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Posted August 30, 2005

Book: Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide
Author: Walter Brueggemann
Abingdon Press, Nashville, pp. 104

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In an engaging style, characteristic of Walter Brueggemann, this Essential Guide describes the leading motifs of ancient Israel’s worship traditions in the Old Testament. The author guides the reader through the themes, central texts, prayers, festivals, and practices of that worship. He sees throughout the Old Testament a central emphasis on worship as a convenantal gesture and utterance by the community in the presence of God. In addition to being an essential guide to this subject, this book is intended to be in the service of current theological and practical issues concerning worship of the church in its ecumenical character.

An Excerpt from the Book:

These oracles of assurance that set new life in motion occur everywhere in Israel’s narrative life. But it is clear that the sixth century exile is the paradigmatic “depth” of Israel’s life, and therefore the context that evokes the greatest cluster of divine oracles of assurance. The quintessential example of petition heard and answered is in Lamentations 3:55-57

I called on your name, O Lord,
From the depths of the pit;
You heard my pleas, “Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief!”
You came near, when I called on you; you said, “Do not fear!”

The climatic divine utterance “Do not fear” is situation-transforming. This assurance on the lips of YHWH is an attestation that Israel is not alone in its displacement, not abandoned, and therefore not hopeless. The declaration of divine attentiveness to Israel in “the depth of the pit” is sufficient ground for Israel to take hopeful action and to resituate itself in the buoyancy of that covenantal relationship that persists even in displacement.

The same exilic venue for divine assurance is evident in the tradition of Jeremiah:
But as for you, have no fear my servant Jacob, says the Lord,
And do not be dismayed, O Israel;
For I am going to save you from far away,
And your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
And no one shall make him afraid.
For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you;

I will make an end of all the nations
Among which I scattered you,
But of you I will not make an end (Jer. 30:10-11a)

Table of Contents:

Orthodox Yahwism in Dialogic modes

The gestures of worship and sacrifice

The utterance of YHWH in worship

The utterance of Israel in worship

Worship: Israel at “Play”