It was a real privilege to explore, learn from and then preach from Psalm 149 on the weekend at Kirkplace. We learned that God's people are to revel in Him as we gather together, with new songs and with all that we are and all that we have - breaking out in singing, music...and even dancing! We've got every reason to celebrate...God is our Maker and our King, he takes pleasure in us and is even now "adorning us" like a bride ready for her wedding day.
We need to let these realities shape our gatherings - even more so than our cultural upbringings and comfort zones - and ensure we have an accurate knowledge of our God...who is infinitely delightful and praiseworthy!
And we need to remember that who we delight in, we also defend. If we honour God with our lips...our lives must follow. The two are intrinsically linked - as we gather together and celebrate Christ, we also equip ourselves with the weapons of warfare for a life of 24/7 worship.
But, as usual, there was a whole bunch of really helpful and encouraging stuff that time just didn't allow us to get to. So if you're keen to dig a little further, here's some thoughts and links...
(BTW - most of these quotes below are just snippets from longer passages...all which are gold, so I encourage you to follow the links!)
More passages to look at...
Firstly, I want to reenforce again that the Psalms, in their breadth and variety, show us that we can honour God as much through cries for help as we do shouts of praise. When we were exploring reasons that we might feel sometimes inhibited to revel in God with abandon, I probably didn't affirm enough that sometimes you don't feel like celebrating. Sometimes we might just feel like crying out, complaining...or even shouting at God! And I think the Psalms show us that its OK...have a look at Psalms 6, 10, 22, 28, 38, 60, 64, 74 amongst others.
When Psalm 149 talks about singing, dancing and playing tambourines, it recalls (no doubt intentionally) the celebrations as God rescues his people from Egypt. Check out the spontaneous praise and dance party that erupts in Exodus 15.
When we discussed the issues that can discourage a culture of revelling in God as we gather together, one of the points I didn't get time to address was the impact of pride. Pride - or "self-worship" - rears its head in a bunch of different ways. And while I think we're all conscious of 'show pony' pride, are we as aware of the impact of pride in our lives if we're constantly thinking about not standing out or looking foolish or fitting in? Its at the opposite end of the personality spectrum...but can be just as much a pre-occupation with other peoples attention...and yet I think we more readily excuse it because it 'looks more humble. Is this an issue for you? It definitely is for me! Here's some other verses if you need to think about this more... Matt 6, 2 Sam 6, Phil 2-3
We also had to move fairly quickly over the particular role of the nation of Israel in God's plans. Knowing this role is essential to understanding how we can apply these "politically charged" Psalms to us today. If you'd like to get your head around this more, can I suggest that a great starting point would be these books by Graeme Goldsworthy.
When we spoke about our role in defending God's honour, we spoke mainly about warring against sin in our personal lives. But the Psalms have a constant thread of seeking justice in the community, and I think this needs to be something we're active in as well...speaking out and working against oppression and exploitation in our society.
There's also a profound truth we need to get our heads around...we glorify God by enjoying Him! If we get this balance wrong, we can start leaning towards being "blessing consumers" on one side...or on the flipside, trying to earn our way to God's blessing. John Piper does a great job of exploring this wonderful truth - I'd suggest starting with The Pleasures of God or Desiring God (You can download a free PDF of this one!) if you want to explore this further.
Articles, quotes and blogs...
We spoke about how praise and delight almost requires to be shared...and in doing so is magnified. This is a great passage from CS Lewis as he discovered this overflowing nature of praise...and how our enjoyment glorifies God.
"I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."
I've found a couple of really helpful blog posts by David Mathis on Desiring God website...
We spoke about how we need to be singing and writing new songs, because God's blessing and mercy to us is constant.
"New songs of praise are appropriate for new rescues and fresh manifestations of grace. As long as God is gracious toward us, as long as he keeps showing us his power, and wowing us with his works, it is fitting that we not just sing old songs inspired by his past grace, but also that we sing new songs about his ever-streaming, never-ceasing grace."
This one explores self-forgetfulness in our corporate worship - really relevant as we discussed things that impede our revelling.
"Corporate worship is a means of grace not when we’re caught up with what we’re doing, but when we experience the secret of worship — the joy of self-forgetfulness — as we become preoccupied together with Jesus and his manifold perfections."
And this great blog post just went up yesterday about 5 benefits of corporate worship.
"Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role in rekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life."
Finally, if you've made it this far...then you might be up for some extended quotes from Jonathan Edwards. If you haven't read any Edwards before, its like climbing a mountain...really hard work, but stick with it - the view at the top is amazing! The first quote is reflecting on Christ's love for his Bride - the church. And the second looks towards the day when our praises will be perfected...unhindered by our current foibles and failures...
1. We ought to consider how much Christ has done to obtain that joy, wherein he rejoices over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. The creation of the world seems to have been especially for this end, that the eternal Son of God might obtain a spouse towards whom he might fully exercise the infinite benevolence of his nature, and to whom he might, as it were, open and pour forth all that immense fountain of condescension, love, and grace that was in his heart, and that in this way God might be glorified. Doubtless the work of creation is subordinate to the work of redemption: the creation of the new heavens and new earth, is represented as so much more excellent than the old, that, in comparison, it is not worthy to be mentioned, or come into mind. Christ has done greater things than to create the world, in order to obtain his bride and the joy of his espousals with her: for he became man for this end; which was a greater thing than his creating the world. For the Creator to make the creature was a great thing; but for him to become a creature was a greater thing. And he did a much greater thing still to obtain this joy; in that for this he laid down his life, and suffered even the death of the cross: for this he poured out his soul unto death; and he that is the Lord of the universe, God over all, blessed for evermore, offered up himself a sacrifice, in both body and soul, in the flames of divine wrath. Christ obtains his elect spouse by conquest: for she was captive in the hands of dreadful enemies; and her Redeemer came into the world to conquer these enemies, and rescue her out of their hands, that she might be his bride. And he came and encountered these enemies in the greatest battle that ever was beheld by men or angels: he fought with principalities and powers; he fought alone with the powers of darkness, and all the armies of hell; yea, he conflicted with the infinitely more dreadful wrath of God, and overcame in this great battle; and thus he obtained his spouse. Let us consider at how great a price Christ purchased this spouse: he did not redeem her with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with his own precious blood; yea, he gave himself for her. When he offered up himself to God in those extreme labors and sufferings, this was the joy that was set before him, that made him cheerfully to endure the cross, and despise the pain and shame in comparison of this joy; even that rejoicing over his church, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride that the Father has promised him, and that he expected when he should present her to himself in perfect beauty and blessedness.
"V. In the way of CONSOLATION to the godly! It may be matter of great comfort to you, that you are to spend your eternity with the saints in heaven, where it is so much their work to praise God. The saints are sensible what cause they have to praise God, and oftentimes are ready to say, they long to praise him more, and that they never can praise him enough. This may be a consolation to you, that you shall have a whole eternity in which to praise him. They earnestly desire to praise God better. This, therefore, may be your consolation, that in heaven your heart shall be enlarged, you shall be enabled to praise him in an immensely more perfect and exalted manner than you can do in this world. You shall not be troubled with such a dead, dull heart, with so much coldness, so many clogs and burdens from corruption, and from an earthly mind; with a wandering, unsteady heart; with so much darkness and so much hypocrisy. You shall be one of that vast assembly that praise God so fervently, that their voice is "as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of might thunderings...
...You long to have others praise God, to have every one praise him. There, there will be enough to help you, and join you in praising him, and those that are capable of doing it ten thousand times better than saints on earth. Thousands and thousands of angels and glorified saints will be around you, all united to you in the dearest love, all disposed to praise God, not only for themselves, but for his mercy to you."
Jonathan Edwards , Sermons, Series II, 1734 (WJE Online Vol. 49) , Ed. Jonathan Edwards Center