There are many narrative descriptions of worship in the Old Testament and a less number in the New Testament. My favorite narrative text is found in the book of Jeremiah. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word’” (Jeremiah 26:2). This text from Jeremiah records a scene in the life of the Old Testament church that occurred about 2600 years ago. The one thing that the contemporary church has in common with the church of 2600 years ago is worship.
The people of God in the day of Jehoiakim the king of Judah (609-597) came to the Lord’s house to worship. When the people gathered to worship, God warned the worshippers: “I will make this house like Shiloh” unless the people turn from their evil ways. The worshippers could not entertain the thought of terminating worship at Jerusalem. The worshippers were outraged and threatened to kill the preacher.
Why did they get mad at the preacher? Apparently, because he said, speaking for God of course, “I (God) will make this house like Shiloh.” Why was Shiloh so important? Shiloh became a place of worship for the Old Testament worshippers during the conquest under the direction of Joshua some 850 years before the scene in Jeremiah. Shiloh was the place of worship under the priesthood of Eli and his two wicked sons. After the Philistines captured the Ark of the Lord, Shiloh lost its significance and was eventually destroyed about 1050 B. C.
When Jeremiah said “this place” (the temple in Jerusalem – the place where the worshippers were presently standing) will be like Shiloh, the worshippers were real upset. The preacher was tampering with their church and their worship. Attitudes toward worship have not changed much in the past 2600 years. Today the murmuring might be something like “What do you mean tampering with my church! I was baptized here and I love this building.” Another question that comes to mind is, why would God be so harsh toward those people who allegedly came to worship Him? The answer is very simple once we examine the history of worship among the Old Testament worshippers. Isaiah wrote these inspired words before the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC: “Their land has also been filled with idols; they worship the work of their hands” (Isaiah 2:8). They worship the work of their hands is equal to self-worship.