The Power of Worship – Psalm 100
Friday, June 25th
Why do church services usually begin with singing? Sometimes we think it is designed to make us feel better. That may be the end result, but that is not the purpose of worship and singing. Sometimes we think that is only meant to prepare us to hear the morning message. Worship does prepare our hearts to hear God’s Word, but that is not the purpose of worship and singing.
The purpose of our worship and singing in church is to honor and bless God. When we celebrate a family member’s birthday, we sing “Happy Birthday” to them. The purpose of gathering is to honor and bless the birthday person with our love and gifts. The purpose of gathering as a church family each week is to honor and bless God with our worship and singing. It is a reminder to us of who God is and what he has done for us. “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”
If we are really going to worship God we can’t just be singing songs about God and Jesus, but we need to be singing songs to God and Jesus. When we are singing to God and Jesus, we are truly honoring them, drawing near to them and that is when we experience their power and presence in our lives. It is only right that we honor God in our worship because God created us and we by virtue of being his creation rightfully belong to Him as verse 3 describes. “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
Therefore, it is only natural and right that when we come before the Lord, we come before him with singing and gladness, celebrating who He is and what He has done. No matter what is going on in our lives or in the world around us, we need to remember who God is and honor him with our worship.
And the psalmist ends by telling us why we should honor God that way. “For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Verse 5. Three reasons are given why we should bless and honor God. First, he is good, and his goodness is seen in his moral character and his kindnesses toward us. Second, He is steadfast in his love for us. That means he will never leave us, abandon us or betray us when we commit to following Him. And third, his he is always faithful for all the days of our lives and for all generations. He is not going to change. We can always count on Him. “Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!”
God Reigns in Holiness – Psalm 99
Tuesday, June 22nd
In our world today, life appears to be out of control. Chaos seems to reign. Everyone, including nations and all peoples does only what seems right in their own eyes. There is a moral relativity that has undermined any sense of order and decency. There are no longer conversations in the political sphere; instead, there are only arguments and mockery. There appears to be little or no trust. We don’t trust businesses, government, religious institutions and we don’t trust our leaders to be honest and to do what is right. Cynicism seems to rule; skeptics abound. Chaos reigns!
In such a setting the psalmist asserts “The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The LORD is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” Psalm 99:1-3. Despite the chaos we see in the world, there is a God who rules over the world, all peoples and all powers. It is easy to forget that considering what we hear on the news every day. God sets his limits and one day he is going to establish his rule over the earth when Jesus returns. And the declaration throughout the psalm is “He is holy! He operates according to an absolute moral standard—he only does what is right, true and just. He never wavers in that, and the clear implication of the psalmist is that God holds the world and everyone in it to his standard. We don’t talk about the holiness of God very much today; we talk more about the love of God. And because of that we tend to forget that God is going to hold everyone accountable.
The holiness of God implies that he always acts justly and righteously in all he does. “The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” Verse 4. HIs holiness is absolute and sets God apart from us as people and gives him the right to judge us and to rule over us. He is absolute perfection. God honors leaders who call on his name and seek to live according to his desires and commandments. Moses, Aaron and Samuel were such examples. They weren’t perfect but they sought to honor God in all they did.
And then psalmist reminds us that a part of God’s holiness is His willingness to also forgive. That is the Good News that Jesus gave his life for—that we might know God’s forgiveness. “O LORD our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.” Verse 8. God in his holiness holds Jesus accountable for our wrongdoing and thus we are forgiven. God is absolutely holy and thank God that he is holy because chaos will not reign or have the final say. “Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill.” Verse 9.
A Call to Celebrate – Psalm 98
Friday, June 18th
As people we love to celebrate special events. We gather with family and friends at birthdays and at special holidays and often we will sing as we celebrate, Christmas songs and birthday greetings. Singing speaks of joy and special moments.
God’s people have always been people of song, of praise and worship, because of who God is and what he has done. “Sing a new song to the LORD; he has done wonderful things! By his own power and holy strength he has won the victory.” Verse 1. Think about this past year and because of Covid-19 when we gathered we did not sing. It was a strange time because singing is a natural part of our desire to worship.
We celebrate God in song for what he has done. “The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.” Verse 2. When Israel was faithful to God, he brought them victory and delivered them from his enemies. When they ultimately became unfaithful, God promised he would raise up a deliverer and Jesus was born. He pointed us to the new life God wanted to bring and by his death and resurrection God offers salvation to all who would call on the name of Jesus.
We celebrate God in song for who he is. “He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness.” That is how God is wired—to show love and to always be faithful.
So the natural response of his people should be one of song and joy. “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. . . .with trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!” Verses 4 and 6. He ultimately wants all people to celebrate his goodness, not just his followers as verse 7 says, “Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it!”
Why does he desire everyone to sing joyfully about his name? Because the LORD is returning to earth and when he comes he will judge everyone with fairness and impartiality. He desires that everyone would experience his grace and joy before he comes for judgment.
John described Jesus as full of grace and truth. That is who God is—full of grace and truth. Rejoice you who follow Jesus. “Sing a new song to the Lord!” And invite others to join in on the celebration.
A Hard but Good Truth – Psalm 97
Tuesday, June 15th
In our world, governments come and go. Empires rise and fall, sometimes conquered by others. Authoritarian governments come and go. In some countries, like ours, through the elective process political parties come and go. In this human world, there is no one enduring, stable and absolute authority. It is hard for us to think of God as an absolute ruler when we live in such a chaotic and changing world.
But the psalmist declares that the LORD—Almighty God—rules over this world. “The LORD reigns.” Verse 1. We don’t see his glory and majesty right now because he is shielded from us. When God came down on Mt. Sinai he was surrounded by thick clouds, the people couldn’t see God and not even Moses saw God in all his glory. And sometimes we forget as followers of Jesus because we talk about the love of God all the time, that “the foundation of his throne is righteousness and judgment.” God hates evil; there is no evil in his presence.
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land God was their king, but they asked for an earthly king like the other nations and God granted their requests. But all earthly rulers fall far short of God’s requirements. And when the kings of Israel led the people astray from the true worship of the LORD, God promised that one day He would come to rule again. “Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him.” Isaiah 40:10a. And the life and ministry of Jesus began that process when he is preaching, “the Kingdom of God is at hand, change your life and believe the gospel.” We still don’t see God in all His glory, because God is giving everyone a chance to experience his love and grace first. But when Jesus returns the whole world will know. “His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.” Verse 4-5. Read the Gospels where Jesus talks about his return and also in Revelation.
When he returns he will return as ruler and judge. He will judge evil. “All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!” Verse 7. God’s people will rejoice because they will see the full glory of God. They know that he will judge fairly and righteously, and they will see his help and deliverance.
So what should be our response as followers of Jesus? “You who love the LORD, hate evil. . . .and rejoice in the LORD, you who do right and praise his holy name.” Verse 10, 12. Look at the world today; don’t be fooled. Pay attention. That day of judgment is coming soon.
Worship is Witness – Psalm 96
Saturday, June 5th
We often think worship only in terms of Jesus’ followers. Our worship honors God and it is the right response of those who have experienced God’s love and steadfast faithfulness
Worship is kind of an “inhouse thing” that Christians do on Sundays when they gather together. But this psalm talks about worship in a different way. Our worship is a witness to all the peoples of the earth who don’t follow the true Almighty God. “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth!” Psalm 96:1. We who have been touched by his love and have experienced his mercy and salvation should be overwhelmed by all that He has done for us. And our response in song is one of passion, gratitude and great love. God’s desire is that all of the nations would sing of his glory and might and beauty. Verse 3 points to this truth, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”.
The world wants to see people who are passionately in love with God that is expressed in worship. If we are not excited about who God is and what He has done for us, especially through Jesus Christ, why should they pay attention to Him? So this begs the question, what is our heart like when we gather to worship and lift up our voices to God? Is it a formal, cold and passionless expression of thanksgiving? Or is our worship rising up from a heart that is eternally grateful for all that God has done? The latter is witness to the world; the former bears no testimony to God’s glory and says to the world that our love for God is nothing special.
In the second half of this psalm, the psalmist confirms the missionary nature of our worship. God desires that all peoples should worship Him. “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!” Verse 7. God created this world for everyone to enjoy and to know the Creator. “Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.’” Verse 10. God rules the entire earth and one day he will judge all peoples. “For he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.” Verse 13. But before he comes God desires that all creation and all peoples of the earth sing for joy before the Lord, that all might know God and all that He has done before he has to judge them.
The question for each of is—does our heart worship God with a such deep joy and passion that it breaks forth with a mighty song that the world will stand up and take notice?