Stunting Worship

from Mar 14, 2010 Category: R.C. Sproul

The visual impact of the furnishings and the buildings of both the Old Testament tabernacle and temple was awesome. The eyes were dazzled with a sense of the splendor of God.

Sound was vital to Old Testament worship. The choral compositions of the Psalms were moving to the Spirit. They were accompanied by the full harmony and rhythm supplied by the harp, the lyre, the flute, and trumpets. The piano and the organ are marvelous instruments, but they cannot produce the sounds that the other instruments provide. Hymns and choral anthems are greatly enhanced when they are supported with greater orchestration.

Old Testament worship involved all five senses. The element of touch is missing in most Protestant worship. Charismatic groups emphasize the laying on of hands, which meets a strong human need for a holy touch. Early Christian worship involved the placing of the pastor’s hands on each person with the pronouncement of the benediction. When congregations got too large for such personal attention, the act gave way to the symbolic gesture of the benediction spoken by the pastor with outstretched arms. This was a simulation of the laying on of hands, but the actual touch was lost.

Old Testament worship included taste and smell. The fragrance of burning incense gave a peculiar sense of a special aroma associated with the sweetness of God. One of the first gifts laid at the foot of the manger of Jesus was that of frankincense. Most Protestants reject incense without giving any substantive reason for its rejection.

Taste was central to the Old Testament feasts as well as the New Testament celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The injunction to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) is rooted in the worship experience. The people of God “tasted the heavenly gift” (Heb. 6:4).

Perhaps we have stunted worship by excluding elements that God once included and deemed important. 

Coram Deo: Reflect on ways you might involve your physical senses in worshiping God in your private devotions. 

Psalm 150:3–5: “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with the loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals!”