August 10, 2010 David Balzer

Psalm 29: Upside Down Worship

Getting things UPSIDE DOWN.      It means doing things with BACK TO FRONT PRIORITIES. Turning the RIGHT ORDER of things on its HEAD.

Getting things upside down is BUYING A HOUSE before you’ve got FINANCE. It’s recording a CD when you can’t sing. It’s opening a RESTAURANT when you can’t COOK.

Getting things UPSIDE DOWN is having a baby to fix your marriage. It’s buying a new pair of jeans with your last $100 when there’s no food in the cupboard.

And for lots of people you can add “going to church” to that list. How is it that we can get going to church UPSIDE DOWN?

Here’s how. By placing at the TOP of our list of priorities/ those things God thinks are LEAST important. And making LEAST important those things God thinks are MOST important.

Let’s see what God has to say about how we’re to worship him in Ps 29.

1. Who?

First up, WHO? Who is to worship God? Have a look at v1.

Ascribe to the LORD, O MIGHTY ONES, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Who are the “mighty ones”? They could be people – the rest of the congregation. The phrase is literally “sons of God”. But Ps 103 fills in the picture.

(Psa 103:20-21 NIV)  “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you MIGHTY ONES who do his bidding, who obey his word. {21} Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.”

The Psalmist is calling on all the heavenly host to worship God!

It’s not enough for just HUMAN voices to praise God. He’s worth much GREATER praise. The writer is saying, “I cannot praise God loudly or gloriously enough, I need the angels to turn up the volume!”

You’d be surprised at how many of our hymns are addressed to the angels! How about the old doxology?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him, all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

And so it’s UPSIDE DOWN to sing along on Sunday morning, half asleep. Looking out at the 20 or 30 people making a joyful noise. And thinking THAT’S ALL THERE IS to praising God. That’s focussing on OURSELVES, rather than on the one who deserves it. The one it’s DESIGNED for.

We’re just ONE PART OF THE CHOIR. Like we saw a few weeks ago in Revelation 5. Angels, and elders, and Christians surrounding Jesus in the heavenly throne room.

Rev 5:13-14  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

If that’s the context for our singing and praying and praise of God, then perhaps we need to be thinking differently about what we do on Sunday mornings.

We shouldn’t “make do” with second-best. In the songs we choose, how and what we pray, how we encourage people, how well we concentrate, how loudly we sing. We’ve got an awesome responsibility.

We need to support those who lead us at church. Whether it’s playing, praying, singing, presenting, or preaching. Encourage them when they do it WELL! Concentrate on their prayers. Say AMEN at the end. Sing the songs back to them LOUDLY. Work hard during the Bible talk. Follow along.

Thank them for things that help you! And BE SPECIFIC. Tell them WHAT you appreciate, and WHY.

In a very real sense, every time we meet, it’s a “Royal Command Performance”! That’s understanding church the RIGHT WAY UP.

Unfortunately, for MANY people, they don’t think of church like this. It’s UPSIDE DOWN.

Upside down thinking about church is to forget about the heavenly throne room. To forget the focus on Jesus. To forget the royal command performance. And instead to think about THESE things

the fans are too fast

the organ is too loud,

the wrong instruments are playing

there’s no benediction,

there’s too few hymns,

there’s too many prayers,

The sermon’s too short,

or too long,

It’s the wrong Lord’s Prayer,

or no Lord’s Prayer.

I don’t like the way this preacher says, “Um” all the time

The children are annoying

The roast is burning

The coffee’s horrible

Getting church the right way round means focusing on GOD. Making a conscious decision to focus our best efforts on him. Expecting him to speak to us. Honouring him in everything we do at church.

When we do THAT all those OTHER things would FADE INTO INSIGNIFICANCE compared with the awesome holiness, the majestic light, the consuming fire, the overpowering love of our mighty God.

Our worship would be transformed!

2. What?

The second mistake we make is to do with the “what” of worship.

What is worship?

What does worship involve?

I’m sure if I asked 10 different people, I’d get 10 different answers.

What does Ps 29 say?

(Psa 29:1-2 NIV)  ” Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. {2} Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

Ascribe, Ascribe, Ascribe, Worship

One commentary says ASCRIBE is to do with the MIND. Choosing to use our hearts and hands and voices to declare the greatness of God.

And that WORSHIP is to do with our WILL. It literally means “to bow down”. To SUBMIT our WILL to the one who deserves our allegiance.

Now ascribe isn’t a word we use all that often! We don’t hear people in the street saying, “Ascribe that to me – right now!”

“Ascribe” means to “give”.

Worship is about giving to God the things he commands, and the things he deserves.

We are to give God the glory due his name. The rest of the Psalm goes on to give us an example of how that can be done.

Worship is about God receiving, not us!

It’s upside down to think worship is about US RECEIVING something. When it’s really about GOD receiving.

We come to church hoping to receive something – some encouragement, or teaching, or comfort.

Have you ever said in the car on the way home – “Did you get anything out of that?” “No, did you?” “No, I didn’t get anything out of that!”

How often do we come away from church asking the question, “I wonder what God thought of that!”

Does God like modern songs or old hymns? Short prayers or long prayers? Doxology or no doxology? Amens or no amens? Yes and yes!!

God likes modern songs AND old hymns. He likes short prayers AND long prayers. He likes doxologies AND no doxologies. And He likes Amens AND no amens. He likes breaks in the middle of church AND no breaks.

God likes our worship, if it comes from a heart that means what it says. That’s focussed on HIM. I saw recently a CD of worship music. It was entitled, “An audience of one”. That’s what our worship is for!

All that we do is to be directed to an audience of one – God! Our activities of worship are to be directed to pleasing God alone!

It all depends on whether we’re ASCRIBING to God. Are we giving to HIM what he DESERVES. Church, in fact the WHOLE of life. Is about offering to God all that we HAVE and all that we ARE in response to WHO HE IS.

Are we giving him/ the praise of our voices, the love of our heart, the concentration of our brains? Are we giving him the loyalty of our lives? The best parts of our day, the first fruits of our labours?

Are we recognising his character and his power in the way we PRAY, rather than doing things in our own strength? In the way we step out in FAITH, rather than shrinking back?

That’s ASCRIBING to God his DUE.

God is the one church is designed to SERVE, not us!

We call it a Worship Service because we’re offering to God our service of worship. Too often we think that it’s called a Worship Service because WE are being served something –

It’s upside down to expect to be served, when it’s your job to serve.

Imagine going to a restaurant. And the waiter was lounging back at your table, feet on the seats, having a joke with the other waiters. As we walked up he says,

“Good, I’m glad you’ve finally arrived.

We’ve been waiting for you to serve us.

We’ll all have another cocktail!”

That would be completely upside down! It’s the same with church. Our job at church is to serve, not to be served.

It’s upside down to expect to be served, when it’s your job to serve.

It’s not your place to look for something that suits YOU. That’s upside down!

3. Why?

Third. Why? Why are we to BOW DOWN before God? Why are we to ASCRIBE glory and strength to God?

Acknowledge that GLORY and STRENGTH are fitting and appropriate ways of describing who God IS.

Why are we to WORSHIP? Bow down before him? V2 says

Worship the LORD IN THE SPLENDOR OF HIS HOLINESS.

It could just as correctly read, “Worship the Lord FOR the splendour of his holiness.” Bow down to God BECAUSE his HOLINESS is so MAGNIFICENT.

Glory, strength, holiness, and majesty. That’s who God is. And that’s why we’re to WORSHIP him.

And then, to help us DO that vv3 to 10 give us a PICTURE, an ILLUSTRATION, of what those qualities look like.

Imagine your sitting up on a mountain in Israel. Perched on a rock. Looking out over the Mediterranean Sea. It’s late afternoon, and you see a thunderstorm rolling in across the water.

Clouds build and darken. Thunder cracks. Lightning flashes. The wind howls, and bend trees over double.

Just imagine it. Then you pull your Bible out of your pocket. The wind whips the pages back and forth. The thunder is so loud you can hardly concentrate. Spots of rain smack onto the page. And you start reading Ps 29 v3.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;

the voice of the LORD is majestic.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;

the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD strikes

with flashes of lightning.

8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;

the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks

and strips the forests bare.

And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

This is the God you are to ascribe Glory and strength to. This is the God you are to worship because of his majestic holiness. The God whose voice does all of this. Such destructive energy, such creative power. Such GLORY!

What a PICTURE!

It might seem a little hard to believe. But God’s powerful voice has sounded in an even MORE astonishing way since David’s time.

We see a LITTLE of what God’s like through his voice of power over CREATION. But God’s given us an even GREATER picture of what he’s like. A much CLEARER indication of his character. Which means we’ve got even MORE reason to give him the glory and honour and worship he deserves. He’s spoken to us in HIS SON JESUS. Communicating exactly what God is like. His glory and justice and saving power.

Turn over to Heb ch 1. (p846)

1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 THE SON IS THE RADIANCE OF GOD’S GLORY AND THE EXACT REPRESENTATION OF HIS BEING, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

You want a clear picture of God? Look at Jesus. Want a reason to praise God? Focus on Jesus, and his saving work for us.

And if the people of David’s time can respond with the cry of GLORY as they see something of God in the STORM. HOW MUCH MORE should we ascribe all thanks and honour and praise to him because of Jesus?

Let’s make sure in ascribing to GOD glory and strength, that we focus on his greatest revelation – Jesus. He is the one who shows us God’s GLORY and STRENGTH. Let’s make sure Jesus is number one.

Back to Ps 29. The storm section finishes at v9. With God’s people responding with the cry of GLORY.

And turns instead to those who’ve RESPONDED to him. Those who’ve ASCRIBED to God the praise he’s due. Look at how the Psalm finishes. V10.

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. 11 The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace

That’s God. King over the Universe. King over the might of oceans, over mountains, over huge cedar forests. Nothing can stand before him. He brings destruction and violent upheaval everywhere his voice sounds.

But what does he bring to his children? … Strength. And peace. What a contrast!

And when it comes to ascribing to God the praise he’s due, it’s important we think about BOTH those areas. How God works in the BIG things. How he looks after the whole world. Sends rain, causes crops to grow, and seasons to change. How he raises governments, and causes the gospel to spread from one end of the world to the other.

But it’s also important to look at what God has done in OUR lives. How he strengthens us. Blesses us with peace. Equips us for the whole range of little things we get through in a week.

To bring to mind those things of the past week, where we’ve seen God’s hand moving, where we’ve seen prayer answered, where we’ve recognised how God’s used us to serve him.

If worship is about God RECEIVING, then it’s appropriate to come with a gift to give! Have you ever turned up to a party with an inappropriate gift? A bottle of wine, and the person doesn’t drink? Or a CD or book they’ve already got?

At most weddings the bridal couple tend to receive several of one particular item. For Caron and I it was salad bowls. I think we got about six! Most of these sat unopened in our china cabinet for years.

I’m ashamed to say it, but there were a couple of weddings a few years later for people we didn’t know particularly well, where the happy couple received a lovely, somewhat familiar-looking salad bowl as a gift!

Yes, we gave away a couple of the salad bowls!

It never happened, but it would have been very inappropriate if the couple had recognised the bowl as the one they’d given us years before!

For a wedding, it’s expected that an appropriate gift be brought! It’s the same for worship. We need to bring an appropriate gift to God!

Just as we should have gone shopping during the previous week for a wedding gift, so all of us need to go shopping for a gift to bring God when we come to worship.

We need to look for gifts during the week – circumstances where we can recognise God’s goodness.

We need to make a mental note of them, so that when we arrive in church on Sunday, we can present our gifts before His throne!

Even if it’s in the car on the way to church, we can be saying as a family, “Kids, what have we got to thank God for this week?”

That’s going shopping for a gift!

We need to ask God for things so that He can provide them!

This sounds simple! But how often do we only pray about the big things?

We need to allow God’s control and answers in everything! And then He can answer, and then we can thank Him!

That’s going shopping for a gift!

More than this though, we can put ourselves in situations where God can actually help us!

If we never stretch ourselves – never put ourselves in positions where we feel uncomfortable and out of control, then we will always find it easier to trust ourselves.

Teaching that Scripture class, or visiting at the Nursing Home might be things which scare us senseless! But when we do them, with God’s strength, and we find that God actually does strengthen us, then we have something to thank God for!

That’s going shopping for a gift!

And so we get to church – ready and prepared!

This is what worship could be like inside your head.

As you sing a song, you think, “I’m singing this for how you helped me deal with that situation on Wednesday”

“I’m saying a loud Amen to thank you for protecting the children on their excursion on Thursday”

“I’m putting money in the collection box in gratitude for how you provided the money for that bill due on Friday”

“I’m singing this verse as loud as I can, because you gave me the words to say to my neighbour on Tuesday!”

“I’m bowing my head in prayer, to remember how inadequate I felt to deal with things on Saturday! Without your help, I would never have survived!”

These are the things that will transform our worship – that will turn it on its head. Let’s give God his rightful place as we worship him. May God transform our hearts and attitudes/ so that he receives all that he deserves from us.

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