Learning from the Psalms

Why is it that we should worship God?

One day several years ago I had the TV on while I was doing some other things in the apartment I lived in at the time, and I remember looking up and seeing that whatever program I had on was showing one of those panoramic shots from what looked like very back of a packed basketball arena.

And at that moment, evidently something amazing happened in the game, because the whole crowd just erupted all at once. Whatever they had seen on the court made them all just burst out in cheering.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably experienced a few moments like that—situations when the game is tight and time is running out, the anticipation is building, and someone on the team you’re rooting for makes a big play. In moments like that, the movements of your body and the sound that comes out of your mouth are almost involuntary. You just break out in cheering and excitement. You understand intuitively that whatever happened is, at least to some extent, worthy of your expressions of joy and amazement and appreciation.

In the same way, a simple answer to the question of why we should worship God—i.e., trust him, obey him, praise him, find joy in him—is because he’s completely worthy of it. It’s the precisely the appropriate thing to do when we truly realize who God actually is.

As broken and sinful human beings, however, we tend not to understand that fact, or at least we often lose sight of it. We forget whom we’re actually dealing with when we think of God. We let other things sort crowd out or obscure the correct picture of who he is. And that in turn undercuts our worship—trusting, obeying, praising, and finding joy in God, the very thing we were created to do.

And so we need reminders. We need encouragement. We need tracks to run on to help us see who God really is and live in light of that truth. That’s one of the reasons why I’m thankful for the Book of Psalms. Having had the occasion to teach a few lessons from the Psalms recently, I’ve been reminded of just how helpful they are in modeling and encouraging our worship of God.

Just to give one example, if you take a few moments to read Psalm 33, you’d find the following:

1. The psalm, like many others, begins with a call to worship (vv. 1-3). There, the psalmist explains that it is “fitting” (the very idea we’ve just considered) that the Lord’s people are to praise him. In fact, he commands it. Interestingly, he also mentions a few ways in which that should happen: with skillfully played instruments and joyful singing/shouting. (For some of us, this already challenges our perception of worship. Shouts of joy? Do we really have reason to do that? Well, keep reading.)

2. Along with this call/command, the psalm also provides a powerful encouragement to worship by helping us to consider the truth of who the Lord is:
• Vv. 4-5 point to his great character: he is faithful, righteous, and loving. His word is right and true.
• Vv. 6-11 speak of his sovereign and incalculable power. The Lord spoke, and the stars came to be. (Think for a moment about the power necessary to create an untold number of galaxies!). He can measure the immensity of the seas. He thwarts the plans of entire nations while unfailingly accomplishing his own purposes.
• Vv. 13-15 reveal his limitless vision and knowledge. He sees all of mankind and everything they do. The psalmist even notes that the Lord forms our hearts, suggesting that even human motives and desires are laid bare to him. There is nothing that surprises him, nothing that escapes his attention.
• All of this means that if the Lord is your God, then you are truly blessed (v. 12). His faithfulness, love, power and knowledge mean that he is willing and able to accomplish good for his people.
• Accordingly, while it’s foolish to trust in idols, the Lord is always watching over his people for their deliverance (vv. 16-19).

3. The psalmist also points to the proper response to these truths of who the Lord is. In addition to the aforementioned praise, it includes:
• Fear (v.8), i.e., honoring and humbly submitting to the one far greater and more capable than we are.
• Patient hope and trust (vv. 20-22), recognizing that the Lord’s love and power never fail.

Does your appreciation and worship of the Lord need encouragement and guidance? Consider spending some time reading, thinking carefully about, and praying through the Psalms. You’ll be glad you did.

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