Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph!
(Psalm 47:1, NKJV)
You know those obnoxious advertisements that always pop up when you’re watching YouTube, doing a Google search, online shopping or just about or anything else? I saw one just today that was advertising a licensing program for professional “Certified Cuddlers.” They were proud to mention that this was “hands-on training!”
Now I fancy myself a pretty good cuddler. But this struck me as extremely odd, more than a little bit inappropriate, and most likely downright sketchy. So, I decided not to investigate making any sort of career change just yet, even though “scholarships are available!”
All kidding aside, I suppose there isn’t a whole lot you can learn about cuddling from a book or in a classroom. A treatise about the theory and history of cuddling won’t be of much help either. And talking about cuddling (awkward) isn’t the same as cuddling. The same is true of golf, or carpentry, or brain surgery! In most aspects of our lives there is just no substitute for “hands-on training.”
So why is it that so much of our worship is so, “hands-off?”
Psalm 47 begins with a couple of rather unambiguous commands, “Clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph.” The songwriter is encouraging serious God-worshipers to really get after this business of worship—to “clap” and “shout” to God. But in most North American churches today, the idea of clapping or shouting is seen as inappropriate, or even downright wrong. So we simply choose not to obey. We’d prefer a more “hands-off” approach to God. I wonder if we are wrong about that.
The psalmist makes a pretty good case for real clapping and shouting. After he tells us what we are to do in worship, he tells us why. We should clap and shout because of who God is! “For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.” (vs 2). Worship should take over our whole bodies because of what God will do—He will subdue our enemies and give us our inheritance (vs. 3-4). We should make some serious worship noise because “God has gone up with a shout…with the sound of a trumpet” (vs. 5)
The writer then describes how this extravagant, over-the-top worship happens. It’s not just about making a bunch of noise every now and then. We are instructed to worship continually, “Sing praises…sing praises…sing praises…sing praises” (vs. 6); and to worship knowingly, “Sing praises with understanding” (vs. 7). Don’t just cheer because everyone else is cheering; cheer because we are in the presence of our great God and King!
Worship is a hands-on experience—there is something wonderful about communicating the same message with our mouths and with our hands. Engaging our whole person in worship—heart, mind and body—is an expression of who we are as image-bearers of God. It is our hearty, physical, “amen” response to the Greatest Commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Separating our words from our actions not only shortchanges our godly worship, it compromises our godly mission (James 1:22-25).
What would happen if the church began to practice “hands-on worship?” How would it change our expression of worship on Sunday mornings…how would it change the testimony of our worship Monday through Saturday? “The Lord Most High is awesome!” So clap those hands…and then use those same hands to help and to heal in the world around you. You will find that, “Blessed are the hands that God uses for blessing!” Get excited, get engaged, and always stay thirsty for more of God.