Thursday, February 11, 2010

90 day Bible update and some thoughts on worship

Disclaimer: I have never read a book on worship, these are just my reflections from recent readings in the Chronicles, Nehemiah, Job, and Psalms. I am not attempting to solve any of the myriad debates going on in churches today about worship.

The reason I added the disclaimer above is because when I told Big D what I was writing about he suggested I read a few books from his weighed down shelf devoted to worship first. I asked him if I could just write a disclaimer instead. Warning: I am completely ignorant about the doctrine of worship. So there, you’ve been warned. Read on at your own risk.

The first time I stopped in my 90 day Bible challenge and went, “Huh?” over something related to worship was when God instructed the Israelites to build an altar of earth or “undressed” stones. I pondered why He would instruct the Israelites in this manner, and specifically forbid them from using tools on the stones. Similar instructions are repeated in Deut 27:4-6 and Joshua 8:31. I mused over what some of those reasons may have been in my second 90 day Bible update, but whatever His reasons, the point is that God feels strongly about how His people are to worship Him. The service of the Levites in the temple of the Lord was also very specific. “They were to serve before the Lord regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them.” (1 Chronicles 23:31) It seems like everyone has an opinion on worship these days, doesn’t it? It appears that God has an opinion, as well. And shouldn’t His opinion be the one that counts? This made me want to be more careful as I continue to read through the Bible to note any instructions or Biblical examples of worship. Of course, there are too many to be thorough so I’ll just share some thoughts that stood out to me.

1. Worship is more than music.

The first thing that probably pops into most of our minds when we hear the word “worship” in connection to the church is music. There are many examples of the role music plays in worship, and I don’t mean to discount those references in any way. In fact, I was surprised by the degree of choreography that went into dedicating the newly re-built wall around Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12. There were two choirs marching around the wall in opposite directions so that “the sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.” And 2 Chronicles 5:12 describes the priests who were musicians playing cymbals, harps, lyres, and accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets and singers praising God and giving thanks to Him in unison. Wow! But, back to my point, worship is so much more than music.

It can take the form of declaration of who God is through praising His attributes (“I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 and from Nehemiah 9:5-6 “Blessed be Your glorious Name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord.”); remembrance and celebration of what God has done for His people (“You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything.” Nehemiah 9:6 and from Joshua, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” Joshua 4:24 in reference to the 12 memorial stones taken out of the Jordan.); giving (“Everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14); corporate reading of God’s Word (“They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day.” Nehemiah 9:3); confession (“And spent another quarter of the day in confession” Nehemiah 9:3; and obedience (Again in Nehemiah, “The rest of the people…bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.” vv 28-29), to name a few.

Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” Psalm 96:3

2. Worship requires a proper knowledge of who God is and who I am.

Unless I understand what God has done for me, I cannot ascribe the worth to Him that He is due. The first time this is evident in the Bible is with the offerings of Cain and Abel. I’ve written at length about this in a post on the proto-evangelium, but for now suffice it to say that Abel got it and Cain didn’t. Abel understood that he was a sinner and that his sin demanded death. Abel understood that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. Abel understood that his firstfruits belonged to the Lord. The next time I noticed how serious this is to God is when He consumed Nadab and Abihu after they offered strange or unauthorized fire. My first thought was, “What did they do wrong? They were just trying to worship God, weren’t they?” Evidently not, for in Leviticus 10:3 Moses reiterates to Aaron that this is what God was talking about when He said, “Among those who approach Me, I will show Myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” This tells us that they were not honoring God.

My husband and I have been very convicted about this over the last few years. Our kids can be very silly and my husband likes to play along with them in song. He plays the guitar and makes up silly songs. It’s a lot of fun. But, we make it very clear to our kids that when it comes to singing to the Lord, that’s no joking matter. We do not get silly when we’re singing to God. We do not allow them to sit on their heads, or sing vibrato, or insert different words, or any of the other things that they’re aloud to do during playtime. This might appear harsh to some people, but we are desperately trying to teach our children to honor God as holy. Something Nadab and Abihu failed to do and payed for it with their lives.

3. Worship is more of a heart attitude than an outward performance.

Psalm 40:6 “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require.” The application I get from this is that listening attentively to and heeding God’s Word are more important to the Lord than any outward form of worship. We can sing beautifully and take communion, but it doesn’t mean anything if we are not pierced by His Word.

Psalm 51:16 “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Again, it’s our heart attitude that God looks at. If we allow ourselves to be “pierced by God’s Word” then the result of that will be a contrite spirit that cries out to the Lord for His mercy.

1 Chronicles 22:19 “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.”

Michal despised David in her heart when she saw him leaping and dancing before the Lord. (2 Samuel 6:16) David didn’t seem to be overly clothed. “Wearing a linen ephod, he danced before the Lord with all his might.” (2 Samuel 6:15) Michal says it is his “disrobing” of himself that she disapproved of. I can’t say I blame her for this. We put a lot of stock in our modesty, don’t we? But, evidently this was either a smokescreen and she had other reasons to be unhappy about David worshiping the Lord, or her complaint is evidence that she missed the point of his worship. Best case scenario, Michal was focused on David’s image as King. She was the daughter of a King and remember that Saul had been “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites- a head taller than any of the others.” (1 Samuel 9:2) Saul’s father, Michal’s grandfather, was a man of standing. I don’t know if this means respect or money or both, but it seems like impressions were important to this family. A wife is supposed to contribute to her husband’s good reputation (Proverbs 31), but the kind of reputation God is concerned about is having a heart for Him. God is not as concerned about what we wear or how we appear to others, but whether we are seeking Him with our whole heart (1 Peter 3:1-6, Psalm 119:2 and 10). “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) All that by way of saying, it appears as if Michal was focused on the wrong thing. She was looking at the outer man and God was looking at David’s heart.

4. Worship assumes a variety of postures.

"So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the Lord." 1 Chronicles 29:20 "They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord." 1 Chronicles 23:30 "As he opened it (the Book of the Law), the people all stood up." Nehemiah 8:5 "Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded 'Amen! Amen!' Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." Nehemiah 8: 6 I especially love the progression there. Its seems they acknowledge who God is by standing and raising their hands and then acknowledge who they are by falling to the ground prostrate.

5. Worship is not always politically correct.

It seems to me that there is a whole side of worship demonstrated in the Psalms that is left out of our churches today, and perhaps even left out of our private prayer lives, as well. I’ve been underlining all the verses in the Psalms that plead with God to avenge His Name and His people. This is pretty radical stuff. I’ll just give you a sampling.

“Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve. Since they show no regard for the works of the Lord and what His hands have done, He will tear them down and never build them up again.” Psalm 28:4-5

“Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.” Psalm 31:18

“O Lord, You have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in Your righteousness, O Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. Do not let them think, ‘Aha, just what we wanted!’ or say, ‘We have swallowed him up.’ May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace.” Psalm 35:22-26

“In Your might make them wander about, and bring them down. For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. For the curses and lies they utter, consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.” Psalm 59:11-13

“But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down. He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; all who see them will shake their heads in scorn. All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what He has done.” Psalm 64:7-8

“As smoke is blown away by the wind, may you blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God.” Psalm 68:2

“Rise up, O God, and defend Your cause; remember how fools mock You all day long.” Psalm 74:22

“Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times the reproach they have hurled at You, O Lord.” Psalm 79:12

“May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that You, whose name is the Lord- that You alone are the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:17-18

“O Lord, the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve.” Psalm 94: 1-2

When’s the last time your church prayed like this? We’re living in the midst of a wicked generation in a culture that is increasingly anti-God. Does it bother us? Enough to cry out to the Lord to avenge Himself and bring glory to His Name? Why don’t we do this in church? Can anyone tell me? This is just so politically incorrect, is it not? I think it’s important to remember that our goal is God’s glory, not our own retribution. This type of prayer seems to be a major theme in the Psalms and I think recovering this desire for Divine retribution will help us to worship God more completely. But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

For more 90 day updates check out Mom's Toolbox.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think that I have commented on your blog before. I've been reading for a while now.
    I just wanted to say how I loved that you have fun whilst singing normally, but make sure that singing to God is done reverently and without the silliness.
    I'll be reading more.



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.