In the last portion of Part 5 of this series, we went into some detail describing why personal worship is such an integral part of our walk of intimacy with God. We looked at how worship must be a way of life and we showed how a personal time set aside to commune with God is absolutely necessary. We continue below with a third point showing the need of participating in praise and worship and its benefits. We will then look at both Old and New Testament Scriptures showing God’s attitude, not only about worship but praise as well.
Corporate worship, in the company of other believers, is illustrated in Scripture. Psalms 27: 4-6 describes David’s attitude about gathering in God’s house:
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me. At his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”
Psalms 122:1 reads:
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Corporate worship is like nothing else–when it is real. For several years in the 1970’s I had the opportunity to take large groups of people to an area-wide Christian festival called “Jesus Northwest”, a gathering of thousands of people meeting for three days at a large fairground facility. The sound of 30,000 people singing praises and worshipping God in an open field was majestic and truly awe-inspiring. I know God was there and received the worship with great joy.
I have also experienced many worship services where hundreds of people had nothing but worship on their hearts, and it was obvious! The presence of God was so very strong at times! There is nothing else like it on this side of heaven. We were made for worship! God is blessed by it, but we receive so very much from the experience. We should not settle for a life without real worship being part of our relationship with our Master. It changes us. It helps us to become a people that imitates our Lord. I pray that if you are new to corporate worship, you will learn to experience freedom in it. You may feel awkward if you’re not accustomed to it, but it matters less how strange we may feel than how it touches the heart of God–who then does mighty works within His children! Below are just a few of many Scriptures that show the importance of worship and what we gain from it.
Worship is an act of giving back to God–not receiving from Him, although we always receive from Him in the process. Psalms 96:7-8 says this:
“Give unto the Lord, ye families of the people: Give unto the Lord glory and power. Give unto the Lord the glory of his Name: bring an offering, and enter into his courts. Worship the Lord in the glorious Sanctuary: tremble before him all the earth. Say among the Nations, The Lord reigneth: Surely the world shall be stable, and not move, and he shall judge the people in righteousness.” (Geneva Bible)
In Psalms 29:1-2 we find similar thoughts:
“Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name, worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”
Some people have come to depend on a specific type of music or instrumentation to be able to enter worship. If we find ourselves needing something special before we are able to enter worship, we have missed the spirit of worship. It indicates that we are depending on a “feeling”. This is a “soulish” desire and not a spiritual need. True worship comes from within the spirit of a human being and can be done in the worst of conditions. There are many passages in the Bible describing the worship from people and none described a desire to receive something from God. What is described is pure worship.
Because I am a pianist, I have been involved in congregational worship in past years. During some of the purest times of worship, I lost track of time. I also quite often was hardly aware of my surroundings. I am sure it was the Holy Spirit who enabled this degree of focus on The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Holy Spirit used the piano as a tool only to augment the worship. I can’t allow the piano to be my crutch so that I can experience these special times with God. I have learned to worship my Father while I sit on my front porch enjoying the view of the snow covered mountains so close to my home. I also find myself worshipping God while driving past green fields where cattle are grazing. I even find myself worshipping God when I go to my chicken coop in order to collect the eggs my hens have laid! I am fascinated with all parts of God’s creation, thanking Him for it every day! Thanksgiving can quickly lead to worship of the Creator Himself.
As much as I love God’s creation, it is not the creation that warrants my worship. It is the Creator that I worship! This is the One who loved me so deeply, even before I was born, that He died a brutal, cruel death so that I could be set free of the eternal death sentence that I was under with no way to be free. God is worthy of all the praise we can give Him! The older I get, the more I find myself worshipping the One I will be spending eternity with.
Do you know that a person can be guilty of “worshipping ‘worship’”? I remember reading the account of a vision a woman had while she was in her church worship service one morning. The church was well attended and she described the music as being absolutely glorious. As she was singing along with the large crowd of people, she looked to a side aisle and saw Jesus standing there. She walked over to where He was and asked Him what He thought of the worship service. Jesus had been looking down but as she finished her question, she noticed that He had tears running down His face. She could not understand why He would be crying during such a great worship service! After all, the crowd was using His Name in almost every song! When Jesus answered her, she was even more mystified when He answered her and said, “These people are not worshipping Me, they are worshipping the worship!
How could this possibly be? Yet, when we stop and think about it, how often do we go to church and just “perform” our weekly ritual? I have done it myself! It is easy to participate in the music without really connecting to the God that the music is all about. It is also easy to be drawn into “the mood” by the stage lights or other props. Soon we are feeling the music. Feeling the music and enjoying the instrumentation are not the problem. The problem lies within us, and with our upside down priorities. We can take part in every part of the service and yet miss the real purpose of being gathered together. We can be singing his praise with our mouths, but with our minds we are focusing on our own pain, problems, priorities, or plans. The point here is to realize how easily we allow ourselves to be distracted and drawn away from the One who gave His all for us. He deserves much better from us.
Gathering together in the Presence of God is something that we must come to value. It is a time when we need to fully recognize that we are meeting with God! We don’t have to pretend that He is there. He promised that He would be present at any gathering in His Name. It doesn’t matter if it is in a church, someone’s home, in a tent, in the middle of the forest, in a car, or in a secluded ditch! God will always be there if His saints are there to meet with Him. So, we need to give Him our best attention and honor Him with our worship–not just for His gifts to us, but for Who He Is! He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. We gather together in order for our transformed human spirit to commune with the Holy Spirit. There is nothing greater or more fulfilling than for God to meet with His people. God has such a great desire to express His love for us through a deep relational, spiritual intimacy. He wants to touch us in our spirit man. One of the great differences between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and every other god is that tremendous outpouring of personal, individualized love that we receive from Him. God truly does make it a point to meet with us. Through real worship however, God will often go beyond coming down to meet with us. He will lift us up into His Holy Presence! Not everyone experiences this. It takes a walk of intimacy with Him!
The first time Scripture mentions Moses worshipping was when he went to the mountain the second time to receive the stone tablets with the 10 commandments inscribed by the hand of God Himself (Exodus 33:12-34:8). Moses, who had a unique and personal one-on-one relationship with the God of the Universe (a relationship that is available to each of us through Jesus), had often talked with God, heard from God, even argued with God. On this occasion he prayed:
“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (:13)
God’s response to Moses was:
“I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (:17)
Moses then asked God to show him His glory.
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:5-6)
God walked in front of Moses and showed him His great character and personality. He showed him his Glory! And Moses’ response to seeing the Glory of God?
“Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshipped. (34:8)
God allowed Moses to see His glory so that he might be changed by the sight of it—and the same is true for us today. God reveals His glory to us—his character and personality—so that by seeing, we might be changed into His very own image! Any revelation of His glory to us now is meant to change us into an expression of Christ. And once you get this revelation of God’s glory—of His love, mercy, grace, long-suffering and readiness to forgive—you will have a revelation of God in the way He wants to be known to you. And, like Moses, your response will be to worship Him for who He is. That is true worship.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19).
God desires our true worship. His Spirit will enable us to enter into pure worship. Our part is to open our hearts and minds to his Glory and to respond to Him. And as Christ continues to dwell in our hearts, we will be changed in that response. And we will find that praise and worship have become the very “air we breathe, more than the song we sing, more than our next heart beat.”
Normally, I would cover worship before praise because in a service when believers are gathered together, the praise is an expression that becomes part of the service before real worship. But in this study, I went into the worship first.
Many people ask if there is a difference between worship and praise. Most use the terms interchangeably, but to me there really is a difference. Looking at some of the Scriptures that the word “praise” is used in shows us that there might be a distinction. First of all, let’s look at the definition for the word “praise”.
“Praise is an action of worship that is directed to God through the medium of speaking, singing, and playing of musical instruments, where grateful homage (reverence and respect) is expressed to the Lord for His character and wonderful works.”
Below are several Scriptures and what God is being given praise for:
“May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees.” (Psalms 119:171, NIV)
“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” (Psalms 138:2, NIV)
“Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. (Psalms 106:12, NIV)
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalms 56:3-4, NIV)
“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalms 103:1-5, NIV)
“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” (Psalms 148:13, NIV)
“I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Psalms 7:17, NIV)
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. The poor will see and be glad–you who seek God, may your hearts live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.” (Psalms 69:30-36, NIV)
All these Scriptures describe reasons to “praise” the Lord. Many of the things we praise Him for have to do with His great love for us. It is through His great love for us that He cares for even the smallest things that concern us.
The devil would like to make God out to be an untouchable, uncaring, vengeful God that is little more than a God of wrath. In fact, that is how many religions see God. God does display anger and wrath, but it is always in response to extreme rebellion and wickedness. God so much wants us to express our own lives through His love that we are told that vengeance is for Him to exact, not us. God’s second greatest command was for us to love our neighbor as ourself. God even teaches us to love our enemy and pray for those who despitefully use us.
We can praise God as we go through hard things. The Bible teaches us to praise God, no matter what. Why would I praise God when everything has gone wrong? Because my God is still watching over me. I am not going through difficulties because He is angry at me. I am going through hard things because I live in a fallen, evil world. God teaches us that it rains on the just and the unjust, alike. I think of the story of Job in the Old Testament. There has probably not been a man in history that suffered as much as this man did. Here is a sampling of the things that he said when he was going through the absolute worst of events.
After Job found out that he had lost all of his herds, his servants, and all ten of his grown children, his wife came and ridiculed him for still holding onto his faith, telling him he should just give up, curse God, and die, his response was this:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.” (Job 1:21, NIV)
“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him, I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance…”(Job 13:15, NIV)
Job demonstrated a trust in God to such a degree that the Holy Spirit made sure that his story was included in the Holy Scriptures. The book of Job has now been read for thousands of years and has encouraged countless millions of believers. Job showed that it was possible to endure the very worst and still live a life of praise to God! What a testimony!
God is ultimately in control of ALL things. He will ultimately destroy every shred of evil and the evil one as well. Until then, we put our entire trust and obedience into the One that paid the price for us to be free for eternity! In Romans 8:28 we find:
“And we know that in ALL things God work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)
James 1:2 is another verse of Scripture that speaks to the difficult things that come into our lives. I found the “Phillips Version” to have a unique rendering of this verse:
“Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, Phillips).
In all things, we can and should give him praise.
To Be Continued in Part 7 when we take a close look at Prayer