How Sweet And Awful Is The Place: Zion And Congregational Worship -- By: Gregg Strawbridge

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 09:2 (Spring 2000)
Article: How Sweet And Awful Is The Place: Zion And Congregational Worship
Author: Gregg Strawbridge

How Sweet And Awful Is The Place:
Zion And Congregational Worship

Gregg Strawbridge

For worship to be fully biblical and experientially meaningful, we must recapture the awe of coming to Zion, to God’s house. Having the fulness of new covenant revelation in the Final Word (Hebrews 1:2), we do not look to the place for worship, as if the building were the temple or the house of God (John 4:21–23). Rather, the sanctified place is a time—when and where the assembly of God’s people meet in his special presence and on his appointed day.

The Awesome Unseen Reality Of Zion

The language of Zion is a familiar part of our vocabulary of praise. We sing “glorious things of” “Zion city of our God” in the words of John Newton, and with Timothy Dwight we confess that we “love thy kingdom, Lord! The house of thine abode—The Church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood.” And we may even know of the “awful place” defined by Isaac Watts:

How sweet and awful is the place with Christ within the doors,

While everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast,

Each of us cry, with thankful tongues, “Lord, why was I a guest?”

Why was I made to hear thy voice and enter while there’s room,

When thousands made a wretched choice and rather starve than come?

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in;

Else we had still refused to taste, and perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God, constrain the earth to come;

Send thy victorious word abroad, and bring the strangers home.

We long to see thy churches full, that all the chosen race

may, with one voice and heart and soul, sing thy redeeming grace.1

These hymns focus on a deep biblical stream of thought flowing in both testaments. In a robust passage the writer of Hebrews tells his readers:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant ... (Hebrews 12:22–24).You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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