Saturday, March 28, 2015

Waiting to Know the Ways of God

Psalm 25 is a song about the ways of God. The Hebrew word derek, which is translated “ways,” is used several times in this psalm. It is also translated in this psalm as the word “lead.” When you decide to follow Jesus, He leads you in the ways of God.

In 25:4 – 5 you see the connection of learning the ways of God, from the word of God, as you wait upon the Lord. “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

In learning this prayer you discover that the ways of God are learned from a personal, intimate, interactive relationship with God. The word “know” in the first line is the Hebrew word yada. This is not the knowledge about something, it is the knowledge of someone. It is a personal relationship word. This means that you can only know the ways of God within a personal, intimate, interactive relationship with God. Learning the ways of God is a worship experience!

The request “Lead me” in 25:5 is the Hebrew word derek, the same word for “way.” God leads in one direction; according to His ways and His word. As you desire to learn the ways of God from the word of God and begin moving in His direction, your request for guidance and being in His will is answered.

Another instructive Hebrew word in this passage is the word for “wait.” It is the Hebrew word kavah. It is first used in the OT in the creation account in Genesis 1:9, when God “gathered” the waters together to form the seas and the dry land. It also means to join and bind together. It was the word for making rope out of three cords as they are bound together into one. This word is used in Isaiah 40:31, “…but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Learning the ways of God requires waiting upon the Lord, which means to be gathered and bound together with Him in His word. This requires your time and your attention. This is simple, but not easy. Laziness is the enemy of learning the ways of God. The world, the flesh, and the devil will fight you every step of the way. But the reward is eternal! And this is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Right Way to Worship

One of the key words in the Old Testament for worship is the Hebrew word, derek, which is translated “way,” or “path.” It is used to describe the lifestyle or culture of both the righteous and the wicked. Psalm 1 says that the blessed man is the one who does not “stand in the way of sinners. Not only does he not travel in their direction, he does not even go near it. This Psalm ends with the clear instruction, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The first place this word is used in the OT is in Genesis 3:24, “…he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God had a particular path, His way, to the tree of life. Because of their sinful condition, Adam and Eve would be blocked from knowing that path. In a sense, their steps were no longer straight. Their heart was divided. Their life was fractured. They were unable to walk in the way pleasing to the Lord, in His way.

The cry of the psalmist was to learn the way of the LORD. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” In that simple request you learn that the way of the Lord is a particular direction, that it must be learned from God, that it is learned from His word, and that it has purpose. The purpose of learning the way of the Lord is to live a life of worshiping the Father in spirit and truth.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. When you decide that you desire to learn the ways of God you begin with Christ and learn of Him. All of the ways of God are seen in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every step He took pleased the Father.

The way to the tree of life is no longer blocked. It was opened with the invitation of Jesus when He said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 – 30.

The first step in the journey of becoming a true worshiper who worships the Father in spirit and truth, is the step of following Christ. Learning the ways of God is to learn of Christ and His ways.

Today, learn and the prayer of Psalm 86:11. Know what you are asking God for in that prayer and the path of it. Meditate on the destination of that prayer and you will be transformed along the way.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Learning to Dance the Hard Way

One of the things that David is known for in the Bible is when he danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6, 1 Chronicles 13 – 16). The context of 2 Samuel 6:14 and 1 Chronicles 15:29 teaches an important lesson that David learned the hard way.

The Ark of the Covenant had been in a place called Kiriath-jearim, and David wanted to bring it into Jerusalem, the city of God. David loved the presence of the Lord and desired to be near the ark, where God’s presence dwelled.

It says in 1 Chronicles 13:1 – 4 that David consulted the commanders of thousands, and the commanders of hundreds, and with every leader about this plan to bring the ark to Jerusalem, and “All the assembly agreed to do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.” But David did not consult the LORD.

The next few paragraphs describe the disastrous results of a good idea but not according to the ways of God. It describes a great crowd, great music, great celebration, brand new equipment, full orchestra, but no Levites. And God’s word was very clear about who could handle and move the ark, and David knew God’s word, but was not following it.

Right in the middle of the great celebration the oxen that were yoked to the new cart carrying the ark, stumbled. Uzzah, who was driving the cart and was not a Levite, reached out his hand to steady the ark, and it says in 13:10, “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”

It also says that David was angry with the LORD and was afraid of Him that day. This is the opposite of the phrase, the fear of the LORD, which describes great reverence and awe and worship. David wanted to avoid God that day. He thought that the great crowd, great music, great orchestra, new cart, great idea, and unity of the people would impress God. But God is only impressed with His word! And David was not worshiping according to the word of God. The lesson is telling with the popularity of the spectacular “worship” settings of American Christianity, which are now being exported into other parts of the world.

In 1 Chronicles 15:1 – 2, you read how David followed God’s word in moving the ark. Rather than the great parade of people moving the ark, only the Levites were there. All Israel gathered in Jerusalem waiting for it to arrive. When they arrived in Jerusalem with the ark there was a great celebration, with music, and instruments, and most of all, “…the Levites carrying the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD.” 1 Chronicles 15:15. And David dance before the LORD with all his might! The great celebration had as much to do with doing things according to the ways of God as it did with bringing the ark to Jerusalem.

Today, meditate on what it means to worship according to the truth of God’s word. Of all the different ways that people worship God in the world, with what they have and with all their might, the real question remains: Is it according to the ways of God, according to the word of God? The Father is pleased when we worship Him in spirit and truth, according to His ways.

Tomorrow we will begin learning some of the ways of God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Worship From the Heart Pleases the Father

Jesus said in Matthew 15:7 – 9 that a person could worship with words but no heart. He said, quoting Isaiah 29:13, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

The disconnect of the mouth from the heart is a learned behavior. Around small children you quickly see the open connection of the mouth with the heart. They are naturally and innocently honest and will speak what their heart feels. They must learn from their parents not to say what they know is true. How strange.

Our heavenly Father desires that we unlearn this kind of behavior especially in His presence. Heart-felt worship connects your mind and body with your new heart in Christ and expresses His life as yours. This pleases the Father because this is what He did through His Son for and to you!

From the Psalms you learn this kind of true worship. David set the standard for this kind of heart-felt worship and the other psalm-writers followed in his footsteps. He poured his heart out to God in worship because he knew that loving God was the only way to know the love of God. He also knew that God’s love was a steadfast love, a sacrificial love, an out-pouring love. He learned that with God you got His heart and that He only wants ours.

An example of this is seen in a very dramatic scene from David’s life, found in 1 Chronicles 11:15 – 19. It is a passage describing David’s mighty men, his trusted and loyal bodyguards. Their love and devotion to David reminded him of his towards God. The telling episode was a time when David’s enemies had taken control of Bethlehem, his hometown. David spoke the desire of his heart in 11:17 and said, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” The water from that particular well must have had more than a special taste for David. It was an expression of the deepest desire imaginable. This is what the Father is seeking as He searchers for true worshipers.

The story tells of how three of David’s mighty men fought their way through the Philistine garrison at Bethlehem, filled a skin of water from the well by the gate, fought their way out and brought it to David. They must have looked like a buzz saw of swords and knives risking their lives to please their king and leader, David. By the time they presented their gift to David, they must have been quite the sight of fatigue, blood (not all theirs), and their precious gift of water for David. What a sight the Lord Jesus Christ must have been to the Father as He was lifted up on the cross, presenting Himself to the Father for the deepest desire of the Father’s heart, our salvation!

David, overwhelmed with the sight of what he desired from his heart to present to God in worship, received their gift and then poured it out to the Lord in worship. His men had provided him with something of extreme value and worth, giving him the opportunity to express what was in his heart toward the Lord. These mighty men were students that day in the class of what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth, expressing from the heart the deepest desires of the heart.

As you worship the Father today, in spirit and truth from the Psalms, express to God your deepest desires. Pour out to Him what is in your heart because in Jesus Christ God did that very thing for you. It pleases the Father when He sees Himself coming from you to Him. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Worship With the Sound of Music

David took music and gave to it the highest expression and value; praise and thanksgiving to God for His steadfast love. In 1 Chronicles 15 – 17 you find the details of musical worship designed by David. This was a new assignment for the Levites who had been assigned by God to lead the nation of Israel in worship. Before David, Israel had only sung to the LORD on a few occasions, but David brought music into the very fabric of their worship.

The first mention of musical instruments in the Bible is found in Genesis 4:21, “His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.” The lyre was a harp of strings, which made the beautiful sound of vibrating cords. The pipe was the music of wind rushing through a horn.

But the context of Genesis 4 records the offspring of Cain and how sin first began to manifest its self-centeredness. Cain and his descendants were determined to live without God and His word. They were the original human high-achievers. The last verse in chapter four introduces the third son of Adam and Eve, Seth, the remnant for God, with these words, “To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.” Chapter five records their only achievement; being fruitful and multiplying, which was God’s first commandment to man (Genesis 1:28).

But it was God who created the sound of music (no pun intended). In creation, God designed the cords (strings) in throats of the birds with every note of the musical scale. With the sound of the wind, God gave the blueprint for the first man to learn to whistle. Can you remember when you first learned to whistle? What a great day that was when you learned you had your very own instrument to play any song you wanted.

There are instructions in the book of Psalms for the use of instruments in thanking God and praising Him for His steadfast love. Psalm 150 commands the use of all of the instruments for praising God.

Many of us love Psalm 100 with the command, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!” The Hebrew word translated “noise” is the word rua, and is related to the word ruach, which means breath, or spirit. This word is used throughout the Old Testament for praise and singing. In Job 38:7 Job learns that this was the noise of the stars and the angels as God was creating all that there is. And in Joshua 6:5 it was what the LORD told Joshua and the army to sing with the trumpets with the promise that the walls of Jericho would come crashing down with applause! This was the first time “they brought the house down” with a song! (Not sure, but maybe so).

The point is this: not all music and singing is worship, but it was intended to be. When you chose to give God your song of thanksgiving and praise for His steadfast love, you are letting God know that you have learned the true purpose for the sound of music, the highest purpose. This is what it means to worship the Father in spirit (ruach) and truth! The deepest joy and pleasure of music is when you have learned that it pleases the Father as you give it all to Him with thanksgiving and praise!

Today, sing to the Lord a song in worship. Whistle a song to the One who created the capacity to be able to make that noise, knowing that you are worshiping God when you do! Don’t let the birds be the only ones who make a joyful noise. You can too! Worship with the sound of music!