Points to Ponder: It ain't just no song and dance
Points to Ponder
It ain't just no song and dance
Is contemporary worship really contemporary? Many traditional churches are trying to expand into "contemporary" worship, praise services, and just a generally more modern method. But what is worship?
Can we define it and box it into an easily summarized description? As we look for contemporary styles of worship, what are we looking for - and why? Will you know it when you've found it? And when you do how will you know "this is it?"
Back in the days of King Hezekiah (715-686 BC) we see his reforms and his worship practices. He drew on the traditions of centuries earlier under King David's rule. From tradition he ordered something that looks fairly "contemporary."
"And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king's seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets. The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets" (II Chronicles 29:25-26 NKJV).
Look at that! The priests played in the praise band! And for those who think anything more than an organ or a piano is sacrilege, we see the use of cymbals and string instruments was quite prevalent. Trumpets and choirs, too:
"And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord also began, with the trumpets and with the instruments of David, king of Israel. So all the assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished..., the king and all who were present with him bowed and worshiped" (II Chronicles 29:27-29).
That sounds like a pretty lively worship service - and it's in the Old Testament. In fact, if you look at the very last Psalm, Psalm 150, it's all about praising the Lord and using a variety of instruments to do it. The point of the matter is basically this: "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (Psalm 150:6).
But is this what worship is about? Singing, playing instruments, and "getting happy in the Lord?"
Consider Job. After he had lost his family and his property to tragedy, he "got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship" (Job 1:20). How could he do that? Here's what he did.
"And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord'" (Job 1:21).
Likewise, we see the example of King David. After his adulterous union with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband, she gave birth to a son. Nathan, the prophet of God, convicted him of his sin before God and told him that part of God's judgment was that the child would die. David fasted and pleaded with God on the ground every night, begging for the boy's life. When the child died on the seventh day, his servants worried that he would become so despondent that he might harm himself. But he did a surprising thing:
"So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate" (II Samuel 12:20).
So we see three examples of worship - Hezekiah's praise service, the result of turning the people's heart back toward God. Then we have Job, after losing everything, turning to God in praise. His worship was not contingent on the blessings he had received in life, nor limited by the undeserved tragic loss of them. Then there's David, a man under judgment of the twin sins of adultery and murder. An innocent child is lost in the process. The death of one's own child is a unique kind of pain that only a parent who has experienced it can understand. Yet, with that terrible loss and the humiliation of knowing his sin had given the enemies of the Lord an occasion to blaspheme Him (II Samuel 12:14), he went to worship.
So what is worship? When life is going great or life is a great mess, it's good and appropriate to worship the Lord. In the ebb and flow of life, the roller coaster ride of good fortune and tough times, the one thing in life that is consistent is this: God is good, all the time; and ALL the time, God is good. If we lose sight of that, then nothing else in life makes sense.
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your loving kindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night, on an instrument of ten strings, on the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound. For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this" (Psalm 92:1-6).
In song, in thanksgiving, and in quiet reflection we can worship God. When we worship, we are simply looking up, with our hearts and minds to the One who gave us breath and for Whose glory and greater purpose we live. Paul sums it up well:
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring, MD (1/4 mile east of Clear Spring on Rt. 40). Listen to Pastor Dennis on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs, at 10:45am and 10:45pm, both days. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.