We all have times when we feel cold and distant from God. Maybe these seem too frequent. But there certainly are other times when our prayers are answered, and we do see our Lord working in us and in those we care about. All is not silence. When we are in those times of seeing the Lord’s hand we can rejoice, give thanks, and sing. (Another great hymn: Rejoice ye pure in heart. Look it up.) When we are in between those times, we still call to mind all that God has done, knowing that He has not abandoned us. He is using our circumstances for His good purpose, and for our best good. We still rejoice, give thanks and sing. Look around today. The Lord is near. He is answering your prayers. Rejoice, give thanks, and sing.
What is worship? Well, of course, it is something you do when you go to church on Sundays. You sing, listen to scripture, hear a sermon, and receive communion. That is all part of worship. But worship is far more, and is by no means limited to Sundays. Worship is an attitude of the heart in humble submission to our gracious Lord. It is acknowledging and clinging in grateful love to the One who has made us. Worship is different from praise. Praise is the outward response in the words and actions of our daily life to the One we worship. Sunday is only one expression of worship. We live in worship every hour of every day as we bow in our hearts to the God of all creation. Look forward to your time of worship, fellowship and praise on Sunday, but live in the worship of our Lord always.
We had a great worship service yesterday. There were shouts of “He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Hallelujah!” Much praise and great music to God’s glory. But today is Monday. For most the work week begins again. Back to the routine, facing all of the trials and challenges that are a part of it. That is just the point of all of yesterday’s shouting. Jesus is alive! He is alive on Monday as He was on Sunday. Our shouting doesn’t bring Him to life on one day of the year. It proclaims the truth of the incarnation. The living God is with us. In the events we celebrated during Holy Week and Easter we proclaimed the truth that the Living God has redeemed us from the power of sin giving us a new life and hope. Emmanuel, God with us, is not a truth that can be confined to one day a year, but is for all of our Mondays and the days to follow. That is what yesterday was all about. We give our Living God praise yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus is alive!
“Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”(Psalm 150) Wow! What ever happened to the decorum in church? Strings, pipes, clashing of cymbals in the praise of the Lord? Well, maybe we don’t do that in our communion service, yet there is the greatest of joy and the highest of praise in our hearts in knowing the truth of the words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins”. We do need to be able to abandon ourselves to the praise of our Lord.
This is more than just having a praise team turn up the volume. It is pouring out our hearts in the depth of humble worship. When David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem he danced in the streets before it. Psalm 22:3 says “God inhabits the praises of His people.” We draw near to our God as we praise Him with words, songs, and deep expressions of our hearts. “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth…”(Psalm 149:6) Hallelujah!
Churches have praise teams to lead in congregational singing. We have prayer and praise services. Scripture speaks of praise to the Lord over 300 times. God speaking through Isaiah said, “… my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”(Isaiah 43:21) It can almost sound like God is an egotist demanding praise of His people, but this is the farthest from the truth. He is certainly worthy of our praise for all that He is, and all that He has done. God doesn’t need our praise, but we need to praise. In praise we draw near to our Lord who is the source of our life. In praise we find our identity as children of our Heavenly Father. In praise our eyes are turned from the trials of life to the source of our strength. No, God doesn’t need our praise, but He knows that as we come to Him in praise we are open to His life, and in His life we find life.
God used a variety of visual images through the prophets to show the people the nature of their life with Him. In Jeremiah 13 God uses an illustration of a garment that is bound around the waste like a belt. He is told to take a new garment and hide it among the rocks leaving it there for a long time. When he was told to go back and get it, it had rotted and was useless. Then God said, “I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.”(vs.11) The problem was that the people refused to honor God and became like a rotted garment. The text says that the lives of God’s people are to bring Him honor and praise. God is not an egotist needing people to praise Him. He needs nothing from us. But by our lives bringing honor to Him we find our greatest joy, and we witness to others of the goodness of our gracious Lord. Long after the time of Jeremiah the Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”(Colossians 3:17) This is not a life of law and fear of punishment if we offend God, but a life of thanksgiving in the joy of knowing our gracious God. Even in our failures we rejoice that our God does not abandon us. He is always there to forgive, cleanse, and give new life. Living in this grace we bring Him glory.
The shortest psalm among all of the 150 in the Book of Psalms is number 117. “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD.” Only two verses but the greatest of expressions that if truly followed by all nations would reveal the greatest measure of God’s grace upon all peoples. The word LORD in capitals is the word Yah in Hebrew, the one true God, the creator of the heavens and the earth. It is before Him that we are all called to humbly bow. It is this God who loves us, and has shown us His faithfulness through out our lives. It is this God who has worked through all the centuries since creation to form a people for a living and eternal relationship with Himself. It is this God, our God, who has shown Himself faithful even in the midst of our unfaithfulness. It is this God who is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all mankind. Our God is worthy of all praise. Praise the Lord.
What is worship? Well, of course, it is something you do when you go to church on Sundays. You sing, listen to scripture, hear a sermon, and maybe receive communion. That is all part of worship. But worship is far more, and is by no means limited to Sundays. Worship is an attitude of the heart in humble submission to our gracious Lord. It is acknowledging and clinging in grateful love to the One who has made us. Worship is different from praise. Praise is the outward response in the words and actions of our daily life to the One we worship. Sunday is only one expression of worship. We live in worship every hour of every day as we bow in our hearts to the God of all creation. Look forward to your time of worship, fellowship and praise on Sunday, but live in the worship of our Lord always.
Yesterday I wrote about the depth of God’s nature and what He has done for us. This brings us to awe and worship in His majestic presence. Think now about the words of Psalm 145 verses 1 through 8. “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty– and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works– and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” This is our God. He calls us to come and learn of Him. He has come among us Himself in His Son, Jesus, the perfect image of the Father. This is the God we know, we worship, we love.
The Psalms teach us a lesson in giving thanks. Many verses of the Psalms are expressions of praise and thanks to the gracious Lord. To be sure, there are also many verses crying out for help, and for deliverance from enemies, but even these are raising petitions to the one true Lord who the Psalmists knows does hear and respond to his cries. We, too, face many problems in life, but thanksgiving should be at the center of all we are. In the midst of a passage that acknowledges Christ’s suffering, and the difficulties we face in the world, the writer of Hebrews says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”(13:15) Sometimes praise of our Lord is offered through pain and tears. We offer it through Jesus who has gone before us in all things. In thanksgiving and praise we profess His name, and focus our hearts on the One who will see us through all times of life, good and bad. We can join with the Psalmist as he declares, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.(106,107,118,136)