读经：诗98:1-9 林前11:2-34 代下7:11-9:31
We are created to worship God. But why would God create human beings in order to receive their worship? Is this not, as some suggest, pure vanity?
Many years ago I was helped in my understanding of worship through C. S. Lewis’s explanation in his ‘Reflections on the Psalms’.
He wrote: ‘The most obvious fact about praise… strangely escaped me… I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise… the world rings with praise … walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare books, even sometimes politicians and scholars…
‘My whole, more general, difficulty about praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.
‘I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It’s not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are, the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.’
In other words, worship is the consummation of joy. Our joy is not complete until it is expressed in worship. It is out of his love for us that God created us for worship. According to theWestminster Shorter Catechism, humankind’s ‘chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’
1. Singing and music
Psalm 98:1-9The psalmist calls people to worship God in song and music: ‘Sing to the Lord a new song… Burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord’ (vv.1,4–5).
This psalm is full of noise, as the people are asked to celebrate God’s goodness in a whole host of different ways. There is a call to sing, shout for joy, play instruments, and even applaud in our celebration of God:
‘Shout your praises to God, everybody!
Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
Round up an orchestra to play for God,
Add on a hundred-voice choir.
Feature trumpets and big trombones,
Fill the air with praises to King God.
Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in’ (vv.4–7, MSG).
This is all a response to what God has done for us. We are called to worship the Lord who is Saviour (vv.1–3), King (vv.4–6) and Judge (vv.7–9).
As we read this through the lens of Jesus we can see this as a prophetic psalm. Jesus is the one at God’s ‘right hand’ who has ‘worked salvation’ (v.1). He has made God’s salvation known and ‘revealed his righteousness to the nations’ (v.2). (See also Romans 3:21.)
There is a joyful anticipation of the universal restoration of all things when the Saviour will come to judge the earth (Psalm 98:9). Then all creation will be restored (vv.7–8). As St Paul puts it, ‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed… the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8:19–21).
This psalm is a growing crescendo of praise – from the worshipping community of the people of God (Psalm 98:1–3), to all people (vv.4–6) and finally to all of creation (vv.7–9).
Lord, I worship you today. You have done ‘marvellous things’. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for your love and faithfulness. Thank you that I can worship you with joy, jubilant songs, music and shouting. Thank you that I can be confident in the fairness of your judgment – you will judge the world in righteousness and the people with equity.
2. Awe and thanksgiving
1 Corinthians 11:2-34First, Paul addresses the issue of honour and propriety in worship, and in particular he looks at the role and place of women in worship. A huge amount of ink has been spilt discussing what this passage means. There is general agreement that much of it is cultural – few churches today expect women to cover their hair, for example.
What is clear is that both men and women were expected to pray and prophesy in services (vv.4–5). It is also clear that there is an equality of the sexes and mutual dependence (vv.11–12): ‘Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority… let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines’ (vv.11–12, MSG).
Next, Paul goes onto discuss the ‘Lord’s Supper’ (v.20), or ‘the Eucharist’ as he calls it elsewhere (Eucharistéin is a Greek verb meaning ‘to thank’). It is also sometimes called ‘Mass’ or ‘Holy Communion’.
This is probably the earliest account of this element in our services of worship. It has been a vital part of Christian worship for the last 2,000 years, celebrated almost universally by the church worldwide. Again, there has been a huge amount of discussion about what exactly Paul means. However, it seems to me that from this passage a number of things are clear:
- It is frequent
There is an expectation that when they ‘come together’ in their ‘meetings’ (vv.17,20), the Lord’s Supper will take place.
- It is important
Jesus tells us to ‘do this’ (v.24). The consequences of not doing it properly are very serious (v.27 onwards). ‘Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe’ (v.28, MSG).
- It is proclamation
It is one of the ways in which you proclaim the gospel (v.26).
- It involved both remembering Jesus (vv.24–25) and ‘recognising the body of the Lord’ (v.29)
- It is a participation in Christ’s body and blood (10:14 onwards). The Greek word used here is koinonia, which can also mean ‘sharing’ or ‘fellowship’. It is a way for us to receive and share in the benefits of Jesus’ death.
- It is a form of thanksgiving (v.16)
- It is an expression of unity (v.17). One of the great tragedies of church history is the way in which this great expression of unity has become a cause of division.
- It anticipates the Lord’s return (11:26)
The bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus (vv.24–25). What exactly this means, of course, has been the subject of great speculation, debate and controversy. One approach might perhaps be simply to accept it as a mystery and not go behind Scripture and speculate too much about how exactly it works.
Lord, help me to worship you in a way that is right and appropriate and pleases you. Help me to focus on Jesus. Help me to find my true purpose in worshipping you and enjoying you forever.
3. Integrity and passion
2 Chronicles 7:11-9:31Solomon ‘succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord’ (7:11). He glorified God through what he carried out.
The chronicler focuses his account of the reigns of David and Solomon around the building ofthe place to worship God, the temple in Jerusalem. For him, virtually everything else in their reigns pales into insignificance. They built the place of worship and God blessed them richly.
Solomon’s fame spread (as we read in chapters 8 and 9). The Queen of Sheba came to visit and was so astonished by what she saw (9:1–7) that she herself praised the Lord (v.8). (Interestingly, in the light of the New Testament passage about women, no question is raised here about a woman running a country.)
Solomon’s splendour was great. After Solomon had built the temple, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land’ (7:14).
This verse is justly famous, and it is often used as a template for worship and prayer. In it we see the conditions for integrity in our worship. They are also the conditions necessary for revival. We see in this verse that we need to do four things:
- Humble ourselves
- Seek God’s face
- Turn from our wicked ways
Then God promises that he will do three things:
- Hear from heaven
- Forgive our sin
- Heal the land
Lord, today I want to humble myself and pray and seek your face and repent of my sins. I pray that you would hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. Lord, would you bring your healing to marriages that are broken, parent and child relationships that need restoration, and every other area in which we see the breakdown of our society. And we pray for an end to slavery and trafficking of people, for the end of extreme poverty and preventable disease and for justice to come to the earth.
2 Chronicles 8:11
‘My wife must NOT live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the Lord has entered are HOLY.’
I’m assuming it is because Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t worship God rather than because she was a woman!