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Unhindered Worship

Unhindered Worship

Hello Church Family,

I’m looking forward to this upcoming Lord’s Day. We’re going to sing some classic Christmas songs (among others), pray and participate in communion together, and hear a word from our God.

I was reading in the Scriptures this week about the transition in Israel’s leadership between King Saul and his longtime (perceived) nemesis, David. The changeover was a bit abrupt, to say the least. After Saul committed suicide (out of fear of the encroaching Philistines), the people of Israel quickly anointed David as their king.

“We are your own flesh and blood,” the gathering throng reminded David. “In the past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord your God told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be the leader of my people Israel.’ So there at Hebron, David made a covenant before the Lord with all the elders of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 11:1-3)

And what did David do as one of his first royal acts? Once the great City of Zion was secured, David’s devised a plan to move the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. The ark of the covenant was the closest thing Israel had to a throne for God. It was said to be the dwelling place for Yahweh and it served as a reminder to Israel of God’s abiding presence with them. So David assembled a group of thirty thousand men to retrieve the ark from the house of Abinadab. And they successfully brought the ark home.

And then something remarkable happened. This is where the story makes us uncomfortable. We’re told in 1 Chronicles 13:8, that “David and all Israel celebrated before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals and trumpets.”

This is a strange turn of phrase. We understand that moving a piano, changing a tire on our car, or hiking a mountain might necessitate that sort of effort and abandon, but how does one celebrate before God with all their might? I think the answer is: with everything in our souls, in a way that is fitting for people who have been snatched from the jaws of death.

In a public setting, David is swept into worship. He is so moved by the glory of God that he sings, dances, and smashes together the cymbals. He breaks out the tambourines. An entire community unites in song and dance. This is all-out, full-tilt, no-holds-barred worship.

What do we make of such a display? Perhaps this is an invitation for us to enter into a new kind of worship. A deeper, richer, more God-centered expression of praise. Perhaps this is our “permission” to raise our hands, when no one else in our pew is, or to finally set aside our fears of what others might be thinking. Maybe this is our cue to sing more loudly or boldly than ever before, letting the joy that’s in our hearts spill over into grateful praise. Perhaps this gives us freedom to shout, “Hallelujah!” in the company of our spiritual siblings.

Pastor and author John Ortberg asks: “What would it look like if we learned to worship God with all our might? How might our worship services change? What risks would we learn to take? We may ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and our churches in new and fresh ways. We may also begin taking risks as worshipers. The key is that our outward expression of worship be consistent with what is really happening in our hearts. Expressiveness and passion in worship are not some preplanned action that appears to be spiritual. They are natural and free outward expression of the work that the Holy Spirit is doing inside of us.”

The Spirit of God is at work testifying with our spirits that we belong to God. The Spirit of God is at work sanctifying, empowering, comforting, and preserving us for the final day when we will be glorified, and all the benefits of Christ’s faithfulness will be ours.

Knowing that, how can we keep from celebrating God with all our might?

For His glory in all things,

Pastor John