PART 1, OLD TESTAMENT CHURCH (worshiping)
Description of the church (GotQuestions.com)
The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.”
Church; The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return.
Old Testament (OT) times were very interesting and sometimes confusing. Scripture tells us there are mysteries we will not understand so I (as always) will take Scripture at its word and keep trying to figure out the mysteries that I am allowed to. As for the others, I trust that God will tell me in His own time. The information I am presenting is just a short version of what I learned and I pray that it is a brief but accurate synopsis of what worshipping was like and was expected.
Old Testament believers, how did God communicate with them?
I discovered how God communicated with people. He talked directly to some of His children. In Genesis, we read He talked directly to Adam and Eve. Later on, He talked to Cain (Gen. 4:6-8), Noah (Genesis 8:15-9:17), Abram (Gen. Chapter 12:1), Isaac (Gen 26:24) plus others.
As I continued to study Scripture I found that most of the time God spoke to His people indirectly through other people (and even a donkey)! Some of those people were called prophets, man of God, and seer’s (1 Samuel 9:9). Then there was also the written word.
(Moses wrote down the law that was revealed to him and warned the people of Israel to “observe all the words of this law which are written in this book,” Deuteronomy 28:58).
I also discovered that God spoke by way of dreams, through angels, and a burning bush. In other words, God spoke to Old Testament people directly and indirectly as He saw fit.
Were they called to go to church?
From what I learned the people that believed in God during the OT times did not (and were not) called to meet together on a regular schedule with an exception. However, they did have guidelines and procedures. One of the guidelines was to gather together to celebrate special days and feasts throughout the year (and there were many).
One of the places where they gathered to worship the Lord was at the Tabernacle. (This is just a brief description of the Tabernacle)
The first dwelling place for God seems to be what was called the Tabernacle (also described as a portable tent sanctuary). Made with curtains and boards, it held valuable items taken from Egypt (according to the commands of God). This Tabernacle traveled with the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness. The tabernacle also held the Holy of Holies. The Israelite high priest was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur where he would sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on the mercy seat of the Ark. When the priest did this he atoned for the sins of the people and of himself.
The Tabernacle had an altar which was used for sacrificial worship. The traveling Tabernacle was used until Solomon brought it to Jerusalem to furnish and dedicate the Temple house he was building for the Lord (1 Kings Chapter 6, 7, and 8). This Temple was to be the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments. Prayers, sacrifices, and worship were done in and around the Temple.
It seems the only people who were commanded to come to the Temple for worship were the Levites and priests. On behalf of the entire nation, they performed the prescribed ceremonies. I found no command for people to watch them, or for them to teach the people.
Sabbath and synagogues.
I did not find any mention of Old Testament passages that attending a worship service on the Sabbath is a way of keeping this day holy. There also seems to be no Old Testament mentioning of weekly Sabbath holiness that centers on attendance at “holy sites.” Gods ‘command was to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. From the Blue letter Bible: “The seventh day (Saturday) was commanded to be respected as a day of rest. This rest was for all of Israel- servants and slaves as well as visitors.”
So far as I understand from Scripture and Jewish history, there was no national system of Sabbath-day worship sites or places of communal instruction throughout Israel’s history in the Promised Land up to the captivity of Judah in the 530s B.C. and the return of a remnant to Judea a few decades’ years later. And there were no synagogues before the exile; there were no specific local meeting places in Israel before the exile because there was no command for weekly meetings.
Jews added the synagogue worship system, not based on a biblical command, but on a social desire because of the loss of the Temple and the scattering of the people far away from the Promised Land. Also, I could not find in the Old Testament a command to have local worship sites.
The synagogue system allowed Jews to meet together in local towns and villages for prayer, the reading of the Holy Scriptures and for fellowship. The synagogue became a miniature sanctuary to replace the loss of the Jerusalem Temple.
What God desired.
As God showed His love and blessings, God desired His people to do something in return but not necessarily gathering all together to go to a church building to worship as we know it today.
His desires were:
*He commanded that His people worship Him only and have no other gods (Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:6-7). The first four of the Ten Commandments dealt with worship, with one’s direct relationship to God while the other commandments expressed people ’s relationship with one another (Leviticus 19:18 as expressing the second greatest commandment, to “love your neighbor as yourself”).
*Believe in His Words and pass them on: “Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!’ Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord” (Exodus 24:3-4).
*Walk the talk: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples.” Israel’s everyday life was to be an expression of worship and obedience (Exodus 19:5)
*Be a Testimony: God intended for the nation’s life and worship to be a testimony to the surrounding nations, a testimony to His greatness.
It seems that the Israelites were only commanded a few times each year to gather together before the Lord at his Tabernacle, for the festivals of the Passover, and Firstfruits, to name a few. Otherwise, the regular offering of sacrifices was carried out by the priests and chosen individual Israelites who came to the tabernacle (and later the temple) only when they needed to offer a specific sacrifice for sin or impurity. As for everyone else, God always dwelled with the people and in their worship to Him and they were to worship Him constantly.
Basically, His people were to:
*Believe, have faith and trust God
*Worship Him only and have no other gods
*Give Him the praise and glory that He deserves
*Live out His commandments
*Have a relationship with Him and love their neighbors
*Be a Light for others to see God in them
Gathering together to study His Word, fellowshipping, offering sacrifices, and all the other things that were related to their relationship with God were for and participated in by believers. And I did not find scripture that stated they were to bring in to the Tabernacle any non-believers. Their idea of church was for believers, as far as I understood.
Their lives were all about giving to God in many ways and not what they could get out of their worship.
Very different then what is expected of today’s churches wouldn’t you say?
I researched this subject to the best of my limited ability and I pray that it is accurate. However, if I have stated something that is not true please let me know what it is and I will correct it. Also, if you have interesting insights to add to this study and want to share them with me (us) I would appreciate that too.