Psalm 26 1 Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. 2 Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; 3 for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. 4 I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites. 5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked. 6 I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, Lord, 7 proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds. 8 Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. 9 Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with those who are bloodthirsty, 10 in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes. 11 I lead a blameless life. Deliver me and be merciful to me.12 My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.
So, we are in the midst of a series called, “The Exam Questions” during which we are using David’s claims about himself in Psalm 26 to ask ourselves some hard questions, to ask ourselves if our feet stand on level ground, to see if we are truly trusting in the Lord and living in order to display Him to those around us. Two weeks ago we asked ourselves if we really trusted in the Lord. Last week we examined ourselves to see if we truly live different from the world. Today we are answering the third exam question: Do I worship with a pure and passionate heart?
If you have worshiped with us for any length of time you know that worship is one of our core values. Worship and the Word are the hallmarks of our corporate life, and we love to worship. In many ways, worship is our witness. Think about it. In what other setting would you sing songs together with large groups of people, all focused on one person week after week after week. In what other setting would you lift your hands in acknowledgment of that same person week after week? Where else would you join together with people on a repetitive basis to bow or to kneel in prayer to that same person. And in what other arena do you get together week after week with the same people to talk about the words and the life and the legacy of the same person? And I might add: It doesn’t get boring! It doesn’t get monotonous. Why? Because God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are always moving, always creating, always working, always doing something new that is worthy of adoration and praise. Worship gives us an opportunity to witness together to who God is and to what He can do. It’s awesome!
I’d like to offer a secondary text to help us begin to unpack what it means to worship with a pure and passionate heart. It is found in Psalm 84:
Psalm 84:1-12 1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young– a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. Selah
9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one. 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. 12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
Being a passionate worship isn’t something that just happens by osmosis or merely happens as time passes. It doesn’t even happen as we age physically and emotionally. Worshiping God passionately is the result of intention. It is the result of a pure desire to be with God and to connect with His manifest presence. Worshipers don’t just sit back and hope God wants to have a conversation or hope God wants to manifest His presence, but worshipers who are passionate about being with God will plan ahead, pray ahead, and bring something to the table when it comes to the worship experience.
How do we need to prepare to meet with God? What do we need to bring with us to the worship services? Verses 1-4 suggest we need to bring a passion, a desire for God when we meet together.
- In order to worship God with a passionate and pure heart we need to bring a yearning for His presence.
This Psalmist’s worship began in verse one with “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord.” Think of the loveliest place you have ever visited. I would have to say the state parks outside of Las Vegas are the loveliest places I have ever been. The color of the skies, the character of the rocks, the creative way the landscape is laid out, the massiveness of the whole thing—it’s just awesome. I can see why people travel there just to hike. There is something relaxing and releasing about being in the beauty God has created. We grow in our appreciation for who God is by being in the spaces He created that we haven’t found a way to alter!
The Psalmist here talked about the loveliness of the Temple of God. It was the place where God would manifest His presence to His people. The parts of the temple and the sacrifices offered there were to help people experience the holiness and the grace, love, and mercy of God. The Psalmist was attracted to the Temple because that is where God was. He wanted to be where God would speak and reveal His glory.
Today, we understand that God’s presence is available to us no matter where we are. That means, we don’t have to wait until Sunday when we gather to worship. Isn’t that awesome? Do we have that passionate desire to acknowledge God every day? To spend time with Him every day?
He went on to say in verse 2: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” That is intense. That is emotional. The Hebrew word for “cry” has the picture of a child who cries out when he or she is hungry. Have you seen an infant cry lately? Infants don’t just have tears. They don’t just have sounds coming from their mouths. Their whole body engages. Their whole being engages. They cry with their hands and legs in motion. When they cry their entire face scrunches up. It is a whole-body, whole-being experience. This is the way the Psalmist cried out to the Lord—with his whole being.
The person who wrote this Psalm was driven to be with God. From the inside out, he was compelled to worship God and to meet with Him. He was addicted to God’s presence in worship. He had to get to the Temple. He had to meet with God. It wasn’t optional. It was like breath to him, and it affected every part of who he was.
Listen, when your soul is invested in worship, when you are compelled from the inside of your being to worship the Lord, the rest of you will follow. Your mind will follow. Your mouth will follow. You hands will follow. Your knees will bow in adoration. Purity in worship starts with a yearning for God. Pure worship starts on the inside and passionate worship moves to the outside, and it all begins with a burning desire to be in the presence of God.
In verse 4 he says, “Blessed are those who dwell in your house. They are ever praising you.” Who was it that dwelt in the Temple? It was the priests, right? The Psalmist was envious of the priests who got to worship God at His altar for a living, so to speak. It was their job to worship the Lord continually, and from where the Psalmist sat, it was an awesome assignment to always be at worship.
God’s Word is clear that you and I are a Kingdom of Priests. We have each become a priest unto the Lord. 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Do you see it? Part of our duty as priests unto the Lord is to be about the business of worship. It is part of our calling. We are the ones who are regularly praising the Lord. How can we fan the flames of our praise? How can we prep our hearts to show our adoration and even our affection to God? Do we worship out of a yearning for God? When we ask ourselves about the purity of our worship, we need to ask, “Am I worshiping God out of a ritual routine, or am I worshiping God out of a love-relationship and desire for His presence?”
What is our motivation? What inspires our hearts? What ignites our love for Him? Is it not the cross? Is it not the fact that once we walked in darkness, but now we live as children of the light. Have we seen the goodness of God? Have we experienced His mercy? Have we received His forgiveness? Have we known His leading in our lives? Have we encountered His protection? Have we watched Him work a miracle in our lives? Have we “tasted and seen” the goodness of our God? Do we know He is in control? Can you remember a time God rescued you from calamity? To be in the presence of the One who died for you and loves you perfectly, does that not thrill your heart? Be motivated by all of that. Allow those realities to fan the flame of your desire to worship.
- In order to worship God with a passionate and pure heart we need to bring a spirit of anticipation and expectation. I know you expect to see certain people when you come to worship. I know you expect coffee to be available. I know you expect to be greeted with a smile. I know you expect our music to be at a certain level of excellence. I know you expect I will get up and say something I have prepared. But do you come expecting to meet with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Do you expect to come and experience something supernatural? Do you come expecting to receive something from God that you don’t experience in any other setting?
Look again at verse 5: BLESSED are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
When you come to worship, you need to come with an expectation that God wants to bless you. God is a blesser. It is in His nature to bless. He has blessings for us to receive. If we are open to all God wants to do, we cannot be in the presence of God and not walk away without a blessing.
In verse 5, the Psalmist is referring to the Jewish people who will make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the prescribed festivals. They were always high times in the worship and corporate life of the Israelite people. They had a great anticipation about their times with God. We need to come with the expectation that something incredible is going to happen as we gather for worship. We need to anticipate that God wants to say something and God wants to do something that will result in blessing and strength for us! “Blessed are those whose strength is in you.”
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
So, the Valley of Baca isn’t an actual place. It is a Hebrew word that means “balsam tree.” Now, that sounds kind of random unless you understand the properties of a balsam tree. The sap of a balsam tree oozes like tears. It’s simply a metaphor for the tough and tearful places of life. It’s that place where everything seems hopeless. It is that place where you feel helpless. The Hebrews called it the Valley of Baca. In our Western Culture we call it the “Pit of Despair.”
Here is the thing: The people of God, the worshipers of God, expect to travel through the Valley of Baca, but they don’t expect to stay there. I said, “The people of God, the worshipers of God, expect to travel through the Valley of Baca, but they don’t expect to stay there.” They are anticipating a move of God in their circumstances or in their physical body or emotional selves. They expect that even though they are walking through a valley of tears or a time of tears, that God will bring them times of refreshing and that they will increase in strength. Jewish pilgrims understood the trip to Jerusalem would be difficult just as our pilgrimage through life is difficult, but they made the trip with the expectation, with the anticipation that God would see them through and that it would be worth the trip when they got to the Temple to worship.
It’s tempting to quit walking by faith. It is easy to see why people move their affections to something that feels immediately more satisfying or rejuvenating when they enter the valley. But true worshipers will do whatever it takes to make worship a priority because they expect that the power of God will replenish and restore them. Worship rejuvenates us. Worshipers know that God moves in the atmosphere of worship. He manifests in the atmosphere of praise, so they bring great expectation or great faith with them to the worship experience.
There is something about worship and the expectation of what God will do in our lives in the place of worship that it is worth pushing on, it is worth pushing past some obstacles, it is worth pushing through some challenges in order to meet with Him because when we encounter God in worship, we are going to receive a blessing that will empower us and leave us stronger.
Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits or dwells in our praise. Can we give Him something to inhabit, Teays Valley Church of God? Oh, God can thrive anywhere, but for whatever reason, He reveals Himself in greater dimensions when people gather to praise Him. Maybe it isn’t that God is moving in greater dimensions, but it’s that worship becomes the vehicle which focuses us on the spiritual plane we need to be focused on in order to receive them. Whatever the case, we can expect that as we praise Him and as He dwells in that praise, that His power will be released. If you need a breakthrough in some area in your life, it may likely come as you worship the Lord. Psalm 100 tells us to enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praise. How about if we add expectation to that list?
We need to expect God to move as we worship Him. Look at these four stories:
Matthew 8:2-3 says, “And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Luke 24:52-53 says, “And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and
were continually in the temple praising and blessing God.”
John 9:38-39 says, “Then he said, “Lord, I believe!” And he worshiped Him and Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
Acts 16:14 says, “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
Do you see the common theme in all four of these passages? Something happened because someone worshiped. A leper worshiped Jesus and was healed. As people worshiped Jesus they were the recipients of great joy. In the third text, as people worshiped, Jesus spoke. In the fourth story, as Lydia worshiped God, He opened her heart.
How do we increase our expectancy? I believe we do it through
Psalm 84:5 says, Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their HEARTS on pilgrimage.
There will be times when we don’t feel like worshiping. If our hearts have been set on God fully, we will worship Him regardless of how we feel.
In order to worship God with a passionate and pure heart we need to commit our hearts fully to Him. II Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
There it is again. Those who set their hearts fully on the Lord will receive strength from God.
Ephesians 5:19 tells us to sing to God from our hearts. Listen, we cannot follow our hearts in any area of our lives, including the area of worship. Our hearts can lead us astray in an instant. No, we don’t need to follow our hearts. We need to lead our hearts. We need to train our hearts. We need to place our hearts on God.
We need to prepare our hearts to meet with God. We need to cultivate a love for God throughout the week by reading His Word and through prayer and private worship. God’s Word is a love letter to us. As we read it, we will grow more in love with Him. Talking to Him in prayer will cultivate an awareness of Him and how He wants to interact with us from day to day. Private worship will give us fuel to run on during the week. It will keep us from living self-centered and make sure we our hearts are centered on the things of God.
In Exodus 19, God told Moses to tell the people to get ready to meet with Him, to prepare to meet with Him, to consecrate themselves, to purify themselves. He wanted them ready to meet with Him before He descended on Mount Sanai.
Isaiah 29:13 says it is possible to honor God with our lips, but not our hearts. There is no power in lip-service. There is no spiritual progress in lip-service. It has to be a heart-thing.
What if our corporate worship wasn’t the place where we were trying to get right with God? What if we were already good to go with God when we got here? What if we have spent time on Saturday night, preparing our hearts, confessing any sin, and purposing in our hearts that when we get to worship, we will be “all-in” from the start of the service? What could God do? What could God do with a prepared people? What could God do in the midst of a people whose hearts were fully devoted to God? What could He do in a setting where He wasn’t spending all of the time weeding things out of our hearts?
Our passion for God, our yearning to be with Him, and our expectation or faith that He will move in our midst is in direct correlation to the condition of our hearts. In order for our hearts to be pure in worship, they have to be devoted to God every day. It would be ridiculous to think we could live for ourselves Monday through Saturday and then be able to experience God in power on Sundays when we meet together.
Think of being in a serious relationship with someone or being married to someone. If you only invested in that relationship one day a week, how strong would that connection be? How easy would the communication be? How could your relationship go to the next-level? We have to lead our hearts to God every day. During this season leading up to Easter I have been praying, “Lord, do a work in my heart, my mind, and my body.” I want to experience God in every dimension of my life. As I pray prayers like that, as I expose myself to the Word of God, my heart is being purified and prepared for worship.
Desire. Expectation. Devotion. Do we need to ramp ours up? Do we worship God with a pure and passionate heart?