Styles of church worship often fall along a continuum between “high church,” which is formal and prescribed, and “low church,” which tends to be more free form. The terms describe differences in worship practice such as the use of liturgy or the kind of clothing worn by those who lead worship.
The style of worship described in today’s passage is closer to high-church worship, revolving around prescribed sacrifices, ceremonies, and festivals. It is not surprising that prior to bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, David had to make arrangements for its placement. Its arrival in its new home was accompanied by burnt offerings and fellowship offerings (v. 2). Burnt offerings were offered by the priest alone and entirely consumed by fire on the altar. Fellowship offerings involved a shared meal between the offerer and the priest. Burnt offerings were a reminder of the worshiper’s need to be cleansed from sin. Fellowship offerings (sometimes called a peace offerings) were a voluntary expression of thanksgiving that pointed to the need for a restored relationship with God.
This installation ceremony also included a psalm of thanksgiving led by Asaph, a composite drawn from Psalms 105, 96, and 106 (vv. 8–36). Once the ark was in place, David made arrangements for its regular ministry. He assigned this responsibility to Asaph, Obed-Edom, and their associates (vv. 37–38).
The specifics of the church’s worship are not as prescribed as the worship we read about in the Law of Moses. Yet congregational worship, whether it is high church or low church, does require organization. In 1 Corinthians 14:40 the apostle Paul directs that when God’s people come together as church “everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”