From the remotest jungle in Africa or the Amazon, to the most isolated island in the Pacific, every culture that has ever been discovered has worshiped. They have never found a civilization in which the people didn’t worship someone or something. Which shows that Man’s heart was made to worship something, even when it’s misguided, or when we don’t know what or how to worship; we know we are supposed to be worshiping something.
Last Sunday we saw how Jacob made a real, personal, commitment of his life to Yahweh, the God of the Bible, as his God. And we saw that when he did, he showed it in a couple of ways: he made a commitment to give God back a tenth of all that He gave him. And he worshiped Him. We saw that when you really come to know the Lord, you worship Him.
But someone might ask: “But HOW do I worship Him?” And that’s not a bad question. You’d like to think that we just all instinctively know how to worship; but the problem is, our sin has distorted our relationship with God, and we have to a great extent lost our ability to worship the way we should. So God gave us His word, to show us the way back to Him — first, by having our sins forgiven through Christ, so that we CAN come back to Him. And then in a number of places in His word He shows us just HOW we should worship Him once we are reconciled to Him in Christ. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, that’s the first thing you’ve got to do, in order to be able to worship. You can’t begin to worship God until you do — your sin is still in the way. But if you DO know Jesus as your Savior, then you can learn from this passage today, several ways to worship God:
“I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1-2)
Here we find four distinctive ways that God’s people can worship Him:
I. THANK God.
“I will GIVE THANKS to the Lord”
The KJV uses the word “praise”; most other translations say “give thanks.” The Hebrew word means to “acknowledge God” for what He has done; thus many translations render it “give thanks.” This same word is used in Psalm 100:4, where the KJV translates it “be thankful unto Him.” So it means to acknowledge God; to be thankful to Him for who He is and what He has done for us.
Thanking God as a means of worship is commanded over and over again in scripture:
— Psalm 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”
— Psalm 136:1 “Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
— Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
— Ephesians 5:20 “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.”
— I Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
And these are just the tip of the iceberg; there are dozens of verses which tell us to worship God by giving thanks. One reason why giving thanks is so important, is that it helps us to elevate God over our circumstances. See, most people are only as happy as their circumstances dictate (as we’ll see in just a minute). But when we know the Lord, we always have something we can Him thanks for, and worship Him.
If you don’t think so, you might be challenged by the true story of Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie:
Discovering their concentration camp was swarming with lice, Corrie wailed: “‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place?’’
‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.
‘Corrie!’ She said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer … In the Bible this morning … “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” … That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances”! That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!
I stared at her, then looked around me at the dark, foul-aired room. ‘Such as?’ I said.
‘Such as being assigned here together.’
I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’
‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’
I looked down at the Bible. ‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’
‘Yes,’ said Betsie. ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ She prodded.
‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.’
‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for —’
The fleas! That was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’
‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. ‘It doesn’t say, “in pleasant circumstances.” Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.’
And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.” (HIDING PLACE, TEN BOOM, p. 209-210)
Now that may sound almost a little bit silly, but by looking for something to thank God for in every situation, they were worshiping God, by elevating HIM over their situation. They were saying in effect: God is greater — even than this concentration camp — and He has given us things to give thanks for, even here. It is one of the greatest ways we can worship God: THANK HIM — even in our most dire circumstances.
And the thing is, if you are a Christian, you always DO have something to give God thanks for, even in your worst situations here on earth. If you know Jesus as your Lord & Savior, Ephesians 1:3 says you have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” The rest of Ephesians 1 goes on to list some of those blessings: forgiveness of sin; adoption into the family of God; the knowledge of His will; the Holy Spirit in our heart; an imperishable inheritance in heaven. And the thing about those blessings is, they don’t change with our circumstances. You can literally always give thanks for them, no matter what your earthly situation may be.
And it is not like we need some specialized “training seminar” on how to thank God. The smallest child knows how to do that: just thank God for what He has done for you, and for the blessings He has given you in Christ. How can you worship? One of the very best ways is to give Him thanks. Start the day with it (I know a sweet man in Texas who has a commitment that his feet will not hit the floor in the morning, until he has first given God thanks for 10 things — not a bad plan!) and then continue to worship Him all through the day, in every situation, as you give thanks to Him.
II. TELL Others About God.
“I will TELL of all Your wonders”
Another way to worship God is to tell other people about the things God has done: “I will tell of all Your wonders.” Is TELLING other people really “worship? It IS. Telling other people what someone has done can be one of the highest forms of praise. We do this all the time: we praise people indirectly, not by speaking to THEM necessarily, but by telling others about what they’ve done.
We see this all the time on Facebook: yesterday our daughter Libby told about how her husband Josh took the baby on a backpack and watched all the girls so that she could go out and get her hair done. She was praising him, by telling others. Our church secretary, Mrs. Jane, had surgery over a week ago, and she put up a post on Facebook saying that she was feeling really well. Dewie Phipps said, the real question is, what kind of nurse is MARK being! And Jane said “He’s the best”! She was praising Mark by telling other people what a good helper he was. We do things like that all the time: one means of praising someone, is by telling other people about what they have done.
And we should do the same thing with the Lord. As we have seen, one way to worship Him is by thanking Him personally. But we can also worship Him by telling other people about what He has done for us.
I have to admit I was not just real thrilled when Alabama won yet another national championship in football last month. But I DID love it when the freshman quarterback who came in to win the game, said during the post-game interview on national television: “First and foremost, I’d just like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With him, all things are possible. That is what happened tonight.” He told the whole nation that Jesus is the One who enabled him to do what he did. That was an act of worship — telling other people what the Lord had done for him.
Now here’s the thing: not too many of us get that kind of “big” opportunity to share our faith. I’ve never been on national television; probably not too many of us here ever have — or ever will. But we need to realize, we don’t have to be on national television to share our faith. Share your faith where you ARE! Tell people about the good things God has done for you.
Mark Coffey came by the office the other day, and he talked about how he was doing his daily Bible reading in the morning, in Psalms, and how God gave him a specific word that he needed for that day. See, that was an act of worship — telling somebody something good that God had done for him.
God gives us opportunities every day to give Him credit and tell people what that He has done for us — and especially the greatest thing that He has done for us: that Jesus died on the cross for us, so that we can be forgiven and worship Him in heaven forever.
Are you doing that? I think a good question to ask yourself is: When is the last time you told someone outside of this church building, something that God has done for you? If it’s been a while, would you ask God this morning, for an opportunity to do that, this week? It will be one of the best acts of “worship” you can do — “tell of all His wonders.”
III. SING to God.
“I will SING PRAISE to Your name.”
One of the best ways to worship God is to sing to Him. There are multiple commands in scripture for God’s people to sing to Him:
— Exodus 15:21 says “Sing to the LORD for He is highly exalted.”
— Psalm 9:11 signsays “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion.”
— Psalm 47:6-7 “Sing praises to our God, sing praises. Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is King over all the earth. Sing praises with a skillful Psalm.” FIVE TIMES just in that one short passage it commands us to worship God by singing to Him.
Singing is one of the most important means we have of worshiping God. This is why virtually every Christian church takes a significant portion of our service for singing. Singing is worship — IF we are singing to the Lord, which is important.
See, we should see singing as a prayer: David says here, “I will sing PRAISE to YOUR NAME.” So he’s not “just singing.” He is singing PRAISE, and he is singing it TO GOD. This is SO important. We need to understand, that when we sing here in our services, it is not just a “sing-a-long” time. We are singing TO GOD. HE is our audience of one.
In the 1800’s Mark Twain took a trip to Europe, and wrote about it in his book, A Tramp Abroad. In it he writes:
“The King of Bavaria is a poet — and has a poet’s eccentricities — with the advantage over all other poets of being able to gratify them, no matter what form they may take. He is fond of the opera, but not fond of sitting in the presence of an audience; therefore, it has sometimes occurred, in Munich, that when an opera has been concluded and the players were getting off their paint and finery, a command has come to them to get their paint and finery on again. Presently the King would arrive, solitary and alone, and the players would begin at the beginning and do the entire opera over again with only that one individual in the vast solemn theater for audience. … The King was sole audience.”(A Tramp Abroad, p. 54)
Folks, when I read that a few weeks ago, I thought: “THAT is exactly what our worship is to be.” The KING is our sole audience. I think this is one of the aspects of worship that is missing for many people:
— we are not “just singing”; we are singing TO GOD!
— Don’t sing for the person in front of you;
— Don’t sing for Jim;
— Don’t sing for the pleasure of hearing yourself sing;
SING TO THE LORD! Our singing is to be VERTICAL. We are singing to the Lord. Singing to the Lord is a prayer; singing to the Lord is worship.
And just like we talked about last week, if you are really worshiping God by singing, you won’t just do it in this building. You’ll worship Him by singing wherever you are, all through the day.
One of the best times to sing to Him is in your morning prayer time. I usually start my quiet time with a Psalm, and then I’ll sing a song that the Psalm reminded me of, and then I’ll spend some time giving thanks. That is a great way to start your quiet time with praise, just like God commands us. One of the Psalms we read this week talked about how God is holy, and so after I read that Psalm, I sang, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, and then a contemporary song that was on the radio a couple of years ago called “Holy”, and I worshiped God with the Psalm, and singing those songs to Him.
You can sing songs that you’ve learned in church; or I know a lot of people who use hymnals in their devotions to sing. Sometimes I’ll pull the hymnal off my shelf to get the words to a worship song to sing. My wife Cheryl saves songs to her iPhone and she’ll play it and sing with it each morning as part of her prayer time. That’s not “cheating.” God wants us to sing to Him. Sing in your morning prayer time.
Sing in your car with KLOVE or 106.9 or one of the other Christian stations. Sing our choir songs with the PRBC app. Sing without anything; just songs that are on your heart. Ephesians 5 says that when we are filled with the Spirit we will sing “songs and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”
We need to learn that SINGING IS PRAYER. And singing is one of the best ways to worship — IF you are purposefully singing to the Lord like David says here: “I will sing praise to Your name.”
IV. Be HAPPY in God.
“I will Be GLAD and EXULT in You.”
This one is a little different. It is not so much something we “do” as much as it is something we “are”. It is a state of being satisfied in The Lord: “I will be glad and exult IN YOU.” When God’s people are happy in Him, it is one of the best expressions of worship — being happy in God Himself, and not in our circumstances!
This week we read one of my favorite verses, Psalm 4:7, where David says, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound.”
What David is talking about there, is that most people’s “gladness” depends on their circumstances. He says a lot of people are really glad “when their grain and new wine abound” — in other words, when their circumstances are good, and they have a lot to eat and drink, then they’re happy. But that is a shallow kind of happiness that is based entirely on their circumstances. With that kind of “happiness”, you’re only happy as long as you’ve got all that stuff and things are going well for you.
But David says to God: “YOU have put a gladness in my heart that is MORE than when their grain and new wine abound.” In other words, he says I have a happiness, a joy, that is not just based on circumstances. It is a happiness that is based on his relationship with God. David says here: “I will be glad and exult IN YOU.” His happiness is found in God Himself.
Habakkuk the prophet knew this kind of joy in God. The Lord had given him a vision of the judgment that was coming on the land because of the people’s sin against God. In Habakkuk 3:16-18 he said:
I heard and my inward parts trembled, At the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones, And in my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
Though the fig tree should not blossom, And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail, And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold, And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Despite the hard times that were coming on the land because of their sin, Habakkuk said he could still find joy in those circumstances, in God Himself: “Yet I will exult in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”
Folks, I think Christians in America in this 21st century will do well to learn the lesson of Habakkuk. Judgment is going to come upon our land too, for our sin against God: for 60 million children slaughtered in abortion; for rampant immorality; for disregarding God and His word. There is coming a day of judgment in our land, when we will not be able to rejoice in our new cars, or our comfortable homes, or our booming economy, or in the prosperity of our businesses — because all that will be gone. And just like Habakkuk, we’ve got to learn to find our joy NOT in these “things,” but in GOD HIMSELF: that He is our God; that like Psalm 17:15 we read this week, “I will be satisfied with His likeness when I awake.” We need to learn to be glad IN HIM alone.
Hudson Taylor, who started the mission to China in the 1800’s, at one point found himself short of both funds and workers. And yet he wrote: “But the Lord … makes our hearts so very glad in Himself — not Himself plus a bank balance — that I have never known greater freedom from care and anxiety.”
He said his joy was in GOD — not “God plus a bank balance.” Just in God alone. That’s a good word for us today. Let’s worship GOD. Let’s find our joy in GOD.
— Not “God plus your bank balance.”
— Not God plus your nice home.
— Not God plus your family.
— Not God plus your successful career.
Not God plus anything else. GOD and God alone. “I will be glad and exult IN YOU.”
Later in his life Hudson Taylor was at home in England on what was supposed to be a temporary furlough, and he was seriously injured in a fall, and was paralyzed. His biographer wrote: “Laid aside in the prime of life, he could only lie in that upstairs room, conscious of all there was to be done; of all that was not being attended to — lie there and rejoice in God.”
I got a little taste of that, when I was sick with POTS, and could only lie there; I couldn’t go to worship. Sometimes I couldn’t even read or play music or sing out loud. But even then I could lay there in the dark and quote a Psalm, and sing quietly to Him in my heart, and worship Him alone.
You know, sometimes your best act of worship may not involve “doing” anything at all; it may be just lying there and rejoicing IN GOD Himself. Like Psalm 46:10 says: “Be still and know that I am God.”
It may be that God will allow you to be deprived of some “things” you thought you really needed to make you happy; so that you’ll discover that HE is all you really need. So that you can learn to say to Him like David did in Psalm 4, “You have put a gladness in my heart that is more than when their grain and new wine abound.” So that you’ll discover that it may not be anything you “say” or “do” but just being glad IN HIM, that is the greatest act of worship you’ll ever have!
Let’s bow our heads together …
As we think about these 4 acts of worship in Psalm 9, would you let God’s Spirit search your heart this morning: which of these is your life characterized by?
— Are you giving thanks to God — to start your day in prayer; all through the day in every situation?
— Are you praising God by telling other people the good things He’s done for you? If you have not been doing that, would you ask Him right now to give you some opportunities this week?
— Are you singing to God? Is HE the One you’re singing to when you come in this room? Or do you need to ask forgiveness because you’ve just been going through the motions; you haven’t really been singing to HIM. Are you singing in your own quiet time; in your car; humming in your heart and worshiping Him through the day?
— And are you worshiping Him by finding your joy in HIM, not just in your bank account, or your pleasant circumstances?
— If you aren’t really doing any of these things, you need to ask yourself if God is really the Lord of your life. Your commitment today needs to be to repent: to turn back from your sin, receive the forgiveness Jesus bought you on the cross, and really commit your life to Him today …