“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts.”
Unfortunately worship in the 21st century seems to have produced more war than wonder, mostly because we have made worship more about our wants than His. Worship should be where our wants are overwhelmed by His wonder as we come willingly to God and recognize who He is. As we humble ourselves before Him declaring that He is our all in all. As we recognize that He is Sovereign and the source of all authority. As we express our love, loyalty, and longing for Him. When you study worship in the bible it doesn’t take long to discover two interesting ingredients, Awe and joy.
When it comes to worship Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-5 describes his experience: “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high & exalted, & the train of His robe filled the temple.” And there were angels there, shouting, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory. At the sound of their voices the doorposts & thresholds shook & the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe to me,’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, & I live among a people of unclean lips, & my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Do you discover the sense of awe there? Isaiah said, “I went into the temple & I saw the Lord! He was on His throne, & the glory of God was everywhere. I felt the ground shake & smoke filled the temple. Angels were saying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’ & I felt totally unworthy of being in His presence.” Worship involves wonder, a sense of awe, have you ever felt that way? Have you ever looked up at the stars and marveled at the universe only to realize that the One who created it all loves you so much that He came to earth and died for you? That’s awe. David felt it and in Psalm 8 said, “When I consider your heavens & the work of your fingers, the moon & the stars which you set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him…?” Then he closes with these words, “Oh Lord, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” When was the last time you were in awe of the Almighty?
The second essential ingredient of worship is joy. Acts 2:46 tells us that the early church “worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people” Not only is there awe, but joy was there also. They discovered that God was not some awesome being waiting for them to make a mistake so that He can punish them. Instead the creator of the universe is a God of love who desires to express His mercy and grace and to save us from our sins. God has lifted you up out of the pit and brought you into His presence and that ought to bring joy into your heart. Psalm 100 says, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” Reading through the Psalms I marvel at the number of times the idea of joy is expressed, we should be a joyful people for our God loves and cares for us.
The only problem with awe and joy is that we often see them in conflict with one another. If you come from a formal church background where the emphasize is on the importance of being still and acknowledging that God is God and then visit a service where people are laughing, clapping, raising hands, and expressing joy, you’d think they are being disrespectful. “They shouldn’t behave that way.” But if you come from a contemporary background where you’re used to all that, and visit a service where people are sitting quietly, you’d think, “They need an infusion of joy.” Today in our war over our wants in worship we have missed the wonder of worship. In the war over worship we see formal as being without joy and contemporary as disrespectfully carefree. We judge the hearts and motives of those around us whose worship is different, trying to conform them to fit our comfort. Yet true worship should conform us not the other way around “let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” Today would we hear the truth that we are His people we are following our Father not our feelings. Worship is not about our wants but about His wonder. When we see children coming to a parent with their raised hands, we don’t say, “put down your hands, you little charismatic.” What are they doing? They’re coming saying, pick me up, hold me.” When people sit in silence before their God it’s not stoic joyless worship but stillness before their Savior. Different styles but the same Savior, different ways of expressing their hearts but the same need, “God, I’m tired and I need you.” The truth is that it’s not about the styles it’s about the Savior. So whether your worship is reserved or raised we are all His sheep coming to submit and surrender. So when you see raise hands don’t consider them pharisaical, and if they are not raise don’t consider them unspiritual. Worship involves His Word and His Wonder and that always brings awe and joy.