Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Geoffrey R. Kirkland l Associate Pastor CCC

Book Review of:

Ross, Allen P. Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006).

Without the life of the worshipper, the act of worship is

worthless” (337). This pithy statement aptly summarizes the

phenomenal work by Ross on biblical worship. I found myself

reading this book with a pen in hand, underlining in almost every paragraph, and even blogging numerous quotes from the book. In all, this may well be one of the best books I’ve read on a biblical theology of worship. In this brief review, I will note a brief summary of the book, give a few points which struck me afresh, and then raise a question or two which Ross raised in my mind.

The subtitle of Ross’s work is biblical worship from the garden to the new creation and this is precisely what Ross accomplishes. He traces the theme of biblical worship from creation in the Garden of Eden to perfect worship in glory face to face with God Himself. Within this tome, Ross incorporated chapters on who God is—his holiness, his transcendence, and his glory—which instilled in my mind the greatness and the power of the God that I worship. Furthermore, part 3 of this book summarized the development of worship in the ANE pagan world. It talked about pagan religions, religious systems, and various forms of worship among those religions.

Perhaps one of the best things about Ross’s work was the scholastic emphasis in the book—it was heavily researched and footnoted—yet worded and compiled in such a way that the newest Christian could understand. It took large topics such as the Tabernacle, its worship, its furnishings and summarized the meaning of it all in a matter of a few pages. This was extremely helpful in my understanding. Also, Ross talked about historical information such as the rise of synagogue worship, early churches, early religious sects (e.g. Pharisees, Sadducees, etc) which only enhanced my understanding of the biblical text.

As far as some points which struck me afresh I will only note a few. First, chapter 11 on the sacrifices in Leviticus clarified much for me in my understanding of what the sacrifices were all about and how they each played a crucial part in the worship life of the Israelite worshipper. Ross has a way of succinctly summarizing the offerings and bringing them to life in the mind of the reader. Second, at the end of nearly every section, Ross transitioned from the historical, cultural, geographical, sacrificial discussion to delineate a few applications. I found these applications to be very helpful and even insightful as I preach from the Old Testament and finding these application principles from ancient Israel. Third, the whole section on the use of the Psalms in the worship of Israel was helpful in my understanding of how some of the psalms specifically fit into the corporate worship of Israel. Fourth and finally, his final section on “basic principles for more glorious worship” was a superb summary of the book and also a practical guide for allowing worship to be more lofty and transcendent as I lead our church week by week in the music part of worship. If there is one principle Ross imprinted on my heart it is that worship is a response to the holiness, transcendence, and glory of God displayed in the life-commitment of the worshipper to love, serve, obey, and magnify God with all of life.

Perhaps the only question raised in my mind from Ross’s work was how to practically flesh some of these excellent principles out in week to week worship gatherings. Though the last chapter delineated some practical principles, for me, at least, it would have been useful to hear some of his thoughts as to the implementation of it in local congregational gatherings. Granted, the focus of the book was not so much the practical outworkings of worship as to giving a biblical theology of worship—which is precisely what he accomplished.

I have already shared some quotes with friends, family, the “blogosphere,” and will recommend that our Elder Board read through this book together after we finish our current study. I think Ross aids the Christian by giving such a lofty view of God and the absolute life-commitment of obedience that the worshipper must give to this Holy God in worship. I’ll conclude with one quote which impacted me greatly:

“The heart of the believer should race with anticipation for that day in

glory when praise and worship will be so magnificent. But until then, we may draw inspiration from these visions of the hope of glory as the Holy Spirit continually draws us into the presence of God. Among other things we learn that praise for our God and Savior will be, and must now be, boundless, endless, universal, majestic, and devout. True apprehension of the glory of the LORD is now and always will be overwhelming—devout worshippers fall before him in wonder and surrender” (487).

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