Worship is an interesting aspect to the Lord’s Day. Often in modern evangelicalism worship is seen as entertainment, “Those songs really moved me” someone might say, or, “I wasn’t fed by the praise band this morning, it just wasn’t doing it for me.” Which is really another way of saying, “I did not get a personal emotional high,” which has a strong aftertaste of idolatry. Your sense of preferential emotional efficacy is not as important as properly giving praise to the Lord of heaven and earth.
My point is that God uses proper worship to change the world, and by “change the world,” I mean that God gives the world to the church. The negative side to this thesis is that poor worship is idolatry, but I will focus on the positive side.
Let me explain from them Scriptures a bit. Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of their improper worship, their idolatrous worship in Exodus 32. And due to this wilderness wandering of disobedience, a new generation had arisen to enter into the Promise Land. This is where the book of Joshua begins. This is where we see proper worship changing the world, that is, giving the world to the church. Let’s take a look.
The taking of the first city in Canaan, Jericho, was done by worshiping Yahweh in faithfulness (and by faithfulness I mean obedience). Before the taking of the city, Joshua prepares Israel for worship, which is warfare. Joshua calls Israel to “sanctify themselves” and he calls the priests to present the ark of the covenant before the people (3:5-6). Israel is preparing to worship God by preparing their hearts. Then Joshua calls all of Israel to hear the words of Yahweh which are the promises of an already/not yet future (3:9-10). Israel is to go in and take over the land because God has already given it to them. Then the new generation of Israel is baptized by passing through the Jordan River (Joshua 3:17, 4:23-24; 1 Corinthians 101:1-2), they build a memorial for their descendants (Joshua 4:6-7) as a testimony of what God has done.
Then we get a picture of the world. When the world hears about what the Yahweh has done and the worshiping body of Israel, their hearts melt (Joshua 5:1).
Israel continues to worship Yahweh by obeying His commandments and circumcising the new generation (Joshua 5:3) which removed the iniquity of their forefathers from them (Joshua 5:9) and established them in the covenant. Then there is more liturgy as Israel observes the Passover (Joshua 5:10). After proper worship the Lord appears to Joshua as a warrior and Joshua falls on his face to worship Him (Joshua 5:13-15).
Now, the proper worship does not cease there. Israel still has liturgy to perform. God promises that Jericho is given over to Israel, and now Israel must go and take Jericho (Joshua 6:1-2). They do this by worshiping Yahweh. The men of war encircle the city of Jericho being led by seven priests blowing seven trumpets and they are to march around the city once a day until the seventh day and then they must march around the city seven times (6:3-5). On the seventh day, when the sun rose (very important), Israel marched around the city, blew the trumpets, and all the men of valor shouted with a great shout, and God, in response to proper worship, knocked down the walls of the city. This seems a little off. If God told you that by preparing your heart for worship (confess your sins and believing the promises of the Gospel), receiving the Word of God as your marching orders (the sermon), renewing the covenant through memorial (the Lord’s Supper and baptism), and receiving the blessing of God as you enter into His world He would in turn give the world to you, then you would be a little gabberflasted.
How can marching around a city with priests blowing trumpets and wild-haired desert men shouting their lungs out knock down the walls of a fortress-city? How can liturgy in the church today conquer the world? The answer is the same to both questions: by faith.
The New Testament promises that the world belongs to Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), and therefore it belongs to the church (Romans 4:13; Revelation 5:9-10). We do not, of course, battle with swords to conquer in the name of Jesus, but we conquer with worship. When we worship, just as Israel worshiped, that is in obedience to the Word of God, God gives the world to us. When the church worships God rightly, God brings the walls of the world down.