The Words of Worship (Psalm 96)

Is there anything much more elusive than worship? We sort of know it when we experience it at times, be it in the corporate setting of the church gathering, or perhaps alone beneath the celestial majesty of the evening sky.

I am literally typing these words at 39,000 feet while flying over the Mississippi River valley. The sights of the evidence of God’s creation are abundant.

But how do we define worship? Our English word comes from an old Anglo-Saxon term weorthscipe, that later evolved into worthship and then worship. It means to attribute or assign worth and value to something. We even use the word in this way when we say that someone “worships his sports car” or “worships the Dallas Cowboys” (which makes sense, of course).

A variety of Old Testament passages connote this idea, notably these from Psalm 96 …

1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.

Looking at original language words in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Scriptures is far more than an academic exercise and can really help us get a good mental picture of meanings and concepts. And there are two primary Hebrew words that speak of worship.

The first is hishasawah which has the meaning of “bowing down.” Throughout many cultures of antiquity right though our modern era, bowing has the meaning of honoring another above oneself. It seems strange to us as Americans, but we’re in the minority on this one.

If you have ever watched a broadcast of the Little League World Series, the finals often involve a team from the Far East, often Japan. And as each batter approaches the plate, he bows to the umpire, giving him honor as the authority on the field. That might be a good idea for Jose Bautista or David Ortiz or one of a list of arrogant professional baseball players to emulate! And it is not a bad idea to probably see God as the umpire on the baseball field of life, calling the balls and strikes, etc.

Oh boy, now I’m getting myself convicted (as I have a long history of umpire skirmishes). Let’s go to another term…

The second Hebrew word is ‘abodah, which carries the idea of “service.”  It comes from the same root word as does the term for “servant” or “slave.”  In the Greek culture and usage, this concept takes on a more negative tone as being servile or in confinement (though even there, not as severe as we would see in slavery as with American history). But the Hebrew usage is a rather positive term, carrying the idea of the privilege and honor of serving in association with a kindly master. And it is with this background in mind that Paul spoke of being a bondservant of Jesus Christ. The idea of a person in this servitude is something like this: “I’m not just some ordinary person out on the streets, I’m a servant in the household of the great master, inside the walls, welcomed into his presence in his great mansion. It doesn’t get any better than that!”

And so, our question of the week is “Why Worship?”  Let’s start with this: because of who God is and what God has done.

First – who He is. When we come into the presence of an important person, the entire crowd has a focus upon him. We would understand this more if we lived in a monarchy. I am yet to meet a king or queen, but I’ve been around presidential candidates (though not the Donald yesterday, and all you should take from that is that he showed up at the same time the Orioles were playing. I do have a values system, you know!).  Before you even get close to the candidate, you have to go through security systems and lines. And when the moment of his arrival comes, everyone jockeys for position to see the public personage. I think God is worthy of our attention and worship simply for who He is, above and beyond anything we could imagine on earth.

Second – for what He has done.  Imagine someone saved your life in the midst of some calamity. It you could not thank them at the moment because you were immediately incapable by some circumstance, you would certainly seek out that person later to thank them and would be forever grateful.

It would not be like this story: A boy was playing with a coin, tossing it in the air and catching it between his teeth. But on one throw, another child bumped him and the coin went past his teeth and lodged in his throat. Various people tried maneuvers to dislodge the coin, all unsuccessfully. A nearby gentleman was calmly reading his newspaper, and only when all others were frantic as the young fellow was turning blue did he set down his paper. He calmly walked over to the boy, gently squeezed him once — popping out the coin — and then returned to his seat and newspaper. The grateful father, after seeing the boy was recovering and going to be fine, went to the man to thank him and asked how he knew exactly what to do. The man said, “It was simple. I’m an IRS agent and have been squeezing money out of people my whole life!”

No, that is not what worship is like. It is not obligatory and ritualistic performance. It is rather the expression of sincere gratitude for what God has done in Christ to redeem us from our lost condition, adopting us into His family, and guaranteeing for us an eternal inheritance with Him. The reality is that we were on death row, spiritually speaking … totally doomed with no way out. But our ransom was paid and our circumstances completely reversed in every way imaginable.

Now don’t you want to be a worshipper?

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The Place of the Just Verdict – Psalm 96

We hear much in our world today about the desire for justice. This day, in the central part of our country, there is much civil strife going on in a Missouri town due to the outrage that an injustice has been committed.

The governor of Texas was indicted yesterday, fingerprinted like a criminal, all in a political stunt of grave injustice to give the public appearance of wrongdoing for an act that was the simple execution of his constitutional prerogatives.

Over the years there have been occasions in the news where we hear of a court verdict that leaves one shaking his head in amazement. Yet other occasions have the residual confusion of not knowing what really happened in a “he said, she said” presentation of contradictory facts where no witnesses were present.

I have a friend right now who is being unjustly treated in the workplace – having been set up to fail with impossible criteria that will be presumably used for job removal. Truth and justice do not seem to be nearby whatsoever.

We could go on and on with such examples, even in our own lives where we have all been hurt by the aspersions of others.

Wouldn’t it be great if the truth would always prevail! That would be something to celebrate and be joyful about, wouldn’t it?

Well, that is the very spirit of Psalm 96. Here in this enthronement Psalm, God is declared as the sovereign over all things, all nations and all peoples. There is no higher authority.

God will ultimately judge all things and all nations and all people. This is something to be joyful about, because justice will prevail. And at the same time this is something to be fearful about, because justice will prevail.

Though evil people and nations seem to too often get away with injustice and oppression, it will not always be this way. We can be pleased with that!

But we are sinners, and if God is to be a just judge, we are really in trouble, right? And that is fearful. Yet as we stand before Him, not in our own “goodness” but rather in the righteousness of Christ who paid the price by dying for us, we have no reason to fear God’s wrath … because it has already be spent on His only begotten Son. That is amazing!

There in the ground His body lay

Light of the World by darkness slain

Then bursting forth in glorious Day

Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

For I am His and He is mine

Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death

This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath

Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever pluck me from His hand

‘Til He returns or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Psalm 96

1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

What Kind of Playlist Do YOU Have? (Intro to Summer Psalms Series) (Psalm 96)

Those of you signed up for these devotionals are getting this delivered to your device early on Sunday morning of this, our opening day of the 2014 summer preaching series.

Over the next 13 weeks we will travel together through the book of Psalms. Often called “The Hymnal of the Scriptures,” the book of Psalms is indeed a playlist of tunes expressing a wide range of emotions by varied people of God in Old Testament times.

Their songs are still dearly loved and among the favorite passages of the Bible for so many of God’s people. This is because they are a sort of “playlist” of common emotions that run the spectrum of love, joy, praise, teaching, wisdom, despair, confusion, sadness, fear, and even anger and indignation. The emotions that soar out of these inspired lyrics do indeed reflect the timeless emotions of people wanting to live for God in a difficult and challengingly sinful world.

Bible scholars over the years have sought to categorize the Psalms into common themes that are expressed by the writers. Not every list is exactly the same. This is often because there are varied ways and angles of looking at and enjoying these songs. And many of them are able to be classified in several categories. For example, a Psalm may express praise to God, while also presenting wise teaching and themes about worshipping God.

As we have laid out the Psalms for this summer series, we don’t claim particular inspiration, but do present them in what we trust is a logical way of categorizing them. We also want to raise out of them practical teaching themes as to how they may be applied to 21st Century life.

We will first begin with three weeks about “Praise” psalms that speak to the topic of worship and the active role of relationship we have with the Creator.

There will then be two weeks of “Lament” psalms where the writers present topics about the inevitable sorrows and pains of life – calling to God to help in times of need.

We will next have two weeks about “Trust” and “Thanksgiving” psalms – where the writers express their hope and confidence in God, even in spite of the challenges of life.

We know that all Scripture is given for our instruction in life, and we will at the end of July and beginning of August look at “Wisdom” and “Torah” psalms that primarily instruct and teach.

For one week, on Sunday 8/10 and following, we will give attention to a very unique category of “Imprecatory” psalms. These may seem odd to people as they even call upon God to move to judgment and retribution … and we may see them as a crying out to God to see justice prevail in a difficult and sinful world.

We’ll give two Sundays to psalms of the “King” … sometimes called “Messianic” or “Enthronement” or “Royal” psalms. These look forward to King and a Kingdom to come.

And finally we will enjoy and finish with “Ascent” psalms. These are those that were dear to the Old Testament saints as they sang them when on pilgrimages to Jerusalem to worship God in the Temple.

Hopefully some of these Psalms will find their way onto your personal playlist – not just of music and text, but of application to life.

I have a pastor friend who everyday puts on Facebook a post about what song is “playing on the internal jukebox,” as he puts it. I understand what he is talking about. Though I practically never actually listen to music intentionally, having been a musician and with a degree in music, I too have a song playing subconsciously in my head all the time. Do you? Do all people? If you stop and think about it, can you identify the song?

Well, as you read along with us in the book of Psalms, may it be that it triggers in you the playing of an internal jukebox playlist of life’s tunes that give you encouragement and guidance in life.

Chris starts today with the series by preaching on Psalm 96 …

1 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.

2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts.

9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it.

12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.