Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! (Psalm 147:1)
Maybe you’ve experienced it before—a time of worship and praise that was especially exhilarating and full of wonder. It was AWESOME! What made it that way? Was it the right kinds of songs…the right mix of instruments…the skillfulness and passion of the musicians? Or maybe it was just the perfect circumstances—group of enthusiastic worshipers, ready and willing to participate together with their whole hearts, minds, and voices. It may have been emotional…visceral, but it was also far more than those things. It was a truly spiritual experience. It was GOOD, and PLEASANT, and FITTING.
I sincerely hope you have had that experience. In fact, I hope that is a fairly common experience for you! But I wonder if it’s really those kinds of experiences that make “good worship” good.
In Psalm 147, the worship leader’s song begins with a command: “Praise the Lord!” We are commanded to praise Him BECAUSE praising God is good, pleasant and fitting. And we are commanded to praise Him because he is WORTHY of our praise and worship!
The Hebrew songwriter uses four different words for worship in this psalm: halal (praise or boast), anah (respond), zamar (sing), and shabach (glory in). We are commanded to boast about what God has done for all people everywhere—he heals and builds them up, he decides and understands them, he protects and defends us (vs. 2-6). We are commanded to respond and sing about who God is and what God does in His creation—he sends clouds and rain over the earth and makes things grow everywhere; he provides the food for both the cattle and wild birds alike (vs. 8-9). We are commanded to glory in what God has done for his chosen ones—giving them physical strength and peace at their borders (vs. 13-14), and also the spiritual strength that comes only from God’s word, laws and decrees (vs. 19).
Praise isn’t an option for those who truly know the Lord…it is a GOOD, PLEASANT and FITTING response.
The great preacher John Piper describes worship as, “the response of the heart to the knowledge of the mind, when the mind is rightly understanding God and the heart is rightly valuing God.” He goes on to say, “Good worship, pleasing worship—depends on a right mental grasp of the way God really is.” Our GOOD and PLEASANT and FITTING praise doesn’t begin with the right musicians, or the perfect songs or even the faithful and committed souls gathered for worship. It always begins with God…and it always returns to God.
When Jesus was asked a question about the right place and the proper way to worship, he responded, “True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23-24) True spiritual worship begins by truly knowing and valuing who God is and what God’s done.
That’s where our true worship begins, but it doesn’t simply end when the preacher pronounces the final blessing. Knowing who God is and what God does will ultimately change who WE ARE and what WE DO. When we belong to Jesus, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our “inner response” of worship will be accompanied by an “outward response.” What we say and sing and confess actually changes what WE DO. As the writer of Hebrews encourages us, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15-16). Worship is what we do as well as what we say.
So, if you want to experience really GOOD WORSHIP, don’t waste your time looking for a better church or a cooler worship leader! Instead, INVEST your time—grasping, reflecting and declaring the infinite number of good things about our infinitely great God. And then SPEND your time acting out God’s love and goodness and grace in the world around you. I promise you will be filled with exhilaration and wonder! But even more than that, your worship will be a GOOD and PLEASANT and FITTING offering to the One who saved you and calls you His own. Drink deep from that Living Water, and offer it freely to anyone who needs it. And stay thirsty, my friends!