Summary: For worship to be fully biblical and experientially meaningful, we must recapture the awe of coming to true Zion. Having the fulness of new covenant revelation, in the Final Word (Heb 1:2), we do not look to a distinct place for worship (John 4:21-23), ra
- The Awful Unseen Reality of Zion
- Zion as the Place of Worship
- Zion ON the Lord’s Day
> How Then Should We Now Worship?
Thus far we have addressed in this series,
The Covenant Lord - His Praise
The Covenant People: Becoming Like Minded
The Covenant People: They are Not the Steeple
And in the coming weeks, Deo Volente, Worship as Covenant Remembrance, The Signs and Seals of the Covenant, The Covenant Family, and The Covenant Future.
1. The Awful Unseen Reality of Zion
The language of Zion is a familiar part of our vocabulary of praise. We sing “glorious things of” “Zion city of our God” in the words of John Newton and with Timothy Dwight confess that we “love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode, the church our blest Redeemer saved with His own precious blood.” And we may even know of the awful place illustrated by Isaac Watts:
HOW SWEET AND AWFUL IS THE PLACE WITH CHRIST WITHIN THE DOORS,
WHILE EVERLASTING LOVE DISPLAYS THE CHOICEST OF HER STORES.
WHILE ALL OUR HEARTS AND ALL OUR SONGS JOIN TO ADMIRE THE FEAST,
EACH OF US CRY, WITH THANKFUL TONGUES, LORD, WHY WAS I A GUEST?
WHY WAS I MADE TO HEAR THY VOICE AND ENTER WHILE THERE’S ROOM
WHEN THOUSANDS MAKE A WRETCHED CHOICE AND RATHER STARVE THAN COME?
‘TWAS THE SAME LOVE THAT SPREAD THE FEAST THAT SWEETLY DREW US IN;
ELSE WE HAD STILL REFUSED TO TASTE, AND PERISHED IN OUR SIN.
PITY THE NATIONS, O OUR GOD, CONSTRAIN THE EARTH TO COME;
SEND THY VICTORIOUS WORD ABROAD, AND BRING THE STRANGERS HOME.
WE LONG TO SEE THY CHURCHES FULL, THAT ALL THE CHOSEN RACE
MAY, WITH ONE VOICE AND HEART AND SOUL, SING THY REDEEMING GRACE. (Luke 14:16ff)
RECALL CS LEWIS -SCREWTAPE LETTERS - One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans.
The key passage proving the link to OT Zion is:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant . . . (Heb 12:22-24).
This passage invites our imaginations to see the new covenant people in no less a cosmic context than our brethren at Sinai. There is more to worship than meets the eye. The gathered congregation is like the tip of an iceberg surfacing above the water with the massive invisible spiritual world below. In worship, we see people in all their flaws and beauty. he very words of God (Heb 12:22ff) tell us worship is a meeting of the highest heavens with our congregation on earth through the only mediator, Jesus.
“I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it” (Mat 16:18), says Jesus.
In what follows, I have chosen to take a central motif, the place of worship, Zion, and consider its direct relation to the day of worship.
2. Zion as the Place of Worship
In the Word, the careful reader will see Zion as His Presence. Congregational worship is not only sanctified because of its manifestation of the spiritual reality, it is sanctified because of His special presence. There is more to the gathering of the saints than a multiplication of individuals indwelt with God.
Matthew 18:15-20, Christ teaches His invisible presence in the visible congregation. The “keys of the kingdom” in church disciple are exercised when the procedure in verses 15-17 are followed. Notice that the final explanation for the authority for binding something on earth is—“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst” (v 20).
The import of this passage for worship is that we can be assured that when the church gathers together in Jesus’ name, He is truly there. I hope you will not ask me to explain the exact nature of this special presence. Similarly, Hebrews 2:12, “I will proclaim thy name to my brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing thy praise.” This quotation of Psalm 22:22, applied to Jesus, seems to refer both to His earthly ministry in the congregation and to the spiritual presence of Christ with His congregation today. Believing that Christ is singing praise in our congregations, as it were, beside us in the pew, implies much in the way of our preparation, participation, and priorities in worship.