Biblical Worship 7: Dialogue with God
So far in this series of articles I have described how the Bible guides Christian worship. It makes sense that the Bible determines how Christians worship, but many still have a hard time with it. One may say he feels like these things are not important as we make them seem. What is really important is how we feel in worship. Or one may think the Bible does give some direction about worship, but since it never says don’t do x, y, or z, then we may do what we want feel right- like liturgical dance, puppets, mimes, clowns, dramas, holy flag dancing, animal processions, etc. On the other hand, we reformation minded folk really like to get things right, and may miss out on sincerity. Still, just like how truth without sincerity is dead, sincerity without truth is misguided. The topic today is getting our heart into the true worship with God.
Let me explain that last sentence. By true worship I mean worship that it is instituted in the Bible, and follows principles in Scripture. Sometimes we think of worship as an emotion. I recently heard some people say, “We were talking at Starbucks the other day and we just worshipped the Lord.” What they meant is that they really enjoyed fellowship and camaraderie with one another. But they technically were not worshipping. They use the word worship to describe an emotion.
In the Bible, true worship is a covenantal transaction. It is at root ceremonial. God gave worship in the context of covenant. For example, in Luke 22:20, Jesus said of the Supper, “This is the New Covenant in my blood.” What is a Covenant? Covenant is the way God administrates his kingdom, the church. In the Old Testament God told Moses to Build a tabernacle. Tabernacles were large tents which were used as mobile throne-rooms for kings when they were going out to war. When God was indwelling the tabernacle, the meaning was that the King of Israel, the Lord himself, was with them. Subjects would come to petition their kings and ask for blessing, forgiveness, and wisdom. So too, Israel would ask the Lord for all her needs. God is the Lord of the Covenant, we are servants brought near by Jesus, the great Kings Son, who loved us and made us co-heirs with him in his Father’s kingdom (Matt 19:28).
How do we practice covenant worship? We do so in the context of covenantal transaction. God is really doing a work in us. Each Lord’s Day we pray to the Lord and he hears our cry. We come boldly before his throne because he is approachable through Jesus’ name as covenant mediator. Every week we read Scripture, and preach. That’s God speaking to us from his throne. We engage in praise of the Lord’s name, nature and work. Then he speaks in the long reading of the Scripture, and we confess our sins. Then the Lord speaks the Gospel pardon and we rejoice. Then we lift our petitions to him where we ask for specific things. Then we hear the word preached, and confirmed by the sacraments of Baptism and the Supper.
Covenantal worship is a dialogue. It’s a conversation with God. The dialogue begins with God calling us and summoning us to him for worship, and ends with his blessing. Worshipping the Lord is a real transaction where people are recreated, sanctified, and transformed. That’s the ceremonial sort of covenantal relationship we have with the Lord. If we are speaking with God, and he speaks back, then we must engage him reverently, sincerely, and in the truth. How can we not? He is really meeting us in worship and working in his word. Boldly come before the throne of grace! –Pastor Ben