Should Our Worship of God Be Solemn and Reverent or Joyful and Exuberant? #259
Happy Friday, everybody! I’m podcasting to you from the middle of the Apocalypse where the sun has gone dim and pink, the sky is smoky and dangerous to breathe, the earth is on fire, and I’m waiting any second for Godzilla to emerge from the Pacific and begin to lay waste to San Jose and San Francisco. Nothing would surprise me about what happens next in 2020. Our Bible passages for today include 2nd Samuel 6, our focus passage, plus Psalms 55, Ezekiel 14 and 1st Corinthians 16. Today we also remember the attacks of 9/11. I was asleep when the world changed – as you guys know, I’m not a morning person at all, but a night owl. My friend Sam called me or texted me shortly after the first tower was hit, which was 7:46 AM central time. I quickly got up, and turned on the tv, and then went and summoned my wife, and we watched the attacks unfold, confused and perplexed. I was alive during the very last part of the Vietnam war, but only an infant, and don’t remember any of it at all. Up until 2020, the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath was probably the biggest news event of my life time, but I believe the pandemic and upheavals of 2020 have eclipsed 9/11, and will ultimately be the biggest and most impacting event since World War 2, if it isn’t already. We remember. Kyrie Eleison.
By the way, I want to begin the show with two bold predictions. Not prophecies – not at all, just want to get down two bold predictions, for the record. Prediction #1 There will be a significant earthquake in the vicinity of South America very shortly. Prediction #2 The 46th president of the United States will be neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump.
Wild predictions aren’t, however, the focus of today’s podcast. But, far more importantly, our focus today is on worship, because we see a tremendous example of worship in 2nd Samuel 6. Let’s read the passage and then discuss today’s Bible question.
A powerful passage for us today. Two notes to begin with:
- Multiple times in the Old Testament and the New Testament, God Himself identifies David as “A man after my own heart.” This despite the fact that we have already seen that David is a man that frequently falls short of God’s commands. And yet, David was a wholehearted lover of God, and that is important. Very important. The Bible never commends cold-formality and passionless/robotic love and obedience.
2. Principle/Life Truth: God is pleased with wholehearted and whole-bodied devotion to Him. 2nd Chronicles 16:9 “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. “ Consider: Are you more of a Michal in worship…or a David? (note: not talking about form…about heart)
Two approaches discussing worship in the Bible: You bring me a jar of substance and say is this sweet?? Two ways to answer this question: 1st the logical way: Well – we can try and use a scientific/thoughtful approach to answer the question. I can ask – where did you get it…A bees nest. Well – it is sticky, spreadable and amber colored. Left with the lid off, it will crystallize and turn rather solid. I can put it on a bunsen burner and determine how much caloric energy it has, and whether it is a carbohydrate or not. When I put it on toast, toddlers gladly reach for it to eat it. When I pour it on the ground, ants flock to it. I can think and reason and experiment, and finally get to the place where I have eliminated all other possibilities and say – I have determined that this substance is honey, and therefore it is sweet! The other approach is to dip my finger into it and taste.
Two ways to go about teaching about worship – 1. Lay a theological foundation – aim to give the grounds and philosophy and principles of worship from the Scripture. Aim for the head, for thinking. 2. Aim for the heart. Today: We want to taste and see that the Lord is good! We want to be people of extravagant worship and love more than we want to be people who are educated in worship.
Five things about worship.
- First two of the ten commandments center around worship, as does the Greatest Commandment.
- At the same time – God is not served by human hands…God is not needy. He is complete. Acts 17:24-25 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
- In a sense – all of life is worship (whatever you eat and drink – do it all for the glory of God.) However, the Bible uses the word worship most often in a significantly more narrow sense than simply describing a Christian way of living life. “Worship is an all consuming orientation and expression of the heart mind and body to glorify God, express love for Him and proclaim His worth.” My definition. In a sense all that we do – our worship, our play, etc – is worship. In a greater, more scriptural sense, however, that goes beyond the Bible. “Worship is intentional, focused and requires the cessation of all other activities beyond basic life support.”
- Because the New Testament is stunningly quiet (Piper) about worship style, form and place, then we must be incredibly careful when we engage in arguments or disputes about style, form, length and place. 99 percent of the squabbles in the church over worship over the past few decades simply boil down to preference, not the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Yes 1 Cor 14:40 says, “40 But all things should be done decently and in order.” But the primary context of that passage is in regards to the exercise of spiritual gifts – a significant part of the gathering of believers, but to take that verse and use it as a grid to judge which types, forms and styles and worship is acceptable and unacceptable is quite dangerous. Brothers and sisters, I warn you to be exceedingly careful in making judgments about worship style, form, length and location.Which brings us to our big Bible question: Should worship be reverent and solemn, or joyful and exuberant? And the answer is YES, YES, YES! David here gives us a God-pleasing example of joyful and exuberant worship that is most acceptable and pleasing to God. Has God changed? No – and I believe that whole-hearted and whole-bodied worship of God is still pleasing to Him. What if you are in a church and somebody is “overdoing it.” Allow me to warn you to be careful: Michal thought her husband was overdoing it, and she was dangerously wrong. This might be a good place to follow Romans 14 and let God judge and handle His own servants, and you focus on worshipping God. I truly believe there is no place in worship for somebody being ostentatious and drawing attention to themselves – this is a deadly danger, but so is judging the intentions of somebody’s heart.I’ve spent years in both charismatic churches and formal/Presbyterian/liturgical churches, and I’ve seen the deepest of worship from both sides. My experience proves nothing, of course, but I can tell you that I see worshipping God with joy and passionate exuberance being acceptable to Him in the Bible AND worshipping God with solemn reverence and awe being acceptable to Him in the Bible. Let us rejoice when we see others worshipping God whether they be dancing before the Lord with all their might or quietly and passionately singing a hymn in a whole-hearted way.
“28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28)
“Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” Psalms 46:10, CSB – “Calm down” “Be still and know.”
- Value is critical in understanding worship. I have had people struggle before with the length of our gatherings, and I get that. I have had people say – let’s not cut the preaching, but maybe we could cut the music a bit. (I’m going to assume that some would want to cut the teaching as well, but would not be so impolitic as to say it to my face, though I would sympathize.)
Worship is a value issue. We engage in what we value. Think about it this way: Imagine that right now it takes approximately 4 hours to get your license renewed. Imagine you go there and you are in a terrible mood because you are wasting so much time that could be spent elsewhere. You get in line and you are grumbling internally. Then lo and behold – you look up and somebody is in line directly ahead of you that you value immensely. Maybe a celebrity…a supermodel, and incredible athlete. Imagine that you are in line at the courthouse and your hero is there and wants to talk to you because they are bored too! Your whole demeanor will change – the circumstances haven’t changed, but the value you place on the people in line has changed. You might even want the line to take five hours, because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to speak deeply with your greatest hero. We must wholeheartedly pursue God in a more than merely religious way because we value Him. Worship is incredibly important because God is incredibly important and He seeks those who would wholeheartedly worship Him in spirit and truth. May we be that people!