READ – 1 Chronicles 23:1-6; also refer to chapters 23-27
In 1 Chronicles Chapters 23-27, we read what is essentially King David’s organizational flow chart for the staff of the temple and the leadership over the nation of Israel. Our first reaction might be, “What could be more irrelevant to my life than an ancient organizational flow chart!?!” But consider this – take one look at an organizational chart and you will learn a lot about a community or an organization. The list of names and responsibilities shows you what everybody is doing and why they are doing it. What if you could make an organization flow chart of a person’s life? Imagine a chart that shows a person’s relationships and responsibilities and that illustrates where all their time, money, energy, dreams are spent. You would learn a lot about this person from what is and isn’t on the chart. What would be on your chart? What would it show you about what you are doing and why are you are doing it? This is where 1 Chronicles 23-27 applies to us –it shows us what a life ordered and organized around worship looks like.
SUMMARY: Since worship is the central matter of life, we should pay attention to how our lives are ordered and organized around what we worship.
HOW WORSHIP IS CENTRAL TO EVERYTHING
The 65 chapters of Chronicles cover almost 500 years of history, tell the stories of 22 kings and weave in many themes related to spiritual renewal, but if there is one thing that is central to the entire story - it is the temple at Jerusalem. The temple was David’s obsession, Solomon’s greatest accomplishment and every subsequent king in the book is evaluated on whether or not they ordered their priorities around the temple. 1 Chronicles 23-27 show us how David set up an organizational system to display the centrality of worship at the temple: Chapter 23 tells us about the priests in the inner/holy courts of the temple; Ch. 24 about the musicians in the main courts of the temple; Ch’s 25-26 about the gatekeepers and treasurers at the gates and the outer portions the temple and Ch. 27 about the leaders who were spread out in the rest of the land. The picture is this - Every aspect of life in Israel reverberated out from the temple. Worship was at the center.
Chronicles 23-27 illustrates both how life should be and how life is. The Bible tells us that to be human is to be a worshipper. Everyone worships. Every person’s life is structured and shaped by what they most value, seek after and pursue. Every person is a temple to something. If all of us worship, then all of us have an order of worship (a personal liturgy), a way of organizing life around what is most central to us. To be renewed in our worship of the God of the bible requires that we pay attention to the order and organization of our lives. Looking at our personal liturgy will show us what we really worship and how our lives may need to be re-ordered around God.
HOW GOD RENEWS US IN WORSHIP
Clearly, David paid great attention to every detail of how worship was ordered and organized in Israel. What we find in these chapters are four roles given to the tribe called by God to serve at the temple – the Levites. Each one of these roles was a key piece of how someone experienced a renewal of worship. Each was a part of how the worship experience re-oriented the worshipper to a world where God is the central reality. Each one teaches a lesson about who God is and who we are. Each role shows us something of the kind of embodied practices that re-orient and re-center us on the gospel.
1. GIVING – First, God renews us in worship through the practice of giving. In 26:20, 22 we are told who is given responsibility to oversee the treasuries and dedicated gifts brought to the temple. Every worshipper who came to the temple was given an opportunity to give. In 1 Chronicles 29:5-9, David called Israel to given willingly and freely as an act of worship. The people responded with generous gifts and experiencing great joy (29:0) What’s the lesson? There is a reciprocal relationship between our joy and our giving. Our joy follows our giving and our giving follows our joy. Another way to say this is that what we worship we give toward; what we give toward we worship. Where our treasure is there our heart will be also (Matt 6:21).
2. GATEKEEPING – Second, God renews us in worship through the practice of gatekeeping (Ch 26). Gatekeepers were essentially the bouncers at the temple doors. Their job was to welcome in what did belong and keep out what did not belong in God’s holy presence. Every time you came to the temple, you met a gatekeeper and were forced to ask, “What am I bringing with me into the presence of God?” What’s the lesson? A part of our regular order of life should be to ask, “What am I welcoming into my life and what am I keeping out?” To be a Christian means letting Jesus be the gatekeeper of your life and soul.
3. SINGING - In Ch. 25, we see how David made singing & music a part of the organization of temple worship. In 25:3, musical worship is called prophecy. Singing was an essential part of hearing, remembering and receiving God’s word in a personal way. 25:7-8 tells us that singing was to be led by skillful, excellent and trained musicians. GREAT care was taken to make singing a part of people’s worship. In Ephesians 5:18-20, we find that singing is just as essential in the New Testament – singing is how we are filled with the Spirit (the presence of God!). What’s the lesson? Music and singing should be a regular part of our daily and weekly order of life. We need to think about how we can make “melody of our hearts” (Eph 5:19) the song of the gospel.
4. CONFESSION - Looking at David’s organizational chart for worship, we find that confession was the final, climactic step in worship; for being renewed in God’s presence. Three of the four duties listed for priests (in 23:13) have to do with dealing with the sinfulness of people who were coming to worship a holy God. The priests communicated the seriousness of sin (through sacrifice) and always sent the people away with the blessing of God’s forgiving and renewing grace. What’s the lesson? Regular confession is God’s counterintuitive gift for renewal – by confessing our sins we see the gravity of sin and the even greater magnitude of God’s grace for us in the gospel.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Do you agree that “to be human is to be a worshipper?” Read the quote below from David Foster Wallace’s speech “This Is Water.” If “in the day to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism,” how should that impact the “organizational flow chart” of our lives?
.... [I]n the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship... is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things... then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough... Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you... Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. (David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water”)
3. When you look at the order and organization of your life, what does it reveal about what you really worship?
4. It was said in the sermon that the modern quests to find ourselves (identity) and to find our cause in life (purpose) are both determined by what we worship. In other words 1) both our identity and purpose are formed by what we worship 2) to rediscover our identity and purpose in Jesus, our worship of Jesus comes first. Where are you struggling with identity and/or purpose? What would it look like to begin your rediscovery with worship?
The Four Practices for Worship Renewal
5. Giving – Have you found it to be true that your joy follows your giving and your giving follows your joy? How does your own practice of giving (money, time, talents) reflect (or need to better reflect) your desire to worship God above all else?
6. Gatekeeping – “Every object of worship has gatekeepers. What we worship determines what we keep out and what we let into our lives.” Where are you most struggling with what Jesus calls you to bring in or keep out of your life?
7. Singing – What place does music and singing have in your regular weekly or daily routine? Read Eph. 5:18-20. What does it look like to regularly “make melody in our hearts to the Lord?”
8. Confession -The practice of confession as worship is what makes Christianity different from all other approaches to life. No matter what we worship, we will all come up against the question - what happens when I fail my god? When we fail or fall short, every other object of worship crushes us, punishes us and makes us pay. In Christianity, it’s confession that drives us to the gospel, again and again – that Jesus was crushed and punished for our sins in order that we might receive the blessing of God’s approval, delight and acceptance forever.
· Have you experienced the crushing and punishing of failing something you worshipped?
· How can confession become a regular part of your personal order of life?
· How can we make sure that confession doesn’t drive us into guilt and shame but into the freedom and joy of the gospel?