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Tag: Origin of praise and worship

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship

Do you know how praise and worship in Christian churches started? Why do we sing an opening or welcome song and then proceed to sing up-tempo songs before finally transitioning into high intimacy worship songs? Is there some kind of pattern that we’re supposed to strictly follow? Or can we modify it to suit our liking and styles?

To best understand the biblical roots of Christian praise and worship, it is necessary to look at the history of Jewish worship, for it was this past manner of worship that the worship of the early church was patterned from.

After the nation of Israel left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, God gave them the law and commanded the construction of a tabernacle where He would meet with them and His people would offer their burnt offerings and sacrifices. The Bible tells us that Moses had a glimpse of what is in heaven and made a complete replica of it (Exodus 25:8-9). In other words, the Israelites built on earth what was built in heaven.

The Tabernacle of Moses

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and WorshipThe Tabernacle of Moses is the key to understanding Christian praise and worship today. But what is the tabernacle? The word tabernacle is a translation of the Hebrew mishkan, which means “tent,” “place of dwelling” or “sanctuary.” It was a portable tent and a sacred place where God chose to meet with His people, the Israelites, during the forty years that they wandered in the wilderness.

Specific instructions about the manner of worship and sacrifice such as what was to be sacrificed and the reason for the offerings were provided for the Israelites in Exodus and Leviticus and the tribe of Levi was set aside to minister as priests.

*The Tabernacle of Moses may be equated today to a place of worship or church building where the believers of Yeshua come together to worship and offer their sacrifices to God. While the Israelites brought animals without blemish to offer to God, we the believers in Jesus bring our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, the fruit of our lips.

*The Tabernacle may also be the room or place in the privacy of our own homes where we meet and commune with God, read and meditate on His words and offer songs of praise and adoration to Him. The Bible says that God’s tabernacle or dwelling place is His people (Ezekiel 37:27; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Revelation 21:3).

Parts of the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle of Moses had three distinct sections: the outer court, the inner court or holy place and the most holy place also called the holy of holies. So let us take a look at them to see what each one corresponds to in terms of how praise and worship are done in Christian churches today.

A. The Outer Court

At the outer court are the gate, the brazen altar, and the bronze laver.

1) The Gate or Entrance

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and WorshipThe tabernacle had only one gate or one entrance. A person could not simply come from any direction into the tabernacle as he pleased – he had to enter through the one gate which was always located to the east. Why? This was to inform the Israelites that there was no other way they could come to God except in the way He prescribed.

*Jesus Christ is the representation of the one gate as the only way through which one could worship God and fellowship with Him. God is using the Tabernacle of Moses to tell us today that we too, must come to God only through the way He has provided for us – Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the way by which we can come to the Father (John 14:6) and He is the gate through which we are saved (John 10:9).

*Note: This is the part of praise and worship where we sing entrance or gate songs to enter into His courts.

2) The Brazen Altar or Altar of Sacrifice

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship
Photo Credits: Upon This Rock Ministry

The brazen altar serves as a reminder of man’s sinfulness and his need for a blood sacrifice in order to fellowship with a holy God.

*Jesus Christ became the ultimate sacrifice through His death so there’s no need for the believers today to offer animals (Mark 14:24; John 1:29; Hebrews 10:11-12, 18). Instead, praise songs are presented as offerings before the Lord; we bring to the Lord sacrifices of praise which goes up to His throne as a sweet aroma.

*As we continue to sing praises to the Lord our God, His presence starts to come down, dwell and manifest in the midst of His people. The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people, He is enthroned in our praises (Psalm 22:3).

*The altar which was raised on a mound of earth that is higher than its surrounding furniture is a projection of Christ, our sacrifice, lifted up on the cross, His altar, which stood on mount Golgotha (John 8:28; John 12:32).

3) The Bronze Laver

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship
Photo Credits: Pinterest.com

The bronze laver was a circular bowl filled with water which was made from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. This is a reminder that the people need cleansing before approaching God, so the priests wash their hands and feet before ministering to the Lord.

While it is at the brazen altar where priests atoned for their sins through a sacrifice, they cleansed themselves at the laver so they would be pure and not die before a holy God.

*The application for Christians today is that we are forgiven through the work of Christ on the cross, but we are washed through His Word. We must allow ourselves to be washed daily in the Word of God and be cleansed so that we can serve and minister before Him (Ephesians 5:25-27; Hebrews 10:22).

*The Tabernacle of Moses is a pattern for the praise and worship of the believers in Yeshua (Jesus) today. We enter His gates and come into His “courts” with praise (Psalm 100), singing up-tempo songs, clapping, dancing, rejoicing, giving wave offerings and shouting for joy. In this way, we are offering ourselves as “living sacrifices on the altar of God” (Romans 12:1). We are also being “washed by the water of the Word” as we sing these songs based on the Scriptures represented by the laver.

B. The Inner Court or Holy Place

After the priests have washed their hands and feet at the laver, they can now enter the holy place, the first room in the tent of the tabernacle. In the holy place were three pieces of furniture: the menorah, the table of showbread, and the golden altar of incense.

1) The Menorah also called the Golden Lampstand or Candlestick

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship
Photo Credits: Thirdwell.org

The menorah which is the only source of light in the holy place had a central branch from which three branches extend from each side to form a total of seven branches. Without the menorah to provide light in the holy place, the priests would be moping around in the dark.

*Jesus today is our Light (John 1:9; John 8:12; John 12:46). The main branch in the lampstand represents Jesus Christ and we the believers are represented by the six branches that extend from the main branch. The branches serve as a picture of Jesus’ description of our relationship with Him. He is the vine, we are the branches and without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

*And since we are now living as children of light (Ephesians 5:8), drawing our source from Jesus the true light, we are commanded to “let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

*Jesus is our Light who will lead us into the presence of God during praise and worship. While the priests prepare themselves to enter into the presence of God to offer on behalf of the nation of Israel, we the believers continue to sing songs of praise and adoration to the Lord as we gradually enter into the dwelling place of God where we can finally behold His glory and majesty.

2) The Table of Showbread also called Bread of Presence

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and WorshipThe table of showbread has 12 loaves of bread representing the 12 tribes of Israel; it is a picture of God’s willingness to communion and fellowship with man.

The Bible says, “Jesus is the bread of life” (John 6:35, 49-50). Jesus’ coming down to earth from heaven to give eternal life to those who would partake in it was a demonstration of God’s desire to fellowship with man.

*Today, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as one of the only two ordinances for the church, to remember the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for the redemption of mankind and to declare that He is coming again.

3) The Golden Altar of Incense

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship
Photo Credits: Pattern of Approach Ministries

The golden altar of incense should not be confused with the brazen altar. The golden altar of incense was located in front of the curtain that separated the holy place from the holy of holies.

The priests are commanded to burn incense on the golden altar every morning and evening, the same time that the daily burnt offerings were made and the incense is to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

*The golden altar is a representation of Jesus Christ, our intercessor before God the Father, while the incense was a symbol of the prayers of the intercession of the people going up to God as a sweet fragrance. Since we have been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Christ, we can now come boldly to Him in prayer in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-14).

*As we enter the Holy Place from the outer court, a transition takes place. The music slows down and we feed further upon the word of God, the Bread of Life Himself. Our minds are illuminated by the fire of the Holy Spirit, represented by the lampstand. We place “fresh incense” on the altar as we “sing in spirit” with “tongues of angels.” The fragrance of pure worship “permeates the veil” and pleases God.

C. The Holy of Holies or the Most Holy Place 

The holy of holies is where the Ark of the Covenant is, covered by a lid called the “mercy seat.” It is where the glory of God is – His very presence.

The holy of holies was the most sacred room which no ordinary man could enter. It was God’s special dwelling place in the midst of His people. Between the holy place and the holy of holies was a veil or thick curtain to separate them.

The veil was essentially there to shield a holy God from sinful man. It was a picture of the barrier between man and God, showing that the holiness of God could not be trifled with. The veil was placed there to make sure that no man could irreverently enter into God’s awesome presence.

The very presence of God remained shielded from man behind the veil throughout the history of Israel. But when Jesus died, it was torn in half from top to bottom exposing the Holy of Holies (Matthew 27:50-51). No matter how shocking this was to the priests ministering in the temple that day, it was indeed good news to us as believers.

The torn veil illustrated Jesus’ body that was broken for us, opening the way for us to come to God. We can now boldly enter into God’s presence, “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf “ (Hebrews 6:19-20).

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship
Photo Credits: Bible.org

*As we enter into the holy of holies during worship, we are consumed by a cloud of glory, fall down before the Throne of the Almighty, and worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) as a royal priesthood, purchased by the blood of Jesus. It is at this point during praise and worship that each worshiper can now express his adoration to God, to enjoy and experience God’s awesome presence, comfort, and loving embrace.

*It is the goal of every worshiper to come into the very presence of God. On our way to the most holy place, no one can do it for us. We need to press through all the distractions to get to the place where we are face to face with God. We need to keep pressing in and pressing in.

*I personally believe that anyone who truly experiences God during worship will never be the same again because only a personal encounter with God can cause a transformation that is almost always impossible to take place under any ordinary circumstances.

The Biblical Roots of Christian Praise and Worship

Conclusion

Although there have been significant developments in the way the Christian Church throughout the centuries has conducted praise and worship, it appears that the manner of worship seen today remains to be patterned from the way God instructed His people to come into His presence to present their sacrifices and burnt offerings.

The Christian praise and worship that we know and still practice today is biblical; it has its roots in the Tabernacle of Moses, which God asked His people to construct to be His dwelling place as well as a place for His people to commune and fellowship with Him.


Recommended Resource: Principles of Worship: The Study of the Tabernacle of Moses

This manuscript was previously published in 1990 by Alive Ministries as a Bible conference guide. This version includes significant revisions. You will find the principles here dynamic. This is not your typical tabernacle book.

“The tabernacle,” Small says “is a template for prayer and worship, a kind of roadmap into God’s presence, a call for balance in prayer and worship.” There is an old saying that testifies to the relationship between the Testaments: “The New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed.”

When the New Testament writers penned their histories and letters, they referenced the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. The New Testament is rooted in the Old Testament.

It is hardly understood without it. Paul says to the Romans that the things “written before were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4, NKJV). In the first letter to Corinth, he calls the events of the Old Testament “examples… written for our admonition” (10:6, 11).

The Law and the Tabernacle, both given at the same time and on the same mountain, are a ‘schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Jesus reminds us, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17).

The Old was a shadow of the things to come. It is in the New revealed.