Many notice the changes from Old Testament to New Testament worship. For example, the gathered local church is the temple of God where God’s Spirit resides (1 Cor 3:16-17), in contrast with worship centered locally at the Jerusalem temple. We are also to approach the throne of grace with boldness on the basis of our Great High Priest Jesus Christ who has passed through the heavens (instead of the veils) (Heb 4). There are many examples of this.

Although there are some certain discontinuities in this present economy from the previous economy, I believe that some things remain the same. One of these things, quite obviously, is the object of the worship: the one true and living God (whom we now know, by virtue of progressive revelation, exists in three Persons). Another element of continuity is the reverence and awe that God requires. The gravity of worship has not changed, just as the object of that worship has not. The same fear and wonder that the children of Israel had at the foot of Sinai should be present in our worship. So Hebrews 12 reminds us,

6At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken–that is, things that have been made–in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.

In fact, if the repeated refrain of the author of the Hebrews, present even in this passage, be taken seriously, we should have more fear, more reverence, and more awe than the children of Israel had, for we have experienced something greater and more awesome than Sinai–Jesus Christ the Son. The inspired writer says in the verses preceding these,

18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

And so may we render to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

*Scripture cited from the English Standard Version (ESV) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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