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.
You can listen to the talk here.
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."