The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 30, 2023
In his book Do You Believe? Paul Tripp describes his visit to Dubai to see the world’s tallest skyscraper.
Dubai abounds with impressive buildings, but Burj Khalifa (the skyscraper’s name) soars in glory above them all. At a height of over half a mile, it dwarfs buildings that would otherwise make your jaw drop. Moreover, its stunning architectural grandeur and aesthetic perfection surpasses the dozens of other exquisite buildings of the urban showpiece that is Dubai.
Tripp says that if you walk up to the base of Burj Khalifa, you feel smaller than an ant at the base of a light pole; and that if you ride the elevator to the top and look down, all other structures look small and humdrum.
Once you’ve seen the greatest, you don’t marvel much at what before would have knocked you off your feet.
When God shows us Himself, we see there’s no glory like God’s glory, no holiness like God’s, no perfection like God’s. Nothing else and no one else can take our breath away and knock us off our feet like God.
Do we believe? For example, do we believe God is the greatest and the highest? If so, why’d don’t we enter worship with greater passion and humility? Do we believe God loves us and can’t do too much for us? If so, why don’t we enter worship breathless with excitement to meet up with Him, hear from Him, and receive from Him His life into our own?
Psalm 100 is a call to worship, with two sets of three commandments about how to worship, and with each set followed by a reason why we should worship God like that. The six commandments tell us how to take in His reality, and the two explanations make clear why awe and elation are the only rational response to His glory.
The first commandment tells us to “make a joyful noise to the Lord”. Joyful noise there does not describe the sound made by the tone-deaf in congregational singing. The Hebrew here literally means a shout of exultation such as a soldier might make after a victory in battle or as LeBron James made this week after he sealed a Laker victory with an amazing drive to the hoop.
The point here is that we should not sit in a pew as passive as we do in a doctor’s lobby or in a car stuck in traffic. While out of consideration for others we might constrain ourselves, a shout of jubilation is in one sense always appropriate. Though some might think a person who shouts at church has something wrong with them, actually there’s something wrong with a person who knows who God is and what He’s done but who never feels the urge to shout with jubilation. If it’s the real God to whom we’re drawing close in worship, we won’t yawn. Energizing ardor will spring up from inside of us and spurt high in a fountain of joy and praise.
The second commandment tells us to “worship the Lord with gladness”. The Hebrew here literally means “serve the Lord”. In worship we “serve” the glory of the Lord and do our best do it justice. We are then to enter worship ready to go and to engage actively in it. For worship is not a spectator sport in which we sit back with arms folded to wait for a pastor, a musician or fellow worshippers to put us in the mood. It is a participant sport in which, having prepared and prayed ourselves up, we lean forward with a sense of personal responsibility to join forces with other faithful folks to honor God.
Note further that this commandment tells us to worship the Lord “with gladness” – that is, if not always with a felt cheerfulness, at least with the faith conviction that God is so wonderful He merits heart-felt, fervent worship and with the faith expectation that our righteous obedience triggers our rising up right in the Spirit.
Yes, some days we’re just not “feeling it”, but we can still choose to recollect God’s grace with the intention to pay some of the debt of gratitude we owe Him. Just thinking, speaking or singing our appreciation can change our attitude. For, while it’s possible to be joyful and not at all grateful, it’s impossible to be grateful and not at all joyful. We can pursue elation and awe. And acting enthusiastic can in the end make us enthusiastic.
The third commandment tells us to “come into his presence with singing”. While we may not enter the Sanctuary belting out our favorite hymn or praise song, we do well to enter it geared up to raise our voices in His honor, and for His pleasure, because we know He deserves it. I am aware that a lot of churchgoers have convinced themselves that singing in church is just for the singers in church. But this scripture addresses “all the earth” – that is, everyone. The telling issue is not, “Do I have a voice?” but “Do I have a song to sing?”
Verse 3 gives us the reason why we have a song to sing: “The Lord is God”. He is the Supreme Being, the Being greater than whom no greater can be conceived, and this supremely great God has made us “his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” God’s hugging us to His heart by itself should move us to shout and sing with joy!
The fourth commandment of Psalm 100 tells us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving”. For we owe every good thing we have to Him. We do Him wrong if we take Him and His gratuitous kindness for granted. For true appreciation does not go “without saying”.
Moreover, our expression of elation and awe over God’s greatness and goodness causes our elation and awe to grow. Our expression of gratitude for God keeps Him uppermost in our affections and thoughts, and gives Him in us the place of honor that belongs to Him.
The fifth commandment tells us to enter “his courts with praise”. We are to treasure God, relish God, adore God. We are to be caught up in the wonder of Him – and cut loose and get carried away in an exuberant and demonstrative celebration worthy of His wonderfulness.
The sixth commandment tells us to “bless” the name of the One who knows our name and blesses us every chance He gets. Though we can give God nothing He did not first give us, we can bring Him pleasure He did not before feel. For He delights in our delighting in Him.
Why put our all into worship? The last verse of Psalm 100 gives us the reason: “The Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness endures to all generations.” God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. He is ever consistent in His caring about us, and we can ever count on His extravagant generosity. What’s not to love? What’s not to worship?
Let us serve the Lord, elated and awed – and with as much faithfulness as He shows in serving us!