Posts Tagged ‘worshipping God’

Today we are looking at Psalm 29 and its message about the glory and strength of God. As we will see, the basic idea of this psalm is that there are many evidences of God’s glory and strength in his displays of power over his creation. And because of this all should rightly acknowledge God’s glory and strength.

You have a handout of an outline of Psalm 29.

 Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength

1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”

This is a call to worship, but a very specific one. It is calling “the heavenly beings” to praise God. It is directed at them.

Who are these? Literally it says the “sons of God.” This is a phrase that is used in the Old Testament to speak of the angels or they are even called “gods,” who are under Yahweh and do his bidding (Psalm 103:20; Job 1:6). They are sometimes referred to collectively as God’s “divine council” (Psalm 82; 89:5-7). Some of these sons of God are also those worshipped by the nations as gods (Deuteronomy 32:8) and are thus given glory beyond their measure.

So here we have a call for these heavenly beings to give proper worship to Yahweh, the one true God.

They are to “2Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name.” God’s glory and strength far surpass that of these heavenly beings, glorious as they may be. And they are to give God his due.

Also, they are to “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” God’s holiness refers to God’s utterly unique greatness. It refers to God as the one who is higher and better and more glorious than anything that he has created. And God in his holiness is “splendid” or “beautiful.” Have you ever thought of God as beautiful?

The Psalm goes on to spell out some of the ways in which God is so great.

But first we need to note that it does so by speaking of –

God’s coming in thunderstorms

As a kid I loved the thunderstorms that would roll through the south like clockwork in the Summer. I was in awe of such displays of power with the ground shaking thunder, the lightning, wind and rain.

As we have seen, when God rescued Israel from the Red Sea, God is portrayed as coming in a great storm. And we saw this recently reflected on in Habakkuk 3 which talks about this same event (Exodus 14; Psalm 77:16-20)

Yahweh is the great God who is above all – in the sky, as it were, who can display his glory in powerful storms. (Although not all storms are of God – Mark 4:35-39).

The phrase “the voice of the Lord” is used 7 times in this Psalm. And it is referring to the thunder, lightning and wind of a powerful storm. His majestic and powerful  voice is heard in the sounds of a great thunderstorm.

Alright, with this background in mind –

Why should these heavenly beings glorify God?

1. Because of God’s power over the waters

3The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. 4The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” And then also in  10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.”

Once again, the waters refer to the powers of evil, chaos and death. These verses portray God as in full control of the waters.

– God overcame the waters at the time of creation. He separated them into the waters above the above the sky, where the rain comes from and the waters below on the earth, in the seas – Genesis 1:7.

– And God overcame the waters again at the time of the flood, restraining them after he had used them, putting them back in the boundaries that he ordained, above in the sky and in the sea – Genesis 6.

Our Psalm pictures God as above the waters, like a thunderstorm would be over the Mediterranean sea. Such storms show that God is still in control of the waters. They are a display of his continued dominance and power over the deep. God is still in control of the chaos, and this chaotic world. God is still in control of the powers of evil and death.

And this is a power that the sons of God do not have. As Job 41:25 says of Leviathan, the sea serpent who is the personification of the waters, “When he raises himself up the gods are afraid.” So the heavenly beings must acknowledge Yahweh’s superiority over them.

Next, God should receive praise 2. Because of God’s power over all that is exalted on this earth.

5The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.” And then also, 9The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.”

I just finished cutting up some limbs that came down in our yard from a storm a few months ago. And still have a limb hanging from a storm several years ago that is too high for me to get. And we have all seen how a powerful storm can damage and destroy trees.

But the point is not just that God has this power, trees can represent that which is tall and lofty, what is strong and exalted in this world. Isaiah 2 talks about how God will come against all that is proud and lifted up, and they will be brought low before him. And Isaiah 2:13 specifically says that he is coming “against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan.”

All that is powerful and exalted in this world is as nothing before the power of God.

Finally, God should be glorified 3. Because of his power over all of Israel.

6He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.” He lights up Lebanon. As the lightning and thunder come, Lebanon is like a young animal that runs and skips, here out of fear of the storm. And Mt. Sirion, also called Mt. Hermon, does the same.

8The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.” The thunder, which as we know, can make the ground shake under our feet, shakes Kadesh and the surrounding wilderness.

When we look at the geography of this it is really talking about all of Israel.

  • Mt. Hermon or Sirion is on the northern border of Israel and
  • Kadesh is on the southern border.

So God’s power is over all of Israel, from its northernmost point and beyond, to its southernmost point and beyond.

And then we have in vs. 9-10 –

The response of the heavenly beings to God’s power

9And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ 10The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”

The temple here is most likely God’s heavenly temple, where these heavenly beings are.

In response to the glorious, powerful and majestic voice of the Lord in the storm, they cry out with their own voices, “Glory to God!” They recognize the Lord as the king he is, and that he reigns forever.

And then finally –

The Lord can give us strength and peace

11May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”

This isn’t just an add on at the end. This is where we come into this Psalm.

This same God who has power over all things, is the one who takes care of his people. And so he can give us strength when we need it; when we are weak; when we are overwhelmed. The Lord can help us through.

This same God who has power over the chaotic waters, is the one who can give us peace in this chaotic world that we live in. We can have wholeness, settled calm and experience true life.

And so I encourage you to see these from God, who is the source of all our strength and peace and God’s people.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »

Sunday school lesson

Review. Last week we worked on getting to know Psalm 95. It has two main parts – vs. 1-7a and vs. 7b-11. The first focuses on God and the praise of God. It uses “us” language and is upbeat. The second focuses on us and the need to listen to God. It uses “you” language and is a strong warning. Today we give our attention to the first part and its call to worship God.

Read Psalm 95:1-7a.

“[1] Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! [2] Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! [3] For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. [4] In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. [5] The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. [6] Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! [7a] For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”

Commentary and questions. This first part of Psalm 95 has two sections – vs. 1-5 and vs. 6-7a, which are closely parallel to each other. This is a part of its poetic structure. Look over the chart below.

Notice the same pattern – a call to worship (blue), and then the reason why we should worship God (red), with supporting statements about who God is and what  God has done. Also notice the use of similar words – “come,” “face” (orange), the possessive “his” (purple), and the phrase “his hand(s)” (green).  Finally, section one has twice as much material as the second: four calls to worship/two calls; two statements about who God is/one statement; four statements on God as creator/two statements on this.

This psalm names a number of ways of worshipping God – singing, making a joyful (loud) noise, giving thanks, worshipping (literally bowing low), bowing down and kneeling.

Question 1: What are the benefits or possible drawbacks for having a variety of different ways to worship God? For instance – Loud/quiet; different postures; singing, speaking, raising hands.  The benefit – more creative expression, more meaningful worship, more ways of expressing love and honor to God. Does God get bored with our worship? Drawbacks – not everyone is comfortable with some expressions, can create tensions.

Question 2: How important is it that our body (posture) be involved in worship on a scale of one to ten? What is your practice?

If we include the last part of the Psalm, with its focus on listening to God, there is a clear progression of worship from: loud praise and singing – vs. 1-5, to bowing down – vs. 6-7 (perhaps in prayer or quiet worship), and then listening to God’s voice – vs. 7b-11.

Many see a structure for a temple worship service in this Psalm:

  • vs. 1-5 – “Come” – that is, approach the temple with loud praise.
  • vs. 6-7a – “Come in” (so it can be translated) that is, to the temple. Bow down and be quiet.
  • vs. 7b-11 – Listen to God (perhaps a Levitical sermon or a prophetic message)

This progression is similar to how one would approach an ancient near-eastern king. You would come with praise and gifts for the king. Then you would bow down and make your request. And then you would listen for his word. God is called a “great King” in v. 3.

Question 3: In what ways is our worship like coming before a king? We do come before God’s throne, where he sits as king of all – Hebrews 4:26, Isaiah 6; Revelation 4.

Question 4: How do you envision yourself when you worship God? How casual should we be, or formal? Before a king, but also as a king who is my father.

There is a strong emphasis on God as creator in these verses. In section one God’s role as creator of the world is highlighted. The contrasts in vs. 4-5 between the valleys and the tops of the mountains, and the sea and dry land make the point that God created every bit of it. In the second section God’s role as creator of Israel, God’s people is highlighted. This refers to when God brought them out of Egypt and formed them into a new people. In v. 6, near to the center point of the Psalm as a whole, God is called, “our Maker.”

In both sections there is talk of God’s “hand” (green).  For instance, v. 5 says, “his hands formed the dry land.” This poetically pictures God as a craftsman and the earth and Israel as God’s “handiwork.”

vs. 3 and 7 (red) tell us why we should worship God. v. 3 says, “the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” God is better than all the other so-called gods. v. 7 says simply, “he is our God.”

Both of these statements are connected to the theme of God as creator. Why is God greater than all the other gods? Because he created all things. No other god could do this. This is why God is “above all gods.” Why is God Israel’s God? Because he created them as his own people. v. 7 says, “we are the people of his pasture.” v. 6 says, he is “our Maker.”

Recognizing God as the creator of all should lead us to worship for several reasons: 1) God’s power and glory are revealed in his ability to make all that exists. Paul makes this point in Romans 1:20 – God’s “eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” We should worship and be in awe of such a great God. This is also true of God’s creation of Israel, bringing them up out of Egypt. This was an amazing act of power and love.

2) Since God is our creator, God has complete rights to us. Still today we understand that if you make something it is yours. This is why he is our rightful God. The possessive “his” language (purple) makes this point. In the first section we learn that every part of the earth is “his, for he made it” (v. 5). In the second section we are called “the people of his pasture” (v. 7) because he is “our Maker” (v. 6). And so God has a right to our praise and thanksgiving. This is the proper response to accepting that God is our maker and rightful ruler.

3) God’s people are to worship God because this same great God who made all things, is the one who “is our God” (v. 7), the one who protects us and provides for us. We don’t have some second rate god. We have the true God as “our” God.

Question 5: Do you ever give thanks simply for being created or for being alive?

Question 6: What difference does it make to understand that you are owned by God? In general it gives a different perspective on life. We owe God everything we have, including our worship.

Question 7: What are some false gods today? How is our God better than these? Money, social status, career, control, quiet – almost anything can be a false god for us. Only God is the real God and only God can take care of us, show us the right way to live and give us peace.

Question 8: How often do you worship God – not just reading scripture or praying, but praising and honoring God? How often should we worship God?

Large group discussion of answers

Read Full Post »