Worship and the Word, Part 4
The 19th Psalm describes several attributes of God's Word, and sheds light on the important relationship between the Word and worship. In this series of articles, we've looked at the importance of anchoring our worship in the truths of Scripture. Last week we saw the Word as God's sure testimony and how it makes wise even simple people like us.
Let's continue our journey through this psalm. Verse 8 says, "The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." The word "precept" refers to directions, orders, or instructions. And this verse asserts that the instructions of the Lord are right, meaning they are straight and true. The Word of God, in other words, is our moral plumb line.
What is the result of embracing the right precepts of the Word? Hearts rejoice! Everyone wants a joyful heart, but how many know that Scripture is the place to look for it?
For a few years, I was pastor of a newly planted church with very few musicians. An affiliated church would lend us a worship leader most Sundays, but the overall worship experience lacked that vibrant joy I was accustomed to. I remember thinking that what we needed was a drummer. Someone to add a groove, a sense of rhythm. That would produce the joy I was looking for!
But instruments don't bring joy. A change in musical style won't do it. It's wonderful to have talented musicians in a church. Their gifts may even serve to encourage people to express themselves in worship more freely, but ultimately what brings real joy is the truth of God's Word.
The reason the Bible produces joy is not because it speaks to our felt needs. The Bible does, of course, address man's needs, but man is not its focus. The Bible is not a self-help manual designed to boost self-esteem and make life fulfilling. Neither is it a book of virtues full of stories from which we might draw principles for a happy life. Scripture produces joy not because it draws our eyes inward, but because it points us to God.
The purpose of the Bible is to reveal God and the gospel. The Old Testament points forward to the coming Messiah who would save God's people from their sins, and the New Testament proclaims the gospel, looks forward to the return of Christ, and explains what the gospel has done for us. Simply, the Bible is about the gospel and THIS truth is our great source of deep and lasting joy.
So why does this verse begin with a reference to the precepts of God? Doesn't that mean law, and isn't the law contrary to the gospel?
Actually, the law is an indispensable backdrop to the gospel. The precepts of the Lord reveal the holiness and perfection of God. They also remind us of how far short we fall. And, they remind us that God's wrath and judgment awaits those who fail to live up to His holy standards. (Not much joy in that.)
But Scripture also reveals the gloriously good news that God, in mercy, sent his own Son to die in our place-the innocent for the guilty. Because of this, people can be made right with God, having faith in Christ as our Substitute and Savior. This is where the rejoicing comes from. Nothing inspires more joy in the heart than the freedom of forgiveness. And the gospel of forgiveness is the core message of God's Word.
Are you experiencing rich, abiding joy as you worship? If not, don't look to the style of music, the talent of the musicians, or the gifting of the worship leader. Bathe your worship in scriptural truth and allow the precepts of the Lord to rejoice your heart.
This article is based on a message Craig gave at Sovereign Grace's A Passion for the Glory of God worship conference. You can order the audio product from the Sovereign Grace Store.
The outlines for many of these conference messages are on the Sovereign Grace website.
Are you interested in another tool for Scripture memory? Try Mark Altrogge's Hide the Word series of Scriptures set to mini-songs. You can order these from the Sovereign Grace Store.
Craig Cabaniss is Senior Pastor of Grace Church in San Diego