Monday, November 25, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES (Part 20): The Essence of Worship - The Psalmist (In Awe of His Holiness)

Psalm 99
Exalt the Lord our God, 
And worship at His holy hill;
For the Lord our God is holy

A key barometer of how we treat God is our worship. This fact was true in Old Testament days when God's people sometimes had great respect for God and at other times followed their own ideas. At such times they might still observe the outward forms of worship, or they might forsake appearances and follow after idols. Either way, they forgot about the LORD and failed to treat Him with respect. We can do the same today when we casually bring all our sinful baggage with us on Sunday, or forget that He is holy, or perhaps do not even truly know the God we claim to worship. Such lack of respect will be evident in our relationship with Him.

True worship reveals our respect for His HOLINESS. That is the message of Psalm 99 which begins:

 "The LORD reigns; let the people tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The LORD is great in Zion; and He is high above all the peoples" (Psalm 99:1-2).

That men should tremble before God's authority is clear. But to emphasize
this truth, the psalmist points out that the LORD dwells among the cherubim. Perhaps this observation is a reference to the tabernacle and God's chosen place of presence at the mercy seat, which rested upon the Ark of the Covenant (
Exodus 25;18). This place was so sacred that the high priest could approach it only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Even then, he wore bells on his robe and had a rope tied to him in case God should strike him dead.

The reference to God's sitting "between the cherubum" may also be a reference to His divine nature. Cherubim and seraphim are angelical beings created by God to praise Him. In several passages the Bible describes the cherubim as surrounding God's heavenly throne, attesting to His HOLINESS."And one cried to another, and said, holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). Truly, this is a God who can make the earth to quake at His power and presence!
God reigns, and He is "great in Zion." This is another name for Jerusalem, the city of His choosing, where His "shekinah" glory once grace the tabernacle and then the temple. To say the Lord is great in Zion may be an affirmation that God is great among His people.
After the psalmist praise the God who is mighty over the tabernacle and over the city, the progression continues. For the LORD is "high above all the people." Even kings cannot compare to His greatness! Yet even as we tremble before Him, we are comforted to know that God who dwells "above all the people" can see all things. He is in control of every detail of our lives and He cares intensely about His people. A right view of God sees Him in all of the glory that the Bible attributes to Him. Such a view compels us to treat Him with the awesome respect that is His due. When we view His glory we will bow with the psalmist in true worship and declare,

"Let the praise Your great and awesome name - He is holy" (psalm 99:3).

The Scriptures affirm that this God who has the power to do anything chooses to do the right thing. Of God the psalmist sings, "The King's strength also loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob" (Psalm 99:4).
God exercises perfect justice every time. He always establishes equitable decision, always forms righteous plans, and always does justly. Why? Because He is holy. Therefore we are to "exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool - He is holy" (Psalm 99:5).
Because He is God and therefore reigns in perfect equity and  justice, we must exalt Him. This exaltation presupposes that we truly;y know God's attributes - and that knowledge comes only through a vibrant personal relationship with Him. Anyone can know about God or even use words from the Bible when in worship. But an intellectual knowledge of the LORD is not enough. Even "the demons believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Those who do not know God cannot exalt His attributes. It is for this reason that we often see worship that suggests the worshipers know a god of wealth or pleasure, or they know only of mere religion. In contrast, TRUE WORSHIP lifts up the name of God because the worshipers know Him intimately.
One necessary means of calling proper attention to God is His people's assuming their proper place before Him. The psalmist enjoins us to "worship at His footstool," giving a picture of our obeisance before His kingly throne. Psalm 93 through Psalm 99 are in fact called the "Royal Psalms," because they exalt the majestic King JEHOVAH
Ancient thrones often sat on a platform atop several steps. Once the king had ascended the steps, he could sit on the throne and put his feet on the footstool that was attached to the throne. The footstool existed for his comfort. However, the footstool also became a picture of subservience and subjugation. Sometimes the footstool was carved with the likeness of the king's enemies. When the king put his feet on the stool, everyone was reminded that the king had brought these enemies into subjection.
God's footstool reminds us that He is the King. Many times in the Scriptures we read that God will make of His enemies a footstool. Other passages state that the LORD has His footstool in the tabernacle, and in others the LORD declares that "the earth is [His] footstool" (Isaiah 66:1, Acts 7:49). In all these references we are reminded that God is exalted as we worship in our proper place of submission.
Such submission can be joyfully given to God because of His HOLINESS "You testimonies are very sure: holiness adorns Your house, O LORD, forever" (Psalm 93:5). God's holiness permits the perfect marriage of might and right. Indeed, God's HOLINESS is the symphony of all of His attributes - attributes that the human mind cannot fully comprehend. God is angry at sin and yet is full of love. He pours out wrath against rebels and yet is altogether long suffering. His holiness is the glue that joins thses attributes together. His strength loves justice. He both establishes equity and executes righteousness. TRUE WORSHIP will exalt such a God!
(an extract from True Worship by David Whitcomb and Mark Ward, Sr.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES (Part 19): The Essence of Worship - King David (True Worship Starts With A Proper ATTITUDE)

Worship should be exciting. King David is portrayed in the Bible as dancing and singing and giving praises to God. Does exciting worship consist merely of such obvious demonstrations? In learning what the Bible has to teach us about worship, the example of King David’s attitude is instructive. 

The first attempt was unsuccessful (2 Samuel 6:1-10
because the people failed to acknowledge God’s
holiness. They treated the Ark, which God called sacred, as if it were just another piece of religious furniture. For one thing, they transported the Ark using a cart which was not the means prescribed by God for transporting the Ark (Exodus 25:14). Then, when the cart teetered under the pull of the oxen, one of the attendants put his hand on the sacred Ark to steady it. So disrespectful was the man’s action that “God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the Ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:7). The procession made it only as far as Obed-Edom. There the Ark stayed 
Three month later, David finished building the tabernacles that would house the Ark. He decided to make a second attempt at bringing the Ark to Jerusalem. The king and his people were obviously excited! But something about their worship was different this time. This time David obeyed God’s instruction. Notice that the Ark was now borne by porters in the manner God had prescribed. A proper recognition of God’s holiness was also demonstrated by starting the procession with sacrifice. (2 Samuel 6:13-16)
What is the lesson in the two attempts? We have seen two instances of worship, both of which involved great excitement involving music, singing, and rejoicing. But one ended in disaster and the other in blessings. Both expressions were exciting but in only one instance did God accept the worship. What was the difference?
The difference was the ATTITUDE in which the worship was offered. In the first attempt to transport the Ark, God was disobeyed and His presence – symbolized in the Ark – was carelessly regarded. But in the second attempt God was obeyed, and through offerings and praises, His person was the focus of His people’s worship
The ATTITUDE that made the difference can be seen in the song that David composed upon the Ark’s return. The Bible records what the heart of God’s man was as he participated in worship that was both exciting and true. David’s song, recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, is actually a compilation of three psalms David had written. The middle section of David’s song was based on what is now preserved in the Bible as Psalm 96. In this psalm we find the theme of the entire song, expressing the essence of true, joyful worship.
“O, Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:9)

In this song David issue a call to worship, a worship that is joyful and fearful at the same time. Can this kind of worship really take place? How do we resolve this seeming contradiction of ATTITUDES? Fear stems from the fact that,, when we say God is holy, we acknowledge His complete separation from sin. He avoids contact with sin and is offended by our sins. God’s holiness leaves you and me in a difficult situation. To resolve this difficulty, some suggest that the Church today should not focus on God’s holiness; that focus might turn people away from God’s love. But David resolved the difficult by describing God’s holiness as “beautiful.”
Why beautiful? The person who loves sin knows in his conscience that that he offends God, and so he regards God’s holiness as austere and restrictive. But that same holiness is beautiful to the person whom God has delivered from sin’s power and penalty. The repentant sinner trembles at the thought of his position before a holy God, but he rejoices in the truth that only a God who is perfectly sinless could have the power to save him.
David’s call to worship is first of all, therefore, a call to fear. For if we see the holy God as all that He is, we will fear greatly. Fearing God is the first step. The second step occurs when our fear matures into awesome respect for the beauty of His holiness. Such maturation takes place when we understand God’s love and forgiveness more fully. In the third step, as our understanding of God increases, two things will happen. We will fear all the more at the thought of offending Him who loves us. But we will rejoice all the more as we contemplate the consummation of His deliverance.

David’s song before the Ark of the Covenant teaches that a proper ATTITUDE in worship will be manifested in proper actions in worship. Specifically, David describes three categories of actions: Singing, proclaiming, and offering.
He who worships truly must sing a new song unto the holy God. “Oh Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name” (Psalm 96:1-2a). A new song is a fresh song, a song that is different from the old kind of song that illustrates the effects of sin. The new song that God deserves is a song that blesses His name. It’s new song that is directed to Him and that exalts His character, which is rooted in His name.
A proper ATTITUDE in worship will be manifested in our proclamations. “Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations. His wonders among all peoples … say among the nations ‘The Lord reigns’ “ (Psalm 96:2-3, 10). True worship proclaims the inexhaustible good news of God’s salvation every day. 
Finally, a proper ATTITUDE of joyful reverence in worship will express itself in acceptable offerings. “Give to the Lord, O families of the people, give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts” (Psalm 96:7-8). True words of praise to God, in contrast, are backed by sacrifice.

True worship starts with a proper ATTITUDE that manifests itself in proper actions. But in the final analysis, worship does not begin with us at all; it finds its proper anchor in the worthiness of God. 
"For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary" 
(Psalm 96:4-6).
God's worth is revealed in His greatness and supremacy, honor and majesty, strength and beauty. Some people stop at this point; they contemplate God's worthiness and express their admiration. Their worship might include some excitement, just as did the worship of the people of Israel the first time they attempted to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. But a proper excitement in worship occurred only when the people obeyed God. Their obedience was rooted in a proper fear of and reverence for Him.
(an extract from True Worship by David Whitcomb and Mark Ward, Sr.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES (PART 18): The Essence of Worship - Three Hebrew Children (Unstoppable Worshipers!)

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, your majesty. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, your majesty that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV)

The life of a worshiper (one who is intimately acquainted with and has a daily relationship with God exhibited through OBEDIENCE) is not without tests, nor is without the pressure that comes with living in a sinful world. The story of the three Hebrew worshipers who lived a life of Faith, Obedience and Sacrifice. The three men were given one more chance by the king to bow to the golden image but they stood firm even if it caused their lives. Here are eight excuses they could have used to bow to the image and save their lives:
1) We will fall down but not actually worship the idol
2) We won’t become idol worshipers, but will worship if this one time, and then ask God for forgiveness.
3) The king has absolute power, and we must obey him. God will understand.
4) The king appointed us – we owe this to him.
5) This is a foreign land, so God will excuse us for following the customs of the land.
6) Our ancestors set up idols in God’s temple! This isn’t half as bad!
7) We’re not hurting anybody
8) If we get ourselves killed and some pagans take our high positions, they won’t help our people in exile.
(Please feel free to add on if you have more thoughts …)

Although all these excuses sound sensible at first, they are dangerous rationalizations. To fall down and worship this image would violate God’s command in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” It would also erase their testimony for God forever. Never again could they talk about the power of their God above all other gods.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were pressured to deny God, but what made them choose to stay faithful to God no matter what happened? I believe it was because they were CONSISTENT in living a life that were intimately acquainted with and have a daily relationship with their GOD exhibited through OBEDIENCE. That was why they were able to trust God to deliver them and were determined to be faithful regardless of the consequences. This same exhibition of Faith, Obedience and Sacrifice could be seen throughout the Scriptures on the lives of many other “worshiper-saints” like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, King David, Queen Esther, Prophet Daniels and many more heroes of FAITH.

Hebrews 11 has been called faith’s hall of fame. But do bear in mind that while we do read of many being rescued by our faithful God for their faith; there were also many who were tortured, flogged, stoned, sawed in two, put to death by the sword for their faith (Hebrews 11: 35-40). True worshipers are those who are able to say like the three Hebrew children : “But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, your majesty that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."

Monday, November 04, 2013

THE WORSHIP SERIES (PART 17): The Essence of Worship - Daniel (The Faithful Worshiper)

A Worshiper Is One Who is Intimately Acquainted With 
And Has A Daily Relationship With God Exhibited Through Obedience 
 John W. Stevenson

Daniel was a man who was greatly beloved of God. Daniel had a fervent love for God and had set his heart to worship Him all the days of his life.
We know that Daniel was a man of prayer. Three times a day he would get down on his knees and give thanks to God (Daniel 6:10). This was a practice he observed every day, and evil men would use it against him to seek to destroy his life. But Daniel’s love for God outweighed any fear of what man could do to him, and he continued to openly display his love for his King. Unashamedly opening the windows of his house, he prayed to the God of heaven just as he had done every other day. Even though it meant he was signing his own death warrant, Daniel preferred to worship God and die, than to live and not pray.
What possesses a man to seek God and pray even when it means certain death? I believe the answer to this question lies within the heart of the worshiper. Daniel was a worshiper of God, and he would bow to no one and no thing other than Him! Nothing could prevent him from worshiping the living God. Not fear. Not death by hungry lions. Not anything.

Daniel In The Lions' Den
As a worshiper, Daniel had enjoyed God’s favor all his life, and when king Darius appointed Daniel as one of 3 administrators to oversee the kingdom he so distinguished himself that king Darius thought to give him sole administrative authority over all the kingdom. This of course made the others jealous and they sought to discredit him, but Daniel was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent (Dan 6:4). Finally they devised a scheme to trap Daniel by making it illegal for him to worship GodThey convinced king Darius to make it mandatory for all his subjects to worship him for the next 30 days and anyone caught worshiping anyone else must be thrown into a den of hungry lions (Dan 6:6-9).
Daniel of course remained true to his God and since he made no attempt to hide this, he was caught praying and worshiping God and was thrown into the lions' den. From the original language of Dan 6:16-20 it appears that king Darius believed God was obligated to save Daniel because he was intimately acquainted with and has a daily relationship with God exhibited through obedience. 

"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den.The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:16-20 NIV)
In Dan 6:23 the word translated trusted means to trust continually. The fact that the lions immediately devoured Daniel’s accusers in the morning proves they had been hungry all night long. 
"The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God." (Daniel 6:23 NIV))
This faith became one of the great examples in “The Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11:33). “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:11 (NIV). Faith is trusting what the eye can’t see. The natural eyes see the prowling lion but faith sees Daniel’s angel.