The objectivity of worship
One of the great benefits of understanding worship as a covenant renewal is that it highlights for us that worship is a public, objective and corporate event, not just a private, subjective and personal experience. So:
- Jesus, the greater Ahashuerus, publicly and objectively extends an invitation for us to stand before him
- Jesus hears our confession of sin, and publicly and objectively lifts up our faces and assures us that we stand secure before him
- Jesus publicly and objectively receives and accepts our worship and gifts, then speaks a public and objective word of encouragement and exhortation to us through his word and his servant-ministers (Jesus’s objectively speaking through the latter is implied not least by Ephesians 2:17)
- Jesus publicly and objectively shares a meal with us at his table, freshly marking out our fellowship and union with him
- Jesus publicly and objectively re-commissions us as his representatives and ambassadors to the world
This has implications for how we speak about worship. When we say we are “entering into” worship, we are using Biblical language; for example, Psalm 100 speaks of entering God’s gates and courts. But what we are speaking of is not exclusively an internal frame of mind that tunes out all the noise and focuses on Jesus. Rather, we are publicly gathering together with God’s people to stand before him. Entering into worship includes entering into an “external” frame of mind that takes in everything around us and sees with eyes of faith just what this great assembly is that we are privileged to participate in. We have come to Mount Zion . . . and to God . . . and to Jesus (Heb. 12:22ff)! He is actually among us (Matthew 18:20). We have come into his presence objectively; we don’t have to close our eyes and go there in our minds.
This also is a powerful reassurance to those who are experiencing a dark night of the soul, who are in a dry season in which they feel that God is distant or silent. Worship is not the only occasion where God speaks to us, but he is always, publicly and objectively, near to us in corporate worship and speaking to us in corporate worship.
God is not silent.