In Genesis 4, we see a system of sacrifice already in place for Cain and Abel. In Genesis 15, we see a much more complex sacrifice in the account of Abraham, especially considering that this is a few centuries before the law is given through Moses. Also in the account of Abraham, the system of circumcision is inaugurated, which continued for 2,000 years. When Abraham’s servant sought a bride for Isaac, Genesis 24.26 records that he “bowed his head and worshiped the LORD.” Beginning in Genesis 27, we see patriarchal blessing, and beginning in Genesis 48 we see laying on hands accompanying the blessing. In Genesis 28 and 35, Jacob set up a pillar and poured oil on it. In the latter chapter, Jacob and his family purify themselves before he offers a sacrifice to God. Throughout Genesis, we also have accounts of the reverent burial of the dead.
That’s just in Genesis.
I’m not going to begin to quote from Exodus or Leviticus as the middle chapters of the former and almost the entirety of the latter are all very detailed instructions for worship.
God did not just give instructions to Moses on how to pray. He gave detailed instructions for the construction and decorating of the Tabernacle and the vestments of the priests. For God to give such detailed instructions to Moses, worship must be very important to God–not just how we worship but where we worship and what we wear when we enter His presence.
You might think that at the height of Israelite culture, the reigns of David and Solomon, that so many physical instructions for worship would have become passé. Perhaps those physical instruments were only there to teach and worship would enter a more spiritual stage. The exact opposite happened. David designed an elaborate temple for Solomon. David didn’t just dream up these designs, either. “All this he made clear by the writing from the hand of the LORD concerning it, all the work to be done according to the plan.” (1 Chronicles 28.19) Not only was the Temple more magnificent than any other temple, the dedication ceremony was more magnificent: “…when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever,’ the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.” (2 Chronicles 5.13-14)
Did something change in the New Testament?