I have pictured in these last few postings very eventful and colorful worship of the Triune God. Singing, shouting, praising, lifting of hands, clapping, dancing, bowing, kneeling and waiting in expectant silence for Him to speak are all ways of worship He has communicated to us in His Word that He desires that we bring to Him.
For some, this behavior has only been associated with “holy rollers” or “wild-eyed, half-crazed zealots.” It is a brand new idea that these expressions of worship are biblically prescribed, actually biblical imperatives, commanded by God.
Many have never been in a situation where worship in this biblical way is practiced. Some have been turned off by non-biblical excesses. Others have not realized that there is a prescribed way to worship God. Whatever way feels good to them has been perfectly acceptable. But our basis of authority must always be the Bible rather than how we feel. What does God say? Does He have an opinion about this?
We have seen that He does. When we see this, we are faced with a choice. The law of God always brings us to a fork. Will we be subjectivists, empiricists or rationalists? Will we try our best to explain why these many Scriptures are not for today? Or will we be biblicists, doing our best to follow the Scripture?
I have seen some incredibly elaborate schemes to explain why dancing and shouting were only for temple worship, not for church worship. Amazingly, these arguments are often given by the same people who sing only the Psalter (Psalms) in their church worship! Otherwise, their view of the Psalms is that they are historical oddities and the injunctions in them concerning worship are not to be obeyed today, though they are to be sung today! They sing Psalm 150 quietly with feet stationary! Has our tradition so gripped us that we see no inconsistency in singing about shouting, praising and dancing and never doing it? Has God changed His mind about what gives Him pleasure?
Some of God’s laws were “ceremonial” laws that pictured the ministry of the coming Messiah and still picture God’s truth, but now, since the cross, are no longer operative but “out of gear,” so to speak. These include the animal sacrificial system, keeping the feast days, keeping the sabbath, etc. But all others, unless specifically rescinded by the New Testament, are in full effect today.
I am always faced with a choice when I look at the law of God. First, I can try my best to keep it. Second, I can rationalize why it really doesn’t say what it says or really isn’t for today, therefore excusing my behavior. Or, I can say, “I see your holy, righteous law, but because of my sin I can’t consistently keep it. Be merciful to me, a sinner, and change my will to make me want to keep your law.” Our failure to worship God in the biblically prescribed manner is just another example of how we can’t keep God’s law fully. We can only repent and trust that God will provide the grace that we so desperately need to do so.
What if we were to take seriously what the Bible says about worship and follow its instructions to us? What would church be like? Have you ever been in a church where all are singing and shouting praises to God, clapping, dancing and waiting silently in His presence, all in a timely manner and done decently and in order? What are the results when the church worships in a biblical fashion?
Some years ago I was at a conference with about 1000 men who all understood what I have shared in these postings. The presence of the Lord in His corporate temple was almost tangible, as “His glory filled the temple,”
The Scripture says “The voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” (Revelation 19:6), was a reality right before my eyes as 1000 men worshipped God as I have described in this chapter. I had never experienced anything like it. God’s presence filled the assembly room, for whenever God’s people worship Him, He is there in a way He is not when there is no active praise. So, the first result of biblical worship is God’s presence comes corporately in response to our praise. He comes to be “holy, enthroned..in the praises of Israel (your people)” (Psalm 22:3).
The second result is that the enemies of God are confronted in the spiritual realm and the power of God is released to defeat them. In Psalm 149, immediately after four verses exhorting Israel to praise the Lord with the dance, the timbrel and the harp, these rather strange words are uttered:
Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, To execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute on them the written judgment– this honor have all His saints. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 149:5-9).
The saints, God’s people, are said to “execute vengeance on the nations,” to wield a “two-edged sword,” the Word of God, as the praises of God are in their mouths. “This honor have all the saints,” not just those who actually did physical battle in the Old Testament. They will “execute on the nations the written judgment,” or the judgment that God has already pronounced in His word. What can this mean?
It means that as we give ourselves to biblical worship, the spiritual forces—the principalities and powers—that energize those kings of the earth who stand against God, will be defeated. It is not our evangelistic campaigns, our sermons or our church programs that will bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. It is our praise and worship of Almighty God that will actualize in experience what Jesus did on the cross, as He defeated Satan and his demons!
A biblical Old Testament example of a similar situation in the physical realm is found in 2 Chronicles 20. King Jehoshaphat found himself facing a huge multitude from Moab, Ammon and Mt. Seir who were coming against Judah in battle, against whom Jehoshaphat knew the Israelites could not prevail. He sent “those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness …” (vs. 22) out to the battle field ahead of the army.
As the worshippers sang and praised the Lord, God “set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab and Mt. Seir…” (vs. 22). They turned on themselves, first Ammon and Moab against Mt. Seir and then against each other. When the army of Judah arrived, their enemies were all destroyed. What was to be a bloody battle became simply collecting the spoils of battle–“an abundance of valuables” and “precious jewelry” (vs. 25).
When we enthusiastically sing praises to God, and proclaim the beauty of holiness and the crown rights of King Jesus in our worship as we meet together in the church, we are executing the defeat of Satan and his minions that was won at the cross! That honor is ours as His church (Psalm 149:9)!
There will always be hindrances to worshipping God in a biblical manner. Satan will see to that. Self-will (“No one is going to tell me how to worship”), guilt (“I’m not worthy to really worship God”), the fear of man (“I’ll look foolish–I’m too cool to do this”), and lack of feelings (“I don’t feel exuberant”) are but a few of those hindrances. However, I believe there is coming a time when our desire to “praise ye the Lord” will be greater than these objections. It will be made easier by a worship leader who can lead us into worship and by those around us who are already doing so.
We may be uncomfortable or even resistant to the whole idea of active, enthusiastic worship as presented in these postings. Growth in our faith generally comes through discomfort as the Lord continues to open our eyes to our needs. He wants to get us out of our comfort zone as He continues to renew our minds by his Word, and He is in no hurry! May our prayer be the prayer with which we conclude this series on our ministry to God in the church.
“Father, I see what the Bible teaches about worship, and I’m not able to worship You in that way—yet. I have one or more of the hindrances mentioned. I don’t even want to worship You in that way. But I repent of my reluctance to follow Your Instructions. Please give me the grace, the empowerment, to conform my worship to the pattern You have given us in the Bible. Amen”