Monday, February 28, 2011

Psalm 111 - Why Do We Worship?

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Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, February 27, 2011

Psalm 111:1-10, “Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them. His work is honorable and glorious, and His righteousness endures forever. He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; all His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

Why have you come to this place, at this hour? I mean, it's eleven o'clock on Sunday morning, and honestly, there are some people in our city who aren't out of bed yet! Some people who are just getting up about now. Why have you come – here – now? On a beautiful morning like this, some people may be out on the golf course, the tennis court, the jogging track, enjoying some recreation, as we call it. Others may be on their way to the malls to shop, at the grocery store to stock up for the week, or at the movie theatre to be entertained. Some people are working in their yards, others are catching up on what's been happening in this world – reading the paper, watching a newscast, surfing the Internet. Still others are paying bills or fixing lunch. But, listen. You're not those people, maybe you wish you were, maybe if you had your way, you would be – out there – with them... But you're not.

And so, again I ask, and let me suggest that I think you ought to be asking, why am I here, I mean here - in this place, now, today - at this moment?

Before we explore this amazing, and unusual passage of Scripture for heavenly answers, for diving insight into this question, and others that relate to it, allow me to make this one recommendation to each one of you: every time you are here, on this day of the week, and at this hour of the day, that question, “why am I here, why have I come to this place at this particular time?” - every time you walk in that door at 11:00 on Sunday morning, you ought to ask yourself: why? I'm here, now, but why?

Psalm 111 – This Psalm, like the next several psalms, extending all the way through Psalm 118, this psalm, these psalms – numbers 111-118 – either begin and/or end with the word, “Hallelujah!”, with the words, in English, “Praise the Lord!” or “Praise ye the Lord!” That, by the way, is a huge clue, a simple but powerful insight into the message of these psalms for all of us!

Psalm 111 – It's a psalm that begins and ends on a note of praise to God! Secondly, it is what is called an acrostic poem, a passage that uses an interesting A through Z kind of structure, to walk through the thoughts, the truths, the teachings about our great God that were in the heart and mind of the psalmist as he wrote these words...

Furthermore, and perhaps most poignant and practical of all, this text, one of 150 such texts wrapped up in this Book of the Bible we call the 'Book of Psalms', this passage links worship, praising God at times and places like here and now, with wisdom! It writes the worshippers' 'Hallelujahs' with the Higher Road, the far less traveled road of obedience to God!

My Loved Ones, it's eleven, soon to be twelve o'clock on Sunday, and you and I are here, not out on the golf course, not on our way to the mall or the movie house, not in the crowded aisles at Kroger or Wal-Mart. We're here – now – but, why are we here?

Used to, the seventh day of the week and the first day of the week, people called them the 'Sabbath', the 'Day of Rest', and the 'Lord's Day'. Now-a-days, however, most folks call those days the 'weekend' and Monday – day number two according to Someone Else's way of counting (God's way) – has come to be viewed as 'Day One', the 'First Day of the Week'! Interesting, isn't it, how far we have come – or maybe I should say, how far we have gone – from the viewpoint about these things made plain in this Book!

Why are you here? If you haven't noticed yet, or figured it out et, that's a question of great importance for you and me, if we call ourselves the 'People of God'. It's a question of great importance, one, because it's a question that brings us back to our intentions, our purpose, our goals for being here, in this place, at this time!

'Praise ye the Lord', the first line of our study text, in the original language of this passage, that's a command! 'Hallelujah!' 'Praise the Lord' – those are or ought to be familiar words, oft-spoken words by those who wear the name of Christ! They ought to be those kind of words, but are they, have they become for you and me, nothing more than a half-hearted line in a song? A tired and perhaps meaningless tradition we use in our prayers and worship rituals? 'Praise ye the Lord!' That's a command! That's a command, and, you saw it coming, didn't you? A signal, those four words with which this psalm begins, they are a signal, an arrow pointing us in the direction of God's answer to our question: “Why have we come?”

We don't know the name of the person who wrote this psalm, it could have been David or perhaps Solomon or Moses or one of the lesser known Hebrew poets like Asaph. This psalm is, therefore, what might be termed an 'anonymous poem'. We don't know the psalmist's name. Oh, but listen, don't let that fact turn you off from its message. It is God's word, through someone whose name we don't know. And, listen, it is this servant of the Lord's answer, the psalmist's answer to our troubling question: 'why am I here, now?'

Take a look at verse one again with me, will you? Other would-be worshippers are bowing down to reach an egg-sized white ball out of a hole in a lush, green lawn. Other would-be worshippers are catching a few more winks at home – in bed – or maybe, just maybe, across the aisle from you. Other would-be worshippers are stretched out on their couches, or leaning back in their seats to watch the latest and greatest of Hollywood's 'gods'. But, you're here! I'm here – now! So, what are we to do, here, now?

With all my heart, with all that I am, I will praise the Lord,” so says the psalmist in verse one.

What a powerful declaration, don't you think? Worship, this Divine answer to the question, 'why are we here?' given by our friend, the psalmist; worship of our Maker, our Defender, our Redeemer, our King, his fully Christian activity that is linked up so tightly with what it means to really be wise. What does the psalmist's declaration: “I will praise the Lord with all my heart!” teach us about worship?

Allow me to take you, in our mind's eye, to the golf-course, to the ball field, to the mall, the grocery store or the movie house on Sunday morning. Why are you there, at that time, in those places? To sit in the golf car and watch the ducks in the pond? To lean against the backstop drawing pictures in the sand with your cleats? To take a nap on the bench outside Penny's while the world passes you by? To go home with nothing, nothing to put in the pantry or fridge?

You know why you and I would be there, don't you? To hit a hole in one! To strike out the side! To ship till we drop! To stock up for another week! We would be there, in all of those places to do what folks do in those places - full throttle! One hundred and ten percent, right?

Guess what? That's why we're here! “In the assembly of the upright, in the congregation”, gathered together with others whose smiling faces, whose warm greetings, whose attentive minds, whose alert and awake ears tell you, “that's why we're here!”

We are here, and not there, at or in any of those other places - why? Because here, in this place, and now, at this time, we have gathered to praise the Lord full throttle, one hundred and fifty percent! But, how? How do we do that? Allow me to suggest two or three ways to go about worshiping the Lord: number one- worship, Biblical worship, proper, God-pleasing worship, always begins with a humble heart! I mean if God is not God, not the reason for our lives, not the Ruler over all that we are, then we're in the wrong place! This place is set aside and dedicated, did you see the sign above the door when you came in? This place is set aside and dedicated for the purpose of worshiping – Him! Humble, reverent, submissive worship offered up in those ways, with those attitudes of heart and mind, worship that way, keeps the attention where it ought to be, right? On Him! On Him! On the One whose works are great! Verse two. On the One whose works are honorable and glorious, more great, honorable and glorious than striking out the side or hitting a hole in one!

When we come to this place, at this time, let's remember we've come to worship our God humbly! Other 'great ones' rise and fall, come and go, but listen, as the last line of this text reminds us, God's praise, the Greatest One's praise endures forever! Forever!

Secondly, I want to remind you of what ought to be a 'given', really for God's people. When we come to this place, for the high and holy purpose of worshiping our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ – what should be our heart attitude? What should be our mindset? Think of it, with me, will you? The God you and I serve ISN'T ordinary! No! His works and ways are in keeping with WHO He is! Verse 4 – He is gracious! He is full of compassion! Verse 5 – He is faithful to provide our needs, faithful to keep His promises! Verse 7 – He is true and just. Verse 9 – He is holy and awesome. He is all of these things, and more! So, therefore, how should we worship Him? You've already got this one written down, don't you? It's a 'given', right? We should worship our great and gracious, high and holy, faithful and merciful God JOYFULLY! In light of WHO He is, and in light of WHAT He does for you and me, we ought to shout “Hallelujah!” “Praise ye the Lord!”

Then, third and finally, I'd like to encourage you to worship God in one other unique and very important way! I look forward to exploring this part of the lesson from this Psalm next week, perhaps. But, allow me to state it simply and briefly like this: worship, linked up so tightly as it is with real wisdom, worship, as the psalmist suggests in verses two, four and ten, is always to be offered up to our great and gracious God, INTELLIGENTLY! Intelligently! One more time let's read those three verses and with them we will close. Verse 2 – Worship the Lord intelligently, “The works of the Lord are great – studied, sought-out – by all who have pleasure in them!” Verse 4 – worship the Lord intelligently, “THe Lord, He has made His wonderful works to be remembered”, to be rehearsed, recited and even passed on from generation to generation! And, finally verse 10 – worship the Lord intelligently, the smartest things you could ever do... What is it? Verse 10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding has all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

Why have you come to this place, at this hour?

Worship, with the Greatest One at the center stage, offered up humbly, joyfully and yes, intelligently, that's why we have come!

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