Theme: Rediscovering Worship
In this week’s lessons, we learn how and why to worship God, and also see the need to respond rightly to the gospel while there is still time.
Scripture: Psalm 95:1-11
It is time to rediscover worship. John R. W. Stott, the former rector of All Souls Church in London, writes that “true worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable.”1 But much of what takes place in our churches today is not worship at all, and many who sincerely desire to worship God do not know how to go about it.
A. W. Tozer pondered the problem:
Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold “right opinions,” probably more than ever before in the history of the church. Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.2
Today many do not even hold those “right opinions.” So the situation is worse than it was when Tozer wrote about it fifty years ago.
Psalm 95 tells us how to worship. Indeed, it does more. It is a call to worship; it explains how and why we should worship; and it warns of what can happen if we do not worship but harden our hearts instead. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “It has about it a ring like that of the church bells, and like the bells it sounds both merrily and solemnly, at first ringing out a lively peal, and then dropping into a funeral knell as if tolling at the funeral of the generation which perished in the wilderness.”3
The church has used the first part of the psalm as a call to worship from at least the fourth century. In many circles it is known as the Venite, from the Latin word for “come” with which it begins.
This bright psalm starts with a call to joyful worship (vv. 1, 2), and appropriately so, since, as it says, God is the “Rock of our salvation”: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
There are other ways to worship, of course. We can worship silently or even with sighs or tears. But a natural and proper way to worship is with joy and enthusiasm.
In previous weeks’ studies I have had occasion to refer to C. S. Lewis’ helpful insights into the exuberance of Jewish worship. Lewis does not suppose that these exuberant forms of worship were necessarily better than ours, but they did have something we lack or at least attain to only in very special moments. He calls it the ancient Jews’ “appetite” for God:
These old poets do not seem to think that they are meritorious or pious for having such feelings; nor, on the other hand, that they are privileged in being given the grace to have them. They are at once less priggish about it than the worst of us and less humble—one might almost say, less surprised—than the best of us. It has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical desire. It is gay and jocund. They are glad and rejoice (Ps. 9:2). Their fingers itch for the harp (Ps. 43:4), for the lute and the harp—wake up, lute and harp!—(Ps. 57:9); let’s have a song, bring the tambourine, bring the “merry harp with the lute,” we’re going to sing merrily and make a cheerful noise (Ps. 81:1, 2). Noise, you may well say, mere music is not enough. Let everyone, even the benighted gentiles, clap their hands (Ps. 47:1). Let us have clashing cymbals, not only well tuned, but loud, and dances too (Ps. 150:5).4
1John R. W. Stott, Christ the Controversialist: A Study in Some Essentials of Evangelical Religion (London: Tyndale, 1970), p. 160.
2A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg: Christian Publications, 1948), p. 9.
3Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2b, Psalms 88-110 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 164.
4C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), pp. 51, 52.
Distinguish between true worship and that which isn’t true.
Give some examples of the “right opinions” of which Tozer writes.
In what sense is this psalm a call to worship?
Reflection: What is the character of your worship?
Application: List the ways worship is described in this psalm. Which ways are similar to your experience? Which ways are different?
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Revelation 4, “How Worship Should Be Done.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)