The Heart of Worship
No, I’m not going to post about that song that is all about me singing about how it’s all about Jesus. I have been thinking about things that I’ve been learning about worship from the Psalms.
Worship is widely misunderstood. In the past, I thought I had worship down pat. I even knew the “audience of One” line and the “revelation and response” thing. Good stuff, that, but I still needed more education (still do).
We had a mini worship war here a few years back, as most churches do at one time or another. We survived, but in the process, one thing that grabbed hold of me during my study was that worship is not about what we give to God. Worship is primarily about what we receive from God. I realized that centuries of tradition regarding liturgy was not necessarily all empty ritualism, but a reflection of our dependence upon receiving timeless gifts – eternal gifts – from God Himself.
This made me rethink the admonition that I grew up with: “Don’t come to church thinking about what you can get out of it, but about what you can give to God.” I understand the entertainment mindset that this corrective is out to change, but it misses the point of receiving from God in worship. God doesn’t need anything from us and it is an affront to Him to presume that He does.
I love Psalm 50. I read it again this morning and I noticed some thematic similarities in surrounding Psalms. Psalm 50 seems almost contradictory at first glance. “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you” (50:8). Well, with all due respect, Lord, I should think not. You were the one who commanded that they be brought in the first place. Then we have, “I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds” …”Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?” (50:9, 13). So, Lord, do you want sacrifices or not? Compare Isaiah 1: “Bring no more vain offerings” (Isaiah ).
The problem with this worship was not merely that it was formal and mechanical, but that it did not express a dependence upon God. Praise, thanksgiving and calls for deliverance in our lives must come from hungry hearts – hearts that are only satisfied in what God supplies. Sacrifice that says, “Here you go, Lord, this is what you asked for and I’m doing my duty in providing it to you” is blasphemous. To that God says, “If I were hungry I would not tell you” (Psalm 50:12). The benefactor gets the glory. When we come to worship – whether grudgingly or confidently – with the attitude that we are giving God something that He requires, we insult Him.
Yes, we bring God a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews ) and worship which is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1 KJV). These are in response to what God has done first. We come with empty hands to be filled by Him for praise and service. Each time we worship, we should be conscious that it is a great honor and joy to be able to come into God’s presence clothed in the righteousness of Christ. True worship is joyful humility. We must ask ourselves God’s question to us, “What right have you to recite my statues or take my covenant on your lips?” (Psalm 50:16). We must come into God's presence following His Son. He is the King that may enter freely, and we come at His invitation.
I’ll get to some of the connections to this the Psalm 50 theme in Psalm 49 and 51 tomorrow, Lord willing.