King Josiah had a mess to clean up. Over the years, his kingly predecessors and the priestly predecessors had put a lot of stuff that didn’t belong in the temple. A lot of it was worship pieces for worshipping gods instead of worshipping God.
If you really want to be overwhelmed, number the items, and then realize that the list was summarized (e.g., all the high places from Geba to Beer-sheba). It is not an exhaustive list! There was more that didn’t get listed! How far the people had fallen!
King Josiah went so far as to desecrate graves so as to totally desecrate all the high places dedicated to other gods. Yet, the underlying story is how the religious leaders had added thing after thing to the temple, and the things they added had nothing to do with worshipping God. All the additions were to worship anything other than God.
It might seem odd to go from this cleansing to a simple statement about proper priestly behavior in the post-exile temple (our passage in Ezekiel). However, there is something that needs to be addressed. Often, in our zeal (much of this inherited by Puritan thinking) to have a “pure” temple, we “cleanse” things because of their association with what we think is contaminated worship.
Take the clothing of the priests mentioned in Ezekiel. The priests are supposed to wear special clothes that are only to be used during their priestly duties in the temple. If you didn’t catch this, in modern terms, that is seen in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, some Anglican/Episcopal, some Lutheran, and some Presbyterian churches. The priests/pastors in these traditions will often wear special clothes that are only worn in the church. They don’t, for example, wear them to the supermarket.
Yet, we American “Evangelicals” have inherited a Puritan thought process that opposes such clothing, because the Roman Catholics and Anglicans (the Puritan primary opposition) wore them.
We have two opposite mindsets presented here, which is something we as Christians and as a church need to think through, not just accept everybody else’s thoughts. “Right” worship has been a long-term issue in the church, from written to extemporaneous prayer, no music to A Capella to hymns to contemporary music. It is good and reasonable to ponder what “right” worship looks like. We just have to be careful that we don’t throw out (or bring in) good and/or biblical just because. And we have to be careful not to condemn practices that others do just because.
1) Where do you think you see non-God honoring practices entering worship? What makes it not God-honoring? Is your stance Biblical (find it) or is it cultural?
2) Where do think more God-honoring practices could be introduced? Why do you think they are not being done? How do they build up the body of believers?
3) Will adding prescribed and described practices in the Bible necessarily help worship? How do you balance so-called Biblical practices with cultural practices? Are you able to perceive the difference?