have been a little dignity, there was noise. Among the priests, God’s chosen, you might have thought that the priests would at least be quiet and dignified. But, you know, if Israelite priests were anything like today’s Baptist preachers, they filled the corridors with loud chatter. “Hey, Isaac, guess how many people came to our shrine last Sabbath?” “Jacob, I hear that the pulpit is open over at Mount Moriah. Could I get you to recommend me?” Loud, busy, ambitious chatter even among the priests.
And then there were the Levites, the musicians. Talk about noise! Look at all the equipment these people had for high-powered noise-making! Trumpets, cymbals, harps, and lyres. I’m looking at the text to see if electric guitars were there, too! Noise?! Well, have you ever been to a National Symphony concert, and before the concert begins, every member of the orchestra is fiddling, blowing, banging, tuning, practicing. It’s an awful noisy mess!
The elders of the nation were there too. You know, the upper crust. Wouldn’t you expect some dignity from the upper classes? Well, Mr. Justice Rehnquist instructed our senators that they must be silent during the impeachment trial. But most of the senators look as though they are about to burst. I imagine the elders of Israel were the same. And then it says that all of the people were there; hey, I have a tough time on Friday afternoons just getting fifteen kids to be quiet long enough to hear Bible study, and so I can just imagine what it must be like when a whole nation gets together. Noise, sound and fury, signifying ... well, I’m not sure what it signified, but it sure was sound and fury.
Now right in the middle of all that confusion, a worship service was scheduled to begin. A procession carried the ancient ark of the covenant up into the newly built Temple, and the singers, the trumpet players burst forth with yet more sound, the king prayed and the people shouted ... and suddenly, there was a presence. A powerful presence. A cloud. A brooding light. They called it glory. Something came over the people. I can imagine them falling silent. I can sense the last notes of the trumpets dying away in the twilight. I can feel the singers closing their lips. I can see the priests, appointed to stand at God’s altar, sinking to their knees, awed, beyond comprehension. I can see everyone lost in wonder, love, and praise.
“Holy, holy, holy. Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. This house is full of Thy glory.” How does God’s house get glory? How can it be that when God’s people worship, God Himself stops by? Was it the noise, the shouting and the singing, that produced God’s glory? Did the Presence come because the singers practiced hard and the trumpeters played well? Did the cloud of God’s glory enter the Temple because the priests were eloquent and their sermons full of snappy stories for simpering saints? Does God come into this house because you and I orchestrate it? Does God come by here because we pump up feelings and manufacture emotions? Sometimes when we are here, and you all hide behind your hymnals, and you won’t respond during the prayers, I sit here and think, “Wow, when I get up to preach, I am really going to have to ratchet up the energy level.” Is that what causes worship? Not at all. Not at all.
The glory of God is felt in His house not because any of us make joyful noises, not because we pump things up. The glory of God is felt in His house because of two other things. Two conditions must be fulfilled if we are to feel God’s presence. These conditions have to do with history and holiness, with history and holiness. If we understand our history and if we cultivate holiness, then the glory of God will come into this house. We must understand history and holiness in this house.