I have heard several people this week say that they are looking forward to the cooler weather that is coming in at the end of the week, and fall — and Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year — but giving thanks to God is something that we should do all year long. It should part of our prayer time every morning.
Our Psalm for tonight is a Psalm of thanksgiving and praise, and it teaches us some things we are to be grateful to God for — AND how we can praise Him for His goodness to us. We’ll read the whole Psalm later, but I want us to focus on :1,
“There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, and to You the vow will be performed.” (NASB)
Different translations render this verse in slightly different ways, but I translated this verse from Hebrew earlier this week, and here’s how it went, very literally:
“To YOU (and the YOU is emphatic) Silence, and praise in Zion, and to You will be completed vow.”
Now if you read the rest of Psalm 65, you see that Psalm 65 is a Psalm of praise and gratitude to God for His goodness to His people — especially:
— for forgiveness of sin (:3) “as for our transgressions, You forgive them”
— for drawing us near to Him and satisfying us in His presence (:4) “we will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house”
— for answered prayers (:5) “You answer us in righteousness O God”
— for creation (:6) “Who establishes the mountains by His strength”
— who stills the storms (:7) “Who stills the roaring of the seas”
— and then :9-13 are a song of praise for His goodness in provision: for rain, for the growth of crops, for bounty — it would be appropriate to use as a Thanksgiving Psalm.
So :1 is like a call to worship God for all the good things that the rest of this Psalm says that He gives His people. And as we look at what :1 tells us very literally, we find that it shows us three ways that we can praise God for His goodness to us:
I. SILENT AWE:
As I mentioned, the “to YOU” is emphatic. It is GOD who should be praised. HE is the source of all the good things that we have. It’s not “luck”; it’s not “what we deserve”; it’s not “karma;” it’s GOD! If you’re blessed, praise and thank HIM!
So how do we do that? The first thing this verse tells us is that we can worship Him with SILENT AWE.
It says “To YOU — “silence.” There is worship for God that is just still awe. There is nothing to be said. It is not that there is nothing there; it is rather that there is SO MUCH there; that it “takes our words away.”
Not long ago I saw someone who was just so thankful for what had been done for them, and they were just speechless. Now what was so odd was that this person was usually very talkative; but in this case they were just speechless; in awe.
And there is a kind of worship that is like that. Just still awe before the Lord.
It’s like Psalm 46:10 says: “Be still and know that I am God.”
That’s what this verse is talking about. This Hebrew word for “silence” means “silence, rest, still waiting, resignation.” It is just quiet trust before God.
There is a kind of worship that is very loud and vocal — and we’ll talk about that in a minute — but there is also a kind of worship that is still and quiet.
I think of Job, after all of his questioning of God, and God finally appears to Him in the whirlwind, saying, “Where were YOU when I laid the foundations of the world … when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted with joy … can you enter the springs of the sea … can you lead forth a constellation?” And so on, as God just revealed to Job His glory — and Job could only respond in Chapter 40: “I lay my hand on my mouth … I will not answer … I will add nothing more.” He could only respond with silent awe at the power and glory of God.
And that’s not just “Old Testament” either. In Revelation 1, when the glorious Lord Jesus appeared to John, Revelation 1:17 says that John said “I fell at His feet as a dead man.” Now contrast that with these people who talk about their so-called “visions of God,” where they are just chatty, and saying this or that casual thing to the Lord. Really? That’s not what John did — and if you remember, John knew Him pretty well. In fact I’d say He may well have been closer to Him than any other earthly man. He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was the one who was leaning on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper, whom Peter motioned to, to ask Jesus who was going to betray Him. He knew Him better than anyone — and yet when the glorious risen Christ appears, John fell at His feet like a dead man! That’s the kind of silent AWE this verse is talking about!
I think that often times, we aren’t very good at this. We often feel like we have to fill up every moment with chatter, or applause, or whatever — when sometimes the best worship is just silence — just “be still and know that He is God.”
There are times in worship when God has done something magnificent — sometimes at the end of a touching song, or a testimony of how God has done something special, and there is just a stillness in the air — some of you know what I am talking about — when that happens, it is a precious moment; we shouldn’t “break” that precious stillness with applause or talk; we should just savor it, and “be still and know that He is God;” we should worship Him with that still awe, and “let there be silence … before Him in Zion.”
II. VOCAL PRAISE:
:1 says “There will be silence before You, and PRAISE in Zion O God.”
The word “praise” here is “halal”, it means “praise, song of praise” — As contrasted to the silent awe of the first part of the verse, this is loud, vocal praise. We get our word “Hallelujah!” from it.
Brown, Driver, & Briggs, the venerable Hebrew lexicon, says that this word is related to the Arabic shouting of sacred formula. Many of us have either heard or read of the Muslim calls to prayer which are shouted all over the city so that everyone can hear and know it is time to face Mecca and pray — or we have heard of the Muslim cry “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great!” It is very loud, very public.
But the point is, this second means of praise is very different from the first. There will not only be silence and quiet trust, but also loud, vociferous praise to God! So to the question, which type of praise does God prefer, the answer is “Yes!” It’s like if you ask me: Do you prefer Cheryl’s chocolate chip cookies, or her oatmeal cookies best, I’d say YES! I love both! It’s the same way with praise to God. It is not a matter of which one is good, or which God prefers best. It tells us here, He prefers both! “There will be silence” before Him, and there will also be loud, vocal “praise.” And we should have both kinds in our churches as well. We might personally prefer one over the other, or be better at one or the other, but both are commended here in Psalm 65:1.
Years ago when I was pastoring my first church, I preached a message on how we are generally more exuberant at a football game than we are in church. Some of us just “sit on our thumbs” at church, but we are all fired up and yelling at the football game. And to some extent it shows where our passion really is. Now we just saw that ALL worship doesn’t have to be exuberant; there are times for quiet awe. But there should be some exuberance! In fact the Bible commands it.
— Psalm 46 says “Be still and know that I am God.” There are times for that.
— But Psalm 150 says: “Praise Him with loud cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals ….”
— Psalm 100:1 begins “SHOUT joyfully to the Lord, all the earth …”
— Psalm 66:1 says “SHOUT joyfully to God, all the earth, SING the glory of His name; make His praise glorious!”
So Psalm 65 says we can praise God with silent awe; and we can also praise Him with loud, vocal shouts and praise.
Now I’d say of these first two, that this more vocal type of praise is a little more “down our alley” here at Pleasant Ridge. And I think that’s good. In fact one of the things that drew me to PRBC was after I had first talked to the pulpit committee, I looked at the Pleasant Ridge Facebook page, and saw a video of our choir singing “We Will Remember”, and how exuberant and expressive everyone was when they were worshiping through that song; and I thought: “I would love to pastor a church where they are so passionate in their praise like that!” And it is still one of my favorite things about our church. We should be vocal in our praise. We should just make sure that we also still in awe before the majesty of the Lord as well.
And there is one more way of praising God found in Psalm 65:1:
III. ACTIVE DEEDS:
It says “There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God. And to You the VOW will be performed.”
Here we find a third means of praising God: not only with our silent awe and trust, not only with exuberant, vocal praise —but also with DEEDS that God is worthy of!
Literally this reads: “to You will be completed vow” — in other words, I will honor God by DOING for Him what I promised I would do.
I think of Jacob’s vow to God in Genesis 28. He had met God there at Bethel, and he made a commitment of his life to Him as his God. He said “YHWH will be my God. This stone which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” See, Jacob was making a commitment to YHWH as his God, and he said this rock where I met him is going to be a place of worship, and he vowed that he would give God a tithe of everything that He gave him. So how could Jacob express the genuineness of his worship for YHWH? By fulfilling those vows — by making that a place of worship, and by giving his tithe to God, just like he said he would do.
One good lesson for us here is that all worship does not consist of words only. In fact, some of our best worship does not involve words at all. Just silent awe honors God — and so do our ACTIONS! The way that we live; the way that we keep our commitments to God, is one of the best ways we demonstrate that we really worship Him. In fact, I think you can make the case that this 3rd means of worship is actually the most important. It’s one thing to worship God in quietness; or to be exuberant in the worship center — but it can be another thing entirely to live your LIFE in worship; to show by your actions and obedience — sometimes in very difficult areas of our lives — that we really love and worship God.
See, when we really follow Jesus, we follow Him as our “Lord & Savior.” “Savior” means that He forgives our sins. “Lord” means that is our Master; that we will do what He says. When you are saved, you are making a “vow” that He is your Lord & Master, and that you are to obey Him. And one of the best ways you demonstrate that you really worship Him, is by obeying Him.
— Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I say?”
— He said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Do you really worship God? Do you really love the Lord? It’s just like the old expression, “Talk is cheap.” It’s a whole lot easier to come to a church meeting, and get a good feeling, and be still, or sing loud songs, and say “amen”, or get all excited and shout — but it is another thing entirely to leave this place and live a LIFE that glorifies God. But that’s the kind of worship God is looking for.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Those words ought to ring in the ears of every one of us when we leave this place. All these types of worship are good, but perhaps the best is the way that we obey.
Many of us know the name of Lottie Moon, the famous missionary to China for whom our annual Christmas offering for mission is named. Perhaps fewer know that she fell in love with one of her college teachers, C.H. Toy, and for some time it looked like she would be married to him. But suddenly she broke it off. While we don’t know all the details, we do know she told someone that she and Toy had “religious differences.” And Toy was later fired at Southern Baptist Seminary for having liberal beliefs about the Bible. And we know that later in life someone has asked Lottie (who died of starvation as a single missionary who was identifying with the poor Chinese people) if she had ever been in love. She said “Yes — but God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could be no doubt as to the outcome.”
Did Lottie Moon worship God? Obviously. How do we know? We don’t have any video of what she did in the worship center! And we don’t need it — she SHOWED her worship for God, by her costly obedience — even giving up the man who was the love of her life, because he didn’t have the convictions towards God as he should. We don’t know how Lottie Moon sang, or prayed, but we know she worshiped God, by her obedience. She “fulfilled her vows” to Jesus as her real Lord.
And each of us needs to ask ourselves if we are doing that. Do you just come to church and SAY you love God — or do you also show it by your obedience?
— Do you show it by your obedience in getting up in the morning to worship Him?
— Do you show it by the way you obey in giving your tithe?
— Do you show like Lottie Moon did by obeying in even very costly, personal areas of your life?
God is worthy of that kind of costly obedience. In fact, Psalm 65:1 tells us that He is worthy of ALL THREE of these:
— He is worthy of quiet trust and awe
— He is worthy of our vocal shouts and songs of praise
— and He is worthy of our costly obedience as well.
Let’s spend some time in prayer, and recommit ourselves to giving God all the kinds of praise from us that He is worthy of:
READ all of Psalm 65
SONG: “Worthy of Worship”
— As we continue in prayer, spend some time like Psalm 65:1 talks about, just being silent before Him; think about His greatness; thank Him for His goodness; just “be still and know that He is God.”
— As you are still before Him, lay some area of your life before Him that you need to trust Him with. He is worthy of your trust in any area of your life, any concern that you may have.
— Ask God to help you praise Him publicly as you should …
— Is there an area of your life you have not been obeying Him in? Confess that to Him, and ask for His grace and strength to help you show how much you really love Him, by obeying Him.
— Today is “See You At The Pole” day, with prayer gatherings at local schools.
— Let’s each pray for at least one of our local schools
— Pray for the Principals in our church family: Karen Auton, Dillon Sain, Heather Hollifield
— We have so many teachers: pray for at least one of them
— Pray for the student you adopted for prayer this year
— God’s brought so many guests to our church in recent days: we had at least two more families visit Sunday. Let’s pray for God’s work and leadership in their lives:
— Pray for Greg Frizzell as he leads our upcoming “Deeper With God” Conference Oct. 15-16. Pray God would use it to purify our lives and draw us personally and as a church closer to Him.
— Let’s call out names of others on our hearts we want to pray for:
LET’S CLOSE together by singing about how God is worthy of all of the kinds of worship we can give Him: “You are worthy, Father, Creator …”