Saturday, May 23, 2015

Goldingay on Worship in the Old Testament

Goldingay3I am continuing to work through Volume 3 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Life. In this volume Goldingay is looking at how Israel was to live, “not the life Israel actually lived”, but “the life the First Testament reckons it should have been and should be.” I continue to post quotes from Volume 3 on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to this blog post on my Facebook page where you can comment. Please comment there. I love Goldingay’s perspective, but don’t always agree with him. So I welcome a good discussion on Facebook.

In Chapter 2, Goldingay sees Israel’s worship as Submission and Celebration. It involves daily life and special rituals. It involves inward attitude and outward action. It involves commitment of heart, mind, body and life. As Goldingay says, “Neither outward obedience, not inner attitude is enough on its own; we are whole people and the relationship involves the whole person.” The first aspect of worship he looks at is Obeying Yhwh. God is in relationship with us but his role is king and we are the subjects. Thus we worship by deferring to His plan and will and acknowledging our dependence on Him. This involves a lifestyle (walking) and mindset (following) of commitment to God’s ways. This done because we know that God loves us, based on his acts of deliverance, and we love him in return. Thus, we heed his instruction (torah) and word (prophets) because we trust Him.

Yhwh is indeed relational and desires intimacy, but this is by no means the central feature of Genesis 1-3 or Exodus. Much more prominent is the awareness that Yhwh is the supreme and lordly God who lays down the law for humanity and needs to be taken seriously in this connection. 53-54

Israel's calling to be Godlike will then involve confronting and disciplining people when they are in the wrong, but in such a way they can find cleansing and restoration to their place in the community. 59

It is easy for Christian faith to be legalistic, and in this connection talk of obedience is dangerous. Alternatively, it is easy for Christian faith to assimilate to the culture...Either stance loses dynamic of covenant in which submission to God is our personal response to God reaching out to us. God's relationship to us is neither conditional or unconditional. It involves mutual commitment, like that of two friends or bride and groom or teacher and student or pastor and congregation. 65-66

Secondly, worship involves Revering Yhwh. This involves a “fear of Yhwh” that holds us back from unfaithfulness. It also involves a deep reverence and awe for who He is. This should lead to “wonder” and an “openness” to this awesome God who is in relationship with us and cares for us. We “honor” and “respect” God as we place both Him and ourselves in the proper order and position within the universe. Of course, we must place God in this position exclusively. When we do this we can have joy, confidence and comfort, and be free of worry and fear of others; not because nothing bad ever happens, but because we have “accepted Yhwh’s vision for our lives.” 

As 'slavery' was reconstrued by the Priestly tradents to denote the liberating integrity of 'servanthood,' the 'fear of Yahweh' marks for the sages an exodus of the will, from fear of the world to reverence of and obedience to Yahweh, a 'fear' that banishes all fear (Prov. 3.25). Thus to speak of "fearing Yhwh" is to speak of being a true believer, of worshipping Yhwh in the proper way, of recognizing Yhwh as real God (1 Kings 8.43). 76

The difference between God and us is that God never thinks he is us. 85

When Moses recalls the people's fear about entering the land, he makes explicit that fear (at least the paralyzing fear that issues in a refusal to take action) and confidence in Yhwh are mutually exclusive, and that confidence has bases: Yhwh has acted on the people's behalf in the past and can therefore be trusted for the future (Deut. 1.29-33). Fear and trust do not go together; the second replaces the first. 94

Thus naturally, fearing Yhwh, leads to Trusting Yhwh. “Fear is thus designed to give way to trust. Trust has special emphasis in the First Testament...The verb rather denotes an active self-commitment on the basis of an awareness that there is something there that can be trusted..."Faith" in Israel meant trusting someone. (99-100). We can trust God for both our present and future prosperity. The temptation is to trust other things, such as ourselves or place other things at the center of our lives as gods. We avoid by keeping mindful of God and his promises and focusing our hopes on Him. With this expectant mindset we can wait for God to act, take risks for God and approach life in a calm and confident way.

One side of sin is confidence in oneself, making oneself God, but its obverse is resignation or despair or hopelessness. "Humanness is pervasively hope-filled, not in the sense of a buoyant, unreflective optimism, but in the conviction that individual human destiny is powerfully presided over by this One who wills good and who works that good." Thus, Israel does not hope for something, but hopes in God. 108

Yhwh can be trusted to provide; that makes it possible to be enthusiastic about reliance on Yhwh (Ps 37)...A delighted trust in Yhwh that is confident in what Yhwh will do has the capacity to melt vexation. Looking with delight at Yhwh makes it possible to stop looking with vexation at other people. Or perhaps the abandonment of vexation makes it possible to being delighting in Yhwh. 113

A key way to worship Yhwh is by Serving Yhwh. This is what humanity was created for: to respond to Yhwh in expressions of worship. We serve Him when we bow before God as master and offer our worship. This can be done through ritual (these are very important reminders of who God is), symbol and sacrament. The Israelites approached God through the altar and in the sanctuary and festivals. The point was that they “come into God’s presence.” This is the essence of worship. It was important to worship without images because worship “portrays God,” and we need to regard him accurately. Our rituals must do this and provide an opportunity to listen to what God has done and then confess it back to Him.

For many Western Christians the criterion for evaluating worship is how good it makes them feel: whether they enjoy it, whether it gives them a sense of God's presence; whether they feel encouraged or built up by it. The First Testament takes for granted that worship means being in God's presence and that it involves joy, but insofar as it evaluates worship, it does so on the basis of whether it is offered for Yhwh's sake. If worship is service, whether it makes us feel good is totally irrelevant to its evaluation. 117

Hebrew has no word for "temple," and the word most commonly so translated (hekal) is the word for a royal palace. The model for the understanding of this worship is that of the presence of a king in his court, before whom people can appear to pay homage and seek help. It really is possible to come into the presence of God. 125-126

Worship involves both noise and attentiveness. Both are appropriate responses to what Yhwh has done. Listening without noise is not enough; noise without listening is not enough. 132-133

Worship also involves Giving to Yhwh. This is not just words of praise but a prayer or “an act of praise that is acted.” “Sacrifices and offerings are gifts to Yhwh that express commitment, develop fellowship, dissolve taboo and make up for shortcomings.” Sacrifices in the OT were linked to shouting, singing and vocal acts of confession and praise. The gifts recognize how much God has given to them. The different sacrifices highlighted different aspects of the relationship between God and Israel. Giving does not make us acceptable to Yhwh, it acknowledges that Yhwh has accepted us and recognizes that He has already given wonderful gifts to us.

Words (of praise, confession) are vitally important in their own right. While offerings are unacceptable when not linked to a life of self-offering to Yhwh and to other people, a converse is also true. There is something perverted about love for one's neighbor without love for God, and something inadequate about offerings without words. 137

Yhwh desires to be in the kind of fellowship with Israel that involves eating together, though people ate "before" Yhwh, not "with" Yhwh, and once again Leviticus hardly implies that Yhwh ate the sacrifice. 142

Yhwh does not make demands that wear people out. First Testament offerings have a token, symbolic nature. They do not pretend to make up for wrongdoing in a quantitative way. They do not cause Yhwh to accept people; the instinct to do so comes from inside Yhwh. Further, more important than these offerings is a turning around of the life that replaces rebellion and failure with mispat and hesed, commitment to other people expressed in decisive action toward them, and also a different stance in relation to God (Mic 6.8). 147-148

The Israelite worship festivals were placed throughout the year to highlight the truth that worship was an ongoing, daily thing that involved Sojourning with Yhwh. They were a reminder that the presence of Yhwh, His care and their obligations to Him were a constant reality.  Each festival of the yearly calendar was thus designed to highlight different aspects of daily life and God’s care for them. The “day in the courts” was to carry over into the “thousand elsewhere.” Ordinary life was to be lived in a way that was mindful of the festivals and reminded them that their daily lives were on a journey with God who was their “refuge from danger.”

When Christianity speaks of longing and thirsting for God, it often refers to an inner sense of God's reality and presence. When Israel speaks thus, it refers to a longing to get to the sanctuary, a longing that relates to the assurance that Yhwh is objectively present there. Yhwh is not elusive, and an assurance of being in Yhwh's presence is not dependent on a worshiper's inner feelings. Yhwh actually dwells in the sanctuary...This is not to imply that people's inner beings are not involved. Psalm 42 makes clear that relating to God involves the whole person, body and spirit, and it involves the individual but in relation to the community. 154

As the event (Passover) recurs it embraces the participants once again and takes them in their own experience from bondage to freedom. If they are actually living in some Egypt, its doing so is the more important, so that the real world in which service of the king gave way to service of Yhwh becomes again the world that shapes the lives of people who are tempted to live as if the world in which this does not take place is the truly real world. It is as if celebrating the Eucharist convinces people facing their own cross that carrying it will not be empty or futile. 162

Finally, worship also involves Praising Yhwh. We have a very serious commitment to God but, since we have a very capable master who loves us, it is a commitment that provokes joy, confidence and celebration. This celebration can be exuberant with shouting, singing, dancing, ululating and music. It should involve our body movements as well as our hearts and voices. Praise should be done as individuals and together with the assembly of believers. It should be an expression of our joy that God rules His creation, that he has delivered us in the past and promises to do so in the future. Praise should happen because, though we live in a threatening world, we have a king with a plan who will accomplish all of His agenda. 

First Testament worship involves praise that in its multifaceted nature expresses itself in posture, sound, words and music. It involves the body (waving and prostration), the heart (joy and grief), and the mind and voice (declaring who Yhwh is and what Yhwh has done...Sound is at the heart of praise, both noise and music, both singing and instruments. 173

We shout with enthusiasm because Yhwh is the great King over all the gods and the one to whom the whole cosmos belongs, as its maker. We then bow in prostration because this God is our God, our maker, our shepherd...The psalm's (95) logic suggests the thought-provoking notion that the prostration of the worshipers is the deeper because of the realization that the sovereign God is the one committed to us. 177

The Scriptures are the community's resource for the shaping of its praise, while also making it possible for the Holy Spirit and the human spirit to express fresh insights with the stimulus of these words. 183

In Israel the praise of Yhwh was often under threat. The danger was not that the Israelites might give up praise but that they might give their praise to another deity. In the everyday Christian world, we are more inclined to congratulate and praise one another than to praise the wrong deity... All these idiosyncrasies mean we surrender the capacity of praise to make a world. We no longer have the experience of affirming who God is and thereby seeing the world in a new way. 190

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