Have you ever noticed people's faces as they sing in church?
It's a little easier for me because I play the piano. Sometimes I glance down at the congregation. Some people look like they are in pain, enduring to the end of the song. Some people look cheerful and vibrant. Some people look like they are captivated by the song. Some look like their minds are a million miles away.
Psalm 33 is a powerful "music ministry" psalm. It teaches the importance of music in our worship. It even teaches us the mode and method of our singing and music.
Psalm 33:1-3 "Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise."
Rejoice- To celebrate with joy.
Singing to the Lord should not be a painful event that we endure. It is a form of praise that our Lord greatly desires. It is also "comely" for the upright. That means it is appropriate, beautiful, and attractive. When it comes to the music part of the church service, do you endure? Or do you joyfully pour your heart into it knowing it is a vital part of our worship?
Praise- to express approval, admiration, gratitude, and respect.
Music and song can show our gratitude and respect to the Lord. The music service shouldn't be about us. It's about Him. Does the music we choose and the songs we sing reflect our focus on Him? Does the music selected display our respect for the Lord? If the music and songs mimic the world's music, it doesn't show the respect our holy God deserves. If the lyrics are unbiblical, the song doesn't honor the Lord. If the song is focused on us and not Him, it isn't praising Him. If we select our music ministry based on what we like and want instead of what shows honor, respect, and gratitude, then our music ministry is no longer praise to God. It becomes praise to ourselves! If the music feeds our flesh, it is definitely not music He is interested in hearing.
Sing- to make musical sound with the voice.
Singing isn't optional. It's actually commanded in the Bible. God loves it when we sing to Him and about Him. The amazing thing is that the Lord hears the music of the heart. It isn't about how lovely we sing with our voice (though we should do our best), but it is about giving Him our whole hearts while expressing praise in singing worship. We should also not allow our singing and music to become routine and dull. Sing unto Him a new song. That isn't talking about putting a stamp of approval on CCM, or any fleshly music, simply because it is new. It is however talking about being willing to learn (or write) new songs to keep things fresh and vibrant. Our singing should never be mere habit, even when we are singing songs that have been around for centuries.
Play- to operate a musical instrument.
Playing musical instruments is a vital part of the music ministry and worship service. It is a worthy investment to spend our time learning to play an instrument and encouraging our children to learn an instrument. Notice, though, that it says to play skilfully. That takes time and effort. It takes practice. We shouldn't just "wing it" for the Lord. When those who play instruments put the time and effort into learning their instruments to the best of their ability, their playing becomes a beautiful offering on the altar of praise. When we treat our playing of instruments flippantly, it becomes little more than racket. Remember, the Lord is looking at the heart. We don't have to be perfect concert pianists, but it does matter that we have put effort into learning our instruments the best that we can. We are worshiping the Creator of the universe. We need to give our very best and put the time into making our music worship one that honors and respects who He is. The verse also says to play skilfully with a loud noise. When I sit down at the piano or psaltery, if I am playing a song I am still learning, I often play it timidly and quietly. When I have learned the song well, I play it confidently and loudly.
The music ministry and worship service matters. It matters also how we do it. Do it with joy. Do it with respect, honor, gratitude, and admiration. Be involved: sing and play the instruments. And do it skilfully. He is worthy of us giving our very best at all times.
I love playing Hide-and-Seek with young children. There is nothing more humorous than when they find what they think is the perfect hiding place, and yet they are easily seen. Many children think if they cannot see you, then surely you cannot see them. They cover themselves with a blanket in the middle of the floor and are convinced you will not suspect that the huge, wiggling lump is really them hiding. They giggle and wiggle in their hiding spot and are totally surprised when you uncover them and begin a tickle war.
We also play Hide-and-Seek much the same way, but our game isn't so funny. We attempt to cover our sin as if God cannot see the big pile in the center of our hearts. He is not giggling and laughing. There is nothing funny about our game. Our game is more like the child who stole the cake. Smudges of chocolate all over the face, and the child insists he didn't eat the cake. He is completely perplexed how anyone could know he really did consume the stolen delight.
Smudges of sin all over our hands and hearts, we try to hide our transgression. We are filled with guile... trickery, deceit, falsehood. We think our hidden sin will bring us happiness. As long as no one finds out, we will be happy. David declares quite the opposite.
Psalm 32:1 "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
David declares happiness isn't in hidden sin, but forgiven sin, covered not by us but by His blood... cleansed. Happiness isn't in deceit and trickery (guile), but it is found in a right relationship with the Lord. Happiness isn't in hiding. Instead, it is in seeking.
Psalm 32:3-4 "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah."
David explained what it was like to try to hide sin. He kept silence, and the conviction was a weight upon him. He lost joy and peace. The refreshing babbling brook of joy dried up to dust. But when he confessed his sin and repented, things changed.
Psalm 32:5 "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah."
Sweet peace and joy returned. The close fellowship with his God was restored. David gives a warning as well.
Psalm 32:6 "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him."
Godly people will call out for forgiveness because they understand two things:
Are we harboring sin and hiding it? Are we covering it thinking there is joy as long as we are not caught? The real joy is found in repentance, confession, and having sin forgiven.
It's an unpleasant part of the life I live. I am surrounded by it. It is inescapable.
I can look out my windows and see it. I walk down the street an see it. It's in the stores. It's on vehicles. It's everywhere.
Yesterday we came home from church. I looked out my kitchen window to see my neighbors doing worship with their priest. They were chanting and making offerings to idols. The conch horn was blown several times. Incense was burning all around them. Statues in the yard were decorated.
On the way to and from church I noticed a tree wrapped in worship garland and a large stone colored in worship powders. Many people had the red worship dot on their foreheads, and the temples were teaming with people.
My heart breaks... but then I wonder: am I also guilty?
Psalm 31:6 "I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD."
Lying vanity... deceiving emptiness.
What is a lying vanity? Is it statues that cannot hear or see? Is it trees that cannot help? Is it chants and incense and red dots on foreheads?
Those things surely are lying vanities, but this term covers so much more. The verse gives a perfect definition. David gave a comparison here that makes it more clear exactly what a lying vanity is. He said that he has hated those who regard lying vanities, but then he explained the opposite of lying vanities. He trusted in the Lord. A lying vanity is anything that isn't trusting the Lord. It's more than just physical idols or pagan worship.
Am I guilty? Every time I trust in something other than the Lord, yes, I am guilty! When I trust in my own strength, I am guilty. When I trust in my wisdom and logic, I am guilty. When I trust in people or government or education or finances...
Deceptive. These things look so trustworthy. They look like they will solve our problems. They look like the answers. And yet... emptiness.
The opposite is to trust in the Lord. He is the answer to our needs and our problems. He is the solution.
What are we trusting? Are we regarding lying vanities? Do we pridefully think that our lying vanities are better than those of people who bow down to statues and trees?
I am apologetically a Daddy's girl. My Daddy has been in Heaven for almost 6 years now, and I still consider myself a Daddy's girl. I loved making him proud of me. I loved spending time with him. I loved watching football while eating cheese with him. One thing I hated though was any time I disappointed him. I hated having to be disciplined. I didn't just hate discipline because it was uncomfortable. I hated it because I knew my Daddy was not happy with what I had done. He still loved me. I never doubted that, but I treasured being in his favor. It was my heart's longing to stay in his favor. I also loved the fact that I knew my Dad enough to know what would disappoint him. I knew he loved diligence and honesty. I knew he valued hard work and integrity. If I wanted his approval and to please him, those were character traits I had to have.
Psalm 30:4-5 "Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
I love dwelling on the holiness of God. It is consistent and dependable. He never changes. It's easy to respect and adore a God who displays the beauty of holiness and purity. Because of His holiness, I know sin will disappoint Him. I know it will bring His chastisement. Just as my earthly Dad chastised me when I did wrong, my Heavenly Father does the same. He loves me and wants to teach me. The times of chastisement are never pleasant, but I know He has a purpose rooted in love. Not only that, but His chastisement will not be forever. He isn't doing it to destroy me. He is doing it to train me and to bring me back into His favor. Oh, how I treasure being in His favor! It is life! His favor isn't what I deserve. His favor is beyond what is due. It is overwhelming and sweet and good and precious! Yes, His discipline teaches me to do right, but it's His favor that makes me hunger to follow Him.
Give thanks when you recall the holiness of God. It is pure and perfect. It brings His chastisement upon us when we stray. But treasure His favor, because in His favor is life. Let His favor draw you to repentance. The goodness of God leads to repentance. If you are being chastised, remember that it isn't going to last forever. Humble yourself and submit to His loving chastisement. Joy comes in the morning.
Have you ever been in a trial and felt like you just couldn't hear His voice? Were you calling out to Him yet you felt so alone? Maybe you are dealing with a trial like that right now. Psalm 29 explains a few things about God by using the description of His voice.
God is with us through the trial no matter what the trial is. No matter how high, how wide, or how deep the trial is, He is bigger.
He is with us through the storm and He is with us through the deep waters.
Psalm 29:3 "The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters."
Even in the trial He is still in control, sitting on His throne.
Psalm 29:4 "The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty."
He is greater than the dark forests of trials and can easily remove the obstacles that are too big for us.
Psalm 29:5 "The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon."
Psalm 29:9 "The voice of the LORD maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the forests: and in his temple doth every one speak of his glory."
He is Lord over the fire and the flames that threaten to consume us.
Psalm 29:7 "The voice of the LORD divideth the flames of fire."
He is sovereign over the floods of life that try to sweep us away.
Psalm 29:10 "The LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever."
And He masters all these types of trials with ease, simply by the power of His voice. His booming, loud, bold voice. Yes, He is master over our trials and controls them at will, and yet our greatest need is not for His booming, powerful voice to remove the trial. That's the voice we so often crave to hear, but the one we often need to hear most is different. It's easy to hear the big booming voice. We wait for it. We cry for it.
"Lord, take this trial away! It hurts!" We listen for His booming voice and we cannot hear it.
It is in those moments we can learn how to listen for His other voice. His still small voice. It's isn't the voice that removes trials, knocks down obstacles, and diverts the floods. It's the voice that speaks peace to our hears. You have to be quiet and still and patient to hear it. His still... small... voice. It says, "I am here. I've got you. Peace."
1 Kings 19:11-12 "And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."