Did you know the Bible has far more examples of personal worship than it does of worshiping together as a body of believers? Yet, there’s an unswerving call for us to come together to worship God.
This past week found me riveted on Psalm 95. The writer of this psalm has some powerful things to teach us about worshiping together. I love his hows and whys, as well as his warnings. Let’s dig in!
Psalm 95:1-7 begins,
“O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation,
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.”
According to this psalm – as we enter worship together, we must:
1) Engage our will.
“O come.” It doesn’t matter that you got up early, put on your Sunday best, and made the drive to sit in your favorite seat. You can do all those things and still not “come” to worship. In fact, you can engage your voice in singing the songs for others’ ears to hear (i.e., praise), and still not engage your will in worshiping – “sing . . . to the LORD.” So it’s important that we respond from deep within our souls to the invitation to “come” – each individual heart surrendered, yet lifting His name together to Him. For His ears. “Come, let us sing . . . to the LORD!”
[Related post: Does your focus get stuck here on your way to worship?]
2) Allow our emotions.
We don’t just “sing” – we “sing for joy!” So beyond engaging our will, we allow our emotions to be engaged as well. In fact, the original Hebrew word, nariah/naria, used for “sing for joy” and “shout joyfully” (vs. 1-2) expresses the highest kind of joy! That’s right, the absolute greatest joy is called for as we come before God – remembering who He is and pouring out ourselves before Him in worship! (Is that the slightest bit convicting to you? It is to me!) “. . . let us sing for [the highest] joy to the LORD!”
3) Employ our minds.
This joy isn’t just some worked up emotion for the sake of emotion. It’s the result of remembering and engaging with the “rock of our salvation.” It’s the aftereffect of declaring, “the LORD is a great God And a King above all gods.” “In [His] hand are the depths of the earth, . . . The peaks of the mountains, . . . The sea . . . , He made it!” It’s the intrinsic why. Worship is the acknowledging and lifting of infinite truths about who God is. Which means, we must . . .
[Related post: Why God Wants Us to be Intentional About Remembering]
4) Know our God.
This may seem obvious, but knowing God is crucial for true worship to happen. It’s foundational. This psalmist’s heart poured out many of the whys he was inviting us to worship, and they all had to do with who God is. Now, the mind mouthing facts about God can never replace experientially knowing your Savior. You want the type of knowledge that results in awe-inspired, complete, and utter devotion to Him expressed in worship.
The psalmist obviously had very specific personal experiences or events in mind as he wrote each line – covering God’s power, goodness, and even gentleness. “For the LORD is a great God!” “We are . . . [His] sheep.” So besides coming as a body of believers, it’s deeply personal. I come to worship my God – who is our God – with you!
5) Expect His presence.
God wants us to expect to engage with Him closely as we lift up our hearts and minds in response to all that He is in worship. He doesn’t invite us to worship Him at a distance, He longs for us to draw close. “Let us come before His presence . . .” Can you picture it? What grace! We can stand before the King together!
[Related post: 4 Reasons Why Our Worship Is So Unreasonable!]
6) Give Him thanks.
I believe thanksgiving is a necessary ingredient for our heart to be rightly positioned to worship. As this psalmist said, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.” We need to approach God’s throne not just remembering, but being thankful that He’s “the Rock of our salvation,” “a great King above all gods,” and the Creator of all we see. Who is He to you? Come with thanksgiving.
[Related post: Confessions of my UN-Thankful Thanksgiving]
7) Surrender our all.
We shouldn’t put a limit on our surrender – on how much of our mind, emotions, and will. We need to surrender all. And that includes having a physical posture that’s yielded to the Holy Spirit’s direction. “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
Many of the Hebrew and Greek words for worship show us that there is absolutely nothing passive about the act of worship. Our bowed knees and raised hands are physical expressions of surrendered hearts – hearts offering from the deepest depths. So we need to consider how to surrender all of who “our Maker” created us to be in our worship of Him. Because He deserves nothing less.
Then, the psalmist suddenly hit the brakes on his worship invitation and felt the need to issue a warning:
“Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
For forty years I loathed [that] generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways” (v.7b-10).
He’s telling us, Church, in order to enter worship together, we must:
8) Guard our hearts.
We need to guard against “hardness” and unbelief. This psalmist’s warning specifically refers back to the Israelites’ attitudes in Exodus and Numbers. “Though they’d seen my work, . . . [They] err in their heart, And they do not know My ways.” They doubted who God was, and they didn’t like how He was fulfilling His promises. They questioned, “Is the LORD among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7). They didn’t “hear His voice,” but doubted His presence instead. They erred in their hearts. The psalmist is obviously warning us not to repeat Israel’s unbelief and sin!
Psalm 95 is later quoted in Hebrews 3, and is followed by,
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (v.12-13).”
True worship comes from hearts that are in a right relationship with God. Otherwise,
“‘ . . . this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13).
So learning from the encouragement of Psalm 95, may we be ready to “come” together to worship – “singing for [the highest] joy” to our God “with thanksgiving” as we proclaim who He is. May we not doubt “His presence,” but “hear His voice.” May we not engage in part, but come surrendering all. And may we “encourage one another day after day,” (important!) so we don’t “harden” or “err in [our] hearts.”
Church, let’s come ready to intimately engage our God together! Because “the LORD is a great God!” “He is our God!“
It’s an unspeakable taste of His mercy and grace and the greatest privilege on this earth. Let’s be a worshiping Church!
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
MORE RELATED POSTS:
Why True Worship Requires Your Surrendered Heart
Why worship? Simply . . .
Running from the fallacy of passive worship to chase after God
Is the God I say I worship on Sunday my everyday God?
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