“Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty firmament!”
The church serves many purposes, not the least of which is as a place for the people of God to gather together and worship. When we meet with the congregation, turn our attention upward and begin to worship, something takes place in time and eternity. We are given a whole new perspective on life. Instead of being consumed with our troubles we are able to see them in light of the mighty God who loves us and works all things for His purposes and our good. When this happens our discouragement and fears are often replaced with a new found faith and hope. A broken marriage, a trouble child or disastrous financial situation is now seen as an opportunity for God to show His never ending mercy and divine power. We see our lives like a Red Sea, a Jericho wall or the enclosed tomb of Lazarus. Each of which is an opportunity for God to do the miraculous.
If you are downcast,broken hearted or facing what seems to be a hopeless situation remember that worship was created by God as a means for you to connect with Him and see life in light of who He is. Don’t let discouragement keep you from gathering with the people of God in worship. Perhaps more than anything else you need a new perspective on life. One that is seen through the filter of faith.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
Praise Him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!
Praise Him, sun and moon;
Praise Him, all you stars of light!
Praise Him, you heavens of heavens,
And you waters above the heavens!”
As a child I was fascinated with the television show “The Twilight Zone.” While there were many episodes that thrilled me, there is one in particular that stood out above the rest. The scene began with a man stepping into a flying saucer as a passenger traveling to a far away planet after aliens had visited earth and convinced mankind that they were there to help. He was part of the committee assigned to translate their language, the man had discovered the basic framework of the alien language and translated the title of a book that had been given to them. The book was called, “To Serve Man.” Unfortunately they discovered too late that it was a cookbook and he was actually being invited to dinner not as a guest but as the main course.
The psalmist declares that if we were able to discover a way to translate the sounds of nature we would find that all creation is joined together in a beautiful chorus of praise. The trees filled with birds, the rocks and all that hide within them for protection are accompanied by the sea and its inhabitants as they burst forth in celebration of the God who brought them forth by the word of His power. Paul explained to the Roman church that part of their praise is a cry for Christ to return and make all things right again.
It is interesting that creation seems to be ever mindful of God and quick to respond to His commands. When Moses’ staff touched the waters of the Red Sea there was no argument, the sea simply parted. When Jesus spoke to the wind and waves they did not complain or give excuses they only obeyed. While all creation is subject to the fall it seems that the only part of creation that resists the plan of God is man. It is time to stop fighting against God and instead submit ourselves and our living over to Him.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the Lord;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
Praise is pretty common. If you have ever watched a sporting event you will hear it. One team goes ahead in the final seconds and the arena bursts forth in praise. Sometimes however the opposing team hits the final shot at the buzzer and the crowd is stunned into silence and the praise evaporates from the room.
Often we approach God in the same way. If all is well in the world we offer him praise, but as soon as things become difficult we have nothing to offer except complaint. We base our praise on our emotional condition rather than basing it upon who God is and what He has done. Regardless of what our day is like God is worthy of praise. Rain or shine, blessing or buffeting, joy or sadness, God is still the one who loves us, saved us and promises to work in and through us. If we are in the midst of a difficult season of life it is important that we do not lose sight of God or become consumed with our grief. Whatever hardship we are facing Jesus is still alive from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, sending forth His Spirit to work in our lives and preparing a place in eternity for us. While we cannot always celebrate our circumstances or our emotional condition we can certainly celebrate the amazing great and unending love of God who promises to be with us as we walk through the fire.
“Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.”
The psalmist exhorts us to enter with the congregation of God into the presence of the Lord. He tells us that we should lift our hands as we bless the Lord. I find it interesting that it is possible to bless God. I understand how richly and continually He has blessed me but to think that I am a blessing to Him is sometimes beyond my comprehension. As amazing as it may seem, scripture makes it clear that worship is a means by which we are able to be a blessing to God. He loves when we take our eyes off ourselves and focus them upon Him. He loves when we realize His nature and His actions and we extol Him for all He has done. Part of the reason worship is such a blessing to God is because of the way it will impact us. As we fix our eyes on Jesus we will see Him as He is and we will see our lives in light of His tremendous love and amazing grace. When this happens it will not be long before we begin to lift our hands and surrender all.
1 Chronicles 25:1
“Moreover David and the captains of the army separated for the service some of the sons of Asaph, of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals…”
Worship is an important part of the life of the believer and the health of the local church. It is a time when we are able to take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances and put them on the Lord. It is a time when we are able to declare the truths about the character and behavior of God in a way that brings Him glory and magnifies His name. It is often in these times of worship that we are able to see our lives from the proper perspective. Instead of seeing our circumstances as hopeless and ourselves as helpless we are able to see the God who can part seas, provide water in the desert or counsel the confused Christian. Worship is certainly a very important exercise for every follower of Christ.
That being said we find yet another value of worship tucked away in the narrative of the Chronicles. We are told that worship leaders were trained and appointed so they could prophecy with stringed instruments and percussions. Prophecy is when God speaks to His people and worship is one of the key mediums that God chooses to use to speak to us. Often when a believer will fix his attention upon the Lord and begin to pour out praise he will find that God speaks to him in an unexpected way.
There have been numerous times in my life, when in the midst of worship I, have sensed the voice of God speaking to my heart and directing my life. On one such occasion I was considering returning for a second trip to west Africa. My children were very young and the church was quite small and needed my attention, so I was struggling with the decision to go. As I sat in worship I recall singing a song about the faithfulness of God. I was almost overcome with the sense that God was calling me back to Africa. My fears, worries and concerns were somewhat alleviated when I realized that God was giving me the green light to go. As the years have passed and we have seen God accomplish so many wonderful things through the ministry in west Africa I am so thankful for that time of worship when God spoke prophetic word.
“Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, and the place where Your glory dwells.”
Life is filled with important things and with essential things. Often, what is important will overshadow what is essential. David was an important man with many responsibilities; he was a husband, father, musician, soldier and a king. Each role he played added new responsibilities and threatened his time with God. To guard against this, David learned to fall in love with the house of the Lord, because there he could experience the glory of God.
To be fair, we must recognize that the glory of God can be revealed anywhere. In a previous psalm, David explained that the heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows forth His handiwork (Psalm 19). We recognize it is possible to experience God anywhere and at any time. That being said, we must also recognize that there are places where we have a much higher likelihood of experiencing the presence, touch, voice and glory of God.
God loves to reveal Himself to the contrite and humble, so if we come seeking to receive from Him, we are likely to experience His presence. Israel was instructed to offer morning and evening sacrifices, so if we begin our day reading the Bible and praying about the things we read, we are likely to experience His glory. God set up the church as the gathering place for the saints, and promised to be in our midst when we meet. So when we gather to worship and learn with God’s people, we are likely to experience His glory.
Perhaps one of the most practical ways to grow in Christ and to ensure that we remain walking with Him, is to learn to love the places where God’s glory dwells.
“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—”
Ignoring the Word of God, and doing whatever we determine to be right, has always been a problem for mankind, and is a reoccurring theme within Scripture. It was the driving force behind the problems recorded in the book of Judges, and was the ultimate cause of Israel’s civil war, and their fall to Assyria and Babylon. Here, this self-reliant attitude is used as it related to the way people chose to worship. God declared, once Israel entered into the promised land they were to set the tabernacle in a designated location, and there the people would congregate to worship God. No one was allowed to set up his own altar on a hillside or under a tree. God established a centralized location for worship that would unite the people to one another. Years later, Israel would experience a civil war that resulted in the kingdom being divided. Ten tribes formed the northern nation of Israel, and two tribes the southern nation of Judah. The first thing Jeroboam, king of Israel, did upon taking the throne, was to set up new places of worship so the people would not go back to Jerusalem. He understood the way to unite people was to worship God together.
Sadly, this same attitude is all too common, today, among followers of Christ. Way too many Christians are separating themselves from the church, and attempting to worship God apart from congregating with other believers. Among the more common excuses for this behavior include: I can’t find a good church, those people are all hypocrites, or we might allude to how our feelings were hurt by the way the church treated us. It is important to keep in mind, the church is not a perfect entity, but has been designed by God as the means in which believers grow, and the gospel is declared to the world. Instead of isolating ourselves, we should seek to surround ourselves with others who will be used by God, to both encourage and challenge us to become more like Christ.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25