Creation’s Praise

The heavens are telling the glory of God.
The very shape of starry space makes news of God’s handiwork.
One day is brimming over with talk for the next day,
and each night passes on intimate knowledge to the next night.
There is no speaking, no words at all, you can’t hear their voice, but—
their glossolalia travels throughout the whole earth!
their uttered noises carry to the end of inhabited land!

—Psalm 19:1-4, translated by Calvin Seerveld, Voicing God’s Psalms, 8

Revelation and Response

Accordingly, the Church’s worship will be best conformed to its true nature when its pattern echoes the crystal logical pattern we have seen in Scripture.  In the first place, the Church must be attentive to the proclamation of the Word. . . . The second aspect of Christian worship is our joining in the latreia of Christ, offering through Him the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

—William Nicholls, Jacob’s Ladder: The Meaning of Worship, 27-28

A Unique Song

The worship of the New Testament . . . is nothing else than song, praise, and thanksgiving.
This is a unique song. God does not care for our sacrifices and works.
He is satisfied with the sacrifice of praise.
I have no one to sing and chant about but Christ,
in whom alone I have everything.
Him alone I proclaim, in Him alone I glory,
for He has become my salvation, that is, my victory.

— martin Luther, Lectures on Isaiah

Beyond All Praising

O God beyond all praising,
We worship You today,
And sing the love amazing
That songs cannot repay;
For we can only wonder
At every gift you send,
At blessings without number
And mercies without end:
We lift our hearts before You
And wait upon Your word,
We honour and adore You,
Our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
Accept the love we bring,
That we who know Your favour
May serve You as our King;
And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless You still:
To marvel at Your beauty
And glory in Your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise!

—text by Michael Perry; sung to the tune of Thaxted (Gustav Holst) (in numerous hymnals)

Praise and Adoration

Praise is a river glowing on joyously in its own channel, banked up on either side that it may run towards its one object, but adoration is the same river overflowing all banks, flooding the soul and covering the entire nature with its great waters; and these not so much moving and stirring as standing still in profound repose, mirroring the glory which shines down upon it; like a summer’s sun upon a sea of glass; not seeking the divine presence, but conscious of it to an unutterable degree, and therefore full of awe and peace, like the sea of Galilee when its waves felt the touch of the sacred feet.   Adoration is the fulness, the height and depth, the length and breadth of praise.

—C. H. Spurgeon

Fitting and Right

It is fitting and right to hymn you, to bless you, to praise you, to give you thanks, to worship  you in all places of your dominion.  For you are God, ineffable, inconceivable, and your only begotten Son and your Holy Spirit. You brought us out of not-being to being; and when we had fallen, You raised us up again; and did not cease to do everything until You had brought us up to heaven, and granted us the kingdom that is come. For all these things, we give thanks to You and to Your only begotten Son and to Your Holy Spirit, for all that we know and do not know, Your seen and unseen benefits that have come upon us.  We give You thanks also for this ministry, vouchsafe to receive it from our hands, even though thousands of archangels and ten thousands of angels stand before You, cherubim and seraphim, with six wings and many eyes, flying on  high, singing the triumphal hymn proclaiming, crying and saying “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

—John Chrysostom (4th century)

Tell of the Great Things He Has Done

Just as the Christian doctrine of God should be rooted in the divine economy, so too Christian worship should rehearse the divine economy. God’s actions in history are the basis for both the knowledge and worship of the triune God. Liturgy, like theology, must not “float off into abstractions” about God. In other words, Christian liturgy is fundamentally an act of anamnesis, an act of rehearsing God’s actions in history:  past and future, realized and promised. Christians identify the God they worship by naming God as the agent of particular actions in history. Worship proceeds better by rehearsing eventful narratives of divine action—viewed iconically as reliable windows into divine life—than by re-stating rational deductions or abstract ideas. 

–John D. Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” Colloquium Journal (Yale Institute of Sacred Music), 7-8

Worship in Revelation (9)

We often think that the diversity of languages and cultures and peoples and political states is a hindrance to world evangelization—the spread of Christ’s glory. That’s not the way God sees it. God is more concerned about the dangers of human uniformity than he is about human diversity. We humans are far too evil to be allowed to unite in one language or one government. The gospel of the glory of Christ spreads better and flourishes more because of 6,500 languages, not just in spite of it.

A great part of the glory of the gospel is that it is not provincial. It is not a tribal religion. It breaks into every language and every people. If there were no diversity of languages, if the spectacular sin of Babel had not happened with its judgment, the global glory of the gospel of Christ would not shine as beautifully as it does in the prism of thousands of languages.

And finally, the praise that Jesus receives from all the languages is more beautiful, because of its diversity, than it would have been if there were only one language and one people to sing. “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10). “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10).

It was the spectacular sin on the plains of Shinar that gave rise to the multiplying of languages that ends in the most glorious praise to Christ from every language on earth. Praise the Lord, O Bethlehem, let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

—John Piper, “The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ” http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-pride-of-babel-and-the-praise-of-christ

Praise to Our Creator

PSALM 100 (ISAAC WATTS)
A plain translation. Praise to our Creator.
[You may sing this to DUKE STREET, “Jesus Shall Reign”.]

Ye nations round the earth, rejoice
Before the Lord, your sovereign King;
Serve Him with cheerful heart and voice,
With all your tongues His glory sing.

The Lord is God; ‘tis He alone
Doth life, and breath, and being give;
We are his work, and not our own,
The sheep that on His pastures live.

Enter His gates with songs of joy,
With praises to His courts repair;
And make it your divine employ
To pay your thanks and honors there.

The Lord is good, the Lord is kind,
Great is His grace, His mercy sure;
And the whole race of man shall find
His truth from age to age endure.

—Isaac Watts (1674-1748), The Psalms of David, 1719

REFORMATION 500: Gratitude for Grace

O Lord, we are not worthy to have a glimpse of heaven, and unable with works to redeem ourselves from sin, death, the devil, and hell. For this we rejoice, praise and thank you, O God, that without price and out of pure grace You have granted us this boundless blessing in your dear Son through whom You take sin, death, and hell from us, and give to us all that belongs to Him.

—Martin Luther

The People’s Song (2)

True praise is heart work. Like smoking incense, it rises from the glowing coals of devout affection. Essentially, it is not a thing of sound: sound is associated with it very properly for most weighty reasons, but still the essence and life of praise lie not in the voice, but in the soul. Your business in the congregation is to give to spiritual praise a suitable embodiment in harmonious notes. Take care that you do not depress what you should labour to express. Select a tune in accordance with the spirit of the psalm or hymn, and make your style of singing suitable to the words before you. Flippantly to lead all tunes to the same time, tone, and emphasis, is an abomination; and to pick tunes at random is little less than criminal. You mock God and injure the devotions of His people if you carelessly offer to the Lord that which has cost you no thought, no care, no exercise of judgment. You can help the pious heart to wing its way to heaven upon a well-selected harmony; and you can, on the other hand, vex the godly ear by inappropriate or unmelodious airs, adapted rather to distract and dishearten, than to encourage intelligent praise.

—Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The Sword and The Trowel, June 1, 1870, 276-277

Purposeful Praise

Praise provides Christians with the opportunity to confess together what they believe about God. So it becomes a way of realigning ourselves with His character and will. Praise edifies the church and encourages faithfulness to God in everyday living.

—David G. Peterson, Encountering God Together,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       126.

The Eternal Song

God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

Let me suggest that every group brings its own voice, but no group brings the official voice. One Voice sings above them all, and this Voice sings in all their voices, excluding none. His singular voice is distributed among a plurality of people. Just because there are so many dimensions to His own being, the multiplicity of their voices amplifies His song.

—Reggie Kidd, With One Voice: Discovering Christ’s Song in Our Worship, 145

Defining Worship 40

For the reformed, worship is a lifestyle of humble service that culminates corporately at least once a week, where God’s chosen people join with the heavenly chorus to praise Him for His vast attributes, confess our inabilities, affirm His grace, yield to His instruction, celebrate His mercies and respond to His covenantal call.

—Bryan Chappell, “Worship as Gospel Representation”

Defining Worship 9

Worship in the Bible is the due response of rational creatures to the self-revelation of their Creator. It is an honoring and glorifying of God by gratefully offering back to Him all the good gifts, and all the knowledge of his greatness and gracious-ness, that He has given. It involves praising Him for what He is, thanking Him for what He has done, desiring Him to get Himself more glory by further acts of mercy, judgment, and power, and trusting Him with our concern for our own and others’ well-being. . . . As worship will be central in heaven (Rev 4:8-11, 5:9-14), so it must be central in the life of the church on earth, and it should already be the main activity, both private and corporate, in each believer’s life (Col 3:17).

—J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, 98-99

Defining Worship 4

Christian worship consists both in obedient service to God and in the joyful praise of God. Both of these elements are brought together in Hebrews 13:15-16, a passage that comes close to giving a definition of Christian worship: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” The sacrifice of praise and the sacrifice of good works are two fundamental aspects of the Christian way of being-in-the-world. They are at the same time the two constitutive elements of Christian worship: authentic Christian worship takes place in a rhythm of adoration and action.

—Miroslav Volf,”Reflections on a Christian Way of Being-in-the-World” in Worship: Adoration and Action, ed. D. A. Carson, 203,207

Duty and Delight

Isaac Watts:

Praise ye the Lord! ‘Tis good to raise
Your hearts and voices in His praise:
His nature and His works invite
To make this duty our delight.

Duty and delight combine in this anticipatory attainment of “man’s chief end,” “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” and it is God’s being, character, and acts—“His nature and His works”—which evoke our praise.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Worship with One Accord: Where Liturgy and Ecumenism Embrace, 22