Day 157: Psalms 19-24; Entering the Temple

Today’s reading contains what is arguably the most famous of the Psalms: Psalm 23.  Chances are, if you have ever been in Sunday School or some sort of Church education function as a child, you know this Psalm or are at least familiar with it.  It is a Psalm that I think I have heard in relationship to every struggle, every trial, and probably at every funeral as well.  It is a heartfelt confession of trust from David to God that encompasses all problems, struggles, and life situations.  I repeat this to myself often, reminding myself that no matter what I am facing, the Lord will guide me through it as a shepherd guides his sheep.

However, today we are going to focus in more on Psalm 24 as it is the last of the “Temple Entry Liturgy” Psalms, the second of two.  There are other Psalms that we will encounter later that have some similar motifs, however they are often considered “songs of Ascent” or “pilgrim psalms.”  Psalm 24 has a great deal to do with “ascending the hill of the Lord,” which is a reference to going up to the Temple Mount.  As we can see, the Hebrew version of going to church is a much fuller worship experience than our contemporary journey to church on a given Sunday morning.  For them, it was a joyful time that actually took quite a while, and was full of singing and reflection.  The people of God spent the time remembering who they were and whose they were as they approached God’s house.  They remembered how they were chosen and how God has called them to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood.  We see this very clearly in the second section of this Psalm too.

In our day, we probably don’t come to worship with Psalm 24 on our minds.  In fact, I think that in many ways we have lost the idea of what it means to be gathered to worship, the significance of Sunday morning as we prepare ourselves for worship.  Perhaps the morning is just too busy getting kids together and getting dressed up.  Maybe we really just want that extra 15 minutes of sleep and then we end up running behind.  In any case, it is as much a fact for me as a worship leader as it is for all that come that we are probably not in the right frame of mind for worship when we arrive.  Psalm 24 reminds us that it is important that we have prepared our hearts for entering into the presence of God in worship.  And for us, we can do this thankfully because we don’t have to offer a sacrifice or worry if we have performed some ritual properly… the sacrifice has been made for us and the curtain between God and humanity has been ripped open.  Our relationship with God has been restored and we are washed in the blood of Jesus sacrifice!  Our hands are clean and our hearts are made pure, and are continually being worked in by the Holy Spirit!  Come, let us ascend to the House of the Lord!

PSALM 19 is a Psalm of both praise and wisdom, divided into two parts: the praise section in verses 1-6 and the wisdom section in verses 7-14.  You can also see how thankfulness plays into both of these sections as all three are eloquently woven together.  The words that end this Psalm are the words that I pray every Sunday as I lead worship: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

PSALM 20 is a Royal Psalm written by David, a prayer that flows with trust in the Lord.  This Psalm also has a quality of intercession in it as David prays for “you,” whoever that may be.  It is beautiful and moving as we read it to head the voice of King David as he prays this prayer for all believers.

PSALM 21 is also a Royal Psalm written by David.  You can also feel the praise and the thanksgiving that runs through this Psalm as you read it.  David is extolling the Lord for the great deeds that have been performed on his behalf by the Lord.

The Lord is my Good Shepherd

The Lord is my Good Shepherd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PSALM 22 is a Psalm of Lament that is written by David.  The words the begin this Psalm are the very words that Jesus utters on the cross as he is dying in Matthew 27 and Mark 15.  This is probably one of the darkest Psalms that reaches to the depth of despair and abandonment.  Yet even here, the Psalm is ended with hope and trust in the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness.

PSALM 23 is the most popular of Psalms, a confession of trust written by David.  It’s familiarity is a bonus for us as we can take these words of trust and assurance with us in our day to day lives.

PSALM 24 is a Temple Entry Liturgy Psalm, as we discussed above.  It also has a didactic quality to it as it teaches about those who may ascend to the Lord’s House and whom it is that the Lord is seeking.  Also in this Psalm we see the praise that is woven through it all and the worship that takes place even in the gathering time of God’s people!

Worship Matters: The Movements of Worship

In this year, for my article called “Worship Matters” in Overisel Reformed Church’s monthly publication called the Overview, we’re going to be having an on-going discussion about the movements in worship that we experience every Sunday, and many times in our daily lives without even noticing.  It is my hope that through this writing, our understanding of what happens in worship as well as the experience and encounter with God will be deepened and expanded.  As I have learned and continue to learn more about worship and all that happens in worship, how God is active and involved in every aspect of worship, I find myself more and more amazed by God’s grace and love for us.

Before we start this though, I think that some groundwork needs to be laid.  We should probably define some words that will likely be used, and maybe even define a little bit what the word “worship” means.  First, I would like to start by dropping the word liturgy into the conversation.  This is often a word that young people cringe at and those that like structure in worship applaud.  While, I have, at times in my life, landed in both of these groups, the word liturgy isn’t something that we need be afraid of.  Neither should we hold it higher than it belongs.  Liturgy, coming from the Latin term leitourgia, simply means “the work of the people.”  I feel like a very apt definition for this is “our life of prayer and work with God and neighbor.”  It is a word that was used to refer to the cultic (another word we need not fear) worship and service of God, the practices of the priests in the temple.  So when we talk about our liturgy, we are really talking about how it is that we worship God.

The second word I think we should drop into the conversation is the word dialogue.  As reformed people worshiping in the reformed church we look at worship at being a dialogue.  Sometimes we talk to God.  Sometimes we even talk to each other.  Often times, God talks to us!  I think that sometime we come to church on Sundays, or even approach our devotions as a time when we bring something to God, but the reality is that there is a great deal of back and forth in our worship.  God calls us to worship and greets us, we respond with singing and we speak to each other sometimes in singing as well (think…  “How great is our God”… that’s us telling each other how great God is).  God speaks, we respond.  God speaks, we respond.  This is the ebb and flow of worship.  God calls and we respond.  It’s a dialogue; structured perhaps and planned out, but even that is done through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The last and arguable most important word that we need to have in our discussion of worship is the word Trinity, or Trinitarian.  These words are multifaceted, serving both to describe the nature of Christian worship and also speak to God’s role in worship.  Christian worship is worship of God, one God, the only God.  God, however, is also three persons in one God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Therefore, in our worship we call on all three Persons of the Trinity and worship them equally (at least we should be doing this).  In the same way, we believe that all three Persons of the Trinity are active in our worship.  God, in Christ, by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit reaches down, calling us to worship and gathering us into worship.  We, through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit through whom we are united to Christ, respond to God’s call in worship of God.  This happens in every aspect of worship, even when we aren’t aware of it or don’t think about it.  It is an amazing truth.  God has provided for us a way to worship, something that we would otherwise be incapable of doing.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, without Whom no one could come to the Father.  He is also sitting on the throne interceding for us before the Father, perfecting our worship as it rises before the Lord.  We are caught up in this beautiful exchange through the comforter, the counselor, the Holy Spirit sent by Christ to be with us in His physical absence.  All this happens that our worship can come to the Holy Father, perfect and spotless.  AMEN!!!  What amazing grace this is for us!!

So… with these words in mind, let us walk into this discussion and explore our worship together!