The Torah's Vision of Worship

By Samuel E. Balentine | Go to book overview

4.

CREATION'S LITURGY
AND THE COSMIC COVENANT

THE TORAH'S VISION BEGINS WITH A PICTURE OF GOD, THE WORLD, AND humankind that derives from a time before there was an Adam and Eve or an Israel, before there were earthly kingdoms ruled by Canaanites, Babylonians, or Persians. It is a vision of a world in which every object and every person exists in happy accord with God's grand creational design. When the exigencies of history and the frailties of human nature distort this design and threaten to nullify its importance, the Torah's vision will continue to beckon towards possibilities that transcend those limitations and failures. Whether at Sinai or in the plains of Moab, in Jerusalem or in Yehud, the people defined by this vision are to know that the world God created remains possible and attainable.

The Torah's vision begins with the liturgy of creation. In Genesis 1–2 this liturgy proclaims that the world God brings into being is an orderly world, created and shaped by God's purposive design, a ritual world in which the liturgy of creation might be sustained (Gen. 1:1–2:4a), and a relational world in which God invites humankind to share responsibility for the maintenance, development, and restoration of God's purposive designs for the universe (Gen. 2:4b-25). In the liturgy of Genesis 1–2, the crucial intersection between the ordered world qua ritual world and the relational world is the seventh day (Gen. 2:1–3). Foundational for the precept of the sabbath, this day marks the merging of God's creative design in the heavens and God's creative hopes for humankind on earth. It is the day on which the work of “the heavens and the earth… and all their multitude” (Gen. 2:1) receives God's blessing.

The liturgy of creation, then, is the summons to celebrate and participate in the ordered, ritual, and relational world that God calls into existence. But it is also the proclamation that the world of God's design and hopes is a fragile world, open to the best and the worst that the human partner brings to God's designs. In Genesis 6–9 the Torah's vision acknowledges

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