Summary: Biblical Ingredients from the Songs of Ascents to Prepare for True Worship of God.
Psalms 120, 128, 132
Last Sunday, we saw that 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.
If we prepared for our classes or work the way we prepared for worship, we would flunk our classes and we would be fired for incompetence. We 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.
This morning, we will look at three of fifteen "songs of ascents" from the book of Psalms to identify and apply two more ingredients to preparing us for true worship. The word, P.R.E.P.A.R.E., is used as an acrostic to hang the seven ingredients from the Biblical recipe for true worship.
By way of review, we need to recognize that God is not obligated to receive our worship until we make right our relationship with other believers. The P in PREPARE is "pursue peace with believers." To prepare for true worship, work out our differences with other believers and do not allow anger to build up. Ask for forgiveness when you hurt someone and forgive others as Christ forgave you. Pursuing peace with believers is easier preached than done, but forgiveness can and must be practiced in preparation for true worship.
Second, we need to recognize that God has not obligated His special presence to be with us on Sundays, if we choose and use thoughts, words and actions that shame God’s image and His standards Monday through Saturday. The R in PREPARE is "repent of sin and selfishness." To prepare for true worship, agree not just with your lips, but agree in your life with God on what He says is right and wrong. Turn from sin and selfishness and turn toward God and His ways. Again, turning from our sins is easier preached than done, but repentance can and must be practiced in preparation for true worship.
We continue this morning with ingredient number three and four to help us prepare for true worship. We will find these listed in Psalms 120, 128 and 132.
The third ingredient necessary to prepare for true worship is expect God to fulfill His promises even in the negatives of life. The first E in PREPARE is "expect God to fulfill His promises even in the negatives of life." We find this ingredient listed in Psalms 120 and 132.
Psalm 120:1 reads, "I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.
Psalm 132:11-18 read, "The LORD swore an oath to David, ’One of your own descendants I will place on your throne--if your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them, then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever.’
"For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: ’This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it--I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor will I satisfy with food. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will ever sing for joy.’
"Here I will make a horn [strong one, a king] grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent." That’s confidence in the promises of God.
When life is good and we have abundance, we can easily claim that God fulfills His promises. But what happens when we lose our job? What happens when we lose our health? What happens when we lose a loved one? Can we say with Job, "Though He [God] slay me, yet will I hope in Him (Job 13:15)"?
If we worship God only when life is good, we may not be worshipping God but worshipping the gifts from God. If I worship God only when life is going my way, I am worshipping myself. True worship expects God to fulfill His promises even when our lab results are outside of range, even when our children are not doing well, and even when we cannot pay our bills. We have not prepared for true worship if we doubt that God will fulfill His promises even in the negatives of life.
God promises peace under pressure (not peace without pressure); He promises eternal life after death (not life without death); and He promises a resurrected body that will never break down (not that our current body will never break down). When we know what God promises, we don’t have to live in denial but in anticipation.