1 Chronicles 16:29

‘Worship Yahweh in holy array.’
(1 Chronicles 16:29)

This phrase comes from a psalm that was sung when the Israelites brought the ark of the Lord into ‘Jerusalem’(1 Chronicles 15:3) for the first time, to ‘set it in… the tent that David had pitched for it’(1 Chronicles 16:1ff.). So it’s from an awesome and momentous occasion. Later, after carrying the same ark into Solomon’s temple, which replaced David’s tent, the atmosphere became ‘filled’(2 Chronicles 5:14) with the very glory of God, even in the form of a visible ‘cloud’(2 Chronicles 5:13). That’s the sort of scene and atmosphere we’re to have in mind as we contemplate this phrase.

We might not see God as a physical cloud today, but we can consider what seeing ‘Yahweh in holy array’ means, and find ourselves responding with ‘Worship’.

God’s holiness is almost impossible to describe. It involves pure moral beauty, yet charged with ultimate power – perfect splendour, with God as its very definition. When Ezekiel wrote about his ‘visions of God’(Ezekiel 1:1ff.) he concluded with: ‘This was the appearance of the likeness of Yahweh’s glory. When I saw it, I fell on my face’(Ezekiel 1:28), no doubt in awestruck wonder, with a healthy dose of holy fear. That’s appropriate, because God’s holiness includes being set apart from any hint of darkness or sin, so rightly we tremble in His presence, like Isaiah, who under similar circumstances to Ezekiel cried ‘“Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips… my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh”’(Isaiah 6:5).

We can see something of God’s holiness expressed through the Old Testament law, described as ‘perfect… sure…right… pure… clean… true, and righteous… more to be desired than gold… than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey’(Psalm 19:7-10). However, we can find this more tangibly expressed for us through the life of Jesus, who in perfect obedience to His Father was ‘holy, guiltless, undefiled’(Hebrews 7:26) and without ‘sin’(1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15), in fact the very ‘image of the invisible God’(Colossians 1:15). Jesus was God in the ‘flesh… His glory… of the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1:14, cf. v1). As Jesus Himself explained, anyone ‘“who has seen me has seen the Father”’(John 14:9), and anyone ‘“who sees me sees Him who sent me. I have come as a light into the world”’(John 12:45-46) – partly so that we can see the beauty of holiness more clearly. Moreover, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy ‘“Spirit”’(John 15:26), now enables all New Testament believers to see ‘the glory of God in the face of… Christ’(2 Corinthians 4:6), revealed to us through scripture; Jesus, the perfect expression of the ‘perfect law of freedom’(James 1:25, cf. Romans 6:6ff.), the ‘law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’(Romans 8:2ff.).

Alongside being able to see and worship the beauty of this, the Holy Spirit also enables us to live it out, which then becomes a form of worship in itself – perhaps the most important kind. We can become a living, walking, holy ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’(1 Corinthians 6:19), and like a ‘living [temple] sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God’(Romans 12:1).

We are, of course, declared holy, acceptable and beautiful in God’s sight through being ‘washed… from our sins by His blood’(Revelation 1:5), as we’re ‘cleansed… by… the word’(Ephesians 5:26ff.) heard and applied through ‘the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit’(Titus 3:5). However, this includes being clothed with ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’(Romans 13:14) as well, not just in the sense of being ‘“arrayed in… white robes… washed… in the Lamb’s blood”’(Revelation 7:13-14), but also putting ‘on… as God’s… holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance’(Colossians 3:12) etc., to honour Him – things like the ‘adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God’(1 Peter 3:4), tailored by His ‘Spirit’(Galatians 5:22ff.) from within.

Nevertheless, we’ll worship through ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’(Colossians 3:16) as well, often in man-made buildings whilst still in this world, until one day we join with the ‘song’(Revelation 5:9ff.) of angels, worshipping before the heavenly ‘throne’(Revelation 4:2ff.), surrounded by ‘lightning… sounds, and thunders’(Revelation 4:5), illuminated by the very ‘glory of God’(Revelation 21:11ff.)! We must always worship with the appropriate reverent awe displayed in those passages, but as scripture shows, this might include ‘the trumpet… harp and lyre… tambourine and dancing… stringed instruments… flute… resounding cymbals’(Psalm 150:3-5, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:4-6), etc., and perhaps even a ‘Shout’(Psalm 100:1ff.) – all consistent with such God-ordained heavenly holy atmospheres, in which we’re called worship the Lord ‘“in spirit and truth”’(John 4:24).

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