Is. 6:1-8 & Revelation 4:1-11
Even though it’s not used as frequently as it used to be, I still like a magnifying glass. It takes something that’s hard to see and makes it bigger. It brings the word or subject into clearer focus so I can see it more clearly. Camera lenses accomplish much the same thing. Through zoom lenses I can bring small objects in the distance up closer. I can magnify them – enlarge them – and see them up close and personal. I can see details I otherwise would miss. Magnification is useful because it enlarges the object of our attention.
It’s what we do in worship every week. It is, in fact, worship. WORSHIP IS THE MAGNIFICATION OF GOD. In worship we enlarge God – we bring Him up close and personal. There are some stirring examples in the Bible. We read from Isaiah 6, a scene of worship. The passage describes a very difficult time for the prophet Isaiah. “In the year that King Uzziah died…” gives us a glimpse of Isaiah’s frame of mind. Uzziah (2 Chron. 26) had been a hero. He became king at age 16 and reigned for 52 years – his rule was 2nd only to the splendor of King Solomon. But it turns out that Uzziah had feet of clay – once he became powerful he also became proud. Eventually he attempted to burn incense– a task reserved by God for the priests. God struck him with leprosy and eventually he died. So Isaiah was concerned – with the downfall of such a great king, what could the future look like? So Isaiah went into the temple to worship. And there he saw the Lord “seated on a throne, high and exalted…the thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” Isaiah worshiped - the Lord God was magnified. Isaiah saw him as never before, enlarged, up close, and personal, and his life was changed forever. Worship is the magnification of God.
A second scene is the one we read from Revelation 4. The beloved apostle John had refused to quit preaching and teaching about the risen Lord Jesus Christ. So he was sentenced to isolation on the Island of Patmos. The Spirit of God transported John up into the sanctuary of Heaven, where worship was taking place. There he saw the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ on His throne, being praised by the heavenly worshippers. God was magnified. John saw God in Jesus enlarged, up close, and personal. He saw Jesus as never before. He then received encouragement and strength as He saw God’s plan for the ages unfolding.
The message is clear. THE PURPOSE OF OUR WORSHIP IS TO MAGNIFY GOD IN JESUS CHRIST. The Psalmist invites us to join him in worship (34:3 NKJV): “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Put the zoom lens on your eyes and bring the Lord up close and personal. Magnify the Lord. Make Him larger.
This is underscored when we recognize that ‘worship’ is a verb not a noun. Worship is active, not passive. Worship is giving, not receiving. WORSHIP IS NOT SOMETHING GOD DOES TO US BUT SOMETHING WE DO TO AND FOR HIM. One way to magnify God is to give to Him in worship. This takes great effort and has at least two implications.
The first implication is that, if we are to sincerely give to God, WORSHIP TAKES PREPARATION. If we are the givers, if we are the ones doing something to and for God, we must be prepared. Suppose you paid some big bucks to see our favorite team play – and the teams came out and said they were unprepared to play so they would only run through some drills for a while? How would you feel? God paid with the life of His Son so we would worship and magnify Him. How much time and energy did you devote this week to preparing for this morning? What have you done? What and how do you plan to give? Have you read and reflected on the Scripture for the day? Did you come with a heart focused on magnifying the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ? The focus of our worship is to magnify Jesus Christ. We dare not come causally and unprepared.
The second implication is that WORSHIP TAKES CONCENTRATION. It’s amazing how much energy we can put into some important task, how focused we can be when we really want to be. We know how to invoke our powers of concentration when needed. We need to call upon those powers in worship. Someone has pointed out that the pussy cat that went to London to visit the queen was so distracted in chasing a mouse under the queen’s chair that she missed the splendor of the court and the sight of the queen. So often in worship we are distracted by little mice and miss the glory of God and the splendor of Jesus Christ. We start to focus on the mice - on the person behind us who coughs, or the person in front of us who exits for a few moments and then returns, or the baby who cries, or the microphone that squeals, or the attire of the person across the aisle. We cannot stop ourselves from seeing the mice – from seeing or hearing the distractions – but we do not need to chase them and give them occupancy in our minds. Indeed, the mice should remind us to refocus on giving to Christ.
So worship is about giving, not receiving. It takes effort. Check any dictionary under ‘worship’ and you will read words like “to perform; to adore, to pay divine honors to, to reverence.” And there is this key phrase: “To honor with extravagant love and extreme submission; as a lover.” Worship is not just the magnification of God but WORSHIP IS THE EXTRAVAGANT MAGNIFICATION OF GOD. What does ‘extravagant love’ look like? If you love someone, think of the things you do to express your love. What are some things you do on those very special occasions to share your love? What would make your love ‘extravagant?’ Matthew 26:6 provides a glimpse of what extravagant love for Christ looks like. “While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor." Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Jesus said that through her act of extravagance – kissing and pouring oil – He was magnified.
OUR EXTRAVAGANCE IS THE LENS THAT MAGNIFIES JESUS. Since Jesus is not here in bodily form, we cannot kiss Him nor pour oil on Him. What does our extravagance look like? What lenses can we use? First, we can use the LENS OF CELEBRATION. Too often, we come to worship as a baby in a high chair. “Whaa! Feed me! Whaa! Give me more! Whaa! I don’t’ like this! Whaa! I don’t want this! I want a different menu! Whaa! I want daddy to feed me! Whaa! I’m hungry – I’m thirsty, and I won’t be happy until I’m full! Whaa!”
But listen to Psalm 33:1-3: “Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Worship is unbridled celebrations of joy. The Message paraphrases it: “Good people, cheer GOD! Right-living people sound best when praising. Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs! Invent your own new song to him; give him a trumpet fanfare.” In Psalm 9:1-2 the Psalmist declares: “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” The key is that CELEBRATION IS A MATTER OF A GRATEFUL HEART. It is unbridled celebration for what God has done for us. Psalm 100: “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs… Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Scripture shows us that celebration can take many forms. Raising hands, dancing, singing, playing instruments, clapping, reading Psalms, saying ‘Amen’, are just a few of the forms we see. Unfortunately, the church in America today loves to argue about the forms. But for God, the issue is not primarily the form – it is the heart behind the form. I love how Psalm 66:2 states it: “Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” Whatever the form, whatever the style, make His praise glorious. It’s up to us to make His praise glorious. Too often we wait for the worship leader, the preacher, or some part of the liturgy to ‘push our button’ before we enter fully into worship.
Dr. Ed Dobson, the wonderful, former Sr. Pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, once preached that we have let our preferences become our convictions. So we argue over issues like what to wear to worship, how to worship, what to sing, and how to sing as if they are the foundational issues of our faith. For every person who says to me, “Unless the organ is played, I can’t worship” there is one who says, “If we stop using the Praise Team, I’ll stop worshiping.” For every one who says, “I can’t – I wont’ - sing those new songs!” there’s one who says, “I don’t know those old hymns.” And on and on and on it goes. We have let our preferences become our convictions and allowed them to block our worship of God.
Dr. Paul Brand shared a recollection of C. S. Lewis. “…when he first started going to church he disliked the hymns, which he considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as he continued he said, ‘I realized that the hymns …were, nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren‘t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.” (1)
Does it really make any difference to God whether the music is written by Bach, Fanny Crosby, Bill Gaither, Twila Paris, or Matt Redman? Isn’t God more concerned with the heart? I offer just two examples. First, let’s think about classical music. It’s not my favorite, but I like it. It’s beautiful. Some of you like it too. However, some people never listen to it. Think about it; it doesn’t have any words that speak of God or Jesus – it doesn’t sound any different than when it’s played in a secular concert. So why do we use it in worship? How does it point us to God? It doesn’t – unless it’s offered from the heart to God as a gift. God created all things. He created the harmony of music. He gifted composers and musicians. When a Christian musician offers it up from the heart, it is a profound and glorious thank you to God. So when a classical piece is played, I must ‘make’ his praise glorious. I need to concentrate on the beauty of what is being played and offered. It’s a matter of the heart. I choose to make it – or not make it – praise.
Here’s a second, more personal example. Sometimes when visiting our families in Virginia Barb and I worship in a Baptist church with our son and his family. It’s a wonderful, thriving, biblical church. But usually I don’t know any of the songs they sing. So I have a choice – I can sit down and wait for them to end, look around to see who else is not singing, whisper something to Barb about being bored, or pull out my bulletin to find something more interesting. Or I can choose to make His praise glorious. On one particular occasion I chose the latter. I concentrated on the words on the screen. I listened intently at the passion with which the praise team led the singing, I silently repeated the prayers the worship leader offered. Here’s what happened. One of the songs was based on the parable of the Prodigal Son. It kept repeating an invitation to come home to the Father who was running out to greet me. By the time the song was ending, I was singing the chorus, and – even though I didn’t feel all that far away from God, I wanted to run to His arms. By focusing on offering what I could give to God – my heart and mind – I had made His praise glorious and Jesus was magnified in my sight! It’s not the subject of the sermon or the style of the music but the substance of the heart that makes His praise glorious. Celebration is a matter of a grateful heart.
A second lens we can use is THE LENS OF BLESSING. Remember the Psalmist wrote (103): “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Again, we are not here to be blessed by God but to bless God. Similarly, Paul was in a spirit of worship when he wrote (Ephesians 1:3): “Praise (blessed) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” The word ‘blessed’ comes from the Greek word eulogia, which means ‘to speak well of.’ It’s the word from which we get the English word ‘eulogy.’ We are too accustomed to thinking of eulogies at funerals – something designated for the dead. But Paul states we are to eulogize God, tell Him and others all the good things He has done for us. We simply tell God what He is worth to us, how much we value Him. To worship, then, is EULOGIZE GOD – TO RECITE WHO HE IS, WHAT’S HE’S DONE, AND WHAT HE WILL DO.
Most of us are deeply moved at the testimonies of people who share their faith story. They simply, beautifully, eulogize God. It needs to be a part of our worship. That’s why so many of the Psalms focus on recitation of the history of the Israelites. The memory of all that God has done prompts gratitude which prompts praise. God – and we – need to hear how you value God. Are you willing to share what God is worth, to proclaim in His presence, and the presence of all His people, what He has done for you? Jesus will be magnified in our sight!
A third lens is the LENS OF SACRIFICE AND SUBMISSION. William Temple wrote, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” The Psalmist said the same thing in 95:6 – “Come, let us bow down in worship, and let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” We magnify God when WE SUBMIT TO HIM – WHEN WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE USED BY HIM FOR HIS PURPOSE. After Isaiah saw the Lord God magnified, he said to God, “Here am I. Send me.” Revelation 4:10 uses another image: “They lay their crowns before the throne.” A crown is anything that exalts the wearer. What is your crown? Someone mentions what a nice family you have – it’s your crown. Perhaps your job has given you a great reputation. It’s your crown. Maybe it’s your looks, your athletic or musical ability, or your scholastic achievement – it’s your crown. Whatever gives you honor in this life, whatever you value, is your crown. When you come to worship the Lord, lay it down. Jesus may give it back to you – He may not. But in the act of giving it over to Him you are offering Him your life. You are saying, “Here am I. Send me.” And Jesus will be magnified in your life.
So why did you come today? What was your focus? More importantly, what is your focus now? How will you leave here? The question you should ask when you leave is not, “Was my button pushed? What did I get out of it? How was I blessed?” Rather, ask if you worshipped with all your heart, if you magnified Jesus – if you celebrated, blessed and submitted to Him? Did you offer yourself to Jesus? Did you say, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!…Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name…Here am I, Lord, send me.” That’s extravagant magnification!
Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, © Zondervan, 1980, p. 31