Unceasing Worship

Psalm 134

Problem been hanging around in USA for several generations – idea that you can be a good Christian and not do certain things like be part of a church family.

Back in the 1950s, D. James Kennedy was an Arthur Murray dance studio instructor. It’s hard to believe it now. But back then, Dr. Kennedy was a drunk. He slept around. And he lived a very worldly life. When he started dating a Christian girl, she asked him, “Where do you go to church?” And he said, “Nowhere. You don’t have to go to church to be a good person.” Then, with an air of arrogance, he said, “You can be a good Christian WITHOUT going to church!” And the girl said, “No you can’t!” Years later, Kennedy said, “That was the first time anyone had ever challenged my little pet saying. I was taken aback. And it made me rethink everything I believed.”

Perhaps more so than any other psalm, even any other portion of Scripture, this one should get and hold our attention: second time “Behold” begins a psalm, only time in Bible “Behold” followed by a command. Like Chief Straight Arrow – eyes front, sit up straight! Pay attention to what comes next because it is important. This psalm the closing of a section, pilgrim songs, and at same time introduces main theme for rest of psalter: worship of the only true God. Praise, prayer, thanksgiving interwoven throughout next 16 psalms, give us pretty clear idea of what elements of suitable worship are.

Is clear from beginning of John’s vision of heaven that worship is central and perpetual: read Rev. 4:8-11 Stands to reason we should be “practicing” now, getting ready for that part of eternal existence. The psalms will help us to that end. While on pilgrimage, the church is essential to worship. Does not exclude private or individual worship; at same time, priesthood of all believers does not eliminate need for corporate worship. Both individual and community must be actively participating in worship. Even in this short psalm of 42 words, singular and plural words are used!

A. worship 24/7

God never sleeps so his worship should never end

work of creation has ended, God set apart 7th day, made it holy, rested from his labors… of creation; work of providence ongoing – if it ends, so do we and everything else

since God’s providential care of his creation, his children especially, is uninterrupted and perpetual, we have perpetual stream of reasons for which to bless the Lord

if we can multitask, one task praising God, the other task whatever he has given us to do; is too easy to get emphasis in wrong place in 1 Cor. 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

too easy to get wrapped up in “whatever we do” and not give enough thought and action to giving God the glory

have lots of options who we will praise / bless – every one of those are optional… except for God, the true God, Yahweh

if you are servant of Yahweh, you are called to attention and then commanded to bless the LORD – strongly worded command

only behold+imperative; also, Hebrew particle ‘êth – has no meaning of its own but emphasizes other word it goes with

in this case – it’s a big deal, give it your full attention to praise God, Yahweh, to give only God worship he alone deserves

so how should we bless the Lord – what are avenues open to us for worship: attributing the value and worth to God he deserves

Woodrow Kroll, 12 avenues: worship through (1) reverence; (2) confession; (3) service; (4) stewardship; (5) prayer; (6) praise; (7) reading God’s Word; (8) preaching God’s Word; (9) believers baptism; (10) the Lord’s Supper; (11) music; (12) community

not much about getting in the mood, what we will get out of worship; far more about focusing on worthiness of eternal God who made us and redeemed us

certainly not only intellectual exercise – should be passionate about giving praise to God: if we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength (Mark 12:30), should worship him same way

in time of Temple, group of Levites appointed to choir duty: 1 Chr. 9:33Now these, the singers, the heads of fathers’ houses of the Levites, were in the chambers of the temple free from other service, for they were on duty day and night.”

if had asked what time worship in Temple ended, would have been told “it doesn’t” – one thing I like about idea (for some places of worship) doors never locked… sends similar message

whether choir sings 24/7 or sanctuary doors always open, fact remains our default should be to offer praise to God at every opportunity

obviously God knows we need sleep; however… what about those times when you are awakened, or can’t get to sleep

could try counting sheep; better idea, talk to the shepherd – give thanks, praise, express love, esteem for God

B. worship rightly

yes, worship is something we “attend” as in attending a worship service – going to a scheduled event whose focus/emphasis is worship

attending worship is good… but is only a start – is essential worship goes from being a noun, a thing, to a verb, an action

and btw, first and most important task of the church is worship – not evangelism, sharing, fellowship, instruction, but worship

if worship is priority, are some logical consequences to maintaining that prinicple

1 – goal of evangelism should not be simply making converts but to produce worshipers – disciples, followers of Christ who give God praise and honor he is worthy of receiving: remember Rev. 4:11

“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

2 – emphasis in worship is giving, not getting; choosing place to worship about settling where God and his truth are proclaimed faithfully and worshipers are encouraged to respond to God

3 – responsibility of parents (and others to help) to train children up to be worshipers; means children need experience and example – be present in worship, see example of others

worship in 2-part harmony: “lift up holy hands” and “bless the Lord” – both hands and mouth, “saying” the same thing

sadly, common affliction among people including Christians: prone to say one thing and then act in completely contrary way

is especially important that not be true with respect to worship – sincerity is essential whenever we approach God for any reason

what we say and how we act must go together – expressing loyal love to God with mouth, ascribing worth to him must be accompanied by matching choices and priorities in life

what do we have on our hands when we lift them up in worshp? Ps. 24:3-4 “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.”

yes, there is forgiveness for sin, needs to come before worship: Matt. 5:24 “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

and in context of corporate worship – sung praise and prayers (whatever we say or say “Amen” to) should be accurate expression of mind and heart, not simply singing what everyone else is so nobody notices

God rebuked Israel: Isa. 29:13 Therefore the LORD said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, …I will again do a marvelous work Among this people.”

the opposite of that must be avoided also: claiming to have a heart that is devoted to God but not expressing it outwardly

is not a suggestion here in v.2 – is another imperative, a command to bless/praise the Lord; if we come to worship with right attitude and open eyes/ears, should need no prodding to praise!

C. worship receives

should expect to receive a blessing when we worship sincerely

expecting a blessing not the same as going for the blessing – purpose / motivation for worship should be loving obedience

should be a combination of overflow of love that we want to express to God + desire to do what he has told us he expects, anticipating God will respond to our worship and we will be blessed

if we leave legitimate worship service in true church without receiving blessing, fault does not lie with God – is either with us (usually) or some other participant

worship not a spectator event – we offer up praise, thanksgiving, ascriptions of worth to God, then He responds to us

that should blow your mind – think about who is the object of worship! Phil. 2:10-11 “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

when his people approach him with humility and love, God does not remain aloof, unmoved; he speaks, he acts, he responds

slight side trip: if worship is something that requires participation of all involved, stands to reason all should make preparation for it

whatever we can do to get ready – sports teams do pre-game warmup – we should do, starting the day (or more) before

from reading ahead in Bible to selecting attire – clearing the deck so we can focus more thoroughly on worship

the better prepared we are to give worship and receive blessing, the more effective ministry of the Holy Spirit will be

God responds to his people… individually… in the setting of a group… through the church

“The second person [pronomial suffix] of the last verse is singular; everything prior to that is in the plural.” Segal

picture here of the gathered church, a congregation engaged in worship of God; God does bless the congregation… one by one

is not that God cannot bless outside context of local church, is that he has chosen not to – is intimately connected with structure of his covenants and how they are fulfilled in Christ

Jesus is one who has earned or merited all of the covenantal blessings for his people – we haven’t earned anything, have no way to earn anything but condemnation

only through union with Jesus that we have any hope of God’s blessing – he is head of the church, we are body of various parts

is only through active fellowship with Jesus that we actually receive those blessings; apart from him we have nothing

Said earlier this psalm introduces rest of psalter, what comes after pilgrimage psalms. Now let’s think a little bigger – 15 psalms here that accompany pilgrimage, journey to the sacred place… Zion. Sung by those devoted to true God and his worship, purpose at least in part to prepare them for worship – what they would do when they arrived. So when we sing them, how does that work? Should prepare us for what comes next… when we arrive at heavenly Zion: eternal praise and worship of God whom we will finally see in all his glory.


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