12.1.2 Divine service in the Old Testament

The divine service of the Old Testament is based upon encounters between God and mankind. The various forms of divine service developed over a long period of time. Again and again, God revealed Himself and granted His help to man.

In the Garden of Eden, God addressed His word to the first human beings. After the fall into sin, He did not leave them unprotected. Rather He comforted them and gave them hope for future salvation.

Genesis 8 tells of the first altar built by man in order to serve God, worship Him, bring thanks to Him, and bring sacrifices to Him. Noah erected an altar and brought God an offering of thanks. The Lord responded with the promise that He would henceforth protect the creation.

Jacob consecrated the place where God had spoken to him and called it Bethel, which means "house of God" (Genesis 28: 19).

In the law, God gave Moses instructions for building an altar: "In every place where I record my name I will come to you, and I will bless you" (Exodus 20: 24 et seq.). He also gave a reminder that He had hallowed the seventh day, and commanded: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20: 8).

During the Israelites' journey through the desert, God chose men from among them to serve Him as priests and perform the sacrificial service. They were given the commission to convey God's blessing to the people by way of a specific formulation (Numbers 6: 22-27). This blessing states: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Aaronic blessing).

In the time of King David it says that singers and musicians were also active in praising God with psalms in the divine services (1 Chronicles 25: 6).

King Solomon had the temple built in Jerusalem. It was there that divine services were conducted, which consisted mainly of the daily slaughtering of sacrificial animals by the priests. This sacrificial service was from then on practised exclusively in the temple of Jerusalem. The temple was also the place where the Israelite feasts–such as the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23)–were celebrated.

After the destruction of the temple, the sacrificial service could no longer be performed, according to the understanding of the Israelites. During the period of captivity in Babylon, the believers gathered in specially built houses known as synagogues in order to pray and read and interpret Holy Scripture. This is one of the sources of the later Christian form of divine service.

SUMMARY

Divine service is the activity of God upon human beings and a work of human beings for God. (12.1)

The divine service of the Old Testament is based upon encounters between God and mankind. The various forms of divine service developed over a long period of time. (12.1.2)

After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem there was no more sacrificial service. In the time of the Babylonian exile, the believers would gather in synagogues in order to pray and read and interpret Holy Scripture. This is one of the sources of the later Christian form of divine service. (12.1.2)

See also