The Heart of Worship

pexels-photo-213207.jpegTaken together, Psalm 111 and Psalm 112 are alphabetical psalms. There are twenty-two lines of three words with each line beginning with the following letter in the Hebrew alphabet. They are both psalms of praise to the Lord. Psalm 111 focuses on the great and mighty works of the Lord. It is a beautiful song about God’s greatness in what he does and how we should respond to his greatness. Psalm 111 teaches us a lot about the object of true worship, the nature of true worship, and the reason for true worship.

True worship is all about its object. Psalm 111 is about the works of the Lord and how great they are. Verses 3-9 serves as a litany of reasons why God deserves to be praised. Worship is extolling the person and works of God. It is seeing God for who he is and what he has done and praising him for it

What is the nature of true worship? First, it involves the whole heart. Worship is not about physical expressions, but about spiritual dispositions. True worship is about the direction of the heart’s delights. Asking who you worship is the same as asking what you delight in most. “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Ps. 111:2). The nature of true worship is God-centered, heart-directed, and joy-motivated. It is the natural response of a person whose eyes have been opened to see the greatness of the Lord.

Finally, the result of true worship is a life that is changed to mirror God’s glory to the world. We don’t merely see God’s great works; we share them. Those of us who have received the redemption the Lord sent to his people (Ps. 111:9) have been recreated in the image of Christ. We have now been enabled to image God to our neighbors.

In other words, through or words and works, we are to show the world what God is like. When we are righteous, we reflect his righteousness. When we are merciful, we reflect his mercy. When we are faithful and just, we reflect his faithfulness and justice. So, true worship flows into every area of life, as we seek to perform the works of his hands with faithfulness and uprightness with the purpose of seeing more glad-hearted Jesus-worshipers recreated in his image for his glory.

When you hear the word worship what is the first thought that comes to your mind?

For many of us, we think of worship as the thing we do on Sunday mornings as a faith family. We gather for a worship service in the worship room to sing worship songs led by a worship leader. But did you know it is possible to attend worship services every single Sunday and never actually worship?

It makes me think of the time I went to watch Duke play Indiana in the NCAA tournament in 2002. The game was played at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a great game! But I really didn’t care who won. Kentucky basketball fans hate few things more than Duke and Indiana basketball. My granddad and I joked that it would be awesome if they could both lose.

Even though I didn’t like either team, I found myself clapping for the first player who was introduced…for Duke! My granddad quietly leaned over and asked politely, but firmly, “What on earth are you doing?” I didn’t know! I definitely wasn’t cheering for Duke to win. I wasn’t a Duke fan. Being in the place where Kentucky played their home games and seeing Duke sitting on Kentucky’s bench and hearing the same announcer from every Kentucky game caused me to clap from habit. I had no love for Duke in my heart even though my hands made it look like I did.

Many people do the same thing I did at Rupp Arena in church buildings on Sunday mornings. Their hands, words, and actions make it look like they are worshiping God, but their hearts are far from him. True worship is less about physical acts and more about the direction of the heart. Worship begins in the heart and directs love, joy, and obedience toward God in every area of life.

Psalm 111 begins with three simple words: “Praise the Lord!” This psalm is all about worship. What do you notice about the psalmist’s worship in verses 1-2?

First, his worship is God-centered. The eyes of his heart are gazing on God and his awesomeness.

Second, his worship flows from his heart. While you can hide your heart from others by singing the lyrics of worship songs, you can’t hide the desires and motives of your heart from God.

Third, his worship is both personal and corporate. That means he personally worships the Lord with his whole heart, but he also worships the Lord “in the company of the upright.” It is important to practice personal worship every day without forgetting how important it is to worship the Lord together with your faith family.

Finally, his worship is not mindless or joyless. In verse two he says that those who delight in the works of God will study them. We don’t worship God because someone forces us to do it. And we don’t worship God without thinking. We think deeply about who God is and all the things he has done. This deep meditation on God fuels worship in those whose joy is in him.

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Why Does David Ask God to Slay the Wicked?

pexels-photo-89837There are many places in the Bible people are just not comfortable with. They either don’t like what it means or are not sure what it means, so they just avoid it. We don’t have the option to only believe or deal with parts of the Bible that we personally like. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Even the parts we don’t like.

Many Christians try to ignore Psalm 139:19-22 because they don’t understand it. David goes from praising God for his amazing thoughts and how vast and deep God’s knowledge is to asking God to punish the wicked. Check out the strong words David uses:

“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies” (vv. 19, 21-22).

Wait a minute, did he just say what I think he said? Did David really just say he hates people with complete hatred? Help me double check…Yep, he said it! Why would David say this? Why would he want his enemies to be killed? Why does he hate these people? Is it a good thing? Is that something we should do?

When we approach difficult passage like this, we are tempted to spiritualize or theologize them away. We try to come to the Bible’s defense. We don’t expect to read what we just read, so we try to make it into something it doesn’t say. The problem is, we don’t have the authority to create our own meaning of difficult Bible passages just because we are uncomfortable with what they say. Instead of skating around difficult texts we must face them head on if we are to understand what they actually mean. The goal of Bible study is not to understand Scripture according to your own preferences or cultural hermeneutics.

The goal of Bible study is to discern the original meaning of the author by faithfully and diligently digging into the context of the passage. Though we can come up with many principles and theological truths from a tough passage like Psalm 139:19-22, we are misguided if those principles and truths don’t deal honestly with the passage itself. We can’t place meaning on a text. Rather, we must draw out the meaning that is already there.

So, for Psalm 139:19-22, we need to consider a few important contextual matters.

First, we need to remember is that the Psalms are songs, or prayers set to music. They also express so many different human emotions. In this one psalm, David expresses thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and anger. If nothing else, this psalm teaches us that it is okay to come to God with our emotions. It is good to express how you are feeling to God in prayer. God is not looking for you to be fake in your prayers. If you feel confused, tell God you feel confused! If you don’t understand how God could allow something to happen, tell him! Honesty with God in prayer is a sign of intimacy with God.

Second, we need to remember that God knows and sees everything. Why does David move from talking about God’s amazing knowledge to asking him to slay the wicked? Because David saw something in the knowledge of God that we need to see. God knows and sees everything. No one, not even the world’s most cunning criminal, can ultimately get away with evil. There are many injustices in the world. But with God there is no injustice, only justice. Because he knows all things and see all things, his power to judge is real and just as big as his knowledge. No one can get away with evil with God.

There will be a day of judgment. So, we should do two things.

Pray for God to judge evil (slay the wicked) and for him to show mercy (save the wicked). Praise God that he does both in Christ. You don’t have to seek revenge, because God will judge all sin for every person (including you and me), either in hell or in Christ.