The first time I preached someone came to me and said, “Use more illustrations and tell more stories—that’s what people like.” But…what does God like? Our Psalm this week is about an essential element of our growth in Christ and joy--worship. Please read Psalm 95.
Gathered worship as the people of God is a command (Hebrews 10:25) and “an inestimable favor conferred upon [us] in [our] adoption.” A faithful reader and lover of the Psalms cannot help but notice the individual and gathered worship themes over and again. I think it is intentional that Scripture’s Author has a rhythm to the Psalms. In between and surrounding songs of trouble there are uplifting songs of praise that wonderfully guide us to and in worship.
It is not to our credit or growth in Christlikeness that we have often made worship about ourselves without “giving preference to one another” or “count others as more significant than yourselves.” We, e.g., like our music done the way we like it. It is unfortunate, but the “worship wars” probably won’t end until heaven.
Psalm 95 robustly tells us worship is not about us. And it gives sufficient reason for the LORD to be the object, subject, core, and main point of our worship. “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (vss.1-5). Tim Keller suggests worship is when we “rise up in joy to God.”
Next, may we bow before God with other followers of Christ. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” (vs. 6). Yes, we can be exuberant, expectant, and expressive in gathered worship and still be humble and appropriately emotional (even if only inside). It is no small trick to bow and kneel humbly to THE God of the universe who is also “our” Maker and “our” God. Deep reverence (the fear of the LORD) and a personal relationship with Him at the same time are a special gift and mystery. In a smaller but similar way I stand in amazement that I have an intimate relationship with my wife, who I adore.
Let us not, in self-sufficiency and what-I-can-get-out-of-it, neglect to humbly and joyfully bow before our Maker-Redeemer when we worship.
Last, the psalmist issues a plea. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (vs. 7). The writer gives actual examples of places where the Hebrew nation tested God and contended against Him. Is our heart hardened or open when we go to be with the flock of God? 1 Corinthians 10 equates such hearts and actions as idolatry. Ouch.
Application time. Did you know Psalm 95 is the basis for “Joy To The World”? So…Merry Christmas and joy to the LORD next Sunday!