Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Nuances of Worship

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Nuances of Worship

The Nuances of Worship

          Although everything a believer does in his/her relationship with God is an expression of worship, the local church assembly is NOT primarily a worship center.  Worship should never be reduced to a few hours a week.  The three primary and purest forms of worship that happened every day within the life of any believer are personal Bible study and living what is learned (II Timothy 2:15), singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), and winning souls/making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20; fulfilling the Great Commission).  Although all three of these aspects of worshiping God are primary to the assembling of the “saints” (believer/priests) in what we call a church service, the primary purpose of assembling the “saints” (believer/priests) is for instruction in knowing and living the Word of God through teaching and preaching the Word of God (Ephesians 4:12).  A problem is created when the emphasis is upon teaching and preaching God’s Word without any emphasis upon worshiping God from the heart is minimized; MAINTAINING THIS BALANCE IN FOCUS IS ESSENTIAL.

           Perhaps the central purpose of life and the creation of humans with eternal souls is for humanity to individually prove to the angels their own spiritual worth and integrity before God.  This big picture is certainly the purpose of the book of Job. 

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God {angels} came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. 7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. 8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. 12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:6-12).

God created innumerable angelic spiritual beings with enormous powers and then made those beings subordinate to humanity with one command; “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion {to subjugate, to reign, to rule over}” (Genesis 1:26 and 28).  

The question from the very beginning of the fall is simply a worship question: Will humanity submit to God’s sovereignty, obey Him, love Him, and worship Him regardless of the circumstances of life now under the fall into satanic dominion and God’s curse upon the first creation. 

When we think of words like rejoice, praise, or thanksgiving, we almost always connect these verbs to something good God has done.  Very seldom do we ever think in these terms just because of the privilege of knowing God or just because of Who God is.  Yet, this latter use of these verbs is the predominant use of these verbs in the Bible.  Do we only rejoice because things are going the way we think they should be going?  Do we only praise God because all is well in Whoville?  Does God only deserved to be thanked when He has done something that we deem to be a blessing?  

Did you know that within the Levitical priesthood at the time of king David, of the 38,000 priests, 4,000 of them (about 10%) were commissioned with doing nothing but making praise music with the musical instruments David had invented for that purpose?  

1 So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel. 2 And he gathered together all the princes of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. 3 Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and upward: and their number by their polls, man by man, was thirty and eight thousand. 4 Of which, twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the LORD; and six thousand were officers and judges: 5 Moreover four thousand were porters; and four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made, said David, to praise therewith”(I Chronicles 23:1-5).  

           Music itself is a creation of God gifted to humanity.  There is harmony in all of God’s creation that naturally comes forth in a symphony of praise to God’s glory.  Joseph S. Exell says of music:

If we allow music any rights of its own, they must be based upon its claim to give expression which is beyond the power of words, and to utter conceptions which thought cannot formulate.  It has the power to take them out of the surroundings even of the deepest thoughts, to lift their aspirations where nothing else can go, to carry them into the presence of a power of harmony and order more fundamental than the skill of the hand or the logic of the mind can represent.”[1]

           Praise music was the music of the sanctified.  The music played was accompanied by a chorus of “singers.”  When it was played in the Temple and was truly worshipful, it not only moved the hearts of God’s people, it moved God Himself.  Can we imagine what it must have been like to have been in a song service like the one described in II Chronicles 5:11-14?

11 And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: 12 Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) 13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one {playing and singing in harmony}, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (II Chronicles 5:11-14).

           We should regularly remember that a central purpose of the solemn assembly of believers is to sing and play music to the praise of God.  We sing and play TO God.  He should be our focus and the purpose of song and music of PRAISE.  We should think of the song/music parts of our services as sanctified believers calling out in invitation to God to come and fill our services with Himself; for the Shekinah glory of the LORD to fill “the house of God.”  It is very easy for song services and music to miss this focus all together.  I am not talking about standing and swaying with our hands raised in some kind of zombie-like trance.  I am speaking of music and singing that is already filled with praise in our thoughts and hearts.  The music does not put those thoughts there.  We put those thoughts of praise there and we sing to God those thoughts of praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving.  We do not do that so our hearts will be moved.  We do that to move the heart of God and to be a blessing to Him.  If our thoughts are not filled with praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving to God, God will not be stirred or blessed by our external mechanics of worship (so called).  

           Can we imagine what the choir of the redeemed will be like in the presence of God and His throne?  It is partially described in Revelation chapter five.  A choir of millions of millions of believers will sing with the purest of worship in the most perfect harmony ever heard?  Add to that the choir of the harmony of all other created beings; can we imagine such a choir? (If you are “born again,” you will be part of this Choir!)

6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. 7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. 8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. 11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:6-14).

           Personal sanctity before God was the criterion for worship music to be accepted by Him.  Only sanctified/consecrated priests were allowed to sing in the Temple worship services (II Chronicles 5:11).  In Amos chapter six, God decried the worship music of the unsanctified.  It is a passage similar to Christ’s epistle to “church of the Laodiceans” (Revelations 3:14-22).  There must be genuine sincerity about sanctity before worship is acceptable.  

1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion {they rested or leaned upon God’s promises to Abraham}, and trust in the mountain of Samaria {because it was an impregnable fortress}, which are named {well known} chief of the nations {God’s elect nation}, to whom the house of Israel came! 2 Pass ye unto Calneh {brought under Assyrian enslavement BC 794}, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great {brought under enslavement by Jeroboam II and then by Assyria}: then go down to Gath of the Philistines {brought under enslavement by Uzziah}: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border? 3 Ye that put far away the evil day {God’s pending judgment}, and cause the seat {reign or habitation} of violence to come near {the idea is they held their sins near while considering their punishment far off}; 4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; 5 That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; 6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph. 7 Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed” (Amos 6:1-7).

Praise, rejoicing, and thanksgiving cease when we begin to focus on our own lives.  This is known as anthropocentricity.  This is a disgusting thing to view in anyone’s life.  This is the child that cries when he does not get what he wants.  His crying turns a request into a demand made through manipulation.  Notice how thankless people are that practice manipulation.  Notice how nothing really satisfies them for any length of time.  Notice that they are happy only when the circumstances of life produce it.  There is no real joy in their lives.  The point is that we are thankful for stuff and things.  We rejoice when good things happen or when things go our way.  We praise God for blessings.  However, do we ever praise God just for being God?  Do we ever praise God for what He does not give us?  We do not get what we deserve!  Instead, God protects us from what we deserve – His wrath!

1 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth {Choir of female virgins, i.e.-sanctity}. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. 4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. 6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-11).

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death” (Proverbs 11:4).

When we finally understand who God is, we will finally understand true worship and praise.  Then, our hearts will be so full of praise, worship, and thanksgiving that even our eyes will well up to His glory!  Our knees will bow to His majesty.  Our hearts will demand that our lips shout forth - Hallelujah! There will be jubilation in the Day of Jubilee!

[1] Exell, Joseph S. The Biblical Illustrator. London: SwordSearcher Software 6.1.

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 
Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 50 years.

No comments: