Summary: Biblical Ingredients from the Songs of Ascents to Prepare for True Worship of God.
Psalms 125, 129, 130 and 133
To teach on true worship without teaching on how to arrive at true worship is to give a man or a woman a picture of a delicious cuisine and then to expect him or her to create the cuisine without a recipe. Almost none would succeed, and those who would succeed, would have also benefited from the recipe.
Over the next four Sundays, I want to give us the recipe to arrive at true worship. After that, I hope to bring us a picture of true worship. The recipe prepares us to honor God, as He deserves, Monday through Sunday. We will identify at least seven ingredients in the Biblical recipe for true worship from the book of Psalms. (For those who don’t know, the word psalms means "songs of praise" or "songs sung with music accompaniment." In other words, psalms are the lyrics to songs once sung in praise to God.)
We will cover Psalms 120 to 134 over the next four weeks. These 15 psalms are known as the "songs of ascents." Some believe these could be fifteen songs for the fifteen steps of the temple on which the Levites sang these songs. Others believe these songs were sung at the three annual festival processions, as people ascended to Jerusalem.
In both cases, these are songs that prepared the singers to worship God, and by looking at the content of these songs, we can discover seven Biblical ingredients for preparing us to worship God. In order to remember these ingredients, I will list them in an acrostic, using the word, "prepare" - P.R.E.P.A.R.E. These ingredients prepare us for true worship of God.
In worship as in life, preparation makes the difference between success and failure. Most of us want to succeed in school, in work, in marriage, in family and in worship of God, but if we do not prepare ourselves to succeed, we will almost certainly fail. Consider the years of education and continuous training many receive for our profession, and consider the minutes of education and lack of continuous training for our marriage, family life and worship of God.
We should not be surprised when we read of a 50% divorce rate in our country currently. We also should not be surprised when we read that on average less than 20% of the people in a Sunday Worship Service ever sense God’s presence. If we do not prepare ourselves to succeed, we will almost certainly fail.
The FIRST ingredient to true worship is "pursuing peace with believers." The "P" in PREPARE is "pursuing peace with believers." We find this ingredient listed in Psalms 125 and 133.
Psalm 125:2 reads, "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore."
Psalm 133:1-3 read, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore." Unity of God’s people brings God’s blessings.
When we pursue peace with believers, we prepare for true worship of God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."
When I served as a student leader at the Asian American Christian Fellowship, one of the three student leaders I worked with rarely ever carried out her responsibilities, or at least it seemed that way to me. I remember she dropped by my apartment to tell me she again had not done what she had agreed to do. I told her it was okay, and that I understood her situation.
When she left, I began to feel on all the doors in my apartment. My roommate asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was trying to find a door I couldn’t kick through. My anger against her had been building up for several months.
My anger and frustration with this gal robbed me of any joy in serving and worshipping God. When I explained my situation to my pastor, he told me I had to ask her to forgive me of my anger against her. When I asked her to forgive me, she was at first hurt to discover I was angry with her, but I was freed from my anger, freed to really care for her, and freed to serve and worship God with joy.
Now we don’t ask for forgiveness as a way to point out another person’s mistakes or simply to unburden ourselves. We ask for forgiveness because we really need to be forgiven of our offense against the person. The goal is to make right our relationships, not to make others see we are right.