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In the Gates

A Covenant Assembly

Abiding Principles from the Ceremonial Law: The Form and Elements of Worship (1)


Worship is intended as a celebration of our Covenant relationship with God.

You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Leviticus 2.13

This passage, imparted almost in passing, gives new meaning to the idea that the followers of Jesus Christ are the “salt of the earth.” All the offerings Israel brought to the Lord were to include salt. Why? I can only suggest what I think the meaning might be, and that is that salt was a logical way for God to remind His people that they were involved in a Covenant with Him. The people of Israel used salt to preserve their food: in His Covenant God preserves His people from corruption and decay. The Israelites may also have used salt as a seasoning, to brighten the flavor of their foods: by His Covenant God brings His people into His glorious presence through the mediation of priests and the protocols of worship.

Thus the act of adding salt to an offering – “the salt of the covenant with your God” – would serve to remind the people of Israel that worship was a time of renewing daily life in the Lord, in His Covenant. And it would further have served to cause them to remember, as they used salt in the daily situations of their lives, that they were God’s Covenant people, set apart for His glory and their benefit. Worship is thus designed as an assembly of God’s Covenant people for the purpose of renewing and enriching their Covenant relationship with Him: “Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: ‘Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!’” (Ps. 50.3-5)

Like God’s Covenant, therefore, worship must be according to God’s design and for the double purpose of glorifying Him and blessing His people. Worship is for the Covenant people of God; it will have real meaning only for them because it will be structured with forms and elements that only make sense to those who have “by sacrifice” come to know Him and to understand His ways. Worship should not be bent to suit the interests or level of understanding of people who are not members of the Covenant community. Certainly worship should be open to such people, and they should experience our worship as a convicting mystery of the divine presence (1 Cor. 14.24, 25). However, we compromise the Covenant character of worship when we construct it as a portal into God’s Covenant rather than a privilege of that Covenant. How can anyone who does not know the Lord come to worship and bring “the salt of the covenant with your God” to make their worship what it ought to be when they have no understanding or experience of any of the mysteries of this gracious privilege and place?

Right worship begins by understanding that worship is a privilege created for the members of God’s Covenant people, who come to worship in order to renew Covenant with the Lord so that they might live more fully and consistently in the promises and blessings of that Covenant to the praise and glory of God. When we worship God according to the framework and forms of Covenant worship, we may expect to go forth from such worship as the salt of earth, the reality and reminder of the presence of God and His Kingdom among men.

For a fuller study of the pattern of worship revealed in Scripture, order the book, The Highest Thing, by T. M. Moore, from our online store. These studies and brief essays will help you to see how the pattern of sound worship, which began in the Law of God, comes to complete expression in the rest of Scripture. Pastors, we’re getting ready to start the next season of The Pastors’ Fellowship. Write to me today at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information about how you join in these online discussions. Our theme for the coming series is “The Worldview of God’s Law.” There is no charge for participation, but you must reserve a place for these monthly gatherings. Subscribe to Crosfigell, the devotional newsletter of The Fellowship of Ailbe.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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