Worship Songs. We have the Oldies: “Celebrate Jesus, Celebrate,” “Enemy’s Camp,” and “Going Up To the High Places.” We have the Newbies: “How He Loves Me,” “Your Love Never Fails,” and “Oceans.” We meet God, enjoined together in a beautiful display of corporate worship, all to the glory of God. Yet, being honest with ourselves and others, what are these songs really saying? How often do we sit down to think about the words that are coming out of our mouths and being offered up to God?
In For the Glory of God Daniel Block gives us a biblical theology of worship. He doesn’t claim this as the be-all-end-all of books on worship. Block, wanting to do justice to the Scripture, looks at the entire Bible for his conclusions as “the First [the Old] Testament is three times the length of the New Testament and probably contains a hundred times more information on worship…” (4).
The problem with driving a “wedge” between the two Testaments is that “we dismiss the only Bible that Jesus and the New Testament authors had as irrelevant and lacking authority for us, and we sweep away significant continuities between the faith of ancient Israel and the early church” (5).
For the Glory of God is written with the fundamental principles (which I’ve summarized from page 6).
- Let all Scripture contribute to the recovery of a biblical theology of worship.
- Worship is for the glory of God and should conform to His will.
- “…the Scriptures serve as the primary source for developing a theology of worship and establishing forms of worship that please God” (6), taking precedence over, say, singing songs that “make” us “feel good.”
The Chocolate Milk
Unlike some books on biblical worship, Block doesn’t hold the narrow view that only music = worship. Rather, all of life consists of worship to God. These are biblical theologies of worship in all of our life. It is very mundane. It is what is normally done on earth.
Block starts by giving us a biblical understanding of worship involving the human response to a gracious Creator and Redeemer (chapter 1). Who is this God (Father and Son) who we worship (2), and who are we to be as worshipers (3)? Worship is not a one-day-out-of-the-week event, but constitutes our daily life (4). Our daily life of worship includes: family life and work (5), the ordinances [i.e., baptism and the Lord’s supper] (6), hearing/proclaiming the Scriptures (7), prayer (8), music (9), sacrifice and offerings (10).
Block looks at the drama of worship (11) where we enter into the presence of God and celebrate, relive, and actualize his grace in our life. The design and theology of sacred space (12): in the Bible there has always been a ‘space’ where worshipping God was located: the Garden of Eden, the tabernacle, the temple, Jesus, and now with the church. Finally chapter 13 is on leaders and the roles they fulfill in worship.
Besides chapters 1 and 5, every chapter starts with a deep look into the life of the OT worshiper. If someone is going to go through the Old Testament, I’m glad it’s D.I. Block, a top pick for OT exegesis. Block’s look includes many details on the OT worshiper’s lifestyle, the culture, and the Law and is packed with cross references. This book will keep you marking your Bible for quite a while, especially if you have a good grasp on Hebrew.
After looking at the OT, Block moves to the New and shows how the heart of OT worship continues into the NT. As is to be expected, he ends with application for the reader today. I thought his application sections were (usually) genius as his focus was on remembering what God has done for us throughout the week. We are to rejoice and give praise to him every day, as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, employers, employees, pastors, teachers, and we are to teach and include and join with others in right worship to him.
Block is both sincere and a hard-hitter. Sometimes he gives his thoughtful opinion only to encourage discussion between view points to see what can be changed for the better of the church body.
Yet, refreshingly, Block doesn’t hold back. Whether it be that church worship is not a ‘come-as-you-are’ and worship God event, as God will not accept the false worship of unbelievers (though Block doesn’t resolve the tension between the unsaved and worship in the church), or “whether through dress or public demeanor, drawing attention to those leading worship borders on idolatry” (p 360). There are more that could be mentioned, probably better examples too, but Block is serious about sticking to the word of God. He wants us to glorify God, not ourselves.
The Spoiled Milk
I didn’t always agree with how Block connects the two Testaments. He says we should assume that “unless the New Testament expressly declares First Testament notions obsolete, they continue” (7). He says the NT is silent on many matters (i.e., creation, certain ethical issues, and principles of worship). When the NT is silent, we look back at what the OT has to say. I don’t think it’s really that easy. Now that the Law is fulfilled in Christ, we read the OT differently. The NT gives us Christ as the lens to view the entire Bible through, and we seek to work out the rest.
One such example is how Block handles the Sabbath in chapter 11. Block says we should still keep the Sabbath and that Colossians 2.16 doesn’t refer to “the Sabbath” but to “‘holy days’ other than the seventh-day Sabbath” (279). Yet verse 17 says, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” While he looks to the Gospels, he neglects to look at Matthew 11.28 where Jesus will give his people rest. I understand the Sabbath extends back to creation, but Hebrews 4 (in agreement with Matt 11.28) says we have this rest in Christ. Block disagrees that this text annuls keeping the Sabbath. Some will agree. Others won’t. Thankfully, this isn’t a big issue, and one should not find themselves in complete disagreement with Block.
Highly. This review is a long time coming, and I’m glad to finally have it up. This has helped to change and rectify my view of worship. I, and all Christians, should be seeking how to truly worship God according to His will. We want to be as Paul in 2 Cor 5.9, always aiming to be pleasing to God, in all that we do. Worship is not a 30 minute song list with the lights dimmed as we raise our hands to God during the chorus-peak. But an all day, every day affair. I warn you, this book is dense, and the layman may not have the patience. But it is a very good look at what the Bible, not man, says about worship.
[Special thanks to Trinity at Baker Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]