I have heard it said many times, that when we worship God, it does more for us, than it does for Him. Worship reminds us of the goodness and provision of the Lord. It fosters gratitude, and importantly it makes us feel good. Don’t you notice that? After you’ve sung to the Lord with all your heart, you feel great.
I heard this from so many sources, of course, I thought it was true. Then when I started to study the Psalms, I kept seeing how David poured his heart out before the Lord and I got a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. While worship makes us feel good, worshipping to make us feel better is most probably offensive to the Lord and is not an act of worship at all.
I can feel good singing along with the songs on the radio that have a positive message, and an upbeat tune. The human mind and body respond well to music. It is used in therapy, for relaxation, to rally and motivate: it has many benefits. I had been intending to do research on the power of music, then relate it to David’s life. I wanted to nail how it helped him cope through the darkest times. Then the Holy Spirit said, “I don’t want that.”
I stopped, surprised. I couldn’t pinpoint why the Lord had said no. Then I realised the answer: to pull worship apart and attribute positive, healing properties to it, would cheapen David’s expression of his love of the Lord.
Around 2001, a song came out which is obviously a response to the Lord challenging us on how we use worship. Were we worshipping to get a happiness boost? Were we using it to create atmosphere in church? Or were we singing to pour our hearts out to the Lord, as David did? Whatever the intention of writing the song at the time, it reaffirms what I am learning about worship now.
When the music fades,
All is stripped away,
And I simply come.
Longing just to bring,
Something that’s of worth,
That will bless Your heart.
That is what worship has to be: a gift of love and gratitude to the Lord. If that is tainted by anything else, it’s not genuine worship; it’s strange fire and the Lord shouldn’t be expected to accept it.
Leviticus 10:1-3 “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them. In this way, they disobeyed the LORD by burning before Him the wrong kind of fire, (or strange fire), different than He had commanded. So fire blazed forth from the LORD’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the LORD.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD meant when He said,
‘I will display My Holiness
through those who come near Me.
I will display My Glory
before all the people.’”
And Aaron was silent.”
I feel awful for Aaron when I read that story. The shock and sense of injustice he felt at the loss of his sons, must have been horrific. However, a point was made which still stands today. We know how to worship God. It must come from our hearts, from a living, dynamic relationship with Him. To offer God anything else, whether it be via duty, performance, or going through the motions because we’re at the singing part of a church service, is not to worship. It is unrighteous, strange fire, that shows that we did not go near the Lord.
Listen to what motivated David to sing:
“Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house;
I will worship at your Temple with deepest awe.” Psalm 5:7
“But I trust in Your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because You have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because He is good to me.” Psalm 13:5-6
“Praise the LORD!
For He has heard my cry for mercy.
The LORD is my strength and shield.
I trust Him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalm 28:6-7
“I will be glad and rejoice in Your unfailing love,
for You have seen my troubles,
and You care about the anguish of my soul.” Psalm 31:7
David sang out of a living, thriving relationship with the Lord. It came out of love. You can see the intimacy he had with the Father, come through. “My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8
There are also other aspects to David’s praise, which point the way to how we are to worship.
1. In many Psalms, David proclaims an intention to praise the Lord, especially when life was tough. Regardless of how he felt, he didn’t slack off in his devotion to bless the Lord.
Examples of this are found in Psalm 5:7, Psalm 7:17, Psalm 13:5-6, Psalm 18:49-50, Psalm 22:22-25, Psalm 26:12, Psalm 28:6-6, Psalm 31:7, Psalm 35:9-10 and again in verse 28, Psalm 42:8, Psalm 54:6, Psalm 52:9, Psalm 57:7-8, Psalm 59:16, Psalm 61:8, Psalm 63:11, Psalm 69:30-31, Psalm 71:14-16, Psalm 71:22-24, Psalm 86:12-13, and Psalm 109:30-31.
There is a reason why I listed them all. David’s intention is a long-term, deliberate habit.
2. Many Psalms are also prayers. I chuckle when I see theologians try and dissect the Psalms and place them into one specific category. As David pours out his heart, he bounces around many areas. His beautiful works are natural, which is why we relate to and value them. They are not contrived.
A small selection of Psalms where David spontaneously bursts into exclamations of praise include: Psalm 28:6, Psalm 21:1-2, Psalm 24:8, Psalm 35:10, Psalm 57:7-11, Psalm 63:2-8, Psalm 31:19-21 and Psalm 30:11-12. Again, I am listing more than a key example or two, to demonstrate his worship habits.
3. This final area sets an example for us. David frequently encourages others to shout for joy and praise the Lord. He wants to be an example, or as we say, a witness, and he wants to infect others with the same gratitude and desire for communion with the Lord that he has. We need to do the same. Some of these Psalms were written as a means of teaching people about the Lord.
A few examples of these exhortations are found in Psalm 32:10-11, Psalm 33:1-5, Psalm 29:1-2 and I will leave you with this one in closing, Psalm 66:1-4.
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
Sing about the glory of His name!
Tell the world how glorious He is.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!
Your enemies cringe before Your mighty power.
Everything on earth will worship You;
they will sing Your praises,
shouting Your Name in glorious songs.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.