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Friday, September 3, 2010

Developing a Vocabulary of Praise

What can we learn from David about praise and thanksgiving...

Let’s look at an interesting passage about worship in the life of David, a man after God’s on heart. Our focus here is simply the various commands and verbs the king uses as he celebrates the moving of the Ark of the Covenant. As you read, notice the various and specific commands he uses which have been put in bold italic print.

1 Chronicles 16 [ASV]
1And they brought in the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before God. 2And when David had made an end of offering the burnt-offering and the peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Jehovah. 3And he dealt to every one of Israel, both man and woman, to every one a loaf of bread, and a portion of flesh, and a cake of raisins.
4And he appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of Jehovah, and to celebrate and to thank and praise Jehovah, the God of Israel: 5Asaph the chief, and second to him Zechariah, Jeiel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehiel, and Mattithiah, and Eliab, and Benaiah, and Obed-edom, and Jeiel, with psalteries and with harps; and Asaph with cymbals, sounding aloud; 6and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests with trumpets continually, before the ark of the covenant of God. 7Then on that day did David first ordain to give thanks unto Jehovah, by the hand of Asaph and his brethren.
8 O give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name;
Make known his doings among the peoples.
9 Sing unto him, sing praises unto him;
Talk ye of all his marvellous works.
10 Glory ye in his holy name;
Let the heart of them rejoice that seek Jehovah.
11 Seek ye Jehovah and his strength;
Seek his face evermore.
12 Remember his marvelous works that he hath done,
His wonders, and the judgments of his mouth,
13 O ye seed of Israel his servant,
Ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
14 He is Jehovah our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember his covenant for ever,
The word which he commanded to a thousand generations,
16 The covenant which he made with Abraham,
And his oath unto Isaac,
17 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a statute,
To Israel for an everlasting covenant,
18 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan,
The lot of your inheritance;
19 When ye were but a few men in number,
Yea, very few, and sojourners in it;
20 And they went about from nation to nation,
And from one kingdom to another people.
21 He suffered no man to do them wrong;
Yea, he reproved kings for their sakes,
22 Saying, Touch not mine anointed ones,
And do my prophets no harm.
23 Sing unto Jehovah, all the earth;
Show forth his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among all the peoples.
25 For great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised:
He also is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are idols:
But Jehovah made the heavens.
27 Honor and majesty are before him:
Strength and gladness are in his place.
28 Ascribe unto Jehovah, ye kindreds of the peoples,
Ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength;
29 Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name:
Bring an offering, and come before him:
Worship Jehovah in holy array.
30 Tremble before him, all the earth:
The world also is established that it cannot be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth.
32 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof;
Let the field exult, and all that is therein;
33 Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy before Jehovah;
For he cometh to judge the earth.
34 O give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good;
For his loving kindness endureth for ever.
35 And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us together and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks unto thy holy name,
And to triumph in thy praise.
36 Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.
And all the people said, Amen, and praised Jehovah. 37So he left there, before the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, Asaph and his brethren, to minister before the ark continually, as every day’s work required; 38and Obed-edom with their brethren, threescore and eight; Obed-edom also the son of Jeduthun and Hosah to be doorkeepers; 39and Zadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of Jehovah in the high place that was at Gibeon, 40to offer burnt-offerings unto Jehovah upon the altar of burnt-offering continually morning and evening, even according to all that is written in the law of Jehovah, which he commanded unto Israel; 41and with them Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest that were chosen, who were mentioned by name, to give thanks to Jehovah, because his loving kindness endureth for ever; 42 and with them Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those that should sound aloud, and with instruments for the songs of God; and the sons of Jeduthun to be at the gate. 43And all the people departed every man to his house: and David returned to bless his house.

Even a casual study reveals that in the sections above David is quoting from Psalm 105:1-15 and Psalm 96:1-13 and a few other Psalms. They were songs of praise, but at the same time songs that reminded of God’s promise to Abraham, His protection and provision and His special purpose for them as a people. Rather than study the Psalms themselves in their context, what is important here is how David, himself used them in the context of a worship service.

Since he was not in the priestly tribe or family of levites, he was not allowed to function in the daily rites of sacrificial worship. But as King, relocating the Ark of God, there arose a rare occasion to participate in worship leading. In that function, the special combination of psalms serve to instruct by recalling the great events of Israel’s past and reminding them of the greatness of the God that brought it all about. But not only did it serve to remind them, they also served a prophetic role to command them to respond to what God had done in their lives. This response was worship.

Look at the myriad of commands that David links with praising God for who He is and thanking God for what He has done: give thanks, call, make known, sing, talk, glory, rejoice, seek, remember, sing, show forth, declare, ascribe, bring, come, worship, and tremble. These commands cover public and private expressions of praise and gratitude, testimony and worship. It is our responsibility to make these a reality as we gather as the Body of Christ to worship Him. Although they were give to a group, the only way they can be carried out is if the individuals in that group take up their part in carrying them out. Congregational response is the unifying of individual response in obedience to what God commands.

Our congregations must learn to accept the personal responsibility that each individual has before God as each one enters to worship. That comes from study and from teaching, year after year, generation after generation. We cannot assume that because we have learned to worship that our loves ones will automatically follow in full understanding. Over and over again, the command from God to the children of Israel in the desert was “teach your children...” Teach them to give thanks, to sing, to glory in the Lord, to seek His face, to rejoice in the Lord, to remember all that He has done, to declare His greatness, ascribe Him glory, to come before Him, to worship and tremble in awe at His great majesty.

As we look at all of these, we must ask ourselves, “How many of these are true in my life? Do I give thanks? Am I making known His deeds? Do I sing to Him in worship for His glory? Do I talk of His greatness and salvation? Do I rejoice in who He is? Do I ascribe the glory due His Name?” We need to learn the vocabulary of worship, not to show off our knowledge of Scripture or to impress others, but to begin to learn how great and how awesome is the God we serve!

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