Worship Warnings | Psalm 106
Phil Krause | July 9, 2017
Could you pray with me one more time?
Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight. You are our Lord, our rock, our redeemer. May we adore you with true and worship, as we just heard played. Thank you. Thank you for your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you were to stop random people on the street and ask them, “Whom or what do you worship?” I wonder what kinds of responses you’d get. “Oh, I’m not religious,” or, “I worship God,” or, “I worship myself,” maybe. Probably people would say, “Nobody.”
Maybe you’ve heard of the Starz cable TV series “American Gods.” I’ve never watched it, but the quiz question on their website, flickering in pulsing neon lights, caught my attention. It said, WHAT DO YOU WORSHIP? And then what follows if you hit the next slide there, see the green “Go” button? If you hit that it gives you this survey of these really unfair either/or kinds of questions like “would you rather do this or this?” and then after about only four or five questions they tell you what god you worship, according to them. According to this (I’m sure highly authoritative) survey, the world worships, in this order: Unity, Truth, War & Power, Money, Technology, Love, Media, Evil, and Spring.
Now, just from reading some of the episode summaries of this program, I can tell you the Krause family is not going to be watching this program. However, in their little online survey, they at least got one thing right. By asking the question the way they do, they are assuming that everyone is worshipping something.
Bob Dylan also got it right in his 1979 song “Gotta Serve Somebody”:
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
You are a worshipper. I am a worshiper. Not because Bob Dylan says it, not because a silly survey on a website says it, not even because the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” but because God says it in his word.
Romans chapter one; we’re going to talk more about this later in the service, but if we’re not worshipping the God, the creator, then we actually exchange our worship of Him for a created thing. So yes, we are created to worship. Everyone is. We are created to serve.
Turn in your Bibles to Psalm 106. If you’re using the Bible in the back of the chair in front of you, Psalm 106 starts on page 505. Psalm 106. In this Psalm, we’re going to see four aspects to worship:
I. Right Worship
II. Wrong Worship, or Worship Warnings
III. God’s Response to Wrong Worship
IV. The path back or how to Return to Right Worship
It’s a pretty long passage, 48 verses, so what I’m going to do is read a section, make some comments, then read more, and we’ll work our way through the psalm that way. So fasten your seatbelts, or as my former boss Dennis Rainey always says: Listen fast!
I. Right Worship (v. 1-6, 12)
Interestingly enough, this psalm starts in exactly the same way as Psalm 107, which Wes taught about last week.
“Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!
Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.
Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.”
Now skip down to verse 12:
“Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.”
So here the psalmist is modeling for us some really important aspects of right worship—ingredients, if you will, in the “stew” of a life that is centered on God.
(1) Praise and thanksgiving, the first ingredients, a set of ingredients; praise and thanksgiving. You see that in verses one and two: “Praise the LORD,” “Oh give thanks to the LORD…”
To praise God is to say to Him and to others what He is like and what He has done. We praise and thank Him for his attributes (or His characteristics), as well as for His works, the things He does.
What is the first characteristic of God we see listed here in verse one? What do you see? He’s good! He’s good. Over and over in the Psalms we see this attribute of God highlighted. Wes spoke about it last week from Psalm 107. By the way, you can go to FulkersonPark.com to listen to the audio or to read the transcript of last week’s sermon; I encourage you to do that if you missed it, or even if you didn’t miss it it’s good to review. Wes gave us some really practical ways to consider the steadfast love of the Lord and to cultivate thankful hearts.
“Steadfast love” is that Hebrew term hesed; you may be familiar with it. It speaks of God’s enduring, covenant-keeping, faithful lovingkindness toward us.
So his goodness and his steadfast love are a couple of God’s many characteristics. You can praise him, as we’ve already heard this morning, for his kingly sovereignty, his infinite wisdom, his kind love, his blinding holiness, his absolute justice, his righteous wrath against sin, his tender mercy, his patient longsuffering. Say it to him in prayer. Sing it to him in songs and hymns. Speak of it to your neighbor, your coworker, the clerk at the bank, anyone and everyone. This is what praise is: telling God and telling others who he is and what he is like.
But we also praise Him for what He has done. Verse two asks a rhetorical question, “Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD, or declare all His praise?” The obvious implied answer is nobody. He’s done so much!
So we can sing with Fanny Crosby,
“Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
Oh, come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give him the glory, great things he hath done.”
(2) The second set of ingredients of right worship fall into the category of faith and obedience. We see obedience in verse three: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” …and faith in verse 12: “Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.”
The faith in this case came as a result of seeing the works of God, right, the crossing of the Red Sea; we’ll get to that in a minute too.
Obedience, then, is the outward, visible fruit of the faith that’s already inside. You see, a life that worships God rightly will be a life of obedience. Jesus said, John 14:5, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
So, in right worship, yes, words are important, but words are not enough. James chapter two: “Faith without works is dead.”
Romans chapter 12, verse one: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
A life of right worship will be a holy life. Not perfect on this side of Heaven, right, but as a pattern, becoming more and more obedient, more like Christ. We’re trusting and obeying; that’s faith and obedience.
(3) Ingredient number three, supplication. We see this in verses four and five. There are phrases like, “Remember me,” verse four, “Help me,” verse four, “Show favor,” verse four.
Why? “That I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,” in verse five. “That I may rejoice,” “That I may glory…”
Our heavenly Father loves it when His children ask for things. Never be too proud to ask! We’ll talk more, later, about the importance of crying out to God.
(4) Ingredient four, confession of sin, which really is most of the rest of this psalm, and we’re going to look at that in the second part here. But confession to God is a key part of right worship. True confession flows out of a contrite, broken heart of humility.
Put another way: you and I can’t approach God with an attitude of, “I have it all together. God, aren’t you fortunate to have ME worshipping you?” That’s the height of arrogance and pride!
II. Worship Warnings
The next section of the psalm forms the main body of the psalm. I’ve called it worship warnings because I see some really key things that we need to watch out for. Verses one through six were modeling right worship for us, and in verses seven through 39 it’s rehearsing certain scenes from the history of the nation of Israel. These are places they got off the right path, so to speak, and it really forms a downward spiral to “worship gone horribly wrong.”
Let’s read the passage. As we do, I’m going to point out some key words and phrases that we will come back to, and they’ll be highlighted on the screen as well. So, back up to verse six.
“Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name's sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.
“But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.
But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.
When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.
“They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.
They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
“Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.
“Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.
“They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.
“They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.”
These are dark, awful scenes, indeed. But before we start feeling too holier-than-they in our attitudes, I submit to you that the patterns leading to wrong worship that we see here in this really sad history of the nation of Israel are patterns all of us are susceptible to. These are First Corinthians 10:13, “common-to-man” kinds of temptations. And there, but for God’s restraining grace, go we.
So let’s look, and let’s learn. Let’s allow their mistakes to be worship warnings to us, warnings that we heed. If we’re lacking that joy, that thankfulness that Wes talked about last week, it’s possible we find ourselves somewhere on this continuum of wrong worship.
There isn’t time to hit every verse here, but I want us to notice, in those key phrases and terms, this progression, this slippery slope down into idolatry.
Worship Warning 1. Sins of Neglect (Omission): These are phrases like not remembering, forgetting, not waiting. Verse seven says, “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love.” Verse 13, “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.” Verse 21, “They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt.”
So immediately I apply this to myself and I say, “Phil, remember! Rehearse! Tell! Remind yourself!” We just sang about it, right? “Bless the Lord, O my soul! Worship His holy name.” At any moment there are at least 10,000 reasons to praise Him.
“You give and take away; Lord, blessed be your name.” “Oh worship the King, all glorious above, and gratefully sing his wonderful love.” Remember, soul. “In Christ alone my hope is found; he is my light, my strength, my song.”
Worship Warning 2. Desires Gone Awry (Lusts): Just a note here, desires often are not wrong in and of themselves. It’s just that our sinful hearts can easily take these desires for good things and start turning them into what God, through the prophet Ezekiel, called “idols of the heart.” These are heart idols.
We see in verse 14 of Psalm 106, “They had a wanton craving in the wilderness.” What were they craving? Do you remember? What were the people of Israel craving? Meat. Food. Onions, leeks. They wanted something other than this manna that God was providing them. Again, it’s not wrong to want to eat, right? But this word wanton craving implies that this craving is now unchecked. There’s no limit on it. This desire has turned on them. It’s now beginning to control them.
Verse 16, “When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron…” Okay. Verse 14 they’re craving food, verse 16 they’re craving influence, maybe a position of honor; maybe even craving this closeness that Moses and Aaron had to God, or their leadership over the people.
So I ask myself, what do I desire so much that I am willing to either sin in order to get it, or sin because I can’t have it? That’s a heart idol: something I’m willing to sin in order to get or sin because I can’t have it. How can I be wary of my deceitful heart, Jeremiah chapter 17, a heart that John Calvin famously described as “an idol factory”?
James chapter one, verses 14 and 15: “ But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Worship Warning 3. Wrong Attitudes Leading to Wrong Actions (v. 24-25):
Verses 24 and 25: “Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.”
Something that God was intending to bless them with, this pleasant land, this promised land, this is what they were going for, right? And what did they do? They despised it. They hated it! And it started with unbelief. It says they “had no faith in his promise.” What had he promised? “I will be with you. I will help you drive out those people.”
Well, I’m glad I don’t do that! Right? Here’s just one area – the riches of God’s Word. I treat God with contempt whenever I ignore his word or choose to believe lies instead of his glorious truth. The Israelites in that situation were blinded by their perceptions of their circumstances. They said, “There’s giants! There’s giants in the land!” They were believing lies: “God’s not going to help us, or he doesn’t want to, or he can’t,” or whatever.
So I need to pray, with David in Psalm 139, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!...God, help me to watch out for these kinds of lies that I so easily believe.”
Worship Warning 4. Exchange—Worshipping the “Made” Instead of the Maker: This is when direct idolatry is really beginning in earnest. Verses 19 and 20, we see this: “They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”
Romans chapter one, a very familiar passage, echoes this expression, this same ‘exchange.’ Verse 21 of Romans one: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
And the passage goes on to describe another exchange, the exchange of natural sexual relationships for unnatural.
So you and I might not have a metal cow in the back yard that we go bow down to every now and then, but we often are guilty of thinking wrong thoughts of God. When they started worshipping that golden calf, they weren’t saying, “O great Calf, we worship you.” No!.
Exodus chapter 32, verse four: “And he [that is, Aaron] received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast [to whom? To the golden Calf-god of Egypt? No!] to the Lord.”
So Aaron and the people broke the second commandment (do not make any graven or carved images to bow down to). They tried to make a physical representation of the God of the universe. Their conceptions of God were FAR too limited, too dumb, too creature-like.
You and I can be guilty of this anytime we begin to veer away from God’s revelation of himself in his word, anytime we think God is like us in our weaknesses and imperfections. You know, “He won’t care if I compromise in this one area,” or, “He doesn’t notice,” or, “He won’t remember.” That’s thinking God is like us.
In Psalm 50, God blasts the wicked for a whole grocery list of sins, but the searing indictment comes in verse 21 when he says, “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.”
And so, the application to ourselves: I have to keep renewing my mind in God’s word. That’s Romans chapter 12, verse 2, right? As I read it, I need to allow it to shape and expand my understanding of who God is, what he is like, and also who I am and what I am like in relation to his holiness.
Worship Warning 5. Compromises → Bondage: As we continue down, down, down into this horrible worship, compromises that lead to bondage. This is the most heart-wrenching part of the process, because in it we willingly enslave ourselves.
Verse 34, “They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them.” And then also back up to verse 28, “They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor…”
Again, it starts with compromise. It was only partial obedience, right? God had said, “Wipe them out,” and they did not drive out the people. That paved the way, that disobedience on their part paved the way for mixing with the nations and learning to do as they did (verse 35)—for you and me, this is the process of adopting the values of the culture. We’re like Ruth in reverse, saying, “Your people will be my people, your gods will be my gods. What you value, I will value. Whatever’s important to you will be important to me.”
It can happen really subtly, but it also can happen really fast. Before we know it, we’re trapped in something we find it difficult to get out of. We’re serving idols (now, when I say serving, don’t think of tuxedoed butler Jeeves in an English mansion. No, this is serving like a Nazi concentration camp, forced labor; that kind of serving), we’ve yoked ourselves to a false god.
This kind of enslavement is initially voluntary, right? Nobody forces you into it. Often, there’s some amount of shame involved, so we don’t like to talk about it. We might try to hide it, keep it secret, which makes it worse. It might be an addiction to drugs or alcohol or food or (as was true of me) pornography or sexual pleasure. It might be rage that causes you to do things you didn’t even know you were capable of. It might be an out-of-control obsession with your own physical appearance or health or what your house looks like or a dominating desire to control others. It could be an insistence to pursue a hobby or a sport at any cost.
Listen, no matter what it is for you, if you’re there, it’s a false god that’s making promises it’s never going to be able to keep. And we willingly strap ourselves into this heavy, heavy yoke thinking, “I can handle it,” but before we know it, we’re trapped.
In his book Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Edward Welch said it this way: “The downward spiral of idolatry finally comes to rest at slavery. Idols originally promised freedom. The gods could be at your disposal, doing your bidding. They held out life, camaraderie, and pleasure; but they deliver slavery, ‘for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him’” (2 Peter 2:19) (Welch, p. 80).
And the saddest part of all: false gods demand sacrifices, and (count on it!) the ones we love end up being hurt the most in our worship of false gods. Let me say that again: the ones we love end up being hurt the most in our worship of false gods.
It was very literally true here in Psalm 106, verses 37 and 38: “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.”
Now ours might be a more figurative sacrificing, but make no mistake: the pain we inadvertently inflict on family and friends is very real and very hurtful. And according to this passage, even the demons get involved. This is serious, heavy, scary stuff!
Do you see why the apostle John, in a father-like, loving way, pled with his readers in the last verse of First John, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”?
The apostle Paul said it too: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry,” First Corinthians 10:14.
You may not know me from Adam, but I’ll plead with you, too. Don’t go there! If you find yourself flirting around on the other end of this spectrum, starting with the compromises, take it from someone who slid way further down that slope than he ever thought he would: it’s a trap! Look to Jesus! Get back to right worship. We’re going to talk about that in a minute, but heed these worship warnings; they’re there for our good.
III. God’s Response to Wrong Worship
This psalm also shows us, thirdly, God’s response to wrong worship, and because of time, I’m just going to point out a few verses and keep it brief.
In verses eight through eleven we see that God’s response to their rebellion by the Red Sea was to mercifully deliver them from Pharaoh and his army. Nothing about their attitude deserved this kindness, but in his sovereignty, God wanted to show his power more than he already had.
In verse 15, when they craved meat, God’s discipline actually included giving them what they were asking for (in the form of quail). And with it came this “wasting disease.”
Then in verses 17 and 18 we see that God responded to their jealousy by making the earth open up and swallow people, along with causing a fire. How’s that for dramatic?
God threatened to destroy them in verse 23, giving Moses the opportunity to foreshadow Christ as our mediator and wrath-averting Savior.
He disciplined them by not allowing that generation to enter the promised land. Verse 29, “He was provoked to anger, and he sent a plague among them.”
Now let me read verses 40 through 46, it sort of summarizes the whole book of Judges: “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power. Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity.”
Now listen to the grace of God described here, verse 44.
“Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.”
To summarize here, God responds to our idolatry in any number of ways, but always with a view to restoring the communion of our relationship with him and for the sake of his great name. His discipline of his children, Hebrews 12 tells us, is motivated by his love, like a father.. But He does respond; that’s the point. He cares. It hurts him when we slip into this wrong idolatry, this wrong worship. It is a big deal to God.
IV. Returning to Right Worship
Now let’s look now at number four: returning to right worship.
So if you’re stuck at any point on the idolatry spectrum, how do you stop? How do you get out from under that yoke you’re now enslaved to? I think this text, Psalm 106, gives us some important clues.
The first clue is at the end of verse 43 when it says that they “were brought low through their iniquity.” So it follows that the return to right worship is going to need to include turning away from iniquity. The theological term for this is repentance, the Greek word metanoia. It’s a change of mind that results in a change of behavior, turning away from iniquity.
Now, that turning away from sin is sometimes straightforward, but usually it’s not. Usually it’s painful, it’s a hard process. That’s why, secondly, the return to right worship needs to include crying out to God. We saw that already in verse 44: “Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry.”
This is not a moralistic, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps kind of theology. No! If you’re trapped, you need help from outside yourself. So cry out to God! That’s what this Psalm writer does. We see it also in verse 47, “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”
Ah! That’s right worship again. We want to give thanks! See, idolatrous hearts are not thankful hearts. They’re constantly discontented and restless. But true joy and true gratitude ought to mark our lives as Christians; that’s what we heard that last week.
"So we want to glory in your praise! Save us, O Lord!"
So, turn from iniquity, cry out to the Lord, develop a thankful heart…here’s another clue in this Psalm: the return to right worship includes the involvement of others.
I get that from the language in the whole psalm. It’s very corporate, it’s very group, body-kind of language. Obviously, this is a song written to be used as a song in corporate worship, but its message is one speaking of the importance of the body of God’s covenant people.
You’re never going to be able to extricate yourself from the snares, the traps, of idolatry on your own, because, just as you were created to always be worshipping something or someone, you were also created to grow in community.
All through the New Testament we see exhortations to “love one another,” to “live in harmony with one another,” to “comfort one another,” to “serve one another,” and so on.
Galatians 6:1-3 makes it clear. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
Self-deception is integral to idol worship. You can’t worship an idol without believing some kind of lie. So if you’re that deceived, it makes sense that you need help seeing what you don’t see. You have blind spots; let me put it that way.
It’s a cliché worth repeating here: don’t try to be a “Lone Ranger Christian.” Even the Lone Ranger had his trusted friend, Tonto!
So please reach out to the elders of the church, reach out to a godly, mature friend, reach out to a counselor, reach out to your small group, but DO reach out! Are we perfect at how we respond to these kinds of pleas for help? No way. No church is; no person is. But we can challenge each other to fix our eyes, not on ourselves, not on our sin, not on the desires and unmet longings we have, but on Jesus! Life is messy; we can try our best to love each other in the mess.
Jesus is perfect! Not only that, but our ultimate longings are fulfilled in him. So (this is the really wild thing about it) the very thing that we were hoping to find in this false god, wrongly, sinfully, is in a right way found in Christ. It’s really a wonderful thing. Don’t deny yourself the joy of confessing, forsaking, and repenting of sin and believing the gospel.
The last verse of this psalm contains one more clue in this return to right worship. It’s the word “Amen!” from which we can derive this principle: the return to right worship includes a right response to the word of God.
Verse 48: ”Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the Lord!”
What does Amen mean? It’s a lot more than a word we use when we’re closing a prayer to indicate we’re done praying. It literally means, “so be it,” and when we say Amen, we are saying, “Yes, Lord, I agree; may it be so.”
So this return to right worship needs to include an “Amen” attitude in me. I have to agree that what God says is true. Amen implies that his revealed word is faithful, it’s reliable.
So, as I conclude, my fear here is that I’ve blown through this psalm so fast that everything just whirred past and there’s no time to digest or absorb this. May I simply close by summarizing and asking you a few questions?
We looked at four things:
1. Right Worship, modeled for us in the beginning verses, and really in the ending verses of this psalm as well. Right worship includes praise, thanksgiving, a life of faith and obedience, supplication, and confession of sin.
2. Next, we examined five worship warnings that form a sort of downward progression.
- Sins of omission (forgetting, not remembering the things God has done)
- Desires gone awry (wanton cravings)
- Wrong attitudes, number three
- The exchange (worshipping the made things instead of the Maker)
- Bondage or slavery or being yoked in the service of a false god.
3. Third, we looked briefly at God’s responses to our idolatry, and we said his discipline of us is motivated by a passion for his own glory as well as a fatherly love for us.
4. And finally, the Return to Right Worship:
- It includes repentance, turning from the sin
- It includes crying out to God for help. So repentance and faith kind of go together; turn from my sin, cry out to God for help.
- It includes reaching out to others in the Body of Christ
- It includes a right response to the Word of God
Would you bow your head with me? We’ll pray in just a moment, but let me ask you this: What will you do in response to his word today? How is the Holy Spirit tugging on you right now? Are you trapped? Do you need help? Can you decide to talk to someone about it before you leave the building today? Hear me: you are not alone. All of us have experienced this wrong worship in one way or another. There is help, there is hope. Think of the goodness of God to give you these strong warnings in His word. They’re meant for your good. They’re meant to keep you from going over the cliff.
It occurs to me that all of what I’ve been saying this morning has been directed to the believer, to the child of God, to someone who has a relationship with him. But maybe you don’t really know him. According to God’s word, you’re already a slave to sin, and there’s nothing you can do about it in your own strength. The beauty of the gospel is that you can be freed by Jesus to worship him rightly. The path you’re on will only lead to more and more idol worship and eventually death and hell. But Christ is our beautiful savior who not only deserves our highest worship, but who also makes it possible. Trust him. Believe on him, make him your new, good master; you’ll be saved.
Father, I thank you for these warnings in your word. We are so quick to forget, we are so quick to let things slide, we are so quick to turn our eyes to created things. We’re so quick to have wrong perceptions of you, make these idols in our hearts, adopt the values of the world, and it all comes crashing in, and pretty soon we’re stuck.
So I do pray if there’s anyone in this room that you would work in their hearts, anyone who is stuck in this kind of wrong worship, this idolatry, whatever it might be, that you would give them the strength, the courage, to reach out, to say, “I need help,” and thank you for the help that there is in Christ, in your people, in your word. We love you, and we thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.