On July 7th, 2019 I preached at Soutside Baptist Church in Florida. Here is the transcript of my sermon below.
Today I will be talking about praise and worship, or more precisely praising God through music. The word “Psalm” actually means “song” and there are 150 songs placed smack dab in the middle of your Bible that are musical forms of expression of personal and corporate praise and worship directed towards Almighty God. Personally, I believe the time believers spend together corporately singing praises to God is a vital, beautiful and holy time because this is the one time where we can truly open our hearts to God and proclaim freely how great, mighty and awesome He is.
We refer to praise and worship as the time where we worship God through music and music is a vital part of the church service. We can see this is true because so many churches pour a lot of their resources into the worship and music ministries. Why is that? I believe the answer to that is because music is a form of expression and a way of communicating in ways we don’t naturally communicate. This is made perfectly clear throughout the Psalms. This brings up a valid question…if praise and worship (or the music aspect of a church service) is such a vital part of the assembling of believers, then why is it such a point of contention in the church today? This seems ridiculous to me since praise and worship is intended to unify the body of Christ but has been a major force of division in the church today. While I will admit it is not necessarily the act of praise and worship that the root of division, but the dividing factor is generally a result of personal preference.
Every person in this room has a personal preference for the style of music they enjoy. I love listening to rock music, but I DO NOT like country and western music. Does this mean that one cannot praise God in country and western music? Yes, it does! I am kidding of course. No, we can praise God with any style of music… even country and western. Just because I do not like one type of music does not mean that people can’t use that style of music to praise God. The Psalms are clear in setting guidelines for praise and worship and I have found these to be true…
Unfortunately, I see less and less praise and worship done this way. As a pastor and a participant in church settings I sometimes wonder if there is any joy in praising God at all. So, to help us understand how we can praise God the way the Bible shows we will look at Psalm 98 and hopefully we will glean something from it as pertains to our hearts and attitude towards praising and worshiping God through song.
Psalm 98 (original intent)
Today’s Psalm is one of celebration of the Kingship of God through music. You may or may not know that this Psalm was the inspiration behind Sir Isaac Watts hymn “Joy to the World”. According to C. Michael Hall in his article “History of Hymns: ‘Joy to the World’”, “Joy to the world” was taken from the second part of the paraphrase (Psalm 98:4-9), entitled ‘The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom. ‘Watts, commenting on his paraphrase of the psalm, notes: ‘In these two hymns I have formed out of the 98th Psalm I have fully express what I esteem to be the first and chief Sense of the Holy.
Psalm 98 is broken down into three parts
1. God’s people singing praise to God for salvation.
2. Inviting the world to join in on the praise.
3. Creation joins in on praise for the righteous judgment of God.
Vs 1a: “Sing to the Lord a new song” … The part of this verse invites the people of God to sing. They are not called to only sing but we are called to sing a new song. This does not necessarily imply that the song needs to be a fresh composition, but it may mean that we are to sing a song in response to an experience of God’s grace. We are to sing with a new heart.
Vs 1b: “For he has done marvelous things…” The second part of this verse tells us why we should sing a new song because God has done marvelous things. God always does marvelous (extraordinary, far surpassing, great acts) things and should continually be praised for them.
In this song, God is to be praised for his “right hand and holy arm.” This is symbolic of God’s salvation. The right arm represents God’s strength and power and his holy arm represents His intervention. Through God’s almighty power and intervention, salvation is attained. In the OT salvation generally refers to God intervening in battle and thus saving, delivering or bringing victory to the Israelites. God saves His people from their enemies.
In the NT salvation means victory over spiritual powers. God has wonderfully intervened on our behalf through Jesus Christ and He has given us victory over death and evil. Our salvation is a great reason for us to sing about and celebrate God. Our salvation is not received by human means, or in an ordinary way. Salvation is through an unprecedented manner… Putting your faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead for our justification and who ascended to the right hand of the Father for our righteousness.
Vs. 2 -3: “For the LORD has made know his salvation;” God has revealed or uncovered his salvation for all to experience. He has done this for his righteous namesake. He showed his power in salvation to the Israelites and then He made his divine power of salvation known to the Gentiles. By God’s mercy (steadfast love) He brought salvation to Israel. He made a promise to the nation that He would be their God and they would be His people and God always remembers and fulfills His promise. As a result of God’s faithfulness, the nations have seen this marvelous work of salvation.
Vs. 4 – 6: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.” The response is an invitation for all of humanity to join in singing a song of celebration. However, they are not called to sing as they are called to joyfully make a noise to the Lord. “Joyful Noise” – shout war cry, a shout of triumph, to shout in applause - to the Lord.
“Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre… (and) With trumpets.” The Psalmist encourages the use of instruments in praising God. He instructs the people to play their instruments with heartfelt joy and complete praise to God. The use of instruments in music is not intended to be a time for the musician to show off his talents, but they are to genuinely play with all he has to the LORD with joy. We are to perform for an audience of ONE.
Vs. 7 – 9: “Let the sea roar,” Israel is singing about Gods salvation, humanity is joyously making a noise because of salvation and now creation joins in with the beautiful song of praise and adoration to God. Creation is rejoicing at the coming of God to righteously judge and rule the earth and thus set all things right. Creation rejoices because God is a fair and He is just judge and this time will be a wonderful time of renewal.
Psalm 98 (For us today)
Christians are called to sing to the Lord in praise and adoration of the marvelous and divine works God has done. We are invited to join with all of creation in singing about the greatness of our God and the salvation He has given to us. I have a hard time understanding how individuals do not get excited about salvation. I am blown away when I talk to individuals who say they have a relationship with Jesus and yet they have no apparent joy in the Lord and their commitment to God seems to be more of a burden than it does as an act of worship to a God who has given literally everything to us for our enjoyment and His glory.
Maybe I am naïve, but I do not understand how singing praises to God can be a dividing factor within the body of Christ. Sure, we all have preferences of styles of music, but we often look past the message of a song or hymn and base our worship experience on whether we prefer a certain style or not. I admittedly confessed that I do not like country western music, but I also am not so narrow-minded that I think that God cannot be glorified through the STYLE of country western music. If I went to a backwoods country western church and they broke out the banjo, washboard, upright bass and 50-gallon cowboy hats and led the congregation in God-glorifying praise then I would join with them and worship God joyfully. The same goes for organ music, rock music, acoustic, etc.
I so often hear people talk about the old hymns and refer to them as funeral dirges or irrelevant songs that are wordy and confusing. This is just as narrow-minded as mine is pertaining to country western praise. With hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” by Martin Luther is a hymn so filled with praise, inspiration, and joy that I cannot sing that song without being brought into the presence of God.
I recently read in an article entitled “Complaining About Worship” and the author writes, “Someone complained to pastor and author Francis Chan once and said that they didn’t think that the worship service was very good. He said that that was okay because “we weren’t worshiping you.” We must remember that worship is not for us, it is for God. We do not sing songs of praise for the sake of nostalgia or to make us feel better, it is intended solely for God and God alone.
If we can step back for a moment and look at how Psalm 98 and how it can apply to us today, I would like to ask and respond to three relevant questions.
My prayer today is that all of us see the value in worshiping God through song. I remind you that singing is not the only means to worshiping God. We can worship God in all sorts of ways and through various means. However, I think it is important to know that worship through music is valid, it is important, and it has been used throughout the centuries. In closing I ask wherever you are in your walk with God and what your views are concerning worship music, pray that the Lord gives you the right heart to come into His presence and give Him the proper worship He deserves and that you would open your heart to the joy of celebrating the salvation He has made available to all of us.
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I live in Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with 20 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.