The Psalms and Their Meaning for Today

By Samuel Terrien | Go to book overview
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3 WORSHIP OF THE LORD OF ZION

INASMUCH as the Psalter was originally the hymnal of the Second Temple (about 516 B.C.-A.D. 70), all the hymns and prayers which it contains were used for worship at the sanctuary of Jerusalem. Nevertheless a few psalms were more explicitly concerned with the significance of ceremonial adoration and they may therefore be grouped together as "Hymns of Zion."

It would be a grave error--sometimes committed by Christian interpreters, especially of a nonliturgical Protestant tradition--to consider the Temple esplanade merely as a place for the slaughter of rams and bullocks, or to view the Temple services as little more than theatrical performances. Such an attitude betrays a misapprehension of the true spirit of drama as well as a lack of understanding of the relation between faith and ritual.

The love of the psalmists for Zion reveals something more than a sentimental attachment to religious pageantry. Behind the symbolism of sacerdotal garb and ornament, above the solemnity of procession, posture, and act, beyond the aesthetic impressiveness of orchestral and choral music, the people perceived and received the sacrament of the real presence of God.

Assembled in the Temple for worship, priests, musicians, and congregation realized an experience of covenantal oneness in two dimensions: they were knit together as a sociological whole, and they felt the awesome nearness of the maker of heaven and earth who, in his gracious condescension, consented to tabernacle in the holy of holies.

The ancient Hebrews sensed the truth which has been recently

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