Worship in Prophecy
Is the revival of Davidic praise worship a sign of the end times?
by Dr. David R. Reagan
"'In that day I will raise up the fallen tabernacle of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the Gentiles
Who are called by My name,'
Declares the Lord who does this."
Most Christians are familiar with this prophecy from Amos 9:11-12 because it is quoted in Acts 15. The occasion was a special conference of church leaders that was called in Jerusalem to consider the momentous implications of Gentiles being added to the Church. In the midst of the debate, James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, quoted this prophecy from Amos to prove that it was God's intention to someday include the Gentiles in His scheme of redemption.
This usage of the prophecy has historically led to the conclusion that the term, "the tabernacle of David," refers to the Church. And perhaps it does in a spiritual sense. But the context of the passage in the book of Amos makes it clear that the prophecy will find its ultimate fulfillment in something other than the establishment of the Church.
Note that the prophecy begins with the words, "In that day." What day? A quick glance at the prophecy in its context shows that the "day" being referred to is the period of time when the Jews are regathered to the land of Israel (see Amos 9:14-15). That is this century. There were 40,000 Jews in Israel at the beginning of this century. Today, there are nearly five million. They re-established their state on May 14, 1948, and they have regathered their people from the four corners of the earth.
Has anything happened since 1948 that could constitute a literal fulfillment of the restoration of the "tabernacle of David'" To answer this question we must first seek to understand the meaning of the term, "tabernacle of David." What did Amos have in mind when he used this term?
The Tabernacle of Moses
To fully understand the Tabernacle of David, we must first begin with a consideration of the Tabernacle of Moses. It was a nomadic temple that moved with the Children of Israel as they crossed the Wilderness of Sinai in search of the Promised Land. Its Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant where the Shekinah Glory of God resided.
When the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land, they settled the Tabernacle of Moses at Shiloh in Samaria. There the sacrificial ceremonies were conducted for 400 years during the period of the Judges. By the end of that chaotic period, the Children of Israel were engulfed in spiritual darkness, having fallen victim to idolatry and immorality.
One day, during the judgeship of Samuel, as the Israelites were preparing to fight the Philistines, they decided to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them, as if it were some sort of good luck charm. They evidently reasoned that God would never allow the Philistines to capture the Ark, and therefore they would win the battle. The Lord was not pleased by this action, so He allowed the Philistines to defeat the Israelites and capture the sacred Ark (1 Samuel 4:1-11). They also proceeded to destroy the Tabernacle of Moses at Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:12). Israel had become "Ichabod," (meaning, "no glory") for the glory of God had departed (1 Samuel 4:21).
The Odyssey of the Ark
Plagues afflicted the Philistines, so they sent the Ark back to Israel on an ox cart. It finally came to rest eight miles west of Jerusalem in a town called Kiriathjearim (called Abu Gosh today) where it stayed for approximately 70 years (20 years under Samuel's judgeship, 40 years under Saul's kingship, and almost 10 years into David's kingship). The tabernacle of Moses was moved to Nob for a while (1 Samuel 21:1) and then on to Gibeon (about ten miles northwest of Jerusalem) where it remained until the Temple of Solomon was built (2 Chronicles 1:3).
Now note something very important. During this 70 year period of transition between the Judges and the Kings, there was no Shekinah Glory in the tabernacle of Moses located at Gibeon. The Holy of Holies was empty. The priests continued to minister at the tabernacle, offering daily sacrifices, but it was all dead ritual, for the glory had departed.
The astounding thing is that the Ark was located in a farmhouse situated only about five miles from Gibeon. It would have been very easy to restore the Ark to the Tabernacle of Moses, but no one cared enough to do so. The Ark was ignored, and it became a symbol of Israel's apostasy.
Saul vs David
Saul did not have a heart for the Lord, so he ignored the estrangement of the Ark from its proper resting place. But when David became king, he was determined to correct this situation, for he was a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David had to wait seven and a half years until he became king of all Israel (he was king of only Judah during his first years in power — see 2 Samuel 5:5).
David was determined to bring God back into the heart of his nation, and he recognized the symbolic significance of the Ark in accomplishing this purpose. He was so determined to provide a proper resting place for the Ark that it became the top priority of his kingship. In this regard, we are told in Psalm 132 that when David became king of all of Israel, he "swore to the Lord" that he would not sleep in a bed until he could provide a proper "dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob" (Psalm 132:1-5).
The Tabernacle of David
The amazing thing is that David brought the Ark to Jerusalem rather than returning it to the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon. David pitched a tent in Jerusalem (probably on a slope of Mt. Moriah), placed the Ark inside, and instituted a whole new concept of praise worship. Instruments of worship were introduced. Special psalms of praise were written and sung. And, incredibly, special priests were appointed to minister music before the ark continually (1 Chronicles 16:6,37) — whereas only the High Priest had been allowed to minister before the Ark once a year in the Tabernacle of Moses.
In fact, the Scriptures indicate that there was such great intimacy with the Lord, that David would actually lounge before the Ark (1 Chronicles 17:16). It is probably during these times of intimacy that he wrote new songs to the Lord (Psalm 40:3).
David's revolution in worship was very radical. There was no singing or celebration at the Tabernacle of Moses. The worship there was one of solemn ritual focused on sacrifices. The only joy that had ever been evidenced in the worship of the Israelites had occurred spontaneously, as when Miriam danced with a tambourine and rejoiced over the destruction of Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 15).
The Psalms make it clear that the praise worship inaugurated by David was a worship of great joy that was characterized by hand clapping (Psalm 47:1), shouting (Psalm 47:1), singing (Psalm 47:6-7), dancing (Psalm 149:3), hand waving (Psalm 134:2), and the display of banners (Psalm 20:5). The worshipers were encouraged to praise God with every form of musical instrument, from the gentle lyre to the "loud crashing cymbals" (Psalm 150:3,5).
The Davidic Revolution
But why? Why did David so radically change the worship of Israel? We are told in 2 Chronicles 29:25 that he did so in response to commands of God given to him through the prophets Nathan and Gad. But why didn't the Lord simply tell David to put the Ark back in the Holy of Holies in Gibeon? Why did God tell him to revolutionize the worship of Israel?
The Bible does not tell us why. We can only guess. My guess is that God wanted to give David a prophetic glimpse of the glorious Church Age to come when animal sacrifices would cease, worshipers would have direct access to God, and worshipers would come before the Lord in rejoicing with a sacrifice of praise.
I think there was also another reason. I believe the Lord wanted to give the Church a model for Spirit-filled worship.
For one generation (about 30 years under David and 12 years into Solomon's reign), two tabernacles existed in Israel. In Gibeon there was the dead, liturgical worship that characterized the Tabernacle of Moses. In Jerusalem, there was the lively, spontaneous worship that characterized the Tabernacle of David. The worship in Gibeon was the performance of ritualistic symbolism. The worship in Zion was the experience of the presence of God. At Gibeon, the priests offered the sacrifice of animals. At Zion, the offering was the sacrifice of praise: "Come before Him with joyful singing... Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise" (Psalm 100:2,4).
The Prophetic Significance
The Tabernacle of David served as a joyous bridge between the spiritual deadness that had come to characterize the Tabernacle of Moses and the Spirit-filled glory that would characterize the Temple of Solomon.
In like manner, since the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948, God has been raising up the Tabernacle of David again to serve as a joyous bridge of transition between the dead worship of mainline Christendom and the glorious worship that will characterize the Millennial Temple of Jesus Christ. God wants His Son to return on a cloud of praise.
The Worldwide Spread
Appropriately, God began to focus His revival of the Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem in the early 80's. It occurred when the International Christian Embassy decided to host a celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14 says that during the millennial reign of Jesus the nations will send representatives to Jerusalem each year to celebrate this feast and that any nation that fails to do so will not receive rain. The Embassy decided it would be appropriate for Gentiles to start rehearsing for the Millennium, so they sent out a call worldwide for Christian to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast and to show their support of Israel.
The Embassy also decided to give an emphasis to Davidic praise worship which was springing up all over the world at that time through a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. They brought together Christendom's best practitioners of celebratory worship.
The result was an explosion of Davidic worship all over the world as the thousands of Christians who came to Jerusalem took what they had experienced back home with them in their hearts and on videos. The Embassy's celebration has continued to this day, with 4,000 to 6,000 Christians attending annually from every continent.
A Move of the Spirit
The Church at large is the symbolic Tabernacle of David. But the more literal Tabernacle of David today consists of those churches that have rediscovered the true meaning of worship and have given their people the freedom in Christ to worship God with all their energy, resources, gifts and talents.
That is the reason that renewal in worship is sweeping Christendom worldwide. It is a move of the Spirit. It is a fulfillment of prophecy. It is a mark of the end times. It is a sign of the soon return of Jesus. And it is preparation for that day very soon when:
"The ransomed of the Lord will return,
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads,
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away."
That is the day when the Tabernacle of David will be restored completely.