The Psalms, Tr. and Interpreted in the Light of Hebrew Life and Worship

By Elmer A. Leslie | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
PSALM LITURGIES

LITURGY IN ITS ORIGINAL GREEK FORM MEANT PUBLIC SERVICE IN GENERAL, AND later public worship in particular. However, the term has come to suggest particularly those forms of public worship wherein there is an interchange of speakers or singers. This chapter is by no means exhaustive of the liturgical expression in the Psalter. Some psalms which were rendered liturgically may best be dealt with from the angle of their predominant thought content. But there are four types of liturgical rendition which are here interpreted: (1) liturgies of entrance, (2) liturgies of praise and thanksgiving, (3) prophetic liturgies, and (4) liturgies of supplication.


1. LITURGIES OF ENTRANCE

The liturgies of entrance have to do with the moment when the worshipers are entering the holy place. Ps. 15 is a torah (law) liturgy, which gives ten requirements, somewhat in the form of laws, which are obligatory upon the genuine worshiper of God. Such a psalm has real effectiveness as a dramatic device for religious instruction. Ps. 24 is similar to this in its central part (vss. 3-6), although its "laws" penetrate through conduct to the underlying motives. But the most distinctive thing in it is the ceremony wherein the ark of the Lord enters the sanctuary as a feature of the Hebrew New Year celebration. The question as to who should enter as worshiper, a query universally present when worship has become self-conscious, here changes to who may enter to be worshiped, an inquiry that arrestingly focuses attention upon God. Ps. 100 has in common with Ps. 24 (vss. 7-10) an emphasis upon the Temple gates. The gateway to the Temple introduces the worshiper in ancient Israel to that numinous world where in unique reality he makes contact with the presence of the living God.


Ps. 15. WHO CAN DWELL IN GOD'S HOLY HILL?

This psalm is a Temple liturgy which was used at the moment when a company of pilgrims was on the point of entering the holy place. "Tent" stands for the Temple. The term itself is a precious reminiscence reaching back to the days before Solomon. The "holy hill" is the Temple mount.

One of the most penetrating of biblical questions, next in importance to the question as to the nature of God, is, What does God require of His worshipers? The prophets raised it and answered it. For instance, Micah represented the worshiper as asking it:

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