This article shows the similarities between the synagogue order of worship and the Reformed way of worship.

Source: The Youth Messenger, 2009. 2 pages.

Similarities in Synagogue Worship and Reformed Worship


Worship is one of the essential elements of any religion, but particularly in the Judeo-Christian community. From the very beginning of history God’s people have paid homage to the one living God, the Creator of the universe and the Sustainer of life. Abel and Cain brought sacrifices to God, and we know that Abel’s was an act of appreciation and adoration to Him. We read that already in Enoch’s day, men “called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). Down through history from Abraham to the nation of Israel, to the New Testament church, the people of God worship Him. From the very beginning of time God has commanded His people to worship Him, and given directions on how to do it. We see this from the time of Abel and Cain, and in the detailed instructions regarding the building of the tabernacle and, later, the temple itself. Precise, detailed instructions were given by God on how and in what shape to fashion the vessels, and what kind of sacrifices to bring to Him on different occasions. Furthermore, God set aside the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi to be in charge of the temple worship.

These detailed instructions were very important. We recall what happened to Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, when they offered “strange fire” to God, something they had not been commanded to do (Lev. 10:1-2). Just as God demanded His people follow His commands and ordinances in daily life fully and completely, He expected them to follow His commands in the manner in which they worshiped Him.

The Synagogue🔗

Since the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D., temple worship has been replaced in the Jewish community by synagogue worship. In light of the importance of worship as portrayed in the Old Testament, Jewish synagogue worship has developed certain elements that are present in synagogues throughout the world, despite different languages and styles.

It is interesting to note, first of all, that the word for synagogue in Hebrew is Beit-Knesset which literally means house of Assembly. It is derived from the same Greek root from which we get the word Synod, which is also an assembly. While there is an individual act of worship, the synagogue is the place in which people gather to worship God corporately. For certain prayers it is necessary to have at least ten men, a Minyan, to be able to conduct the worship and prayers.

Main Activities🔗

The reading of the Word of God and prayers from the Psalms and other portions of the Old Testament are the two main elements of the synagogue worship service. Whereas the synagogue fulfills some other duties, these are the main activities that happen when the people gather for corporate worship. The Jewish prayer book used in the synagogues for worship includes reading portions from the Word, together with the prayers, with indications where the assembly will stand or respond to the rabbi who leads the worship.

Worship is a daily activity in the synagogue, occurring three times a day – morning, afternoon and evening – seven days a week. On Monday, Thursday and of course Saturday the service is longer and more elaborate.

Main Features🔗

A very prominent feature in any synagogue, no matter what size or what tradition, is the Ark. This is a cabinet or a recess in the wall that holds the scrolls. Most of these scrolls hold the Pentateuch, the Torah, but other portions of the Scriptures, the Prophets and the Writings, are also read. The Ark is usually placed in front of the pulpit from where the rabbi conducts the service. The Hebrew name for the Ark in the Synagogue is Aron HaKodesh, which means “the holy cabinet”. (By the way, the name has nothing to do with Noah’s Ark, which in Hebrew has a different name.)

Another important feature of the synagogue is the Eternal Lamp, the Ner Tamid. This is always lit in obedience to God’s command to Moses in Exodus 27:20-21. The third important feature is the pulpit, or Bima, where the rabbi stands and conducts the service, and where the Torah scroll is opened for reading. The Bima is usually higher than the chairs, which not only allows people to see the Torah scroll, but symbolizes the high place that the Word of God should occupy in worship and in life.


From this short description, we can see some of the similarities between synagogue and church. In both cases, there is a certain order in which the worship is conducted. A learned person, rabbi or pastor, is the one that leads the service, although he is not necessarily the one that does everything. In both the church and synagogue, we see an emphasis placed on the reading and preaching of the Word, as well as prayer. We also notice that both use an elevated place from which the Word is read and taught. And of course, in both cases, things are done orderly according to an order of worship that has been developed in the past, which connects us historically and biblically to our forefathers in the faith. Christ, the Eternal Light of the world, shines and is the center point of worship in the church, represented by the Ner Tamid!


I would like to conclude by the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman and to us in John 4:23-24:

The day has come that those who worship the Father, must worship him in spirit and in truth.

May we do so forever and evermore.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.