Summary: Biblical Ingredients from the Songs of Ascents to Prepare for True Worship of God.
Psalms 121, 123, 124, 126, 127, 131
For two Sundays, we have been reminded that in worship as in life, preparation makes the difference between success and failure. Whether we are competing in sports, giving a speech, going on a trip or raising up godly children, we make preparations to ensure success. Yet, few of us make the necessary preparation to succeed in the worship of God.
One of my neighbors got married two weeks ago, and neither he nor his wife goes to church. Yet, they went to the pastor of Lucas Valley Community Church for premarital counseling. They were preparing to succeed in their marriage. In worship as in life, preparation makes the difference between success and failure.
I’ve shared with you that fewer people than you think in a Sunday Worship Service ever sense God’s true presence. Even fewer ever sense that God is pleased with their worship. We should not be surprised since people rarely prepare for true worship as the Bible instructs. Most people prepare more diligently for the refreshment, the luncheons or other Sunday afternoon activities than they do for worship.
My hope is not that you will learn how to prepare for true worship of God only, but that you take action to prepare for true worship of God. This morning, we will look at another six 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 (all actions) from the Biblical recipe for true worship. The P stands for "pursue peace with believers." The R stands for "repent of sin and selfishness." The E stands for "expect God to fulfill His promises even in the negatives of life," and the second P stands for "progress toward integrity at all times." If you are interested in reviewing or learning for the first time those four ingredients, you will find them online at our church website or on audiotape.
We continue this morning with ingredient number five and six to help us prepare for true worship. We will find these listed in Psalms 121, 123, 124, 126, 127, 131
The FIFTH ingredient necessary to prepare for true worship is "affirm God’s character, His work and His relationship with us." The A in PREPARE is "affirm God’s character, His work and His relationship with us." We find this ingredient listed in Psalms 121, 123, 124, and 127. By "affirm," I mean "to believe deep down inside us and claim as true."
Psalm 121:1-6 read, "I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you--the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night."
This psalmist affirms the loving, sovereign, constant protective care of our God. The psalmist is affirming several of God’s character traits. Affirmation of God’s character traits prepares us for true worship.
Psalm 123:1-2 read, "I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy."
The psalmist affirms our relationship with God, one of earth to heaven, slave to master or maid to mistress. The psalmist is also affirming our relationship with God as a recipient to the Giver of mercy. Affirmation of our biblical relationship with God also prepares us for true worship.
Psalm 124:1-6 read, "If the LORD had not been on our side--let Israel say--if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth." The psalmist affirms God’s work of protection over us.
Furthermore, we read in Psalm 127:1-3, "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat--for he grants sleep to those he loves. Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him."
Here, the Psalmist affirms that God’s work behind the scene is more important than our best effort. Unless God blesses our effort, our labor is meaningless. If there is no God or if God is not involved, we are nothing more than creatures trying to stay on top of the food chain. Think about it.