Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Psalm 99: Worship is Responding to God's Holiness

KEY TEXT: Psalms 99:1-3, 5 The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!...Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

KEY THOT: The word "holy" in Hebrew is qadosh. It carries the idea of moral purity and excellence--a sense that God is totally unlike anything or anyone on earth because He is high and exalted "over all the peoples.". God sits "enthroned upon the cherubim". It is this attribute of holiness as something totally unlike anything experienced on earth that creates a sense of awe and fear. While God's love draws us near because we are familiar with that, His holiness keeps him apart from us--because it is like a devouring fire that will consume us if we draw too near. So, the psalmist calls for appropriate response from his created order: "let the peoples tremble!" and "let the earth quake!" (v.1).  More importantly, the awesomeness of God's holiness will cause us to fall down at his feet to worship Him: "exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool" (v.5).

Until we have fully grasped that God is holy and therefore awesome, we may confuse worship with sentimentality. While God's love may cause us to draw near to him in intimacy, it is God's holiness that can inspire us to truly worship Him. Worship in Hebrew (shachah) is literally "bowing down" at his footstool. The holiness of God will not make us stand and run towards him--but it will cause us to stop and fall down at his feet.

There is much focus in contemporary worship songs on God's love. While this may create a sense of intimacy with God, it is not the same as worship. The songs that truly inspire worship focuses on God's holiness and awesome majesty. The psalmist describes the holiness of God in terms of God's reign and rule: "the Lord reigns... He sits enthroned upon the cherubim" (v.1). And his holiness is expressed in executing justice and righteousness on earth: "The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob" (v.4). 

When we focus on God's holiness, we declare He is infinitely differently and separate from His creation because He is totally unlike anything or anyone we have known on earth. We can only response to this awesome God by bowing down in worship.

Father, deliver us from sentimentality in worship but fill us with a sense of awe and fear of the holy God who is high and exalted and seated on his throne in the heavens. Amen.

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