(2 Chronicles 20:21–22) And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
It’s frightening to realize how increasingly our present society resembles the peoples judged by God in the Old Testament. Our manic preoccupations with wealth, military might, sexual immorality and our disdain for innocent life easily put us in the company of ancient Moab, Amon and Philistia. So, what are we to do?
According to the Bible we are changed every time we gather around Word and Sacrament to worship the LORD. God’s Word, read, sung and preached sanctifies us by convicting us, correcting us, training and rearranging us. Taking the bread and cup together heals us and strengthens our bond with Christ and with one another. Though ordinary, these are the humble means that God has appointed to complete the good work that He has begun in us.
But there is a very dangerous temptation to think that the effects or our worship are confined to the space within the four walls of the place wherein we meet; there is a very harmful temptation to not believe that God is subduing the forces of darkness up and down this valley (and beyond) as we fulfill our calling as New Covenant priests ministering in the house of God (1 Pet. 2:5,9).
As someone sagely noted: Worship is warfare. Ministry is picking up the spoils.
A few examples will suffice to demonstrate this:
Recall how Jericho fell to Joshua and his army. Not by military might or shrewd tactics. But with the faithful shouts of God’s people and the trumpet blasts of the priests on the seventh day (the seventh day being the day of worship for God’s people in the Old Covenant.)
Recall how King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20, sent the Levitical choir out ahead of his army singing (of all things) praises to the LORD for the everlasting nature of His love and mercy. And skillfully singing the LORD’s praises that day, the LORD himself fought for His own, and secured a great victory over their enemies.
But perhaps more pertinent to our own time is the relationship between Abraham’s trek, and later Jacob’s trek, through the promised land, and Joshua’s conquering of the same territory hundreds of years later. This is the first and most revealing illustration of the way that God uses worship to conquer and subdue His enemies.According to the Genesis account, as they moved around the land that God had promised to them and their descendants, Abraham (and Jacob, two generations later) repeatedly built altars; wherever they went, they constructed centers of worship. But here is something that you might have missed:
Over 500 years later, when Joshua lead the children of Israel into the promised land, conquering as he went, he did so following a route that closely resembled the previous expeditions of Abraham and Jacob.
In other words (as Peter Leithart and others have noted) the worship of Abraham and Jacob was in effect a "pre-conquest" of the land. Once the land was consecrated to the Lord by worship, it could eventually be conquered and purged of its idolatry and wickedness. It would take centuries, but the Lord would, and did indeed establish His house, His people, His throne and His worship in the land.
If God is kind, we see with our own eyes His work in our midst as He conforms us individually and corporately to the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus. But it is only with the eye of faith that we will be able to see the effects of our worship in this valley a hundred, two hundred, or maybe even a thousand years hence. So, royal priests of the God most high, roll up your sleeves, and ready yourself for battle.