Friday, July 27, 2012

Triplets of Praise: How to Worship

As we have seen in our study of the Trinity, God’s Triune nature is reflected in His creation, His attributes, the names of Christ, Old Testament worship, feasts and prophecies, and the birth of His Son. Not surprisingly, His instructions for worship in the New Testament are also triplets of praise!

God designed mankind to need Him, because only He gives us all we need: life, breath (spirit), and all things (Acts 17: 25). He designed us to be complete only when He indwells us at the moment of salvation. This occurs in a three-step process (Acts 17:27) – we seek Him (an intellectual process involving the mind seeking truth), we feel after Him (an emotional process involving the heart realizing its own emptiness), and we find Him (our spirit places its faith in Him as the only true Savior and living God).

Jesus promised that anyone who asks, seeks and knocks in this fashion will receive, find and gain entrance (Matthew 7:7-8;  Luke 11:9-10). From that moment on, we are His, and in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). Only then can we love Him as Jesus commanded us (Matthew 22:37), and as was foreshadowed when the Lord spoke to Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5), with all our heart, soul, and mind.

When we are born again, we place our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15) as the only way to Heaven. Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus Christ gave His followers (including present-day believers) the Great Commission: to go, teach, and baptize (Matthew 28:18-20).
When we pray, we pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9), in the name of Jesus Who intercedes for us (1 Timothy 2:5), empowered by the Holy Spirit Who searches our heart and delivers to the Throne Room the prayers we cannot even utter (Romans 8:26).

As Jesus taught His disciples in the model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), our prayers should include adoration (praise and thanksgiving for Who He is and for what He has done; Matthew 6:9-10,13), repentance (confession of our sins; Matthew 6:12), and supplication (petitions asking for the needs of others and of ourselves; Matthew 6:11,13). The prayer closes by recognizing that to God alone belongs the kingdom, and the power, and the glory (Matthew 6:13).

Prayer is an important part of our corporate worship, as is praise and preaching the Word. The writer of Hebrews (10:24-25) urges us to continue meeting together for worship, especially as we draw closer to Christ’s return. By doing this, we can exhort one another (to refrain from sin) and encourage one another to love and to do good works.

Paul tells us that we can do this by speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and that in addition to uplifting each other by speaking in this way, that we should sing aloud and make melody in our heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).

When Paul urges us to follow the path Christ has set before us (Ephesians 4:1), He reminds us that we are rooted in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism and that God is above all, and through all, and in us all (Ephesians 4:5-6). God blessed each believer with a special role within the church body, which can broadly be grouped into three categories: for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).

Jesus tells us that God is spirit (John 4:24), and John tells us that God is light (1 John 1:5), and love (1 John 4:8,16). Accordingly, Paul tells us to walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:16,25; Romans 8:1,4) and in love (Ephesians 5:2), and John tells us to walk in the light (1 John 1:7), Three gifts of grace: faith, hope and love (1 Thessalonians 1:3).enable believers to do this.

May we always worship God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit with triplets of praise!

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Birth of Jesus: Trinity Incarnate

As we have seen in earlier posts, God prescribed patterns of worship in the Old Testament, including feasts, to reflect His Trinity. Thousands of years later, New Testament worship continued to honor God’s Triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worship of God the Son began when Jesus was in Mary’s womb and continued through His infancy and early childhood. Patterns of three continued to be evident in this early worship and in the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.

When Jesus Christ left His heavenly throne, He wrapped Himself in flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14) so that we could behold His glory. As foretold in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 9 23-24), man was not to glory in his own wisdom, power, or wealth, but in God’s love, judgment, and righteousness. In the person of Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, were these three sources of glory fulfilled.

Before Jesus was born, three persons (Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph) crucial to His earthly life were visited by an angel who revealed their special roles in the birth of the Messiah. The angel Gabriel appeared to the old priest Zacharias to tell him that Elizabeth, his barren and aged wife, would give birth to John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the chosen Messiah (Luke 1:7-19).

Then Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to tell her that God had chosen her to give birth to the promised Savior, conceived by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:26-35). The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary had conceived the Messiah by the Holy Spirit, and that he should marry her as planned (Matthew 1:20-21).

Even before Jesus was born, the first worship service of three congregants (Mary, Elizabeth, and John) honoring Him took place! Jesus later said that wherever two or three were gathered in His name, God was in their midst (Matthew 18:20), and this was literally the case on this occasion!

This happy meeting occurred when Mary arrived at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, and the Holy Spirit allowed both women and the unborn John the Baptist to recognize the unborn Jesus as their Lord and Savior. John was filled with the Holy Ghost while still in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15), and when Mary entered the room, John leaped for joy to be in the presence of Jesus! (Luke 1:41-45). At the same moment, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and she proclaimed aloud that Mary and her unborn Babe – her Lord -- were blessed indeed.

Mary responded with a hymn of praise (known as the Magnificat) inspired by the Holy Spirit, exalting God and His Son, the Messiah Who would deliver them (Luke 1:46-55), The Bible does not say that Mary sang this hymn, but because of its poetic format, I believe it is reasonable to assume that she sang it, just as the Psalms were sung to praise God. This first praise and worship service honoring Jesus therefore incorporated three expressions of praise: dance, spoken praise (prayer), and song!

At and shortly after Jesus’ birth, He was worshipped by three groups of beings: the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men. The glory of God lit up the heavens, the angel of the Lord announced His birth, and a multitude of angels sang sweet anthems of praise and adoration (Luke 2:8-14).

The glory of God described here may have been one of three reappearances of the Shechinah Glory (the glory of God that filled the Old Testament tabernacle; Exodus 40:34-38) surrounding the birth of Jesus. At the time of His birth, the brilliance of God’s glory shone in the heavens surrounding the angel of the Lord (Luke 2:9), in the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12) and in the person of Jesus Himself (John 1:14).

When the apostle John refers to man beholding the glory of God dwelling among us (John 1:14), the word for “dwell” is similar to the word in Exodus 40 referring to the tabernacle, thus strengthening the reference to the Shechinah Glory filling the Old Testament tabernacle and then tabernacling among us as the fully divine Man. That prophecy was foretold by Isaiah 9:2 and revealed more completely in the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 1 Peter 16:18).

The shepherds, who in that culture were considered to be vagabonds of ill-repute, represent saved sinners who repented (abandoned what they were doing once they heard the Good News), ran to worship Him, and witnessed to others of what they had seen (Luke 2:15-17-18).

The wise men (Matthew 2:1-12), who were the most learned scholars of their day in the fields of astronomy, science, and philosophy, sought and found Truth not in their parchments and scrolls, but in a young Child Who knew all things.

The three gifts brought by the wise men to worship and honor Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh, representing His three roles in our salvation. Gold is the most precious metal, fit for the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16); frankincense the most costly spice, suited to burn in worship of the great High Priest after the order of Melchisidec (Hebrews 5:6, 10); and myrrh is used to anoint the dead (John 19:39), representing that He came to die as the perfect, sinless Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-14) to pay our sin debt.

Included in the wise people who worshipped the young child Jesus were not only these kingly scholars, but also Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), as these faithful Jews recognized Him as the promised Messiah Who would deliver their people. May we too have their wisdom to seek God, find Him, and give our lives to Him!

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Friday, July 13, 2012

Feasts and Prophecies: Reflecting the Trinity

Just as God’s Triune nature is reflected in His creation, in the names of His Son, and in Temple worship, so it is in the special feasts Jehovah designated for Old Testament worship, and in prophecies corresponding to these feasts.

The Seven Feasts (Leviticus 23) that God set apart for Israel as special times of worship include three spring feasts, one summer feast, and three fall feasts, each with prophetic meaning. The prophesies of the three spring feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits, have already been fulfilled by Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection -- the triad underlying Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15) -- at the times of year God set apart to celebrate these feasts.

Jesus Himself declared that He was the fulfillment of prophecies in all three divisions of the Old Testament (Luke 24:44): the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (poetic books),

Passover (Leviticus 23:5) commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from the curse intended for the Egyptians. The destroyer claimed the life of every firstborn unless the home was protected by the blood of a sacrificed lamb, marking the three points of the cross on the two side posts and upper post of the front door (Exodus 12). This foreshadows the perfect sacrifice of Jesus to pay for all our sins. At the Feast of Passover in 33 AD, Jesus was crucified and shed every drop of His blood as the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

He was buried the next day, on the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12), symbolizing Jesus as the Bread of Life (John 6) containing no leaven, which represents sin (Matthew 16; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8). On the third day, on the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10-14), Jesus rose from the dead, representing the firstfruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) and making the way for us to follow. Because He rose and ascended into Heaven, all who trust in Him have eternal life (John 3:16).

The summer feast was the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost  (Leviticus 23:15-22). This feast was also fulfilled prophetically at the preordained time when, 50 days after Christ’s ascension, the Holy Spirit descended with flaming tongues of fire upon the disciples of Jesus (Acts 2:1-4), empowering them to spread the Gospel to those speaking any language.

Prophetically speaking, the remaining three feasts are still unfulfilled, but the prophecies symbolized by these fall feasts (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) will one day come to fruition, again through Jesus Christ. The Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25) corresponds to the trumpet of the Lord sounding at the Rapture, for all believers to be caught up in the air to meet with Jesus (1 Thessalonians.4:15-17). This glorious moment, long awaited by believers, will also begin the prophesied 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:2) and the seven-year Tribulation period (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14).

The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) foreshadows the return of Christ (Matthew 24:29-31), which will occur at the end of the seven-year Tribulation. The King of Kings will return in glory and power for the battle of Armageddon and judgment to occur at the Day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32; Matthew 13:30; Revelation 16:16).

Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43) originally commemorating the Israelites dwelling in tents as they fled from Egypt, will be fulfilled as Jesus Christ dwells among, or tabernacles with, His people during the 1000-year Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 21:3). This will be an unprecedented time of joy, peace and productivity as the deserts will bloom (Isaiah 35:1-2), rivers will spring forth (Isaiah 43:19), and former animal predators will be harmless to us and to their fellow creatures (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25).

In this seemingly long interval between the past fulfillment of prophesies corresponding to the spring and summer feasts, and the future fulfillment of prophesies corresponding to the fall feasts, God has continued to guide our Church Age worship in ways still reflecting the Trinity, as we shall see next week!

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Friday, July 6, 2012

Old Testament Worship: Honoring The Trinity

God is a Triune Being – God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All of His creation reflects His three-part nature, and the attributes of God the Father and names of Jesus also echo their three-fold Divinity. 

Not surprisingly, God designed our worship of Him to praise and to celebrate the three facets of His Being, beginning in the Old Testament, and continuing through the New Testament and into the future.

The benediction given by God for Aaron to speak unto the Hebrew people used the name of Jehovah (the LORD) three times, each with a different blessing:

Numbers 6: 24 The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 
26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Another Old Testament type, or precursor, to the ultimate worship believers will experience in Heaven appears in the Tabernacle that God instructed Moses to build as the place of worship (Exodus 25). He ordered Moses to collect from the people the materials for the Tabernacle as an offering to Him: three fine metals (gold, and silver, and brass, v.3); fine linen (made from the hemp plant) in three colors (blue, purple, and scarlet, v.4) and coverings of three animals (goats' hair, rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, v.5). These offerings represent the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal categories of His creation over which He gave man dominion (Genesis 1:26-28).

The holiest place in the Tabernacle was the most holy (Exodus 26:33), or Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum approached only by the high priest, and only once each year, to make an offering to atone for the sins of the people. This atonement for sin by the shed blood of a sacrificed animal foreshadows the ultimate atonement of Christ, once and for all, as the perfect, sinless sacrifice to pay for all our sins, past, present and future (Hebrews 9:11-15).

Within the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant, with the finest gold overlaying shittim wood (Exodus 25:10-22) to symbolize the mystery of Christ in His divinity becoming human flesh  (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:14). The ark contained three items (Hebrews 9:4): the stone tables on which God engraved His law to give to Moses (Exodus 25:16, 22); the golden pot containing manna (Exodus 16:33-34) that God provided to feed the Israelites on their journey through the desert to find the Promised Land; and the rod of Aaron that budded forth with almond blossoms (Numbers 17:10), symbolizing purity and eternal life.

Thus, these three items symbolize God’s judgment in His Ten Commandments that no one (except for Jesus) can keep perfectly (Romans 3:23); God’s sustenance and provision for all our needs (Ephesians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 9:10-12); and God’s reconciliation with sinful man through His Son (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:17). Through Jesus’ sinless sacrifice, His perfect righteousness is attributed to our account (Romans 4:22-24), allowing us eternal life with Him in Heaven.

Moving outward from the Holy of Holies was the sanctuary, or holy place, containing three pieces of furniture: the table of shewbread (Exodus 25:23-30), the lampstand (Exodus 25:23-31), and the altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10). In Hebrew, the word for “shewbread” means "bread of the face of the Lord," foreshadowing Jesus as the bread of life (John 6), the only sustenance the believer needs. The loaves of shewbread were set before God for one week before the priests were allowed to eat of it, suggesting that worship should come before fulfilling our daily needs (Matthew 6:33).

The lampstand, which later symbolizes the church (Revelation 1:12-20) was the only source of light in the holy place, just as Jesus Christ will be the only source of light in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23). The altar of incense symbolizes the prayers of men rising as a sweet-smelling savour to God, as an act of worshipping Him (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3-4).

Like the Tabernacle, the Temple was also designed by God in three parts: the outer Court surrounding the Holy Place, and the innermost Sanctuary or Holy of Holies), with the Holy of Holies in the shape of a cube of three equal dimensions (1 Kings 7).

God prescribed and ordained not only these places and articles of worship, but also times and holy days of worship, as we will see innext week’s post. These were needed before the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins reconciled sinful man to Holy God, allowing believers instant, continual access into His Presence. Praise God that we may now enter boldly unto the throne of grace! (Hebrews 4:16)

© 2012 Laurie Collett