Worship in the Scriptures (Psalm 119)

We have looked at worship in God’s throne room and that was an awesome passage. We have looked at worshipping the Lord because He was slain for us. Praise God, our great Savior! We have looked at adoring and worshipping the Lord in prayer. So, now let’s talk about the Bible in worship. I wish to look at worship in the Psalms.
To talk about worship in the Psalms, what Psalm should we turn to? Without looking at your bulletin, take a guess? Anyone, just call out a Psalm that expressed worship.
Let’s turn to Psalm 100:
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
That is a Psalm to look at when talking about worship. When the Psalms turned over to 100 they did so calling us to SHOUT for joy to the Lord. How about another short Psalm, Psalm 150. Turn there:
Psalm 150:
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
The Psalms end on a high note. They end talking about praise, don’t they?
However, that is not the route I am going.
I once came across a powerful quote by Daniel Webster that illustrates this topic. In the presence of Professor Sanborn of Dartmouth College, Mr. Webster laid his hand on a copy of the Scriptures as he said, “This is the Book. I have read through the entire Bible many times. I now make it a practice to go through it once a year. It is the Book of all others for lawyers as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought, and of rules for his conduct. It fits man for life—it prepares him for death.” ,
With that in mind, turn back a few pages to Psalm 119. I read the following:
The anonymous psalmist who wrote this longest psalm sought refuge from his persecutors and found strength by meditating on the Word of God. This psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible, is largely a collection or anthology of prayers and thoughts about God’s Word. C. S. Lewis compared it to a piece of embroidery, done stitch by stitch in the quiet hours for the love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship.
This psalm contains a reference to God’s Word in almost every verse (except verses 84, 90, 121, 122, and 132). (The Jews claimed that only one verse did not refer directly to God’s Word: verse 122.756) The psalmist used at least eight synonyms for the Word of God, each of which conveys a slightly different emphasis. However, sometimes it appears that the writer chose a synonym simply to avoid repetition.”Way” and “ways” (Heb. derek) describes the pattern of life God’s revelation marks out. It occurs 13 times in the psalm (vv. 1, 3, 5, 14, 26, 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 37, 59, 168).
I had trouble narrowing down, but let’s read verses 9-16 because the Hebrew Bible would consider that a section, the Beth section.
The application for today is this:
We are not ready for worship without the Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is our base in worship; the Bible is our guide in worship. The Bible is Truth, how can we worship without the truths of who God is? We cannot. So, meditate on God’s Word and then we have Truth to worship God with.
Psalm 119:9-16:
How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.
Think about what this passage says, Hide the Word in our heart:
“The act of ‘hiding’ God’s word is not to be limited to the memorization of individual texts or even whole passages but extends to a holistic living in devotion to the Lord (cf. Deut 6:4-9; 30:14; Jer 31:33).”
Other responses to God’s Word that the writer mentioned and that occur first in this section are “rejoicing” (vv. 14, 74, 162), “meditating” (vv. 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148), and “delighting” (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174).
I. This is the longest chapter in the Bible and it is all about God’s Word, the Bible.
a. The Psalms have been called the Jewish Hymnbook. Interesting that the longest is all about God’s Word. We have Psalms in the book of Psalms that they would sing on their way to Jerusalem for certain feasts, called Psalms of ascent. These are Psalms 120-134. I find it interesting that these Psalms follow the masterpiece on the Bible. Therefore, I believe meditating on the Scriptures is pivotal in worship.
b. There are verses in Psalm 119 that specify praise: See verse 164: Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.
c. Consider this, the Psalmist is praising God for God’s righteous law. The Law is the Word, the Bible. In fact, terms used for the Word or what we would call the Bible are:
i. Law,
ii. Testimonies,
iii. Precepts,
iv. Statutes,
v. Commandments,
vi. Rules,
vii. Word
II. The Scriptures are our base in worship. They are our guide in worship. We must have God’s Word in our head.
a. Think of paint, the base is critical. I worked at Lowe’s and I went to a paint certification class. In painting they taught us something like 90% of painting is surface prep. Not only that, there are base paints which we used to mix paints.
i. Our surface prep for worship is being in the Bible. Reading the Bible having the Bible handy.
ii. The Bible is our base. Just like I could not mix paint without the proper base paint, we cannot worship God without the Word.
b. Think of a building’s foundation. I am not a master-builder, but I have dug holes at Alliance Mission Encounter and we are supposed to go a certain depth. Foundation is important and the Bible is the foundation in worship.
c. There was a wonderful family in my youth ministry at my last church. So, I was disappointed to see that the mother posted an article on Facebook, or, rather linked an article, that references things the author wished Christians admitted about the Scriptures. This article had a negative view of the Scriptures. However, the more I study, the more I learn, the longer I am a Christian I am realizing that every Word of the Bible has great value and great meaning. Jesus responded to the devil’s attacks with the Scriptures. (Matthew 4; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13; John 4:6-7) The Word is the only, offensive weapon against the enemy in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit. People have sought out to prove the Bible wrong and they become believers.
d. I believe the Bible leads us into worship.
e. How can we study the Bible, study the promises of God, and not worship the One those promises are about? I believe the Bible is written about a Big God. Tony Campolo was once confronted by an atheist who was one of his students. The young man told Campolo, “For me to believe in God, I have to have a God that I can understand.” And Campolo replied, “God refuses to be that small!”
f. In Eugene Peterson’s book called Answering God, He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary—that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms. So that was the first step. I realized I needed to do that, but I didn’t know how.
g. I think we could apply the same idea to worship. Where do we learn our worship vocabulary, but only from the Scriptures.
h. Let’s think about words and the promises of God:
Many philosophers have said that God is a pure spirit and so it is inappropriate to talk about God speaking. 102 Yet Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt 24: 35). Philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff and others deny the idea that God cannot and does not speak. Wolterstorff applies J. L. Austin’s speech-act theory, which points out that words are also actions. They not only say things, they accomplish things. If God exists and has power to act, then there is no reason he could not speak, because words are also actions. Also, since the Godhead contains a community of persons, and because language is intrinsic to personal relationship, there is every reason to expect that God communicates through words. Therefore, Christian prayer is not plunging into the abyss of unknowing and a state of wordless hyperconsciousness. That condition is created not by words per se but by sounds . “The techniques that prepare for [the mantra meditation state of samadhi] feature repetitive sounds, sights, or actions. Analytical thought is mesmerized to favor intuitive awareness, a relaxed state in which one’s consciousness of individual identity is suspended.” Rather, Christian prayer is fellowship with the personal God who befriends us through speech. The biblical pattern entails meditating on the words of Scripture until we respond to God with our entire being, saying, “Give me an undivided heart, that . . . I may praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart” (Ps 86: 11– 12).
Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life argues that God’s words are identical with his actions. He quotes Genesis 1:3, “‘ Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Ward observes that the passage does not say that first God spoke and then he proceeded to do what he said he would do. No, his word itself brought the light about. When God names someone, his very word also constitutes the person. When he renames Abram to be Abraham—“father of a multitude”— that word makes the aged man and his wife biologically and spiritually capable of being the progenitors of a whole race (Gen 17: 5). Psalm 29 is an entire hymn of praise of the power of God’s voice. “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars—the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert— the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh” (Ps 29: 5, 8). We see again that what God’s voice does, God does. God’s speaking and acting are equated. Isaiah 55: 10– 11 puts this theological principle most powerfully.
One writes: We humans may say, “Let there be light in this room,” but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing. The God of the Bible is a God who “by his very nature, acts through speaking.” When the Bible talks of God’s Word, then, it is talking of “God’s active presence in the world.” To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something. To break one of God’s commands or words is to break one’s relationship with him. “Thus (we may say) God has invested himself with his words, or we could say that God has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words . . . they do to God himself. . . . God’s . . . verbal actions are a kind of extension of himself.”
So, we need to have the Word, the Bible, in our head, we do that by meditation.
III. Meditate is used 18 times in the N.I.V. translation of the Old Testament and 16 times in the Psalms. Meditate is used a total of 8 times in Psalm 119. Of course what does the verb mediate have to do with the Bible.
a. I’m concerned about approaches to reading the Bible that say: Read the Bible, but don’t think about theology, just let God speak to you. I’m concerned about that because God speaks to you in the Bible, after you do the good exegesis and you figure out what the text is saying. Martin Luther believed you need to take the truth that you have learned through good exegesis, and once you understand that, you need to learn how to warm your heart with it—get it into your heart. And it diminishes our prayer life that our hearts are cold when we get into prayer. Without meditation, you tend to go right into petition and supplication, and you do little adoration or confession. When your heart is warm, then you start to praise God and then you confess. When your heart is cold, which it is if you just study the Bible and then jump to prayer, you are much more likely to spend your time on your prayer list and not really engage your heart.
b. Prayer begins with worship. Prayer and worship go hand-in-hand. So, we can apply truths about the importance of Scripture in prayer to the importance of Scripture in worship.
c. The idea of meditation is not necessarily memorization, but making the Scriptures a part of us. This will lead to worship, but this will lead to God’s Word becoming a part of us. This means that we will reason differently, think differently, live differently. The promises of God, the actions of God are a part of us. Then we have the language of worship.
The application for today is this:
We are not ready for worship without the Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is our base in worship; the Bible is our guide in worship. The Bible is Truth, how can we worship without the truths of who God is? We cannot. So, meditate on God’s Word and then we have Truth to worship God with.
Let’s pray

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