Over the past decades music has gained an unprecedented prominence in the church. So much so that music has replaced faith and preaching as the new means of grace. The influence of music has become so dominant that it is not unusual for worship ministers and worship teams to spend more time in ministry with the congregation than pastors do expounding the Word of God. The worship time often consumes up to forty minutes leaving preaching time shortened. An Australian pastor recounts a conversation he had with his worship leader just prior to a 2 day seminar. The worship leader asked, “How long do you want us to worship? Twenty minutes?” The pastor responded “What about two days.” “I don’t think I could play my guitar that long” the worship leader retorted. The pastor’s response was “you’re talking about music and I am talking about worship.” There is a subtle understanding now that suggests that music alone constitutes worship.
Barry Chant asks the question:
“Have we unknowingly, actually arrived at a position where music has replaced faith as the means by which we appropriate God’s blessings and where the worship leader, [or the worship team] rather than the evangelist is responsible for bringing people to God?” (1) Jared Cooper describes a time when his church abandoned music altogether to test the genuineness of their worship… They learned to worship without music. (2)
Indeed if someone was marooned on a desert island would worship be impossible? Barry Chant insightfully observes, “an unhealthy number of new songs focus more on rhythm and harmony than melody … Whereas a half century ago, Christians sang songs in which there were disciplined rhythms and rhymes, and both melody and lyrics followed an obvious orderly pattern, today’s rhythms are more likely to be disruptive and disjointed… ‘feeling’ is what matters. So the pulsating rhythms throb through our beings, the compelling beat makes our bodies respond and the intellectual or biblical content only needs to be sufficient to justify calling what we are singing ‘Christian’. (3)
The worship debate is wide spread, and even liturgical churches are being forced to produce contemporary worship services. This debate will be with us for some time to come. Beyond this however, there is something more than personal preferences occurring. There is a teaching in some charismatic circles which goes beyond the so-called worship wars. Worship is taught as something which actually accomplishes something in the spirit world and is linked to prophetic revelation and spiritual warfare. More and more believers look to music as the primary source of spiritual fulfillment. New generations of charismatics are proclaiming that God is restoring to the overcoming end time church forms of worship that purportedly occurred in David’s tabernacle.
This special restoration is touted as a crucial element in God’s plan to restore His glory to the final church as a prelude to the Second Coming of Christ. (4)
“…Bible teachers of our day who are moving in present truth have discovered God’s anointed plan to restore the Tabernacle of David, which is the perfect pattern of praise and worship all New Testament believers are to follow. The restoration of the pattern of praise and worship that once prevailed in King David’s day will release a prophetic stream of praise in our day that will energize the church with new power and demolish the works of Satan. Believers will approach God in new ways such as singing in tongues to activate revelations, prophesying in song, dancing rhythmically in the Spirit and all the traditional charismatic methods (hand clapping, raising of hands etc.). Those who resist this restoration of worship will fall short of God’s standard and will continue to operate in a faulty form of worship and will be in danger of the glory of God departing from their churches.” (5)
The Tabernacle of David (TOD) teaching is not new at all but was clearly a part of the restoration scheme of Latter Rain teachers. George Warnock, writing during the hey day of the Latter Rain (early 50’s), often referred to the Tabernacle of David. It was in the mid 60’s however, that Latter-Rain restoration teachers in Australia and New Zealand began to flesh out TOD teaching. Graham Truscott claimed to be directed by God to TOD teaching in 1968. The context of this enhanced TOD teaching was always in a Latter-Rain context. Kevin Conner, in Australia, was among the first to apply typology and restoration hermeneutics to the Tabernacle of David.
The term TOD is a reference to the tent David pitched in Jerusalem for the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam. 6:17; 1 Chron. 16:1). The apostle James quoted Amos 9:11 in reference to the restoring of David’s fallen tent at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:16). Those promoting the restoration of Davidic Worship/Warfare base everything on the assertion that this refers to the form of worship that was employed in David’s tabernacle. We will look closely at the Acts 15:16 passage and will find that with most responsible biblical authorities that verse does not refer to forms of worship but rather to the dynasty (house of) David and has nothing to do with worship whatsoever. It may appear new to those promoting it today but it was first taught in Latter Rain circles in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Restored Davidic worship is just a companion piece of the whole restoration teaching scheme in which apostles and prophets are restored to the final and overcoming end time church. Along with restored apostles and prophets there is also a restored form of worship which they assert was part of David’s day, which had a short appearance in the apostolic church only to be lost until God’s restoration in these last days.
The Tabernacle of David in Scripture
TOD teaching centers it’s teaching on the prophecy of Amos 9:11 quoted by James at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:16, in which James refers to the tent David pitched for the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:17; 1 Chron. 16:1). James quotes from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT). “After this I will return and rebuild the fallen house [tabernacle) of David. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it and the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name,” (NIV)
In Amos 9:11, in the Hebrew text there is an additional reference to “they may possess the remnant of Edom” (NIV)6 which is not found in the Septuagint. James’ choice of the Septuagint surely reflects his desire to promote the inclusion of Gentiles. Those promoting TOD teaching contend rather, that James is concerned about restoring Davidic worship to the church. TOD teachers refer to I Chron. 25 where David appointed prophetic Levites to praise God with stringed instruments, harps, cymbals and trumpets. These references to musical instruments are then recruited to show that the TOD is a reference to worship.
Conversely, if it can be established that Acts 15:16 is not a reference to Davidic worship forms at all, then the whole teaching of TOD is without biblical support and is rather a clever example of restoration hermeneutics. If the context of both Acts 15:16 and Amos 9:11 demands that tabernacle (Heb. Sukkah, “booth” or “house”) actually refers to the dynastic rule of David (as in house of Usher etc) then worship is not even a biblical consideration. In Isaiah 16:5 the term TOD is without any doubt a reference to the “rule” of David: “In love a throne will be established in faithfuless a man will sit on it – one from the ‘house of David”‘ (NIV).
We will return for a more in depth look at James’ quote of Amos 9:11 later in the article.
A Summary of Tabernacle of David Teaching
Tricia Tillin has researched the ministry of Mike Bickle with special reference to the International House of Prayer (IHOP) and the associated ministry called the “Harp and Bowl.” Here is an extended quote from her findings:
“Here is one official description of the work: The International House of Prayer is a 24-hour a day, city wide worship and warfare, interdenominational prayer ministry serving the Body of Christ. This ministry is modeled after the Tabernacle of David with singers and musicians being released to lead corporate intercession and worship 24 hours a day … The House of Prayer for all nations ministry includes continuous praise and prayer dethroning the principalities and powers over a region declaring God’s sovereignty. This is in the spirit of Rev. 4-5 ‘Harp and Bowl’ worship and warfare prayer gatherings, the harp representing praise and the bowl representing the prayers of the saints which is at the heart of David’s Tabernacle … In Sept. 1999… they completed the full 24 hour a day schedule with singers and musicians leading each session. They believe that this model is the most effective context to train and send forth others who will plant a House of Prayer (in the spirit of the Tabernacle of David) established in every major city of the earth before the Lord’s return.” (7)
Froujke E. Jansen further describes his view of the Tabernacle of David;
“His [John Painter] study was also about the Tabernacle of David being a type of the end-time church and about a transition between the two tabernacles, the Tabernacle of Moses and the Tabernacle of David. In the Bible, the Tabernacle of Moses lacked God’s presence at the time the Tabernacle of David was being built, yet it continued to operate without presence. For a time, the Tabernacles of Moses and of David operated simultaneously. Dr. Painter said this represented the fact that during the end times there will be two tabernacles that also operate simultaneously. That is, the ‘church’ with unfaithful ministers and people who are content with empty ritual and the true end time church that is full of God’s presence.” (8)
David appointed 24 groups of 12 musicians (a total 880) who were set apart for prophetic worship. It is assumed from this that these musicians served around the clock (24/7) every day.
An unnamed writer on the internet concludes the following:
“Now, in these last days … the TOD is going to be restored. As it was in David’s time, once again God’s people will have free access to His presence. Whenever the people of God gather to minister to God in worship and praise, He will be pleased to come in His mighty presence to meet with them.” (9)
The above quotes express the various common themes of TOD teaching. Diverse versions of TOD teaching are now widely dispersed in Charismatic circles. As various elements of this teaching move from person to person and group to group certain aspects are picked up or left out so that many who employ different versions of this teaching are not aware that TOD is the source of these ideas. Nevertheless there seem to be four central ideas within TOD teaching.
1. TOD is a part of the present-truth/restoration view of church history.
2. TOD enhances and endorses the ministry of restored apostles and prophets.
3. TOD invokes (attracts) the manifest presence of God.
4. TOD is a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare.
Space does not allow for us to deal in depth with each of these themes. So we will only address No. 3 and 4 in some detail.
Does TOD Worship Attract the Manifest Presence of God?
The addiction to physical manifestations in the current revival is often linked directly to TOD type worship. It has been pragmatically discovered that long extended and repetitive worship will usually cause God to “show up.” So worship techniques often become the prelude for God showing up in power. “Showing up” is shorthand for the whole catalogue of physical manifestations associated with the current revival. The right kind of worship will attract the manifestations which are a sign that God has shown up. Much of the teaching that praise attracts and brings God’s presence is based on an obscure verse in the OT which I believe has been misinterpreted. The KJV of Psalm 22:3 states: “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”
Does this verse really teach that if we praise God then God will come in His manifest presence to “inhabit the church” – sometimes as a visible glory cloud of blue haze or an overwhelming sense of heaviness (glory), or whatever?
Does this verse even suggest that God “inhabits” praise in some unique and extraordinary way?
First of all most modern Hebrew translations prefer “enthroned” to “inhabit.” Furthermore, the Hebrew Grammar is not in favor of the traditional understanding found in the KJV. The Hebrew literally reads, “But Thou/Holy/enthroned/the praise of Israel.” The NIV translates it “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” Thus the phrase probably means, “You are the One Israel praises.” In context this fits well because in vs. 3-5 it is God who is the One in whom “our fathers put their trust.” Bruce L. Johnson has summed the thought in this way:
“But note that David’s appeal is to God. He is not calling God’s people to praise Him so that God will ‘show up’ or act in their behalf. He is not saying, ‘God comes [fights, acts for us, etc.] because we praise Him, so praise him and he will act’, rather, he is telling God (and indirectly, telling us), that He is the one we praise and boast in because he HAS shown up for us!” (10)
Is TOD really a Spiritual Warfare Technique?
Michael Moriarity has responded to the TOD teaching as spiritual warfare:
“The new charismatics believe that God is teaching certain present-truth Christians ‘new insights’ to help the church in her struggles against spiritual darkness … One way to accomplish all of this is through certain forms of worship … God is putting together a present-truth army of believers that will worship Him with such power that all non-Christian philosophies will ultimately be wiped out and demons will be left trembling.” (11)
Bill Hamon, who is a fellow apostle with C. Peter Wagner, in the International Coalition of Apostles, and a long time Latter Rain writer, describes the power of praise choruses in this way:
“These praise choruses convey the words and spirit of a militant army ready to possess their promised land. The “Joshua Generation” has crossed over their spiritual Jordan restorationally. They are now marching around Jericho, preparing to fulfill their predestined purpose as one of the restorational, present-truth tribes that will be joined together in spirit and truth to drive out the ‘ites’ of Canaan.” (12)
Indeed, there are references to spiritual warfare in the NT, but there are no references to worship warfare. By stressing TOD as a warfare technique, TOD teachers have reduced it to a formula. The purpose of worship, however, personal or corporate, is not to employ a spiritual warfare tactic. I recently heard a sermon in which the pastor asserted that every time we clap or beat the drum it allows God to beat on the devil. We however, do not clap, shout etc in order for God to be freed to defeat the devil. Rather we praise God because he has defeated the evil one and we have been rescued from his domain. There is no power in any worship technique. The power is in God Himself. If the TOD worship warfare is such a powerful warfare technique today and a mighty testimony of restored Latter Rain apostles, why did not the first church apostles have it at their disposal in the days of the “former Rain?” Why would God reserve this for the Latter Rain and its apostles and prophets? If this Davidic worship warfare was not a part of the apostolic church (and it wasn’t) then how could it be restored today?
The Key Passage: Acts 15:16
In order to understand why James quoted from Amos 9:11 at the conclusion of the Jerusalem council, the historical context is the determining factor. The circumcision party among Jewish believers was insisting that Gentile believers had to be circumcised according to the law of Moses (v.1). Paul and Barnabus came to the council to participate in the debate and lobbied against the circumcision party (v.4, 6). Peter witnessed before the Council that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. Paul and Bamabus recalled how miraculously God had worked among the Gentiles on their first missionary journey. James, the obvious spokesman for the council, concurred with Peter, Paul and Bamabus and expressed his conclusion that Gentile believers were to be accepted into the early church without circumcision because their hearts had been cleansed by faith in Christ (Acts 15:9-12, 19).
In order to give OT credence to the decision of the council, James quoted Amos 9:11 which appears to have settled once and for all the question of Gentile inclusion in the early church. Would it make any sense for James to depart from the only issue before the council (i.e., the question of Gentile circumcision) and predict a new form of worship? This just does not fit contextually. James did not change the subject to promote a perfect plan of worship modeled after David’s tabernacle. The obvious refrence to the “tabernacle of David” is a reference to the dynasty or rule of David, which is often referred to as the “house of David” or the “tabernacle of David.” (2 Samuel 7:5-11).
The prophet Amos had prophesied that David’s rule, with all its glorious promises, would one day collapse and fall being overrun with “breaches” and “ruins.” But Amos went on to promise that David’s tabernacle (the house of David) would be restored from its fallen state. James purpose in quoting the passage is to demonstrate to the council that the restoring of David’s house refers to the spiritual incorporation of the Gentiles into the New Testament Church. Indeed, it had been God’s intention to include Gentiles in His Kingdom from the beginning. What Amos had predicted so long ago is now being fulfilled in that Gentiles are coming to faith and being included in Christ’s church. After the literal historical fall of David’s tabernacle (the Davidic Dynasty) God would restore David’s rule by including Jews and Gentiles in the same ‘house’ or family of God. James, in quoting Amos is establishing to the council that the inclusion of Gentiles was not something new but was a part of God’s plan and was being fulfilled in the Church. Consequently, James concludes, “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:19).
The only way to teach the restoration of Davidic Worship is to snatch the phrase “Tabernacle of David” in Acts 15:16 out of its historical meaning, isolate it from the context and give it a meaning that James, Paul, Bamabus, Peter and the whole NT would not have even recognized.
Beyond the fact that “Tabernacle of David” teaching is simply wrong and an example of illegitimate restoration teaching, there are pastoral and practical concerns. Rather than worship directed to God, simply to express praise, Davidic worship/warfare is practiced in order to produce a so-called spiritual effect. It hints at a kind of spiritual formula or recipe. The teaching that restored Davidic worship somehow allows or even attracts the physical manifestations of God’s presence seems to border on spiritual magic.
Finally, the identification of worship as purely musical is not biblical. The Apostle Paul teaches that worship touches all the areas of life. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices constitutes our “spiritual worship” (Romans 12: 1). Worship styles and musical preferences should never be put forth as God’s unique and authorized form of worship. Cultural expressions of worship will always be different. The central point is that worship is an expression of the heart toward God.