At my home congregation, Beth Immanuel, we begin our morning service at 10:00 AM on Shabbat morning. We start with the Sh’ma, progress into the Amidah, and then begin the Torah service.
After that is a message and we end with Mussaf prayers. However, even before this extensive liturgical service, there is a handful of us who arrive even earlier to do some preliminary prayers called Pesukei Dezimra. This service consists of various blessings, psalms, and sections of verse that prepare one’s heart for the later parts of the service. While Pesukei Dezimra translates to “hymnal praise,” it can be homiletically translated as “verses of pruning,” in other words, prayers that help prune our hearts to approach the throne of God. It has come to be my favorite part of the Shabbat morning service, complete with songs and melodies that get your toes tapping and hands clapping.
It opens with a section called Hodu from 1 Chronicles 16, which has sections of the Psalms tagged onto the end of it. One morning as I was praying through this section, I was struck with a kind of revelation. Here in 1 Chronicles 16, was the Great Commission. These verses, in particular, struck me:
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! (1 Chronicles 16:24)
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!” … Say also: "Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.” (1 Chronicles 16:31, 35)
This section from 1 Chronicles was part of a prayer of thanks to God by David when he placed the ark inside the Tabernacle. In these verses we have a call for Israel, the original audience hearing the prayer, to go into the nations and declare God’s kingdom. I was struck in particular by “Let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns.’” God can reign only in his kingdom. That’s the exact message Yeshua sent the apostles out to proclaim: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This Scripture directly parallels the Master’s Great Commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
I remember reading these verses and wondering where the basis for this commission was in the Hebrew Scriptures? Yes, Israel is called to be a light to the nations but where are they told to go among the nations and actively turn people to the God of Israel? In 1 Chronicles 16, we find a basis for this call prophetically given by King David, which would later be unpacked and developed by the Son of David, Yeshua the Messiah.
I have to admit that I was bit distracted that morning after I got this revelation, but I was so excited about what I had discovered. It’s amazing how many times you can read something, and then all of a sudden the words jump out of the page at you. I can’t wait to get back to prayers and find out what else is hidden in God’s Word.