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What God Wants

Psalm 50:14, 15
14“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, 15and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

The Story: What God is seeking from His people involves external forms and elements of worship, to be sure, but not in the first instance, not as ends in themselves. God, we know, looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). He intended His prescribed worship forms to shape the hearts of His people in appropriate ways, and then to allow them to express their hearts accordingly. Evidently, what God was looking for from His people was beginning to be in rather short supply in Asaph’s day. They were “faithful” in all the forms of worship, but their hearts were beginning to drift from Him, as evidenced by the absence of thanksgiving and the tendency not to carry through on their vows (v. 14). This was a time of great prosperity in Israel, as we read in 1 Kings 10, and it may have been that the people were beginning to trust more in the growing might and wealth of the nation – and themselves – rather than in the unchanging might and eternal glory of God their Redeemer (v. 15). As we shall see throughout the psalms of Asaph, he observes and weighs things that others merely wink at, and he is greatly concerned about the direction Israel’s leaders are taking them.

The Structure: Engaging the heart in worship is very much a question of moment in churches today. But are we asking the question in the right way? In many ways it seems that what we want in worship – the kinds of experiences, feelings, moods, melodies, and activities that please us – are the guiding principles for what we do each week. But have we considered that God is looking on our hearts in worship? He is weighing our motives, assessing our tendencies and inclinations, and judging the whole bent and cast of our inner person. And what is He seeking? Gratitude, faithfulness, trust, obedience – these are the core elements of a heart that is pleasing to God. Our worship should be prepared and pursued in such a way as to foster and display such affections before the Lord Who comes to review our hearts.

Which aspects of the worship of your church focus on gratitude, faithfulness, and trust in the Lord? How do you express these to the Lord in worship?


Answering_God

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
All the Right Elements, but…

Psalm 50:7-13
7“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. 8Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. 9I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all its fullness are mine. 13Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

The Story: God had appointed for Israel certain forms and elements to use in approaching Him in worship. These included prayer, sacrifices, washings, singing, hearing the Word of God read and proclaimed, and so forth. These external elements and forms were not given because God requires them. He needs nothing from us whatsoever (Acts 17:25). Each element of worship is intended for worshippers, to allow them to express their relationship and commitment to God in ways appropriate to who they are and Who He is. It appears that the people of Israel in Asaph’s day were doing quite well with the external forms of worship; God had not come to rebuke them because of these. But He had, indeed, come to rebuke them (vv. 7, 8). Their worship was comprised of all the right outward elements, but still God had issues with His people.

The Structure: In churches today, how do we determine which forms and elements to incorporate into our gatherings for worship? What criteria guide our decisions about songs, worship style, order of activities, and which activities to include? Are we primarily interested in doing things that will please the people who assemble for worship? Does God still have expectations of us as He did of His people in Asaph’s day? Forms of worship He intends us to keep? If we have not addressed these questions in the worship we offer the Lord, perhaps it’s time we do. The real issue in worship is not “Am I getting anything out of this?” but “Is what I’m offering in worship all that God requires, and is it pleasing to Him?” For many churches, careful consideration of such questions as these will reveal just how much the spirit of our man-centered age has affected the way we approach worshiping God – and much else besides.

Who prepares the worship service in your church? What criteria guide the thinking and planning of worship leaders? Why not contact one of them and see what you can find out?


Answering_God

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
Worship as Review and Muster

Psalm 50:3-6
3Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. 4He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: 5“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” 6The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah

The Story: It begins to become clear that the setting of Psalm 50 is the Sabbath. God is calling His people together to worship Him, as will see in subsequent verses. How does He want them to think about Him to Whom they are coming? The images are precisely the kind designed to strike fear in the hearts of any worshiper, and fear of God is the starting point for a proper relationship with Him (cf. Deut. 10:12, 13). Our worship of God runs the risk of degenerating into mere formalism when we lose sight of the holiness and might of Him before Whom we assemble. God’s people further need to remember that, when they come before the Lord, it is not their words but His Word which matters most (v. 3; cf. Ps. 46:10, 11). Those who have covenanted to engage the God of Abraham are expected, like all the creatures of the Lord, to declare His righteousness (vv. 5, 6). When God assembles His people for worship it is to review their progress in obeying Him (vv. 4-6) and to send them forth to serve Him, obediently, in the world (cf. v. 23).

The Structure: Asaph begins to instruct the worshippers in Israel concerning the purpose and true nature of worship. The focal point of worship is God and His eternal character and purposes. We must not think that worship is something we can manipulate and mold in order to satisfy the demands of mere men, as though making sure everyone “enjoyed” worship was the actual end of worship. God does not come to meet with us in worship in order to discover whether or not we are happy; He meets us in worship so that we might bring offerings pleasing and acceptable to Him. Such offerings, as David pointed out, are not primarily physical, but spiritual; not the tangible and visible expressions of our devotion, but the offerings of our clean and consecrated hearts (cf. Ps. 51:6, 10, 17). Our primary concern in assembling to worship God must be that all we are and all we do should be according to His Word, in obedience to our covenant with Him, unto His pleasure, and for His glory. In a day such as ours – an age of narcissism and individualism – the Church needs to be reminded that even – indeed, especially – our worship must be focused on pleasing God and not ourselves or our neighbors.

How does the service of worship in your church demonstrate an understanding of these purposes of worship which Asaph is beginning to make clear? How do you know when you have pleased God with your worship?

Answering_God

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
When God Speaks

Psalm 50:1, 2
1The Mighty One, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. 2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

The Story: Asaph, appointed by David as choirmaster in Israel (1 Chron. 25:1-3), begins his contribution to the Psalter with an idea familiar to all Israel – God speaking to the creation, calling the world to life, as it were, for another day. This image alludes to the sovereign power of God to command obedience from His servants, in this, case, the creation (cf. Pss. 147:15-18; 119:89-91). That it pleases such a God to reside in the midst of His people makes His sovereignty and might all that much more compelling. Asaph refers to Israel as “the perfection of beauty,” a reference to God’s purpose for His people which other psalmists would improve and enlarge (cf. Pss. 48, 125). Asaph intends, at the beginning of his first psalm, to set forth a primary theme of the divine economy: the sovereign God rules in the midst of His people unto glory and beauty – and not merely an external beauty, but one deeper and much more significant. We shall see how such a plan is faring among the people of Israel as our psalm develops.

The Structure: Asaph contributed twelve psalms to the psalter: 50, 73-83. His are powerful psalms of indictment and admonition to a people who, by the time Asaph actually began his ministry in the days of King Solomon, were already beginning, in spite of the glory of their nation, city, and temple, to drift from their divine calling (cf. 1 Kgs. 10, 11). Yes, Jerusalem and the temple located on Mt. Zion were beautiful, as beautiful as anything anyone in that day had ever seen. Israel, it seemed, had reason to be proud and pleased. But, as Asaph will show over and over in his psalms, not all that is made of gold glitters with the life of God. Mere external beauty cannot satisfy the demands of God and His Word.

Do you think it’s possible that Christians today put too much stock in appearances – both in their personal lives as well as in their church? Explain.


Answering_God

Learn to pray the psalms. Order a copy of Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
Get with It!

Psalm 76:11, 12
11Make your vows to the LORD your God and perform them; let all around bring gifts to him who is to be feared 12who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth.

The Story: When the judgment of God looms, the last place you want to be is the status quo. Asaph issues his call to repentance, admonishing the people to take up some new vows with a new resolve to fulfill them. A vow is a solemn declaration, given the magnificent grace of God, to devote oneself to a particular course of action. Because God has been so good, I vow to Him such and such. Israel in Solomon’s day needed some new vows, but they also needed to “perform” those vows diligently if they were going to avert the wrath of God. As it turned out, they did not, and the dissolution of the monarchy and the nation was the result. Bringing gifts to God would be a way to seal their vow and express their faith. It might also help to refocus their perspective. The nations, “year after year”, were bringing gifts to Solomon and the people of Jerusalem (1 Kings 10). But they had presumed on God and His goodness in turning those gifts into idols and desiring the things of the world more than its Creator (cf. Rom. 1:18ff). The last verse reminds the people once again of God’s power: He who can “cut off” the King can cut off the people as well. Best to renew fear of the Lord while you can.

The Structure: Vows – that’s another topic we don’t hear much about in the churches these days. Oh, we take them – marriage vows, church membership vows, vows upon taking office in the church. But how serious are we about fulfilling them? When we make vows in a merely perfunctory manner, promising God to do such and such in view of His great goodness, and then don’t take those vows seriously, we actually invite the judgment of God against us (Eccl. 5:4-6). You get the impression that Asaph was dead serious about a lot of things many church members today seem to take with a grain of salt: vows, fearing God, keeping His Law, keeping the focus on Him in worship. Will we hear the prophet’s warning? Or will we, like Israel in Solomon’s day, simply find him an annoyance, go about our own way of being the people of God, and run smack into His judgment in due course?

Are you presently under any vows? If you were asked to recite those vows right now, and to explain how you are seeking to fulfill them, could you?


How-to_Read_the_Psalms

For more insight on reading the Psalms, get the book, How to Read the Psalms, by Tremper Longman III.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
Snatched from Wrath

Psalm 76:10
10Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.

The Story: This brief verse captures two divergent ideas. The first is “the wrath of man.” Given the context it seems the best way to interpret this is as an objective genitive: the wrath that comes upon men. When God judges the nations, including His own people, it is unto His glory. His holiness is vindicated, His might is seen, and His mercy is also in view, since God’s wrath typically always leaves room for repentance. If the people of Jerusalem will not glorify God as He intends, He will get glory by bringing His discipline to bear against them (cf. Rom. 9:17, 22, 23). The second idea points to the mercy of God: like a belt snatched out of fire, God will wrap a remnant around Himself, thus retaining within His mercy those whom He is pleased to redeem from His wrath (cf. Jer. 13:1-11). God is merciful even in the midst of wrath; He will not forsake the promises He has made to His people. So, even as he warns the people of judgment to come because of their increasingly wicked ways, Asaph holds out the mercy of God, and the hope of redemption, for all who hear his warning and look to God in faith.

The Structure: The writer of Hebrews is emphatic that God will discipline His people so that they will get back on track with His ways (Heb. 12:1-11). What does that look like? Do we even know? If the wrath of God should begin to fall on the Church in America today, would we even know or be able to recognize it? Would we just blame the “secularists” or someone else for whatever might be the unfavorable circumstances that befall us? If we think we’re beyond the reach of God’s discipline, it’s merely an indication that we have veered so far from the plain teaching of Scripture, having remade God after our own image of what He should be like, that we can’t even recognize how far off the path we’ve strayed. But God will get glory from His people – one way or another.

In Psalm 80 Asaph will make a pointed plea to the Lord to restore and revive His people. Do you think we should be praying for revival in our churches? Why or why not?


How-to_Read_the_Psalms

For more insight on reading the Psalms, get the book, How to Read the Psalms, by Tremper Longman III.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
All Stand Still

Psalm 76:8, 9
8From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, 9when God rose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah

The Story: The people of Solomon’s Jerusalem could hardly be described as humble. The descriptions we glean from Psalms 50, 73, and 74 portray a people whose hearts have begun to turn away from God and who are wallowing in the good things coming their way from the surrounding pagan world. They did not fear God; this was obvious by the fact that even the king made room for pagan idols in his royal court. They did not believe that God would do anything other than continue to bless them as He had been doing for most of Solomon’s reign. But Asaph was the liturgical spoil sport; to him fell the duty of reminding the people of God’s calling and requirements, and of the danger they were in as long as they failed to love and fear Him. When God decides to judge the world, no one can say to Him, “Hey, what are you doing!?” All the world is still before the Word of God’s wrath, as He unfolds waves of judgment against those who presume on His goodness and forsake His holy ways. Israel should have known this; their past – even their most recent past, with King David – gave ample testimony to God’s power and willingness to discipline His people. But because they had become so distracted by material prosperity, they needed to be reminded once again.

The Structure: Distracted by material prosperity? Comfortable with the world and its ways? Ripe for some discipline from the Lord? Where are the Asaphs who will call the people of God to fear Him and remember His judgment? We can offer all the “reasons” why we don’t teach the fear of the Lord, don’t instruct our people in the ways of God’s holy Law, and don’t reach out to the lost with the Good News of Christ. But when God begins to move against us for our failure to be His people, nothing we might say will stay His hand. The people in Asaph’s day indulged the world and its ways and continued to worship God, thinking He was just like them and “OK” with whatever they chose to do to make themselves happy. Asaph saw it otherwise, and he turned out to be right.

If God should rise up to begin judging the Church today, would we even be able to recognize it? How would we know?


How-to_Read_the_Psalms

For more insight on reading the Psalms, get the book, How to Read the Psalms, by Tremper Longman III.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you hear the phrase, "the gospel," what comes to mind? A presentation of the plan of salvation, perhaps? While this is true, it's not remotely the whole truth about all this word entails. Literally, it's "good announcement." It's news that's never been heard before. Perhaps in the ancient world there was a public square where people could assemble and hear news of the world from travelers. And if someone stood up and announced that he had this "gospel" to share, it really was new news. For never before in the history of the world had there been news of a God who had reached out to humankind with a free gift of reconciliation.

God was not requiring sacrifices, or obedience to laws, or secret knowledge, or arcane rites in order to win His favor. He was offering grace instead, also a piece of new news. Through the Gospel of his Son, God was offering something freely, something to gladden the heart, something that couldn't be bought or earned: Himself. Freely. That's the new news, the Gospel of grace.
 
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