Psalms 96-100 are all about praising and singing to the Lord. There is even the admonition to “shout to the Lord joyfully. This blog post really fits into a sequel from last week’s “Sing to the Lord” post. The Psalms 96-150 are almost exclusively about praising. The 85 word Psalm 100 captures the essence of the Psalmist desire. We have been reading the Psalms for months now and there has been a duel-edged sword about them. From one vantage point we hear the writer crying out in anguish and anxiety about how his enemies are hounding him and seek to end his life. But by the end of the psalm we find the writer singing and exalting God for His mercy and faithfulness to hum. In Psalm 98 we read of creation praising God – the seas roar, rivers clap and the mountains sing. This may seem strange and make us only think of the psalmist trying to give anthropomorphism to creation, however when we look at Romans 8:22 we read that all of creation groans for the time of restoration. Often we think that only mankind can praise God – yet creation itself desires for the enthronement of God and its own restoration to former glory.
We worship in song, sermon and service. If we limit all of our praising and singing to vocals, then we have missed the point of “let everything that hath breathe praise the Lord. Singing is something that can be voluntary and spontaneous from the believer. I think there are times when we should “shout” to the Lord – lifting our voices and souls in glorious exhaling!
There is a song “coming back to the heart of worship” I have heard it sung my Michael W. Smith – there is a line in the song that says “I’m sorry for the thing I’ve made it, I’m coming back to the heart of worship.” In our modern day of technology – we have made church worship something more than pleasing the audience of one – we have made it about our likes and dislikes. The music wars rage and congregations struggle with what is and is not the proper music for services. We all have personal preferences in music; I wonder have we ever considered the desires of our Lord? I think He enjoys the “praise of the redeemed” [Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir] as His favorite song! Just as we love to hear children and grandchildren sing some melody regardless of how off key and out of order the words are! Scripture tells us that God inhabits the praise of His people. Shout, sing, hum, whistle or what ever means you can do – but “whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord.” It is the heart vibrations not the vocal cords that please the Father. When He knows that His children are “making a joyful noise” out of love and commitment to Him – He will not refuse or reject the offering from the heart.
There are times that my worship is between God and me. Other times [congregationally] it is public and I am worshipping with my family of church members. It is this corporate worship that seems to have caused such anxiety that music has become a distraction instead of an enhancement of our worship. What is the answer – heart worship and praise. Not singing of genre’s but sounds of thoughtful joy. Someone once told me that in a church song service there should be something for everyone. That every person should be able to sing something to the Lord. Maybe so; but shouldn’t there be something for God to appreciate as well. We must quit making church about us and our preferences, and more about reaching others and touching the spirit of God!
In Psalms 92/95 we are exhorted to sing and worship with our voices unto the Lord. I have found in my 21 years of ministry not everyone in church likes to sing the same songs. We have been under the “worship wars” terror for about 30 years. Just when I think that the war is almost over, it flares up again. Part of the reason the worship wars continue is because of the vast amount of generational variation in the church on a given Sunday – if you do not have some measure of conflict; one of two things has happened, you are all one generation [death is eminent] or you are a new church with your own identity. We live in a day and time where the air waves are filled with music and videos to worship by. Our local station plays plethora of contemporary music. People listen to this genre of music all week and have come to expect it to be played on Sunday by the worship choir or band. Hummmm; is this really realistic? I don’t mind listening to the contemporary music during the week – essentially it is for me; my enjoyment. But when I come to the sanctuary to worship God – the focus must shift from me to Thee. This doesn’t always happen. The music has caused many a church split and death. Now granted there are various genre’s of church music from high cathedral to bluegrass cowboy country music. Is one any better or worse than the other? Good question. I know young people who like southern gospel and elderly who like praise and worship – not so convinced that our music wars are all age related. Something I have learned though – no one likes bad music, regardless of the type or style.
So how do we solve this “my music” situation? Probably need to look at the various places we listen to music and the purpose at the time. What I mean is there is music for situation and occasions, what is right for one would be wrong for another. I have a friend whose approach to Sunday worship music – there should be music that everyone can connect with. Wow that makes for a long music portion of the service if we are trying to provide a song for all to connect with! The Audience of One principle does not mean “what’s in it for me, but How can I please and praise God in heaven with my song and singing? We have degenerated worship to music – music is only one aspect of worship; often the “worship pastor” is always viewed as the music person. Wrong, actually the Pastor is the worship pastor. I know there will be those who disagree with me on this – the music and the message must have coherence and unity of message. This is not easily accomplished. Theology and thought must be used in music and message preparation. Singing about bad theology just because we like the song isn’t right. I find in these two Psalms variation in instruments and praise but there is one focus – joyfully singing to the Lord. If we are singing to hear ourselves, we have missed what worship really is about. Time doesn’t allow me to go into deep discussion of why Churches don’t sing much or use hymnals. Singing is suffering in our worship. I find that there is an expectation of a “concert” from the praise team. They are trying to lead us to praise of the Lord. If that is not accomplished, it probably is the fault of both the Praise Team and the Pew!
Singing should have an air of spontaneity within the soul. I listen to my grandchildren sing – sometimes they know the words, other times they are just humming and letting their soul resonant with joy in their hearts. We will be singing in heaven, we will be singing TO the LORD; He is our audience; let’s prepare for the concert to the King here!
Reading many of the Psalms one cannot but recognize that there are two worlds for the writers; the world of hurt and the world of the holy. What I mean by this is that the Psalms writers seem to “cry out” to the Lord routinely; but then resort back to praise for the Almighty. This isn’t strange, for we all find ourselves in an up and down type of living. One day we are lifted above all the circumstances and evils of the day, the next we are overwhelmed by it all. The crying out stems from the abuse or ill-treatment by the world against the writers. David wrote many of his Psalms based upon the attacks of King Saul and his armies that tried to destroy the “already anointed” next king of Israel. Familiar phrases like “incline your ear to my cry” or “I cry all day long” are repeated in these five Psalms 86-91. This has to be frustrating to seemingly live above the “junk” only to find that you get sucked back into it.
Ethos the heart ache or spirit of our humanity is very fragile. I guess I could also include the “Ego” or countenance of a person in this blog. Humanity is a very fragile spirit. It doesn’t take much for believers or unredeemed people to become “exhausted” with the constant barrage of the “ills of life.” The Psalms writers consistently ask the LORD to hear them, to answer them in their prayers and agonizing. This would seem to give the impression that the Lord God is far removed from His people – there are many who think that is what God did in creation; leaving us to our own devices and tactics to live out life without his interference or help. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I know that when my “spirit” is troubled it is hard to focus and function. The continuous grind of daily living does take it toll on us. I believe that is part of the reason the LORD God commanded that the Sabbath to be observed. The rest was of all creation, animal and man. In a “dog-eat dog world” where it seems that everyone is out for number one; so many are consumed by the evils nd the emotions of daily living. Our present culture proves this in that so many vices have been tried to ease the pain of life. The vices range from porn, drugs, illicit sex, euphoric experiences, multiple jobs, partners and the list goes on. All with out easing the frustration and pain of daily life.. Now, granted the Psalmist were being attacked, ridiculed and bad-mouthed. But if the evils of this life are found only in words against us; should we not rise above all of it? It is good that the writers to turn to the LORD for help. The LORD is our strength and ever-present help in time of need. He is our Rock, our fortress, deliverer and lover of our soul. We are the sheep of His pasture – our God empathizes with our hurts and pains. HE tells us “come to me all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest – not a good nights sleep, but restored strength in the midst of harsh days. [Isaiah 40:31]
Trust the Lord with all your heart; lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. [Proverbs 3:5-6]
Do not be overcome with evil; but overcome evil with good – and none are good except God!