In Part 1 we attempted to read one of the key passages of the Old Testament through the lens of the liturgical life of Israel. God calls all His people to holiness and to His service, but because of Israel’s repeated failures, the Lord chooses the tribe of the Levites, and entrusts them with the exclusive duty to serve in the Tabernacle of the Covenant. In the course of history, God makes an alliance with David, who renews and restores the hierarchy of priests and revives the divine life of the Israelites. In the eyes of biblical authors, he acts as the new Melchizedek and even as the new Moses. This post will discuss the connection between proper divine service and God’s promises, as well as the perception of the Solomon Temple as God’s New Creation.
Orthodoxy as the correct worship is the key to blessing.
The placing of the Ark and the rebirth of the priestly hierarchy (see Deuteronomy 10:8) are signs that the author of the Chronicle perceives David as an image of Moses, perhaps even a “prophet like me” promised by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). Like Moses, David sings praises in God’s presence in the Ark (Exodus 25:21-22; 30:6,36; Numbers 7:89; 17:19).
He restores the cult and liturgical instructions of Moses (1 Chr. 15; 21:29; 22:23) and convinces Solomon that this liturgical order is fundamental to the success of the Israeli monarchy (1 Chr. 22:12-13).
Why is the king so concerned about the divine service? Perhaps the author of the Chronicle is convinced that God’s blessings for the people depend on the correct performance of offerings and other rites. The Lord, in the minds of the ancients, is with those who serve Him as He wants to be served (2 Chr. 13:10-12). Those who do it right will be blessed (1 Chr. 22:13; 28:8; 2 Chr. 13:21; 33:8). Incorrect worship will cause God to destroy the Temple (2 Chr. 7:19-22). That’s what we can see with the Ark, too. The wrath of God struck Uzzah dead, because the Ark was not transported as Moses had commanded (2 Samuel 6:6-10).
“The divine service was effective and useful only if it was conducted in accordance with divine law. Indeed, the divine establishment communicates power to the cult, so that the Lord Himself accepts His people as king accepts petitions, and acts for the benefit of seekers.”
John W. Kleinig, The Lord’s Song: The Basis, Function, and Significance of Choral Music in Chronicles, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 156 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 31.
The creation of the Temple is the new creation.
Speaking of the priestly kingdom of David, it is worth highlighting once again the pivotal importance of the Temple for this kingdom. Through the exodus from Egypt, Israel was formed as a nation of priests, whose main material sanctuary and architectural projection was the Tabernacle. In the same way, thanks to the conquest of the Promised Land, the Kingdom of David was established, the kingdom of priests, and the main expression, the main architectural shrine of this kingdom was not the royal palace, but the Temple.
David, like Moses before him, had received a divine “pattern” or “plan” (תבנית) to build a temple which would keep the Ark all the time (1 Chr. 28: 19; Ex. 25: 9), and in which God would dwell and communicate with His people. (See Jon D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1985), p. 141 for that).
The construction of the Temple can also be perceived as a new creation in relation to the creation of the world.
As the story of the creation speaks about seven days, so the construction of the Temple takes seven years (2 Kings 6:38, Genesis 2:2). God ends His creative act by “resting” on the seventh day. Also, the Temple, built by Solomon, that is, the “man of peace” (החונמ שי) (1 Chr. 22:9), is designed to be a “house of peace” (החונמ תיב) (1 Chr. 28:2) or “place of rest” of the Ark and the Lord (2 Chr. 6:41; Psalm 133:8, 13-14; Isaiah 66:1) During the seven-day feast of the Tabernacle (2 Kings 8:2) the Temple was dedicated to God by the solemn prayer of Solomon, built around seven petitions (2 Kings 8:31-53).
So we have seen how much the Old Testament text can be revived in the perception of modern Christians if we look at it through the lens of the divine services. By putting the familiar text in an unexpected context, you can see new shades and new meanings. Such a liturgical reading of the most important subjects of the Bible shows us how important and valuable in the eyes of God divine service is, the worship of Him in spirit and truth. The Orthodox Church can rightfully be considered the most liturgical Church among all Christian denominations, so such a reading of the Bible, where special attention is paid to the divine service, can bring rich fruit in the lives of individual Christians, as well as revive interest in the Holy Scripture in the entire Christian communities and parishes.
Part 1 of this article is here.