IAN TRAYNAR finds a vision for praise and worship in Old Testament imagery.
Ian Traynar is the internationally recognised composer of praise
choruses and leader of worship. He is also co-director of the
Christian Music Association.
In the first of several articles Ian Traynar will be writing for Cross Rhythms he recounts how a Romford Fellowship found a vision for worship, not by jumping on the latest charismatic praise-up bandwagon but by finding a theology of worship in, of all things, King David's Tabernacle In the early days of my involvement at Romford with a worship group, I remember we reached a very difficult phase. Things had been going really well, with good rehearsals, creative contributions, and development in arranging of songs that allowed for fixed arrangements to be synthesised with the spontaneous playing.
However, the last few rehearsals had become rather heavy, I hadn't really much left to share, and folk were either generally disheartened or just plain bored, and there was a feeling that we were losing direction. This affected attendance, which of course made things worse. I was increasingly disillusioned with the whole worship dimension feeling, as the leader; perhaps someone else ought to take it on. Having faced a similar situation when ministering in the wider church, and recognising a spiritual enemy at work to demoralise us, I wondered if this was happening to us. If so, what were his tactics? As I thought about it I realised it was a problem of vision. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, - the people perish" (A V). We had ' lost our vision, or perhaps we never had a clear vision in the first place. After all, we'd just got together for the fun of it, playing some of my songs and generally getting caught up in the enthusiasm of the times.
I also came to understand that if you do not have a clear theological foundation you where open to all kinds of weird, and wonderful and sometimes demonic persuasion. What kind of spiritual foundation were we standing on? This is the question I have asked a lot as I have travelled and seen similar situations developing. There are many churches just getting on the bandwagon of this new release with no raison d'etre and certainly no theology of worship. As I prayed and sought God, I was led to various passages which all related to King David. At the end of several months study I had found an answer to our lack of vision and purpose. Sharing these thoughts with the group had a radical effect on our worship and mat of the church.
'I WILL RETURN'
My study began in Acts 15:13-18. I suggest if this passage is not familiar to you mat you stop now and read it thoroughly, even spend time meditating on it before you come back to this article, I was struck by three things on my first reading, 1.Who was "I" in "I will return..."? It had to be prophetically speaking of Jesus. 2. Why rebuild David's tabernacle? I only knew of Moses'. 3.The staggering thought that the purpose of this rebuilding was going to cause "the rest of mankind to seek the Lord". At no point in human history had all men sought the Lord (to my knowledge!). How incredible that the restoring of David's tabernacle should have this effect. I know that I must find out what this meant - we were into various methods of evangelism, but this would be unbelievably powerful.
The setting of this passage in Acts concerns a great debate among the apostles and elders gathered together at Jerusalem. The spirit had been poured out on the gentiles and they were being converted (Acts 15:3). Although this was wonderful for some, others suggested that they should be circumcised according to the Law of Moses v5. Suddenly they were facing the issue of law and grace, an issue that has continually blighted the church throughout its history, right up to the present day. James could have used many prophecies concerning God's inclusion of the gentiles, and could have rebuked the Pharisees over this law and grace issue, but he chose to use a minor prophet's words, Amos, to hit at both points. Firstly, God speaks about his all-inclusive heart in calling all the gentiles that is you and I, into his purposes. Then secondly, by using the thought of restoring the tabernacle he opens up a tremendous picture of something, which happened in the OT that would symbolise what He was doing in the new covenant. Worship in David's tabernacle, characterised by its abandonment of lifestyle and song was being compared with the worship around the tabernacle of Moses on Mount Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1: 4-5). Life under grace compared with life under the Law of Moses.
We must remember that in studying David's tabernacle we are not exclusively talking about praise and worship. The significant thing about David was that he was a worshipper. He had seen something of God's heart regarding intimacy and abandonment, the knowledge that he was created to worship God. Samuel records that David was a man after God's heart (1 Samuel 13:14), a worshipper, and that was why he was anointed King. This affected the whole of his life, not just his singing. We can see from Psalm 133 that David knew the power of living in community and unity. God is not literally restoring David's tabernacle in a geographical location. He is calling forth a people who will display David's character - who love the Lord with all their hearts, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus declared the highest commandment was abandoned love for God Mark ll:28f). Somehow David was the forerunner of this kind of love. He realised God was not interested in the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart (Ps 51:16-17). Thus he was inspired to please the heart of God far beyond that which the law required. It is impossible to please God without faith. So during David's life we see incredible acts of faith and obedience by this man. I believe this creative heart love, and knowing the grace of God so intimately, took him into realms of expression of worship never known in Israel before, something God is looking to restore in these days.
The tabernacle itself was very simple, just a tent covering the Ark of the Covenant. This is in sharp contrast to Moses' tabernacle with all its beauty and craftsmanship. This speaks to us of the simplicity of worship and also the non-importance of a building. The tent speaks of portability, and also that no natural building could ever contain the fullness and power of God's glory (Acts 7: 46-50). God is building a tabernacle without hands - His body - in which he can dwell and manifest himself. Just as he inhabited the praises of Israel (Ps22:3) so he wants to tabernacle among the praises of his people today. There is also significance in how the ark arrived on Mount Zion. (Read 2 Samuel 6:1-11, 2 Chron.l3:l-14). There was an order to discover. I believe that when David went to Kiriath-Jearim to recover the ark, he must have inquired how it had got there. (Read 1 Samuel 6-7). The Philistines had sent it there on a cart, so probably David was moved to imitate them with dire consequences. Eventually after seeking the Lord (1 Chron. 15:13-15) they put the order right, with the Levites carrying the ark on poles into Jerusalem greatly rejoicing. When the order was right it released an abandonment of worship rarely seen before in Israel.
In the midst of our spontaneity we need to remember God in a God of order and we need to seek him continually to put things right. Also we must be aware of imitation. It is all too easy for us to copy other people's styles and models without seeking God for what is appropriate for us. I believe God wants diversity in the body, different expressions not a blandness brought about by copying each other. The order consisted of appointments made from among the Levites. First Chron.6: 31-32 speaks of singers being appointed to minister in the tabernacle. It is worth noting that this would have been the first time music and song appeared in tabernacle worship. Moses' tabernacle was absolutely silent. We see in 1 Chron 15:16 that not only was there appointment, but also clear accountability. David commissioned them to raise sounds of joy. We need to see similar structure emerging in our churches where elders clearly delegate their authority to the worship leader/music director and then after defining their role hold them accountable, giving regular feedback on how they are doing. I'm sure this would release many leaders from over-responsibility in leading meetings, and release those gifted and called in this field.
We also see (1 Chron. 15:22, 1 Chron. 25:76, Ps 33:3) that David put a high premium on skill. This was not just dexterity, but it would have included the skill of discernment, greatly needed by musicians who are involved in worship. I know we need a balance in this area so that our standards are not so high that we exclude people at this early stage of restoration, but there is a trend towards mediocrity in the church in many of the arts, which does not glorify God, and we need to redress this. Artists need to identify the call of God on their lives to the degree that they will give up other activities to devote themselves to excellence in their field. All these things were highly significant for Israel. Never had there been such singing and music in tabernacle worship. Never had the Levites been allowed to minister before the ark. Only the high priest could do this once a year. Here the Levites ministered before the ark in song both day and night. David wore the linen ephod associated with the priest's ministry. Never before had there been such sacrifices of song. I believe God received this worship because it was given in an abandonment of love and faith.
By the end of David's reign, they had moved into many new and exciting ways of worshipping corporately. 1 Chron 25 reveals how prophecy accompanied the playing of instruments, and they prophesied in giving thanks and praising God v3. We have always thought of prophecy as being God to man, but here they were prophesying to God through praise and thanksgiving. We have much to learn from David's heart response in all this. We are not looking for a literal restoring of David's tabernacle - this would be mere imitation, but for people who so love God they want to risk everything to worship in a fresh and real way. Unfortunately many churches are ignorant of the order God is wishing to establish. Firstly the rightful place of abandoned worship. So many of our meetings are governed by time as far as worship is concerned and the need to fit other things in. The result is a stilted and stifled form of worship. Secondly, the need for musicians, singers, and dancers, etc. to be appointed and given authority to move freely in their gifts. Michal, David's wife was barren for the rest of her days for despising David's free dance before the Lord As in David's day, people will resist new and creative expressions, and we need to be reminded of the consequences of such resistance (2 Sam. 6:23).
As we move toward the two essential ingredients of LOVE and FAITH,
although initially there may be some similarities to David's
tabernacle, we shall discover far greater and magnificent expressions.
As Paul said "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered
into the heart of man, what God has prepared for those who love him"
(1 Cor 2:9). When David commissioned Solomon to build a temple for
God, he gave everything he had, then posed this question. "Who then is
willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?"(1 Chron. 29:5)
This is for all of us to answer today. 'As in David's day, people will
resist new and creative expressions.'
(This article first appeared in 'Tomorrow Today' magazine and is reprinted with permission.)