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Worship - Loving God's House

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Worship – I Love God’s House!

Theme for 2007: Growing Great Relationships… with God, Family, and Community!

Mk 12:29-31 MSG “Listen… the Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’”

The Psalms of Ascent (Ps 120-134) were songs that set the stage for Hebrew pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem – toward God.  They are songs “for the road”[1] as they would wind their way up from the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea, the highest point in Israel, Jerusalem.  Of the great hero’s of faith the Scripture says, Heb 11:13 NKJV “These all died in faith... and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

It is a stance, a mindset that says, “In all the circumstances of my life I am a seeker of God.”  Friedrich Nietzsche said, "The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is...that there should be long obedience in the same direction..."[2]

Ps 120 – Repentance, turning from the world toward God.

Eugene Peterson said, “A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.”[3]

Ps 121 – Providence, God’s protection and favour for the journey.

Ps 23:1 NLT “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.”  God is with me beside “still waters” and in “dark valleys” and will lead me “in right paths!”

Ps 122 – Worship, I love God’s house, God’s presence.

Ps 122:1-9 TNIV “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”  Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.  That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord— to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.  There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”  For the sake of my friends and of all the people, I will say, “Peace be within you.”  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity.”

1.     A Heart for God’s House.

Ps 122:1 TNIV “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Ps 122:1 MSG “When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,” my heart leaped for joy.”

What goes through your heart, your mind when someone says, “Let’s go to church?”  I want to be careful not to confuse church attendance with spirituality, or indeed make it a measure of how much a person loves God.  Nevertheless, Jesus loved His Father’s house.  Jn 2:17 NLT “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

Over the years, I have listened to all too many excuses why people do not go to church and have tried to respond with grace and encouragement to counter what are really in the main pathetically flimsy excuses hiding nothing more than a bad habit. 

Heb 10:24-25 TNIV “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

One pastor apparently fed up with all the excuses given as to why people don’t go to church, included Ten Reasons Why I Never Wash in the Sunday bulletin:

1.      I was forced to as a child.

2.      People who wash are hypocrites—they think they are cleaner than everybody else.

3.      There are so many different kinds of soap; I can’t decide which one is best.

4.      I used to wash, but I got bored and stopped.

5.      I wash only on special occasions, like Christmas and Easter.

6.      None of my friends wash.

7.      I’ll start washing when I get older and dirtier.

8.      I can’t spare the time.

9.      The bathroom is never warm enough in winter or cool enough in summer.

10. People who make soap are only after your money.

Ps 27:4 TNIV “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”  Do the first well, but do not abandon what follows the AND!

2.     On Being the Church.

Ps 122 is a song about a person who not only decides to go to worship but to be the church.  We are created to worship, it cannot be suppressed, for worship we must.  Whilst ever we live in a place of uncertain commitment to God’s house, the Devil will eagerly present us with alternatives and excuses.  Mt 4:10 TNIV “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 

We cannot truly worship without serving, and we certainly ought not to serve without worshiping!  Ps 122:1 MSG “When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,” my heart leaped for joy.”  Ps 122 provides a snapshot of what happens in our lives when we devote ourselves to the discipline of corporate worship and serving God in His house.

A.       A Place to be Planted.

Ps 122:2-3 TNIV “Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.”  The Psalmist begins by talking about a place where his feet are firmly planted.  Ps 92:13 NKJV “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

Secondly, when the psalmist looked at the city, he thought of unity and security.  Just as the stones of the walls and houses were “bound firmly together,” so the people were bound together in their worship of the Lord. [4]  Eph 4:16 NLT “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”

B.       A Place To Belong.

Ps 122:4 TNIV “That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord— to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel.”  The reference to TRIBES conveys a distinct sense of belonging.  Rom 12:5 NIV “…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  To Paul, being a “member” meant being a vital organ in a living body, indispensable, and interconnected to the Body.

Acts 2:47 TNIV “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  There is a difference between joining something and being added to the church of the living God.  Nothing exists in a healthy state unattached.  Note this belonging is to be done in the spirit of a true worshiper.  Ps 122:4 TNIV “That is where the tribes go up— the tribes of the Lord— to praise the name of the Lord...”  St Augustine of Hippo put it, "The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!"

C.       A Place of Judgement.

Ps 122:5 TNIV “There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.”  One of the Biblical meaning for judgment is, “the decisive word by which God straightens things out and puts things right.”  Judgment is not about defining things, it is a word that does things.  It requires of us that we put love into action; it moves us to from unbelief to faith; it steps us from a place guilty condemnation into Christ’s mercy and grace; and it provokes us to go from disobedience to liberating obedience.

Eugene Petersons says of church and the Biblical call to come together to worship, “In worship we are part of ‘the large congregation’ where all the writers of Scripture address us, where song writers use music to express truths that touch us not only in our heads but in our hearts, where the preacher who has just lived through 6 days of doubt, hurt, faith and blessing with the worshipers speaks the truth of Scripture... where our attention is centred on the personal and decisive words of God!”[5]

Ps 19:7-11 NKJV “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.  Moreover by them your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.”

3.     Prayer, Peace and Prosperity[6].

Ps 122:6-9 NLT “Pray for peace in Jerusalem.  May all who love this city prosper.  O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces.  For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.”  For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.”

1.      Pray.  The Hebrew word for pray can also be translated ask.  It is at this point God’s world breaks in on our world.  Mt 6:9-10 MSG “With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.  Like this: Our Father in heaven, reveal who You are.  Set the world right; do what’s best— as above, so below.”

2.      Peace.  Shalom – peace is one of the richest words in the Bible.  It describes the wholeness, the release of life that is drawn into our lives as we do God’s will.  Every time Jesus healed, forgave, saved or brought deliverance to someone, shalom was demonstrated.  Lk 7:21-22 TNIV “At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

3.      Prosperity.  Shalvah – prosperity is the relaxed stance of one who knows all is right and well because God is over us.  It is the assurance of being secure in a history that has the Cross at the centre, and lived under the providential mercy of God.


----

[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999).  Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.)

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. Helen Zimmern (London: 1907), sec 188.

[3] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Intervarsity Press 2nd Edition 2000), pg 25

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (2004).  Be Exultant (1st Ed.)  (151). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Cook Communications Ministries. 

[5] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Intervarsity Press 2nd Edition 2000), pg 55

[6] Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Intervarsity Press 2nd Edition 2000), pg 56-57

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