I’m Coming Back to the Heart of Worship: Worship As a Lifestyle, Not A Destination

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms which is a collection of prayers, praise and petitions contained within a compilation of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters one-hundred and twenty through one-hundred and twenty-two of this Old Testament book. GRADUAL PSALMS! SONGS OF STEPS! SONGS FOR GOING UP TO WORSHIP! PILGRIM SONGS! SONGS OF JOURNEY! COME LET US GO UNTO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! DOES JOY AND GLADNESS FILL YOUR HEART AS YOU GO UNTO THE SANCTUARY OF THE LORD? WORSHIP BEGINS BEFORE YOU GET TO THE SANCTUARY! THE JOURNEY OF WORSHIP! THE PILGRIMAGE OF WORSHIP! THE JOURNEY OF WORSHIP! DEUTERONOMY 16:16-17! THE PILGRIMAGE FEASTS! TRUE WORSHIP BEGINS BEFORE YOU EVER ENTER INTO THE SANCTUARY! WHY DO YOU WAIT TO ENTER INTO THE SANCTUARY TO BEGIN WORSHIPPING THE LORD? WHY DOES YOUR WORSHIP HINGE AND DEPEND ON OTHERS IN THE SANCTUARY? WHY DO YOU STRUGGLE TO WORSHIP ON YOUR WAY TO THE SANCTUARY? THE PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD! THREE TIMES A YEAR! When you come to this particular portion of the Psalms you will encounter one of the most systematic portions of the entire book. Up until this point there really hasn’t been any structure within the psalms, and the most structure you could possibly consider are the groupings of the psalms written for the sons of Korah, the psalms which were written by Asaph, and the entire one-hundred and nineteenth chapter of this Old Testament poetic book. The one-hundred and nineteenth chapter of this poetic book is comprised of sections that are broken down according to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and is thus probably the most constructed and structured part of the entire book. As you come to these chapters, however, you will find that beginning with the one-hundred and twentieth chapter of the Psalms and continuing all the way through to the one-hundred and thirty-fourth chapter of the same book are what’s known as “The Psalms of Degrees” or “Songs of Degrees.” These particular psalms are psalms which those who sought to come unto the mountain of the LORD with their gifts and offerings to worship the LORD would have sang as they made the journey to Jerusalem, as they made their journey to the mountain of the LORD, and even as they made their journey to the sanctuary and ascended the steps which led up to the house of the LORD. These psalms were such as those which were meant and intended on being sung by all those worshippers who would make the journey unto the place which the LORD had chosen to place His name, and which the LORD had chosen to place His glory, place His honor, place His fame, and place His presence.

In order to truly understand this I feel it is absolutely necessary to not only consider the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, but also in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. If and as you read the words which are found within these Old Testament books you will not only encounter the command and invitation the LORD gave unto the children of Israel through His servant Moses concerning the pilgrimages and journeys the people would take to come and appear before Him, but you will also find the prophet Isaiah prophesying and speaking of the last days when the mountain of the house of the LORD will be exalted above all the hills of the earth, and when it will be the central theme and central focus of the nations. The words which you find in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy speaks of three pilgrimages and three specific pilgrimage feasts the children of Israel were to take as they journeyed unto the place the LORD would choose, and the place the LORD would place His holy name. Of course we know and understand that the place the LORD would choose was the land of Moriah, and specifically mount Moriah in the midst of the land—a place which would coincidentally be found in the very heart of the city of Jerusalem, which was the city of the great King. Before I get into the place the LORD specifically chose for His great name and for His presence, I would like to invite you to consider the words found within the book of Deuteronomy, as well as the prophetic book of Isaiah, for it is here within these two passages of Scripture we encounter the journey of worship, as well as the journey to worship. Consider if you will the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, as well as the words which are found within the second chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah:

“Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the Passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the palace which the LORD shall choose to place His name there. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou at unleashed bread there with, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the d ay when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy l I’ve. And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thin of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning. Thou mayest not sacrifice the Passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: but at the place which LORD thy God shall choose to place His name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the Passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt. And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy t ents. Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work therein. Seven weeks thou shalt number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a free will offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place His name there. And thou shalt remember that thou was a bond man in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes. Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: and thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD shall choose: because the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty: Every man shall give as He is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which He hath given thee” (Deuteronomy 16:1-17).

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zizon shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall eat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD” (Isaiah 2:1-5).

IN THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD SHALL CHOOSE TO PLACE HIS NAME THERE! BUT AT THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD THY GOD SHALL CHOOSE TO PLACE HIS NAME IN! IN THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD THY GOD SHALL CHOOSE! IN THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD THY GOD HATH CHOSEN TO PLACE HIS NAME THERE! IN THE PLACE WHICH THE LORD SHALL CHOOSE! IN THE PLACE WHICH HE SHALL CHOOSE!

It’s important for us to recognize and pay attention to these words and phrases which are found within the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, for not only do we encounter within this passage of Scripture the three pilgrimage feasts the LORD commanded and instructed the children of Israel to participate in, but the LORD also emphatically exclaimed and declared that three times in a year the people of Israel should appear before the LORD their God in the palace which He would choose. The LORD would go on to speak and reveal that these three times within the year were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Although there were more than just these three feasts which were given unto the children of Israel by the mouth of Moses the servant of the LORD, these three feasts were the pilgrimage feasts which the Hebrew people from without the borders and coasts of Israel would arise from their place and make their way unto the house of the LORD. Initially the Tabernacle would be reared up in Shiloh and at the high place at Gibeon, and it would be there during the days of Joshua, during the days of the judges, during the days of Samuel, and even during the days of David. For a number of generations the Tabernacle of the Congregation which was given unto Moses in the wilderness would be found within Shiloh and at the high place at Gibeon until the time came when Solomon the son of David would oversee the construction and building of the Temple of the LORD which would stand in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What makes the words which are found within the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy so incredibly unique is not only the fact that the LORD spoke of those three pilgrimage feasts which the children of Israel were to participate in, but the LORD repeatedly and continually referenced and mentioned the place which He would choose, and the place which He would place His holy name. It is absolutely important that we recognize and realize this, for in addition to the LORD giving unto the children of Israel three specific feasts which they were to celebrate before Him with their gifts and their offerings, He was also speaking of and providing them a specific place where they would come in order that they might appear before the LORD. It wasn’t enough for the LORD to implement these feasts which the people of God were to celebrate, for the LORD referenced a very specific place where He would place His holy name, and a very specific place He would choose.

As you read the words found within the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy you will encounter the awesome and wonderful reality of the LORD ordaining and appointing three specific feasts which the Hebrew people were to celebrate—and not only ordaining and appointing three specific feasts they were to celebrate, but the LORD would also ordain and appoint a very specific place among them which He would choose and which He wold place His holy name. This reality is what directly and intrinsically links the words found in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy and the words in the second chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah, for within the second chapter of the book of Isaiah we learn and discover that the place the LORD would choose in the midst of His people was the city of Jerusalem. It would be the city of Jerusalem where the LORD would not only establish His name and His fame, but also where the LORD would establish His glory and His presence. The city of Jerusalem would be chosen from among the cities and towns within the borders and coasts of Israel as the place the LORD would place His name, and it would be there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem we find the mountain of the LORD—the mount where the Temple of the LORD would reside, and where the Hebrew people would come from all the coasts and borders of Israel to appear before and worship the LORD with their gifts, their sacrifices and offerings. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Last Days when the mountain of the house of the LORD would be exalted above all the hills of the earth, and all the hills of the land, and how men and women would come from all the nations of the earth to appear before the LORD and worship in His holy sanctuary. The prophet Isaiah foresaw and prophesied concerning a time when the mountain of the house of the LORD would be exalted above all the hills of the LORD, and when the nations of the earth would come unto this mountain to worship the LORD and to be taught of Him. It’s worth noting and understanding that this was generations after Solomon had built the Temple, which clearly indicates a time in the unseen future when this mountain of the LORD would be exalted above the hills of the earth.

If you want to truly get an understanding of what this journey to Jerusalem would look like, and a journey men and women would take to worship before the LORD, it’s necessary to consider the narrative of Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, and Jeroboam son of Nebat king of Israel. It would be during the days of these two kings in the early years of the divided kingdom that there would be a mass pilgrimage and mass exodus that would take place as priests, as Levites, and as all those who set their hearts to seek the LORD would leave the borders, would leave the coasts, would live the cities and towns within the northern kingdom of Israel to make their way to the land of Judah, and to the city of Jerusalem. The underlying reason and purpose for this journey was not merely because their hearts were set to seek the LORD, but also because they were fleeing from the idolatrous practices which Jeroboam son of Nebat had set up in the northern kingdom of Israel. If you read and study the narrative of Jeroboam son of Nebat you will find that not only did he set up two golden calves in the northern kingdom of Israel—one in Dan to the north, and the other in Beth-el to the south—but he would also construct a false altar of worship, and would even implement a new priesthood that would be present in the midst of the land. There would be those in the northern kingdom of Israel that would see this gross immorality and this gross idolatry in the midst of the land and sought to flee from its presence in order that they might align themselves with the throne of David and with the Temple of Solomon. ALIGNING YOURSELF WITH THE THRONE OF DAVID, ALIGNING YOURSELF WITH THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON! If you read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles you will encounter this mass exodus and this tremendous pilgrimage that would take place within the northern kingdom of Israel, as countless men and women left this land in order that they might dwell in the midst of the land of Judah and appear before the LORD in Jerusalem and worship in His holy sanctuary. Consider if you will the following words which are found within the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles:

“And in every several city he put shields and spears, and made them exceeding strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side. And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD: and he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for thee years they walked in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chronicles 11:12-17).

Within this particular section of Scripture—not only do we find the priests and the Levites leaving their suburbs and their possessions in the northern kingdom of Israel to come into the land of Judah and unto the sanctuary and Temple of the LORD, but we also find that out of all the tribes of Israel all those who set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers. It is absolutely necessary and important that we recognize and understand what is taking place here within this passage, for what we find within this passage is but a glimpse of a journey that was taken from the northern kingdom of Israel and the borders and coasts therein to come unto Jerusalem, and to come unto the sanctuary and house of the LORD to worship before the LORD. All those whose hearts were set to seek the LORD, and all those priests and Levites who were in Israel left and abandoned everything they had within its borders having been cut off and removed from executing the office of the priesthood. How absolutely tremendous it is to think about and consider the fact that there would be a mass exodus—not only of priests and Levites which would leave the northern kingdom of Israel, but also of all those whose hearts were set to seek the LORD their God. There would be a tremendous journey that would be taken by those whose hearts would not bow down before, nor would they worship in the high places Jeroboam son of Nebat had set up, nor would they worship before the golden calves which he had set up. These individuals would journey unto the southern kingdom of Judah and unto the city of Jerusalem where they would worship before the LORD in His holy sanctuary and in His courts. Oh that we would understand this, for it demonstrates and highlights the awesome and wonderful reality that the LORD did in fact choose Jerusalem out of all the cities within the borders and coasts of Israel, and He chose mount Moriah to place His holy name, and to be the place of His glory and His presence. Concerning this reality of the LORD choosing Jerusalem, and the LORD choosing both the land of Moriah, as well as mount Moriah itself, it is necessary that we journey back to the days of Abraham where we see the land of Moriah—and more specifically mount Moriah within the land of Moriah—as the place where Abraham would be tested of the LORD to offer Isaac as a sacrifice before the LORD. It would be during this encounter between Abraham, his son Isaac, and the angel of the LORD that we would first find mention of the mount of the LORD, while this reality would be further expounded upon within the Old Testament books of First and Second Chronicles. It is within these two Old Testament books where we find the LORD once more choosing the land of Moriah, and once more choosing mount Moriah as the place of His name, the place of His fame, the place of His glory, the place of His presence, and the place of His sanctuary. Consider if you will the following words which are found within the Old Testament books of Genesis, First Chronicles, and Second Chronicles:

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and a went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound. Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay n to thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they arose up and went together to Beer-sheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beer-sheba” (Genesis 22:1–19).

“And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. And David said unto God, is it n to I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ordnance was threshing wheat. And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD; thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for turnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. And King David said to Norman, nay; but I will verily but it for the full price: for I will not take that thick is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. So David gave to Ornan for the palace six hundred shekels of gold by weight. And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and He answered Him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 21:15-30).

“Then David said, This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel. And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israe; nad he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God. And David prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight; also cedar trees in abundance: for the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David. And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builder for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death” (1 Chronicles 22:1-5).

“Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the palace that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And he began to build in the seconds day of the second month, in the fourth year of his reign” (2 Chronicles 3:1-2).

“Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that He would dwell in thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever. And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David, saying, Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel: but I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel. Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. But the LORD said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, thou didst well in that it was in thine heart: notwithstanding thou shalt not build the house; but thy son which shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house for my name. The LORD therefore hath performed his word that he hath spoken: for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and am set on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built the house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD that he made with the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:1-11).

The words which are presented within these passages of Scripture not only highlight, but also underscore the absolutely wonderful reality that the LORD chose Jerusalem to be the place of the throne of the king of Israel—and not only the place of the throne of Israel, but also the place of His sanctuary, the place of His altar, the place of His courts, the place of His glory and presence. The land of Moriah—and more specifically mount Moriah itself—was chosen during the time of Abraham when Abraham built an altar of burnt offering before the LORD and would have sacrificed his one and only son Isaac upon that altar had not the angel of the LORD spoken from heaven and stayed his hand. It would be during the days of Abraham when the revelation of Jehovah-Jireh would be manifested, for Abraham would call that place by this name, thus indicating that in the mountain of the LORD shall it be provided. This revelation of the mountain of the LORD would essentially remain hidden and concealed until the days of David when Joab and his men would capture this Jebusite city, and it would become the city of David, which would also be known as Zion. The LORD would choose the city of Jerusalem to be the place of His government and authority as evidenced and manifested with the throne of David, as well as the place of His glory and presence which would be manifested within the Temple of Solomon. The land of Moriah would originally and initially be chosen by the LORD during the days and time of Abraham, and it would later be chosen during the days of David when David himself would offer burnt offerings and sacrifices upon the altar he built before the LORD in the land of Moriah, and upon mount Moriah itself. This would be highlighted in the book of Second Chronicles when the author writes how the Temple which Solomon built would be built on mount Moriah in the place where David his father built an altar and offered burnt offerings and sacrifices before and unto the LORD. This reality of the LORD choosing Jerusalem as the place of His name, as well as the journey men and women would make unto this city of the great King to appear before the LORD to appear before Him in worship would further be evidenced and manifested in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus as written by the apostle John. This New Testament gospel narrative might very well be considered a gospel centered around the pilgrimage feasts which the LORD had ordained and commanded through His servant Moses, as the feasts of the people of Israel were mentioned time and time again. What’s more, is that we even see the activity and movement of Jesus being directly impacted and affected by these Jewish feasts. It’s necessary for us to understand this, for if we are to understand the psalms of degrees and the song of degrees we must understand the journey that would be made to the city of Jerusalem, and unto the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD:

“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He. Knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

“Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast” (John 4:43-45).

“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whose er then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years” (john 5:1-5).

“After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh” (John 5:1-4).

“After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world” (John 7:1-4).

“But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much m Ur muring among the people concerning Him: for some said, he is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake only of him for fear of the Jews” (John 7:10-13).

“Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the Temple, and taught. And the Jews marveled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned” (John 7:14-15).

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).

“And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the decimation, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:22-24).

“And the Jews’ Passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before Passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the Temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him” (john 11:55-57).

“Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the t able with him” (John 12:1-2).

“ON the next days much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of p all trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the LORD” (John 12:12-13).

“And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:20-21).

“…For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that He should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:29-30).

If you read the words which are found within these passages of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will quickly encounter the fact that there was a great deal of Jesus’ ministry that was characterized by and around the Jewish feasts which were celebrated in the city of Jerusalem. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss the fact that even during the days of Jesus these pilgrimage feasts were still in motion. It’s quite remarkable to consider how the same pilgrimage feasts which were ordained and appointed during the days of Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness were still being observed during the days of Jesus. What we find within and during the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is Jews from throughout Judaea and Galilee making their way unto the city of Jerusalem and unto the Temple which stood in the midst thereof to participate in the feasts of the LORD. I can’t help but wonder what it was like as Jews from all throughout Jewry left their homes, left their possessions, left their inheritances, left their lives behind in order that they might come and appear before the living God with their gifts and offerings. The Jews within and throughout Jewry would put their lives on hold three times a year in order that they might come unto the sanctuary of the living and eternal God and worship Him with their gifts and their offerings. Pause for a moment and consider this thought, for it has the ability to shine a great deal of light on our own lives and whether or not we are willing to take time out of our lives in order that we might come and appear before the LORD in His holy sanctuary. Three times a year the Jewish people would leave everything they knew, and everything that they had in order that they might come unto the mountain of the LORD, and like Abraham bring a sacrifice which might be offered before and unto the LORD. It’s actually quite interesting to think about and consider the fact that the journey which Abraham made alone with his one and only son Isaac would be a journey his descendants and offspring would participate in within their generations. What was originally and initially simply the LORD testing Abraham in the land of Moriah and with his only begotten son Isaac whom he loved would be a pilgrimage and journey each and every one of his descendants would make during their own lives. It’s actually quite intriguing to think about the fact that Abraham would make the journey once with his son Isaac and would be spared from laying a hand on his son Isaac by the angel of the LORD, and yet when his descendants would make their way unto the same land and unto the same mountain, there would be no ram caught in the thickets.

I sit here today thinking about and considering the absolutely awesome and incredible reality that the same journey which Abraham made with his son Isaac would be a journey that would be commanded, ordained and appointed by the LORD. The LORD would ordain and appoint both fall and spring feasts with which the Jewish people were to come and appear before Him in the place which He would choose, and yet of those feasts there would be three specific which the Jewish people were to make the journey from their homes, from their inheritance, and from their place within the borders of Israel that they might appear before the LORD. Abraham would be instructed of the LORD to get himself unto the land of Moriah, and there in that land the LORD would show him a place in which he was to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering before the LORD. How truly astonishing it is to consider the fact that it would be in the same land of Moriah, and perhaps even on the same mountain where Abraham bult an altar before the LORD, and would have offered his son Isaac before the LORD as a burnt offering where his ancestors and descendants would journey to present their own sacrifices and offerings. What’s more, is that it would be there in the mountain of the LORD where the LORD provided the LORD would speak unto Abraham concerning his descendants and offspring, and how they would be multiplied within and upon the earth. Abraham was one man who would make the journey from his place in the midst of the land of Canaan unto the land of Moriah according to the command and instruction of the LORD, and by and through the mouth of Moses the servant of the LORD the children of Israel would receive their own instruction to come and appear before the LORD three times a year. What’s more, is that when the LORD spoke through Moses the servant of the LORD concerning their appearing before Him with their gifts and offerings, He spoke of them doing so in the place He would choose, and in the place where He would place His name. It’s necessary that we recognize this incredibly important reality, for this reality brings us face to face with the reality that the city of Jerusalem in the ancient land of Moriah, and upon mount Moriah the descendants and offspring of Abraham would make their own journey in order that they might present unto God the sacrifices which He desired and which He would be pleased with. What a tremendous thought it is to consider how the children of Israel would make the journey from their place and their inheritance in the land of Israel—some of them perhaps making the same journey as Abraham did from the same place—in order that they might worship the LORD their God.

What a truly incredible thought it is to think about this reality, for it is absolutely astounding to consider how Jews throughout the generations would make the journey from their inheritance and place within the land of Israel unto the place where the LORD had placed His name. We know from Scripture that this place would initially be in Shiloh, and would be the high place in Gibeon which David and Solomon both spoke about. During the time of the judges, during the time of Joshua, as well as during the days of Samuel, Saul, and David the house of the LORD would be in Shiloh and at the high place in Gibeon until that appointed time when the city of Jerusalem would be hand chosen by the LORD as the place of His holy sanctuary, and as the place of His holy name. It would be the city of Jerusalem, and it would be mount Moriah where the LORD would place His holy name, and would place His glory and His presence in the midst of Israel, as well as in the midst of the nations of the earth. The psalms we find in this particular section of Scripture would have been songs which the people of God would have sang along their way as they made their journey unto the city of God, and as they made their way unto the sanctuary and house of the living God. What’s more, is that the songs we find in this particular section of the Old Testament book of Psalms would have been songs they sang as they ascended the hill of the LORD to arrive at His holy sanctuary, and as they came unto His holy courts where the altar of burnt offering, and where the priests and Levites were. There are some who would argue that these psalms of degrees and songs of degrees would be sang after the Temple of Solomon was built, and as the people of God made their way unto Jerusalem and unto the sanctuary of the LORD. There are some that would argue that these songs and psalms of degrees weren’t sang until the days of Ezra the priest after the return of the captives from the land of exile. Regardless of when these songs were implemented and put into motion we can without a doubt agree that they were a form of worship before and unto the LORD as they made their way unto the house of the LORD in the midst of the city of the great King. As the descendants of Abraham would make their way unto the city of the great King, and as they made their way unto the sanctuary of the LORD which would stand in the midst of that city, they would enter into and engage in worship along the way. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely wonderful and beautiful it would have been to not merely have a worshipping heart upon arriving at the sanctuary of the LORD, but having a worshipping heart from the moment you left your house until the moment you arrived before the LORD in His holy sanctuary.

I absolutely love the fact that the children of Israel would have left their houses, would have left their inheritances, would have left their belongings, and would have put their lives on hold three times a year that they might worship before the LORD in His holy sanctuary, and in His holy hill. Three times a year the children of Israel would put everything on hold that they might come and appear before the LORD and worship Him in His holy sanctuary in the place where He had chosen, and in the place where He had placed His holy name. The more I think about and the more I consider this absolutely tremendous reality of the journey of worship the more I can’t help but think about the reality that the experience of worship doesn’t and shouldn’t begin when we appear before the LORD in His holy sanctuary. There is this growing tendency to think about and consider how our worship begins when we enter into the sanctuary of the LORD, and when the instruments and music begins playing, and when the worshippers begin to open their mouths and sing their songs of worship and praise before the LORD. For far too long we have been taught to believe that our worship before the LORD begins when we enter into His holy sanctuary, and yet we fail to realize and recognize the fact that for the children of Israel their worship began the minute they decided to bring their offering to the house of the LORD. The worship of the children of Israel began the minute they decided and made the choice on which lamb they would take from their flock. The moment the children of Israel made the decision which portion of their flock, or which portion of their herd, or what specifically they would bring before the LORD. It’s worth noting that not everyone could afford to bring a lamb before the LORD, and there were those who would only bring pigeons or turtledoves before the LORD. For the children of Israel their worship began with a choice and decision to make their way to the house of the LORD, and would continue when they made the decision which lamb they would take from their flock to present before the LORD. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for the worship of the child of Israel did not begin when they presented their offering at the gate of the sanctuary of he LORD and unto the priest(s) and Levite(s). For the children of Israel their worship began the moment they made the decision to leave their house and leave their inheritance to worship before the LORD their God. Their worship did not and would not begin when they appeared before the LORD with their offering in hand, but it would begin long before arriving at the sanctuary.

WORSHIP HAS ALWAYS AND MUST ALWAYS BEGIN IN THE HEART! I’M COMING BACK TO THE HEART OF WORSHIP! I’M SORRY LORD FOR THE THINGS I’VE MADE IT, WHEN IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU! IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU JESUS! As I sit here today thinking about this truly remarkable reality I can’t help but consider the fact that although the children of Israel would appear before the LORD three times a year according to the command of the LORD, they could come and appear before the LORD as often as they wanted. There were three times a year the children of Israel were commanded and required to appear before the LORD with their offerings, and yet the truth of the matter is that they could make their way to the city of Jerusalem and unto the sanctuary any time they wanted to. They did not need to wait for an invitation to worship the LORD, nor did they have to wait until it was a requirement to worship the LORD. Stop for a moment and consider this thought—the thought that the children of Israel were given three specific times within a year when they were to appear before the LORD, yet those didn’t have to be the only times during the year they appeared before the LORD. I fear that far too often we have treated worship as an obligation and as a requirement, and have completely and utterly missed the point that worship truly does in fact begin within the heart. Worship is not so much about a place as much as it about the heart within a man or woman who has the desire to appear before the LORD with their offering and their gift. The LORD did in fact choose a place where He would place His name, and that would be a place where His people would come and appear before Him, and where people from other nations would come and appear before the LORD, and yet the truth of the matter is that worship never truly began at the sanctuary of the living God in the place He chose, but in the home of that man, that woman, and/or that family within the land of Israel. Worship would in fact take place at the house of the LORD and in His holy sanctuary, and yet it is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize that worship began within the individual home that man or woman who desired to appear before the LORD, and even more than this—within the heart of that man or that woman who sought to appear before the LORD in worship. Worship would in fact take place in the house and sanctuary of the LORD, and yet worship would begin much sooner than that. Worship would reach its apex and its climax at the house of the LORD and in His holy sanctuary, and yet it would begin long before the offering was presented to the priest, and long before it would be presented to the priest and the Levite.

WORSHIP BEGINS WITHIN THE HEART! WORSHIP BEGINS WITHIN THE HOME! The more we think about this reality of worship the more we must think about and understand that worship isn’t solely about the sanctuary of the LORD, nor is worship about the house of the LORD in a specific place. This reality has been highlighted and underscored even during recent months during the Coronavirus pandemic which has forced houses of worship to close their doors and to remain unopen to the people of God to worship before Him. The truth of the matter is that if worship was solely about one specific place, and if worship was so much about worshipping in one central location than what we have witnessed and experienced over the past four months has been countless men and women who haven’t been able to worship because they have allowed themselves to be confined to a physical building and a physical sanctuary. There is a part of me that absolutely believes that there are those among us during this time who have been anxious to get back in the sanctuary and anxious to get back into the house of the LORD because we have not learned, nor do we know how to worship the LORD in the home—much less within the heart. Perhaps the question that must be asked at this particular moment is whether or not you truly know how to worship the LORD within your own home. More importantly, we must ask whether or not we know how to worship the LORD within our hearts. It is absolutely critical that we understand how worship does not being solely and simply in the house and sanctuary of the LORD, but worship begins within our own home—and even more than this it begins within our heart. The children of Israel were instructed to worship before the LORD in that place where He would choose, and that place where He would place His name, and yet the underlying and dominating theme is that worship began within their heart and soul the minute they made the decision to take from their herd, and take from their flock that they might bring it before and bring it unto the LORD as an offering. It is true that there were three specific feasts which were known as pilgrimage feasts for the children of Israel, and the people of God were required to appear before the LORD at these specific times, and yet the children of Israel did not have to wait until those appointed times to appear before the LORD, and even to worship before the LORD. The children of Israel could make their journey from their place within the borders and boundaries of Israel any time they wanted throughout the year, and they could come unto the Temple and sanctuary of the LORD and worship before Him.

YOU CAN WORSHIP THE LORD ANYTIME YOU WANT! WORSHIP BEGINS WITHIN YOUR HOME! WORSHIP BEGINS WITHIN YOUR HEART! The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not worship is something we do out of obligation and responsibility, or something we do out of joy and something we do out of delight and passion. Is worship for us something which is a true delight, desire and passion of our heart, or is worship something is obligatory, and something we feel we have to do. I love these “psalms of degrees,” and these “songs of degrees,” for what we find within these psalms is not only worship beginning with the heart as that man or that woman made the decision to bring of their flock and/or of their herd to worship the LORD, and worship not only beginning within the home, but we also find worship continuing along the way as that man and/or that woman made their way to the sanctuary and Temple of the LORD to worship before Him with their sacrifice. Oh it is true they might have an outward manifestation of their worship with the lamb, the ram, the goat, the pigeon, the turtledove and/or anything else they would bring with them, and yet there would be a different expression of worship that would accompany the offering. What we find within these psalms is a different expression of worship—one that would accompany the physical gift and the physical offering which that man or woman would bring before the LORD. The children of Israel would indeed and would in fact bring their gifts and their offerings with them as they made their way unto the sanctuary and house of the LORD, and yet through the psalms of degrees we find certain psalms and songs which the children of Israel would sing before and unto the LORD as they would make their way from their home(s) unto the sanctuary and house of the LORD. Through the psalms we learn that there were certain and specific songs and psalms which were sung by the children of Israel as they made their way unto the sanctuary and house of the LORD, and these songs would be additional offerings of worship before and unto the LORD. Oh that we would recognize and understand this, for it brings us face to face with the fact that worship would indeed be that gift and that offering the children of Israel would bring with them unto the sanctuary of the LORD, and yet there would be something else that would accompany the offering they would bring—namely, the worship of their heart and soul as they would sing unto the LORD.

As I bring this writing to a close I feel compelled to draw and call your attention to the tremendous fact that it was even possible that the children of Israel began singing these psalms even before they left their home—perhaps even within their hearts while they were still within their homes. OH how absolutely remarkable and astounding it is to think about and consider the fact that worship wasn’t simply something that was manifested at the sanctuary and house of the LORD with the presentation of a gift and/or offering, but worship began and was manifested long before the journey ever began. Oh the question I can’t help but ask is what might worship in the sanctuary and house of the LORD look like if we didn’t wait until we arrived at the house to worship the LORD. What would corporate worship look like if we didn’t wait until we got to the house of the LORD, nor even waited for others to lead us into worship for us to worship the LORD? What if we began worshipping the LORD even before we left our houses, and truly began worshipping the LORD within our hearts and spirits? What would it look like if the worship we offer in the sanctuary and house of the LORD is but an extension and manifestation of worship which began within our hearts and homes right where we are? If there is one thing these past four months has revealed, it’s that worship must needs begin within our homes, and worship must needs begin within our hearts. Worship must be more than simply that which we offer the LORD in His holy sanctuary, and more than what we offer the LORD upon His altar. Worship must be more than simply something that is done out of responsibility and obligation, but must be something that is done out of delight, joy and pleasure. Oh that we would take great delight and great joy in worshipping the LORD within our hearts within our homes, and that we would not wait to be brought into that place of worship by another. Oh that we would be worshippers who are able to worship within our homes as we sing melodies before the LORD and within our hearts just as much as we sing melodies unto the LORD in His holy sanctuary, and in His holy presence. We can and must learn and discern the fact that we can worship the living and eternal God within our hearts and homes, and that more often than not that might very well be the truest expression of our worship before the LORD. It is very easy to worship the LORD in the sanctuary and in the house when we are gathered together with others, but the truest form and the truest expression of worship is oftentimes found within our hearts and within our homes. Oh that we would be a people that would learn how to worship the LORD in spirit and in truth right where we are and within our homes without needing to be in the sanctuary and house of the LORD to do so.

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