Worshipping Well

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We have been considering, in recent days, a mini collection of royal psalms, which sing of Yahweh’s universal praise and call all nations to recognise him as King. Psalm 100 brings this collection to a close. This is a loud psalm. The psalmist invites the reader to “shout for joy” (v. 1), to sing “joyful songs” (v. 2) and to “give thanks to him and praise his name” (v. 4). It is a psalm inviting the reader to worship the Lord. As it does so, it highlights at least three realities of worship that honours the Lord.

This is a subject to which we should give much attention. Far too often, I suspect, we awake on a Sunday morning and hurriedly, perhaps even drudgingly, get ready for church. Our thoughts move perhaps to punctuality more than to whether or not our worship will honour the Lord. Too frequently, I suspect, we go through the motions of worship, singing our favourite songs, trying to keep our minds from wandering during the prayers, and trying to concentrate during the preaching. But have we wondered whether our worship truly honours the Lord?

Psalm 100 is helpful. It offers us three ways to evaluate our worship—three ways to ensure that we are worshipping well.

First, God-honouring worship is evangelical. While the corporate gathering of the church is certainly something of an oasis in a desert landscape, worship should never be entirely inwardly focused. The psalmist calls “all the earth” to “make a joyful noise to the LORD” and to “serve” him “with gladness” (vv. 1–2). The worship here invites others to “come into his presence with singing” (v. 2). It’s design is evangelical. Worship, properly done, is a drama that visibly and audibly displays the great truths of the gospel and calls watching unbelievers to believe those truths.

Paul also highlighted this truth. Exhorting the Corinthians to worship the Lord in an orderly way, he wrote of the benefit of such worship: If an unbeliever enters “he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Corinthians 14:24–25).

Second, God-honouring worship is joyful. As I have already said, this psalm is a very loud one. The reader is invited to enter the King’s courts and to do so with “a joyful noise” (v. 1), with “singing” (v. 2), with “thanksgiving,” and “with praise” (v. 4).

This sounds almost irreverent to our ears. We think of a royal court as a place of dignity and silence. Guests speak only when spoken to. They stand to attention until invited to do otherwise. We would hardly think of barging into a royal court with noise, singing, and loud praise. But that is how we are invited to enter the eternal King’s court.

Worship ought to be a joyful experience. Rather than standing sombrely, barely raising our voice during the singing, we should give ourselves wholeheartedly and enthusiastically to praise. Enthusiastic praise may look different in different contexts, but it probably does not look like near silence in any context!

Third, God-honouring worship is reverent. “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3). Joyful worship need not—must not—be irreverent. Indeed, irreverence is displayed in half-heartedness, not in enthusiasm. Still, when we worship we must remember that we are entering royal courts and approaching a King. We must do so orderly and according to the proper “rules” set forth in Scripture for worship.

As you head toward a weekend of worship—celebrating the newborn King on Christmas Day and then remembering the resurrected Christ on Sunday—ask yourself, is my worship evangelical, joyful, and reverent? That is what it takes to worship well. Allow Psalm 100 to teach you this lesson.