O Worship the King
O, Worship the King
Monday: Because He Is Near
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name;
worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness ~ Psalm 29:2
For much of American evangelicalism, worship is a matter of personal taste. Reigning supreme is the idea that the church’s worship services should be developed around the perceived needs and tastes of unbelievers and seekers. What matters most is that worship is comfortable and inviting, especially to unbelievers, the songs and tunes easy, the sermon short and practical. With increasingly few objections, most of the Protestant world has made one of two responses: complete capitulation to the worship spirit of our age or an archaic attempt to preserve everything from past centuries.
Church tradition is important to consider, for we did not invent worship and are not authorized to reinvent it. Unbelievers do not know how to worship God and cannot worship him until they repent and turn from their idols to serve the living God (1 Thess. 1:9). Reaching unbelievers for Christ is the work of discipleship, not of worship. As for relevance, he is a fickle god; the more relevant, the sooner irrelevant.
The highest consideration for worship is God himself. Who is the God worship? Has his nature changed so that he does not care about the way that we approach him? Is his word all-sufficient for worship, or do we develop worship around the ever-changing human taste? Does our understanding of grace exclude his fear, his holiness, and obedience to his word? If so, he is a different God indeed from the God of Scripture, Old and New Testaments.
It is true that we are now brought near to the consuming fire, his holiness and purging grace and sanctifying presence. But that nearness came at the price of the precious blood of Jesus Christ, his shame consuming our shame in his submission and obedience unto death. The nearness that we enjoy to God, therefore, is not the end of his concern for worship that pleases him and love guided by his word. We should be more concerned, not less, that our worship is pleasing to him, for HE IS NEAR, far nearer than the old covenant permitted. Love demands it – his love for us that led him to crush his Son in our place, and our love for him wanting to please him in all things, especially in our worship.
Because God is near, because we now live before his face, with his Spirit indwelling, forming us to be God’s living temple and dwelling place, his worship should be our most important concern. The Lord’s Day should feel different, be different, call for different attitudes and priorities. “When you come together on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7) is a gospel trumpet summoning us before the God of our mercy, the God of our salvation, the God of our righteousness, to serve him, to tell him how wonderful he is, in a sense to lose ourselves and forget our own concerns so that we may praise and exalt his holy name in a way that pleases him.
We cannot come as we are to do this. We must come prepared. We must be prepared to meet the King and to behold his beauty in his temple. When God is near, our one thought must be to adore his majesty, tremble before his holiness, rejoice in his grace and love, and to serve him by offering him the worship that is pleasing to him.
Tuesday: His Name is Jealous
For thou shalt worship no other god:
for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God ~ Exodus 34:14
In many human contexts, jealousy is negative, even sinful. With respect to God, jealousy is his sovereign right to claim our exclusive love and worship. It is his holy love seeking our loyal love. He has bound himself to us in covenant, and we are bound to him as his children, his people, his bride. His jealousy means that we must not worship any other god; it means that we must not worship the true God as the world worships its false gods (Deut. 12:30-31). God’s jealousy is holy zeal for his purity and his loving claim upon our affections and loyalty. Jealousy is not an appendage of God; it is his name. He takes himself seriously; he takes us and our worshipping love seriously.
This has become a foreign concept today, an unwelcome one. If God is jealous, this would mean that the standard of worship is not what we like but what pleases God. It would mean that no respect is to be given to idolatrous religions that reject the triune God and his Christ. Nor can we go any easier upon the cults, Christian counterfeits, all of which substitute their own superstitions and idols for the true God revealed in Scripture. It would also mean that we should never ask what unbelievers want our worship services to be or how they can be made to feel comfortable before the HOLY ONE.
One New Testament passage makes clear that Calvary did not quench God’s jealousy for his holiness and our worship (1 Cor. 10:21-22). Some in the Corinthian church saw nothing wrong with participating in the pagan temples. They were likely motivated by hyper-spirituality that denied the significance of the body and externals. As long as the “heart” is right – sound familiar? – what you do with the body is insignificant. Against this body-soul, internal-external dualism, see 1 Corinthians 6:17-20, 7:34, and Romans 12:1-2. The way Paul condemned their practice is instructive. First, he stated the absolute principle of worship exclusivity, i.e., complete separation from the worship practices of the idolatrous world. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils; you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (1 Cor. 10:21).
He then added: “Do we provoke the Lord to jealous? Are we stronger than he? “(1 Cor. 10:22). This brings directly into the apostolic concept of worship the entire weight of the Old Testament teaching on God’s jealousy. To learn what kind of worship pleases God, we cannot begin with Matthew 1:1 but with Genesis 1:1. God has not changed. The coming of Jesus Christ into the world does not mean God is less jealous, less holy, or less concerned that our worship be exclusive, reverent, and obedient. Accommodation to the world spirit provokes God’s jealousy. He is concerned with what we do with the body, as well as with the soul. He claims us completely for himself. He will have his worship pure and unmixed with worldly elements.
There is a sense in which our perception and ability to understand God’s jealousy is heightened in the new covenant age. Paul’s heart reflects God’s: “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). We are wedded to Jesus Christ. Let this thought dominate us. We are married to the Son of God and Savior of sinners. He is worthy of our most careful devotion, our most attentive love, and the purest, most heartfelt worship of which we are capable.
Wednesday: Why Did He Fall on His Face?
And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth ~ 1 Corinthians 14:25
Also in Corinth, the apostle rebuked their frenetic worship services, in which the extraordinary and temporary gifts of the Spirit were practiced haphazardly, with showiness and pride, without due concern for order, and without giving primacy to the prophetic gift, i.e., the declaration of God’s word. He then makes this rather surprising statement, given our tendency to order worship around whether or not unbelievers will feel comfortable (1 Cor. 14:25). “If there come in one that believes not:” this is a conditional statement, expressing that it may or may not occur. In other words, the worship service was not oriented around unbelievers but around believers. They alone can worship God, for they alone have had their hearts turned from idols to the living God (1 Thess. 1:9).
If an unbeliever happens to be present, the reason that there must not be confusion but a clear declaration of God’s word is so that “the secrets of his heart be revealed, and so falling down on his face, he will worship God” (1 Cor. 14:25). The unbeliever is brought to the place of worship by having his heart secrets revealed by God’s word. This is a far cry from today’s thinking, that the best way to see men saved is by removing all that might confront or offend. Because God is jealous, the sinner must be offended by his sins and brought face to face with God’s holiness through the word. If our worship loses its commitment to God’s jealousy and holiness, it also loses its power to convince and convert sinners, for such worship denies God’s jealous name.
It is God’s word alone that has this power to convince and convert sinners. The preaching of the gospel is his power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:16). This tests the church’s loyalty, faith, and commitments. Do we believe music or the word will expose the secrets of the hearts and bring men to conviction? Have we fallen upon our face and worshipped God? Admittedly, in a more settled and mature state of the church, the temporary gifts that served as signs of the arrival of the new covenant age have given way to the regular and more progressive working of the Spirit. The principle, however, remains in full operation. We must be ready in worship, when God exposes our sins through his word, to fall upon our faces and worship him.
And for a more settled church, the temptation, as in Ephesus, is to fall into orthodoxy but to lose love and awe (Rev. 2:4). When God draws near and gives us his word, are we self-contented? Yes, I have heard all that before; yes, the preacher is very orthodox; yes, I believe all this. Do we? Do we shout when God comes into our midst? When he draws near and proclaims the everlasting gospel to us, we must be ready to receive it. Then, with our hearts soft and exposed before him, we shall fall upon our faces to worship the God of our salvation.
Thursday: The Language of Worship
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker ~ Psalm 95:6
One increasingly hears that stated times of worship are not important, for all of life is worship. Therefore, I can worship God at the lake, or on a hike, or when I go to work. Weekly meetings of the church are not that different from other times. Perhaps part of this is to be explained that pastors have done a poor job explaining the significance of the church’s corporate worship. They often conduct the services in a lifeless manner, or with a silly enthusiasm that wears upon the patience of intelligent believers.
It is instructive to note the Bible’s language of worship, the words it uses for worship. In almost every Old Testament use of “worship,” the Hebrew word is shachah, (hx'v'), which means to bow down and prostrate oneself before God. Kara ([r;K') is another worship word, meaning to bend or sink down to one’s knees. Also found are chuwl (lWx), to twist, tremble, or fear, and ruwm (~Wr), which means to exalt or to raise on high. Unless one believes that we are able to work or cut the grass or cook dinner bowing down, bending the knee, or trembling, then something distinct is intended by worship. We are certainly to dedicate all we do to God’s service, but worship also has a formal, called, and distinct sense.
In the New Testament, there is likewise a distinct aspect of the church’s corporate worship. The most common New Testament word for worship is proskuneo (proskune,w), which means to kiss the hand, to kneel in reverence, and to prostrate oneself. Our Lord used the word sebomai (se,bomai) when rebuking the Pharisees for their vain worship. It means simply to revere or to worship. In 1 Corinthians 14:25, the sinner’s conviction results in his worshipping God, kissing God’s hand, prostrating himself before God.
The Bible’s language of worship is very compelling and corrects many false ideas about worship. The called, corporate gatherings of the church for worship are a celebration of God’s presence in our midst – not his theoretical or wished for presence but his actual presence by his Spirit. These services are distinct from daily life, meaning that attitudes and requirements are different when we assemble for worship. Worship is not simply doing collectively what we might do privately. It is certainly not a “come as you are” occasion, as if we were going to a picnic. We come together to reverence him, to bow before him, to lift him up on high by our praises, to confess our allegiance to his truth, and to hear his word.
Uniting Old and New Testament worship language is the idea of reverence. Sometimes worship words are parallel with fear, trembling, and awe words. Always the idea is that we are entering into his holy temple, his house, and therefore our attitudes, words, and spirit must be attuned to his majestic presence. Now that God is forming his living temple in Christ and dwells with us more familiarly, our reverence should not be diminished but increased. When we sing, to take one example, the words, tunes, and spirit must reflect his majesty and holiness. He is present. We do not see him, but we love him. We believe his promise that he indwells his house and is present to bless, forgive, help, and teach us in a way that is distinct from our daily lives.
We call upon him in our homes, to be sure, and worship him morning and night, but when his Bride comes together, when we come together on the first day of the week, then particularly and more fully he comes into his dwelling place. Let us be ready and offer to him the glory due unto his name. He has done great things for us. We are brought now to his very city, the heavenly Jerusalem, before his throne. The curtain separating him from us has been torn down. And in his temple, bowing our hearts, often our knees, and always our wills, we should cry with joy, “Glory! Glory!”
Friday: Holy Day
If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken ~ Isaiah 58:13-14
A conviction of Sabbath and zeal to worship God reverently are inseparable. The disdain for Sabbath and the corruption of worship have walked hand in hand through our land. Sabbath is a creation ordinance. It is God’s will that one day in seven be kept holy unto him. The fourth commandment begins uniquely with “remember,” for the Sabbath ordinance was in place and binding. It was neither a new command nor part of the ceremonial laws that pertained only to Israel.
Our Savior proclaimed himself to be Lord of the Sabbath. If Sabbath has no meaning in the new covenant, if all distinctions between days is now abolished, then his claim is meaningless. The various Jewish Sabbaths tied to the ceremonial law, like the eighth day feasts, have been abolished, except insofar as they were typical of the new Sabbath day coming, the Lord’s Day. With his resurrection, the day has been changed, but the Sabbath preserved. Thus, John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. The apostolic church came together on the first day of the week, the day of resurrection. We now begin the week with Sabbath, then work the remainder of the week in its power. There remains, therefore, a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God (Heb. 4:9).
It is a denial of Scripture, the history of the church, and of God’s very ordering of the universe for us not to keep Sabbath. We may differ on the specifics of Sabbath keeping, but we should not differ on the duty of Sabbath keeping. God claims this day for himself. For us, it is supremely the Day of the Lord, the Lord’s Day, when we meet in his presence, hear him preach the Father’s gospel to us, sing with us, and indwell us by his Holy Spirit.
The loss of Sabbath conviction, that the Lord’s Day is different from other days, is one of the great disloyalties of our age. It explains our restlessness in life, impotence in holiness, and carelessness in worship. A right conviction of Sabbath means that we awaken on Sunday morning knowing that the day is different, set apart, dedicated to his praise and service. Our Savior has entered his rest of redemption accomplished and a throne obtained. We enter into his rest by faith, to celebrate his saving presence, his redeeming love, and his strengthening grace.
That the entire day belongs to God is one reason for the morning and evening worship. There is no direct command for this in Scripture. There is, however, a powerful impetus toward this. The other days we are busy doing our work; on the Sabbath, we need for God to work in us. We should not, therefore, give God a little time, feel we have done our duty, and then do what we want. We should take pleasure in him all day and want to offer him as much worship as possible, not as little.