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Touching the Altar of God: The Old Testament for Christian Worship
(Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies)

Edited by Carol M. Bechtel

9780802828484 Retail Price: $18.00
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Format: Paperback, 211pp.
ISBN: 9780802828484
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pub. Date: January 15, 2008

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About the Editor
Table of Contents
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From The Publisher:

What does it mean to be in the presence of God’s holiness? How can it affect us whether we seek it out or stumble upon it? Can it truly change our very reality to encounter it?

The essayists in this volume explore these questions at the heart of Christian worship, considering the oft-neglected Old Testament as essential to understand our purpose in worship. Following the structure of the Hebrew canon — beginning with the Pentateuch, moving through to the Psalms, then wisdom literature — each chapter considers a separate aspect of worship, from theater to the Sabbath to sacred space, offering new inspiration. In the final essay Carol Bechtel “rereads the book of Job through the lens of our human limitations (as opposed to the usual theme of theodicy),” with compelling applications for both life and worship.

Each of these essays concludes with two appropriately themed hymns and a “For Further Reading” list. Five of the seven contain sidebars that illustrate and enrich key points. Evocative woodcut artwork by Margaret Adams Parker provides a striking backdrop to the text. Taken together, these essays testify powerfully to the belief that the Old Testament is not only valuable but also essential to “whole” and fully foundational preaching and worship.

Written primarily by Old Testament professors, Touching the Altar will make an engaging supplemental text for introductory or elective Old Testament courses and will also go far toward providing deeper worship for any Christian.


Carol M. Bechtel
Thomas A. Boogaart
Corrine L. Carvalho
Ellen F. Davis
J. Clinton McCann Jr.
Dennis T. Olson
Margaret Adams Parker
John D. Witvliet


“This is an immensely important volume. In contemporary discussions of Christian worship, the Old Testament is too often ignored or treated superficially. These writers offer a rare combination of scholarly depth and practical insight, providing wisdom that cannot fail to nourish any who care about worship in our time.”
—Jeremy Begbie, University of St. Andrews and Ridley Hall, Cambridge

“Touching the Altar provides an inspiring model of excellent scholarship done in service to God and the church. The authors lead those who would more fully and faithfully understand and lead Christian worship deeply into the biblical text, while also disclosing connections to urgent contemporary concerns. Moreover, like worship itself, the book is beautiful, frequently incorporating image and song. This is biblical practical theology at its best.”
—Dorothy C. Bass, Valparaiso University

“This scholarly and practical collection reminds us that the Old Testament offers more than just the Psalms to shape our worship of God. Attending to such central matters as space and architecture, Sabbath and justice, drama and idolatry, prophets and wisdom, these essays surprise us with the depth of direction and guidance that Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, offers to remind us that worship, properly carried out, is why we are here in this world. (PS: Don’t slide over Margaret Adams Parker’s marvelous woodcuts.)”
—Patrick Miller, Princeton Theological Seminary

“A superb book! Its essays are filled with fresh insight and profound wisdom concerning questions about worship. . . . Should be read widely and well to deepen our fondness for the Old Testament and to invigorate congregational worship.”
—Marva J. Dawn, Regent College


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About the Editor

Carol M. Bechtel is professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan. She is the author of Glimpses of Glory: Daily Meditations on the Bible and the commentary on Esther in the Interpretation series.

Table of Contents

Series Preface



Sacred Time: The Sabbath and Christian Worship

Some Salient Questions on Sabbath

The Sabbath Commandment in Exodus 20 and the Book of Exodus

The Sabbath Commandment in Deuteronomy 5 and the Book of Deuteronomy

From Saturday to Sunday: The Sabbath Day and the Lord’s Day

The Old Testament Sabbath and Christian Life and Worship

HYMN: “O Day of Radiant Gladness,” Christopher Wordsworth, Charles P. Price, and The Hymnal 1982

HYMN: “Now the Silence,” Jaroslav J. Vajda


Drama and the Sacred: Recovering the Dramatic Tradition in Scripture and Worship

The Marriage

Theater in Israel

The Script of 2 Kings 6:8-23

Analysis: Power and Kings

A Call to Apprenticeship

HYMN: “O Worship the King, All Glorious Above!” Robert Grant

HYMN: “As We Gather at Your Table,” Carl P. Daw Jr.


Isaiah in Christian Liturgy: Recovering Textual Contrasts and Correcting Theological Astigmatism

Recovering Textual Contrasts

Correcting Theological Astigmatism as an Antidote to Idolatry

Practical Strategies for Subverting Idolatry in Preaching and Leading Worship

HYMN: “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above,” Johann J. Schütz

HYMN: “Lift Up Your Heads” John L. Bell


No Explanations in the Church: Two Sermons on the Prophets

Preaching as Seeing

First Sermon: “Costly Vision”

Second Sermon: “Lament over Jerusalem”

HYMN: “Touch the Earth Lightly,” Shirley Erena Murray

HYMN: “Great God, Your Love Has Called Us Here,” Brian Wren


Finding a Treasure Map: Sacred Space in the Old Testament

Looking for a Map

Finding an Ancient Map: The Temple in 1 Kings and Ezekiel

Pilgrimage and Prayer: Movements toward Divine Presence

The Temple and God’s Permanent Presence

Reading the Map: Help from Sociology

Reading a Map Theologically

Finding a Place on the Map: Sacred Space and Social Hierarchy

Looking at the Map from a New Location: Privilege, Shame and Worship

Arriving at the Treasure

HYMN: “How Lovely, Lord,” Arlo D. Duba

HYMN: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” Charles Wesley


The Hope of the Poor: The Psalms in Worship and Our Search for Justice

A Crucial Connection

Psalms 9–10

Psalms 98 and 100

Saturated with Justice

HYMN: “Heaven Shall Not Wait,” John L. Bell and Graham Maule

HYMN: “We Are Not Our Own,” Brian Wren


Knowing Our Limits: Job’s Wisdom on Worship

Reading Job through the Lens of Human Limits

Worship as Reality Check

All Nature Sings

God’s Fierce Freedom

HYMN: “Creation Sings! Each Plant and Tree,” Martin E. Leckebusch

HYMN: “We Cannot Measure How You Heal,” John L. Bell


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