I came across a comment by a missionary in Paraguay. Who wrote, “While …serving in Paraguay, a Maka Indian named Rafael came to sit on my porch. I was eating and went out to see what he wanted. He responded, "Ham, henek met." Again I asked what I could do for him, but the answer was the same. I understood what he was saying but not its significance: "I don’t want anything; I have just come near." I later shared the incident with a local veteran missionary. He explained that it was Rafael’s way of honoring me. He really didn’t want anything; he just wanted to sit on my porch. He found satisfaction and pleasure just being near me.
This week as we delve into the how worship is suppose to be a part of our discipleship this event in the life of this missionary is a good summation of what worship is like. You might imagine Jesus asking, "What brings you here, my child?". "Ham, henek met."
I want us to quickly understand several things about worship. First of all at its heart is the sense of “being in the presence of God”. It’s focusing our attention on who Jesus is or as Tim Keller has says, [It’s] pulling our affections off our idols and putting them on God.” It goes back to that acronym JOY. Jesus first.
We also have to understand that worship has been and continues to be a journey in which God does the leading and not us. Consider the fact that worship of God does not start with a temple. It starts with isolated altars built to honor a God who saves. Noah builds an altar on the first place of dry land. Abraham builds altars in those places where he experiences God and realizes that God has impacted his life such as when God appeared to him (Gen. 12:6); and when he reached the place he was suppose to sacrifice Isaac (22:9). Isaac and Jacob also followed suit. Moses who received the instructions of how to build the Ark of the Covenant built an altar and even with the Ark the leaders and people made altars. Joshua in chapter 8 makes it but now in 8:30ff we see that it’s made in accordance with what God told Moses.
The concept of worship is further refined as the ark and tabernacle makes it’s way across the desert and into the land that God had promised his people. There are times when it seems to vanish from prominence and altars to Baals and other idols become more evident. Then there are those who come and break those down and restore God’s order. At times, as we’ll see, the Ark seems to be treated as something less than it was meant to be. Finally we see the Ark brought into Jerusalem and later temples built. But even after this we have the movement from the temple to Jesus who told us in John 4 that those who worship the Lord will do so “in Spirit and in truth”.
Since Jesus the journey has continued. We’ve moved from synagogues to house churches to cathedral and monasteries. We’ve transitioned from Gregorian chants to just psalms to other music and from no instruments to organs to pianos to any number of things today. And what we’re still chasing and will be till we’re worshipping perfectly at the Lord’s throne is the goal of worshipping God “in Spirit and in truth”.
The passage we have heard this morning is a great example of this movement in the life and experience of David and the people of Israel. The chronicler describes the ark rightly as the place where “God…is enthroned between the cherubim” but in fact it had been out of favor for years except as something taken into battle around which the people rallied and God did amazing things.
For David the Ark was the perfect sign of the fact that his anointing as King had been fulfilled. What could be more right than have the King bring the symbol of the peoples hope and faith brought into the King’s city. His expression of worship was one of presumption. I can’t help but think of it as expedient worship or worship that met his needs. It was a worshipful time to be certain. There was music and exuberance, dance and the like. People from all over were a part of it so the fellowship would have been great that was until Uzzah touched the dang thing and Whamo!
Nothing destroys a worship celebration like someone getting creamed by God and that’s what happens. And David’s response? He got mad. We’re not sure if he was mad at God, Uzzah, himself or a combination but he was angry.
Understand that David hadn’t just tossed this big gold box on the nearest ox cart. It was a new cart. It may have even been built just for the ark after all they had a hill to climb to get to Jerusalem. He even chose special people. The ark had been stored in Abinadab’s house and so David thought it made sense to honor his sons with the privilege of leading the cart.
So what changed between chapters 13 and 15? David settled in and “inquired of the Lord”. He didn’t go off half-cocked. He didn’t assume he was supposed to go to war. He also prepared a place for the Ark to rest in Jerusalem. From what we see happen the second time he also learned a thing or two about obeying what God says because this time it’s the Levites who “carry” the Ark and it’s obvious to David that the Lord helps them climb into Jerusalem with the burden.
Right order doesn’t mean anything if one’s not experiencing the Lord on God’s terms. David had a great time of worship going but it wasn’t on God’s terms. One question that helps us get at the heart of this is whether or not we’re willing to have God speak to us like he spoke to Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Deborah, Mary, James, or Paul? Are we willing to go where God says, when God says and do what God asks without question or complaint? Are we willing to say to God "Ham, henek met” and mean it.
This brings me to our second thing and that is the confusion of exuberant worship with experiencing God. They are not synonymous at all. If there is one concern for the modern worship movement it is this; that there is a seeking after the exuberance and equating it with God being present. If there is one concern I have for the church of the last century it’s that many of the mainline denominations tossed out any sort of exuberance for fear of letting their emotions be a part of the experience of God and in doing so they missed experiencing God because of it.
A very quick look at God’s word will show us many different valid expressions of worship and unfortunately individual congregations, denominations, and fellowships have chosen their favorites and tossed rocks at the others. Worship in the bible includes dancing, speaking in tongues, silence, engulfed in clouds, time alone in nature, meeting with large groups of people, small gatherings for prayer. It involves shouting and chanting between groups of believers. It involves choirs, harps, drums, cymbals, individual singers, and poetry. It included the reading of God’s words, remembering what happened in the past and reenacting the events of history. It involved still small voices, mountains bathed in lighting and clouds, glowing faces and words of wisdom, judgment, punishment, healing and much, much more.
Come to this table and you’ve come to just one more opportunity to experience Christ. Some of you come with downcast eyes because you know that Jesus died for your sins. Some come with songs of praise because you know that Jesus died for your sins. Some come silent before the broken bread and cup because they realize that Jesus died for their sins. Some come with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step…why? Because they know Jesus died for their sins.