Tuesday, October 4, 2016
A Definition of Worship
It is not surprising that a Psalm would cause me to think of hymns or songs. Some of the hymns as well as some of the contemporary music of our day have words from the Psalms within them. The 35th Psalm causes us to think of our hymn book, not because of the words, but because of the literary structure. Even as many songs have several verses and a chorus that is common to all of them, so does this particular Psalm. While the words vary some, verses 9, 13, and 28 are like the chorus of the verses of the hymn proclaimed throughout the whole of this Psalm.
At first glance it seems that the words of the chorus verses are from a man trying to bargain with God. When verse 9 says, "Then my soul shall rejoice in the Lord...," or when verse 18 says, "Then I will thank You in the great congregation...," or when verse 28 says, "Then my tongue shall tell of Your righteousness...," it might be heard as what the Psalmist will do if the Lord acts. We know the drill. "God, You do this for me and I will do something for You." However, a closer reading of the whole passage brings into clarity that the Psalmist is instead declaring what he will do in response to the Lord taking action. It is not the pleas of a man trying to make a bargain that we hear, but the promise of a man who is responding to the work of God in the world.
There is a sense in which this is a definition of worship. True worship is not about the performance of the musician, or the preaching of the preacher, but our response to what God has done and is doing in our midst, or in our lives. Response is an essential part of any real worship, and, unfortunately, it is the one part lacking in today's worship experience. Feeling good when we leave worship is not the end result of worship. What worship is about is responding to what God has done.