Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Psalms 136:1-3 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
Occasionally I hear a complaint about today’s contemporary worship songs. It usually sounds like this – “I don’t like the way they repeat themselves so much.” I can’t help but chuckle under my breath when I hear that. I think of all the songs I sang when I was growing up in church, and after every verse we repeated the same chorus. Some of the songs, like one of the most popular Resurrection songs, has only two lines of verse and then four lines of chorus. In actual time, it takes three times longer to sing the chorus then it does the verse. Yet somehow that is not called repetition.
The pattern for repetition is set in Scripture. God can be exalted by repetition. When Isaiah sees God on the throne, he declares “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” When describing the scene in heaven around the throne of God, the Apostle John writes in the book of Revelation, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Now that’s repetition. Day and night they never stopped repeating the same things, because they declared the glory of God and exalted Him.
When the people of Israel gathered together in worship to dedicate the temple that Solomon had built, they sang the song we now call Psalm 136 (See 2 Chronicles 7:1-6). Several years ago at our church I thought it would be a good idea to try this. We were celebrating our first ever Jubilee Sunday – our annual gathering of remembering God’s goodness of the past year and casting the vision for the new year. It had been an especially exciting year at Calvary, and I knew it would honor God to give Him thanks and have us focus on His enduring love. As I led the congregation in the responsive reading of this Psalm, I gave the instructions that I would read the first half of each verse, and the people would respond with the phrase, “His love endures forever.” I thought it would be enthusiastic. I was wrong. By the tenth repetition of their phrase the people’s intensity level had dropped dramatically. By the time I was building to the finale, the people were already finished, and only a few were truly worshipping the LORD whose love endures forever. They were tired of the repetition. I was told very bluntly after the service to never do that again.
Isn’t it sad that we so quickly grow tired of declaring the praises of God? Imagine the scene at the temple that day. This immaculate structure built to the glory of God as a testimony to His greatness and majesty and splendor is being dedicated to His ministry and put into service for the first time. The people have sacrificed their time and their resources for God’s glory. Their investment is going to be used for God’s glory and ministry for generations to come. The musicians have gathered. The trumpets are sounding. The choir starts singing. The people are shouting. Fire comes down from heaven and the glory of the LORD fills the temple. For seven days, they stay there and worship God, declaring their thanks for His goodness and proclaiming that His love endures forever.
Seven days! We have trouble with seven minutes. It seems that when we do come to worship, we are so busy with our own lives and have so many plans for how we will use our time and our money that we can’t wait to be done with this interruption of regular life. Add repetition to the mix and we really rebel.
If that is true of us, then something is seriously wrong with our hearts and our perspective. You see, it’s not our time. It’s not our money. It is all about God and His glory. We have been bought at the price of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. His love for each one of us sent Him there. His tender love is the motivation for Paul’s command to “present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, for it is your reasonable act of worship.”
I am deeply concerned that many people can claim to be worshiping God but do it with no expression. No emotion. No enthusiasm. No evidence of thanksgiving. Certainly no evidence of awe.
How many times have we watched a video of the Minneapolis Miracle? How many people have published videos of people exploding with celebration when it happened? Yet we choose, for whatever reason we use to justify our choice, to not enthusiastically join the Angels in heaven and celebrate enthusiastically the glory of God and the salvation of our souls.
When we come together to worship, we are in the awesome Presence of God. How can we grow tired of praising Him? I hope I never grow weary of worship. I hope I am never so focused on the style of music, the instruments, or the musicians that the splendor of the words doesn’t elevate me into the presence of God where I can exalt Him as LORD.
Let the glory of the LORD fill His church again.