“This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you—because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the people of the community. “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.
Christian Principles: Worship
Last month, we discussed the difference between Biblical principles and the programs we create to faithfully apply those principles. This month, we build on that discussion with a brief comparison of worship in the Old and New Testaments.
Consider the section above from Leviticus 16 (the same section referenced in this past week’s sermon!). God commanded his people to celebrate the Day of Atonement year after year. This festival was the highlight of the church year, much like Christmas and Easter highlight our year. But what was the point?
When this festival was commanded, God had very recently brought his people out of Egypt. The Lord of heaven and earth rescued the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and gave them earthly freedom. And yet, none of that would matter if these same descendants of Abraham thought God loved them because they were better people than the Egyptians, or any other nation. The sin of the Israelites separated them from God just like my sin—your sin—separates us from God. This commanded festival existed to teach how a relationship with God can exist for the sinner. Atonement is the only way.
The Day of Atonement was an annual lesson that taught how God would atone for the sin of his people. An innocent blood sacrifice would be required. In Jesus, God has provided the world with the blameless sacrifice needed to restore our relationship with God!
What was the Old Testament worship principle applied in this commanded festival? Teach the people that atonement is necessary! Guess what? That principle remains for us today! Christian worship will focus sinners on the need for atonement. Christian worship will focus sinners on the atonement we have in Jesus.
What’s the difference between Old Testament and New Testament application of this principle? In the Old Testament, God commanded exactly how the principle would be applied. You’ll find that detailed command in Leviticus chapter 16. (If you haven’t read all of Leviticus chapter 16 yet, I encourage you to do so!). In the New Testament, we still apply that principle in our worship. Exactly how we do so, is up to us.
So how do we focus sinners on the need for atonement at Mt. Olive? How do we focus sinners on the atonement we have in Jesus? Here’s a few of the ways!
- We follow an order of service that guarantees Law and Gospel will be present multiple times throughout the service
- We follow an order of service that focuses on the Means of Grace (the Gospel as it’s found in the Word of God, Baptism and Lord’s Supper)
- We sing hymns with lyrics that show our sin and show our Savior
- We respond to the Gospel with prayer and thanksgiving
Our worship applies the same principles as the worship our Old Testament brothers and sisters experienced. But where they applied worship principles with commanded programs, we have the freedom to apply the same principles in various ways. In other words, our focus is not so much on how the principles are being applied. Our focus is on applying the principles. Through it all, we praise our God as we proclaim what he has done for us. He has made us at-one with him!