Praise God with the sound of the saxophone
Psalm 150: Praise with the blast on the trumpet.
This journey through the Psalms has been nothing close to exhaustive. I find it challenging to write devotionally from material that’s already devotional in the first place! I can get my teeth into a passage that has a story in it but scripture like the Psalms is more challenging to me. Because of that I’ve hopped and skipped my way along and I know I haven’t done this book of the Bible anything close to the justice it deserves. Today, I find myself at this final Psalm and it stirs a good memory. When I was in high school I was a member of the band and at a banquet for the band I was asked to bring a short devotional (yes, we did stuff like that in public school back in the olden days!). I picked this Psalm and had fun reading about all the instruments that can be used to praise the Lord. After the banquet one of my fellow band members complained to me that I didn’t mention his instrument, the saxophone. We laughed about it at the time, but here I am decades later remembering that event and being reminded that there are all kinds of ways to worship: playing the trumpet, drama, singing, preaching, and, yes, even by playing the saxophone! The psalm writer sums it all up by saying, to put it in my own words, “Just do it!”
Take Away: Whatever it is you have – musical ability, teaching ability, using a hammer and saw—whatever you have, find ways to use it in praising the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 100: He made us, we didn’t make him.
Psalm 100 is just a few lines long but it’s a good one! The goal of this, what we would think of as a “praise chorus” psalm, is to praise God for being God. No doubt, there are many things the Lord has done for me that should inspire me to praise but once in a while it’s good to remember that God is worthy simply because of Who He is. Strictly speaking, then, there’s never a time when praise is out of order. I say that carefully because I know that my humanity and the events of my life can break the spontaneity of praise. After all, I’m also told to “weep with those who weep.” Still this psalm reminds me that no matter what winds are blowing in my life that God is still God and as God he’s worthy of praise. He’s my Maker and my Good Shepherd. His love and beauty, his faithfulness and grace never cease. So why not? Let’s sing a song of praise!
Take Away: If it’s okay to cry out to the Lord when things are not going our way, it’s also okay to remember that even in the midst of that trial that God is still God and worthy of our praise.
Be still and know…
Psalm 65: Silence is praise to you.
“Silence is praise to you.” What an interesting phrase to be found in the world’s most famous book of songs. Songs are about, well, sound: music and singing, instrumentals and key changes. Now I’m told that it doesn’t always take some meaningful praise song to have meaningful praise. David, that famous song writer and harp player, says that silence can be full of praise. One of his examples is found in nature. Not only does he see praise in the crashing of the waves but he also sees it when those things “come to a stop.” Also, he hears songs of praise in the stillness of the dawn or as dusk settles on the land. Silence is a missing element in most of our lives. I tend to treat silence as a small child treats darkness. In other words, I want a “night light” of sound; maybe the radio playing in the background. My prayers are filled with the sound of my own voice and when I run out of things to say I think that means my prayer is finished. David reminds me that silence is a perfectly acceptable form of praise. Learning to worship in silence is a powerful lesson to learn. It’s an element almost completely absent from our public and even personal worship experiences.
Take Away: Those who learn to worship in silence have learned a powerful lesson of worship.
Real men sing together
Psalm 63 I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God.
I often picture David as the shepherd boy out tending his sheep in some tranquil pastoral setting. I see him playing his harp and composing songs of praise to God with only a congregation of sheep hearing his music. That, I think, is more myth than fact. I’ve recently read the psalm King David wrote after being confronted with his adultery with Bathsheba. Now, in the 63rd Psalm I find him out in the Judean wilderness, as he and his loyal band is on the run from his enemies. The setting is far from tranquil and his audience is not sheep, but warriors Can’t you imagine this rough and tumble fighting force gathering around the campfire to listen to their fearless leader play the harp and sing his latest composition to them. I think that’s exactly what happened! In this case, David’s song is one of transparent praise to God. He tells the Lord, “I can’t get enough of you,” proclaiming, “God — you’re my God.” As David and his rag-tag army sit around the campfire they sing, not “kum-ba-ya,” but “here I am to worship.” I don’t think I’d want to be the person who wanders into that camp to tell these warriors that it’s kind of sissy to sing such songs, and if I did, I’d probably want to have a current life insurance policy! Seriously, it’s nice to be reminded that real men can really worship.
Take Away: Heartfelt worship can be a very masculine endeavor.
Can you keep it down over there?
Nehemiah 12: Jerusalem’s jubilation was heard far and wide.
It’s a lavish celebration of praise and worship. The erection of the wall of Jerusalem symbolizes the dawning of a new day for the people of Israel. No longer are they a scattered, defeated people. Now, they’re once again the assembled people of God. Their holy city is now a city again and their Temple is a prepared place of worship. Getting to this place hasn’t been easy. God’s grace has worked in their lives and called them out of distant lands to return to this Promised Land. The rebuilding of the Temple was a years-long effort. The rebuilding of the wall brought unexpected challenges in addition to great labor. Now it’s finished and it’s time for celebration. No doubt, there’s danger in celebrating when there’s still work to be done. However, there’s also danger in never taking time out for celebration. God is good to us. While it’s true that he calls us to work in his fields, he also invites us to rejoice with him when significant victories are won. As his people we’re a people of hope and joy. Even those who live in the settlements distant from Jerusalem hear the sound of jubilation. In the same way, those on the “outside” of our fellowship ought to know that we rejoice in the Lord who has done great things for us.
Take Away: We’re blessed and we ought to act like it.
Please stand for the reading of God’s Word
Nehemiah 8: He read it…from early dawn until noon…and all the people listened.
With the Temple rebuilt and the walls providing security to the city a special gathering is scheduled. Ezra the priest stands on a specially constructed platform to read the Word of God. For three hours he reads as the people stand in honor of the Sacred Word. As Ezra reads, something powerful is happening in the lives of his listeners. In some church traditions time is set aside every service for the reading of and hearing of the Word. This isn’t the same as listening to a sermon, even if it’s well preached and faithful to the meaning of the passage being considered. This is hearing the Word simply as the Word and letting God minister his grace through it. There is, I believe, a place for the reading and hearing of Scripture in every church. We might have to shorten the singing a bit (or just lengthen the service) to make more room for Scripture. Most of us church folks claim to be “people of the Word.” Perhaps we should practice what we preach and give the reading of and listening to God’s Word a more prominent place in our services.
Take Away: The Word of the Lord is powerful – life changing – and we need to spend a significant amount of time letting it be drawn deeply into our lives.
Those trumpets would have blown me away!
2 Chronicles 7: The priests were all on duty; the choir and orchestra of Levites…were all there…the priests blew trumpets.
Now this is a worship event! As the new Temple is dedicated it’s an all-out, no expenses spared, all hands on deck worship mega-event. All the priests, wearing their rich garments, are on duty. The Levite choir sings to the top of its lungs while the orchestra provides the music. Over here, we see the trumpet players all enthusiastically sounding the call to worship. The worshipers are on their feet, glorifying God. Our finest worship events today can only hope to match this exciting, awe-filled event that is the dedication of the Temple. I’ve been to some “biggies” in my life like Nazarene General Assembly, Promise Keepers, and some wonderful camp meetings. While I know these aren’t every Sunday events, I think they have a place in the worship life of God’s people. There’s something about combining excellent music, Spirit-filled preaching, and an awesome venue that stirs something deep inside of us. On one hand, there’s much to be said for worshiping in the simplicity of a small church that just loves Jesus. I’m all for it. Still, on the other hand, there’s something to be gained by being part of an all-out, no-holds-barred, let’s-go-for-it worship experience. There’s room in my heart for both!
Take Away: God is worth it!
I love it when God moves in
2 Chronicles 5: Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of God.
Solomon’s building project is complete and it’s a great success. An impressive Temple is now the official place of worship for the people of Israel and all others who will come. The building is complete with the fixtures in place, the offerings ready, and the personnel standing ready to serve. Then God moves in. In a display of glory that hasn’t been seen since Moses climbed the mountain to meet the Almighty, the Glory of the Lord fills the Temple. The Presence of the Lord is so great, so real, that the priests can’t even carry out their assigned duties. Outside the Temple Solomon does the only reasonable thing: he begins to call on God in prayer. Today, I long for God’s glory to fall on his Church, for Him to come in such majesty that the order of worship is set aside and people begin to simply call on the Name of the Lord. Oh God, we seek, not so much the “billowing cloud” as we seek you. Pour yourself out upon your Church as you did upon the Temple so long ago.
Take Away: The people of the Lord need to seek and, yes, expect, the Lord to fill our worship services with himself.
1 Chronicles 16: God is great — well worth praising!
It’s a world class worship service. A tent has been pitched for the purpose of housing the Ark of the Covenant and that Ark is being brought into Jerusalem for the first time. King David, himself, leads the procession, joyfully dancing before the Lord. The great worship leader, Asaph, leads the choir in singing praises to God. They sing a wonderful song of praise and worship in which they recount the wonders the Lord has performed and declaring “God is great — well worth praising!” They sing of God’s goodness and love and holiness. When the song has ended, the congregation responds with shouts of “Amen” and “Praise God.” What a holy event! Know what, I’m glad that such worship services aren’t just for the pages of the Old Testament. I’m glad that there are times when the people of God go all out in praising him and that at such times the Lord comes close, filling such holy moments with himself. This passage reminds me of awesome worship services I’ve been in. Even more, it creates in me a desire to occupy such holy ground again, real soon!
Take Away: The great worship events of the Bible, along with worship events we’ve experienced personally, provide the inspiration and desire to once again enter into the presence of the Lord.
Anointed worship leaders
1 Chronicles 16: That was the day that David inaugurated regular worship of praise to God, led by Asaph and his company.
Having secured his hold on Israel and having brought the Ark to Jerusalem David moves to establish regular worship services. It’s quite instructive to see the lists of, not only the mighty warriors who fought with David, but of “mighty worship leaders” as well. We thank God for those who have the bravery and skill to protect us from those who would harm us. Such people are worthy of our admiration and thanks. Here, I’m reminded that those who are gifted and trained to lead me into the Presence of the Almighty are also people worth my deepest appreciation. Also, I see here that David feels worship services are important enough to merit the appointing and organizing of specific worship leaders. That doesn’t mean that those who aren’t “official” can’t lead in worship, in fact, they often do. Some of the finest worship services I’ve ever seen were led by ordinary people with little formal training but who knew something about getting into the presence of the Lord. Whether a person’s “on salary” or not is a poor reflection of whether or not they’re gifted in leading genuine worship. I thank God for worship leaders who usher us into the presence of the Lord. Thank God for anointed people.
Take Away: Some people are gifted to lead in worship, thank God for them.