Theme: Forms of 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
Psalm 95 suggests some of the forms of worship we can enjoy.
1. Singing. There are many kinds of worship, just as there are many styles of music. But it is no accident that biblical worship, in its Old Testament, New Testament and subsequent church forms, includes much singing. Singing expresses human thought emotionally, and Christianity is a feeling religion. More particularly, singing expresses joy, and the Bible’s religion at its heart is joyful. True, there is sorrow for sin. There is empathy for those who are deprived or suffering. But there is also joy in our salvation and enthusiastic praise of God who has provided it for us.
2. Shouting. Most of us probably have more trouble with shouting than with anything else in this list, and it is fine if we do not shout. But we should remember that some ecclesiastical traditions do shout, like charismatics, for instance. In other services people at least say, “Amen.”
3. Music. Unaccompanied singing is music, but that is not what the psalmist has in mind here, since he writes of extolling God both “with music and song.” This psalm does not mention the instruments that might have been used to make such worship music, but other psalms do. The last psalm in the Psalter, Psalm 150, lists trumpets, harps, lyres, tambourines, strings, flutes and cymbals.” If the ancients had guitars, organs and electronic keyboards, I am sure they would have been included. No one has to use musical instruments, and worship without instruments is worship, too. Also, instrumental music can degenerate into mere performance, just as singing can. But the point I am making (and the psalm is also making) is that it is right and natural to use every musical means to extol God. If we can have a whole orchestra, let’s use the orchestra.
4. Words. And don’t forget words! Hearing God’s words, first of all, so we might know who it is we are worshiping and why, but also using words to express our adoration of him. Indeed, words are the first and crucial thing apart from which other forms of adoration are mere sounds. Psalm 95 has both kinds of words. The last phrase of verse 7 speaks of “hear[ing] his [God’s] voice,” which has to do with God’s revelation. The proper response to this is obedience. On the other hand, the first stanza speaks of “thanksgiving,” which is one way we use words to worship God. One important part of worship is thanksgiving.
And there is this, too. If we have been able to worship God joyfully, it is natural that we should invite others to do the same. The psalm itself is doing that when it begins: “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD” (v. 1), and later, “Come, let us bow down in worship” (v. 6). When the great pioneer missionary William Carey reached India in 1792, he found that his predecessor, Christian Friedrich Schwartz, had inscribed over the portal of the Mission Church at Tranquebar the words from Psalm 95: “O come, let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker,” an appropriate invitation to those Schwartz was trying to win to faith in Jesus Christ.
What does singing express and why is it included in worship?
What part do words play in worship?
What is the difference between music as worship and as performance?
Prayer: If there are times when you find yourself distracted during worship, pray that the Lord would help you to worship with your whole heart.
Application: Make it a point to invite someone to church soon.