Interactive Worship

Psalm 81

Spectator sports a big deal in our country. Probably know people who have favorite team, favorite participant in the sport. Baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, harness racing, Formula One, Tour de France, and of course, Olympics. Barely scratching surface of all options available for fans to watch. Spectator’s actual participation in the competition is vicarious at best:

“experienced or realized through imaginative or sympathetic participation in the experience of another” Merriam-Webster

Not anything wrong with those activities, or with being spectator. That’s nature of the thing, way they’re designed – not intended to be interactive. It’s expected there will be those who participate, those who spectate. Some things are different from sports; purpose is for all present to be involved in the action.

Woman was visiting a church one Sunday. Not being a regular attendee of the church, when the pastor made a good point in the sermon, she said, “AMEN!” Heads turned to see who was making that racket. Then when the preacher made a really good point, she said, “THANK YOU JESUS!” Folks were getting uncomfortable by then. Finally the preacher made an exceptionally good point and the woman stood up, waved her hands in the air and shouted “HALLELUJAH!” At that point the head usher came up beside her and said, “Madam, what do you think you’re doing?!” She replied, “I can’t help it, I’ve got religion.” The usher replied, “Well, you didn’t get it HERE so sit down and be quiet!”

So how are sports and the lady in church connected? Too many people from time of ancient Israel to present day have tried to turn worship into spectator event. They come to watch, not participate. They come, go through the motions, smile and nod, except for being few dollars poorer leave same as they came.

Listen again to lady in the story: “I can’t help it, I’ve got religion.” Those with true religion, who are sheep, not goats, respond to voice of Shepherd. They don’t leave same as they came. They don’t attend worship only for what they will get – how many times have you heard that: “not going there any more, why?? wasn’t getting anything out of it”. Not only about what you get out of worship – starts with what you put into it, then what you get out of it, next what you do with what you get, finally God’s part in it.

A. call to worship v.1-7

what you put into it (1-3)

worship is loud:voices and instruments

voices: sing aloud, joyful shout – kind of shouting and singing that celebrates victory in battle; e.g. Moses’ song (Ex. 15:1-19); Deborah’s song (Judg. 5)

songs in heaven: Rev. 5:12; 7:2; 11:15; 12:10; 14:15; 19:1; 21:3

instruments: timbrel = tambourine; harp = lyre, rectangular, strings same length; lute = angular harp, resonator; trumpet = shofar or ram’s horn

not instruments usually heard at “quiet” times like funerals; intended for celebration

worship is energetic and intense

if fans shout themselves hoarse at ballgame, God’s people should be heard when celebrate God’s accomplishments

think about who we’re worshiping – requires thought and effort to give Him glory he deserves

why you worship – Law and Gospel; duty and delight; who God is and what God has done

worship is law (4-5)

God isn’t like guy in red/white/blue suit in front of H&R Block, trying to get people’s attention, drum up business

God is Creator, is sovereign ruler, is one who established covenant with his people

has the right and responsibility to declare rules by which he will govern

statute, law, testimony – 3 different ways of saying worship isn’t optional/negotiable; God requires it, it really is a duty to worship individually and corporately

worship is gospel (6)

removed the burden – first thing in view, burden of carrying mud and bricks

released from slavery – chained to the basket of forced labor; poignant reminders of years in Egypt

more important, what did Egypt represent, what did God’s miraculous acts on behalf of his people foreshadow

liberty from oppression and captivity in sin

what’s not to celebrate in the Gospel? Jesus: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

what you get out of it (7a)

you called, God answered

that’s how it works because that’s how God ordained it; sometimes graciously answers before we call (Isa. 65:24)

God rejoices in praises of his people, responds with blessing; expects his people to give thanks, supplies liberally in return when we don’t take him and his provision for granted

because God is good and gracious Father, supplies our need and beyond when we aren’t clued in enough to ask – don’t always know what we need, what to request

what you do with it (7b)

then God tested the results

Meribah, Part 1 (Ex. 17:1-7) “they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?””

and Part 2 (Num. 20:1-13) the Lord tested them, back to same rock 38 years later, same absence of faith

B. instructions about true worship v.8-16

God’s part in all of this – He is an active participant, too! Here’s what we can expect:

admonish (8-9; 13)

should come to worship expecting to hear God speak – will instruct his people in what their duties are starting with worship; complete instruction also includes warning of danger

God doesn’t speak just so he can listen to himself – expects his children to be attentive, to listen (hear with intention), to obey

makes it explicit by contrast – v.13, if only listen, walk in My ways, not walking in “their own counsels”

deliver (10a; 14-15)

delivered from Egypt originally; will continue faithful, delivering from enemies who would do his people harm – even those who pretend to be friendly

pattern of deliverance applies to spiritual enemies as well as physical – God delivers his people from sin, will continue to deliver from spiritual enemies of all kinds

but, not if worship and obedience to God is only pretended; must be sincere in offering praise to God, receiving gifts from God

nourish (10b; 16)

further indication from God that his people are to come expectantly, with a hunger for what he will provide

promise here is that genuine seekers will be satisfied; no excuse for going away from the worship “table” hungry

have God’s guarantee of the richest food, fulfilling and pleasurable, prepared and served by God to meet specific needs of his people

Lewis Bayly in a work entitled “The Practice of Pietie” published in 1623 had this to say about the Sabbath: “The Sabbath day is God’s market-day for the week’s provision, wherein He will have us to come unto him, and buy of him without silver or Money, the Bread of Angels, and Water of life, the Wine of the Sacraments, and Milk of the Word to feed our souls.”

discipline (11-12)

God isn’t a tyrant, forcing his people to do what they don’t want to do; when selective hearing, willful rebellion are rule of the day, God relaxes the leash – “gave them over”

“they think they know better than God, ok, let them try for a while, see how it works for them”

God allows his people to check out other sources of nourishment, pleasure, guidance until hardship and frustration do their job – make the point that God’s way really is best

experience a hard teacher but often the best, makes a lasting impression; God uses it to our advantage

C. summary

what you put into it – Deut. 6:5​”You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

applies to all of life, especially in worship – should be (within cultural context) evident that we are fully engaged in giving to God what is due him; half-hearted worship better than none; at least in right place with right people to get the right things from Heavenly Father

what you get out of it – full mouth (10b) and belly (16)

putting right heart/soul/strength into worship means God can be counted on to satisfy needs and desires

what you do with what you get – James 1:25But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

proper response to God’s blessing in worship – transformation of thinking, feeling and acting in all of life

God’s part in it – he guides and provides, expects obedience in return (13)

Should expect to get something out of worship – God isn’t spectator in worship, he’s actively involved in receiving praise and thanksgiving from his people. Also actively speaking to his people through his word and his servant. What comes to his people is accompanied and applied by Holy Spirit. God expects results: that his people will be changed. That they will think and feel and act differently because of what they received from him in worship.

God puts best, most appropriate food and drink on the table; don’t be among those who leave it there because don’t like looks of it. Or those who spit it out because don’t like the taste. Eat and drink your fill, confident in the provider, thankful for his provision. Rejoice in the glorious liberty we enjoy as children of God (Rom. 8:21)


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