The three major Jewish feasts are associated with three annual harvests; historically each involved the return of a portion of the harvest to the Lord. These offerings symbolized the reasons for the feast itself: God is the source of the fruits of the earth; God’s gifts of produce are for the sustenance and comfort of the people; and because God gives freely, the worshipers must do the same, sharing their benefits with the needy.
A feast celebrates the positive character of existence. In the face of evil and pain, feasts proclaim the goodness of creation and the freedom to enjoy the world because God made it.
Recent studies of the history of Israel’s religion have demonstrated convincingly that the formative events of Israel’s faith were dramatically acted out in worship. In fact, some of the Old Testament narratives have reached their present form as a result of the historicizing of cultic dramatic re-presentation.
The recitation of the history of Yahweh’s redemptive acts forms the basis for creed, liturgy, and preaching in the Old Testament. The Christian church took up the format of historical recital in its hymnic and creedal affirmation of God’s actions in Christ.
Although holiness belongs to God, it may be imparted to objects, or even to people, which become the bearers of the holy.
The awesome experience of God cannot be reduced to scientific or even to conceptual language; it can only be suggested by word pictures. In Scripture the imagery of light, fire, earthquake, and storm are often associated with the manifestation of the holy. These are characteristic biblical features of divine “theophanies,” or appearances of God.
The worshiper encounters God as the Holy One, who is beyond rational comprehension. There is a quality to this encounter that transcends revelation in terms of language, symbols, or concepts.
When the Lord God is encountered in glory and majesty—high, holy, and lifted up—the worshiper is filled with a sense of awe and experiences an abandonment of self in the divine presence.
Central to biblical worship is the covenant or agreement between God and the people of God. The covenant regulates worship and provides much of its structure, rationale, and vocabulary.