New Covenant praise and worship is a life and heart issue, not a correct form issue, Davidic or otherwise. Our lives as living sacrifices are our worship, not our singing. Engaging in the forms and visceral thrills of modern praise and worship while failing to understand the sustaining belief systems of the things we might practice, contributes significantly to the drift into aberrance of both the expressions and beliefs.
The New Testament has scant comment on the practice of praise and worship other than very generic references to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,[i] the singing of a few hymns,[ii] and the adoration of the Lamb recorded in the Revelation. Of course, silence on a topic does not mean prohibition. Liberty prevails. However, any time we exercise our freedom and liberty and do anything without faith and understanding (or with erroneous understanding) that thing, whatever it might be, is dead. That includes contemporary worship expressions based on alleged restored[iii] Davidic worship.
Why Do We Do What We Do?
Faithless or ill-informed routine Davidic worship with choruses, dancing, and banners is just as dead as faithless hymn singing in reverential ignorance. It could be said that it’s even more deadly because those who proclaim to have superior insight, make it more difficult for others to experience the real thing when their light is really darkness.
In most of our assemblies, we’re taught about the mechanics of worship in the sense of defining terms and patterns of worship from the book of Psalms: this Hebrew word means such and such, do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, musical technicalities, and the order of our service, etc.
However, the theological perspectives underpinning our practices are rarely talked about. That’s the definition of ritualism: doing religious things, but not really knowing why. Worse yet is using spiritual techniques of the supernatural believing that they somehow obligate God to do what we think should be done. That’s the definition of paganism and witchcraft—with or without a justifying biblical proof-text.
When you’re born into something, it can be quite normal to thoughtlessly assume “this is the way it has always been,” or “everyone does it this way,” or “this is the way it should be done,” or “this is the right way,” or more unfortunately, “anyone with spiritual understanding as good as ours, does it this way.” Many who have come to new birth in the last forty years or so, may have never known anything other than contemporary worship expressions,[iv] and may be being taught by their leaders any of the above, for better or worse.
Understanding history educates us that our norm has not always been. Our present beliefs and practices have roots in both time and theology. In a small book, I cannot give a thorough history of the theology of music and hymnody of two thousand years of church life! However, those who worship in a more contemporary expression may be helped by a brief history contained in this book of how we have arrived at today’s norm’s.
There is theology behind our practice. Understanding it will help us understand why we do what we do, and why some of our beliefs and practices are failing the grace of God and an understanding of the new covenant. Bad theology, beliefs and practices are reinforced every Sunday, on the wings of a memorable melody and a catchy beat. We can, we should, and we must do better. These things are not benign.
This blog is an excerpt from our title: Praise, Worship, and the Presence of the Lord: A Better Way to Worship It is available in all formats at www.stevecrosby.com.Copyright 2014, Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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[i] Col. 3: 16; Eph. 5:19.
[ii] Matt. 26:30, Mark 14:26.
[iii] More in the next chapter.
[iv] Salted with a hymn here and there.