Friday, October 25, 2019

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Psalm 22:3 is a verse many of us turn to, to help justify the degree of importance we place on music in church.

So much so, that we drag out a song for 10 minutes or more, songs that do not have 10 minutes’ worth of content, repeating choruses and verses, single lines, hooks, until we reach an emotional climax, which is interpreted as the presence of God entering the building.
It becomes a formula. Play the right song, with the right degree of dedication and passion, for the right amount of time, and God will “turn up”.

It reminds me of Elijah and the prophets of Baal from 1Kings 18.
“They shouted all day and even slashed themselves with swords, but there was no response.”

And in Luke 18, the Pharisee who had a long and involved prayer about himself, that he offered with great skill in God’s temple, yet he was not heard.

If we pay more careful attention to psalm 22 we actually see that it is the psalm that most closely prophesies Jesus suffering on the cross. The verse that states that God inhabits Israel’s praises may be translated as; "Israel praises the Holy God who is enthroned." The bulk of the psalm deals with the author being in the midst of evil. Being forsaken. In fact, those deep, deep words of Jesus on the cross, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” at the height of his sacrificial suffering for our sin, was not simply a cry of utter anguish as he bore the terrible sin of all mankind, but was also his quoting of this scripture, psalm 22, that he knew confirmed the reality of his key role in the salvation of mankind.

God does not need our praises to allow him to walk amongst us. Paul said he is not far from any one of us, and he was speaking to gentile unbelievers (Acts 17:27). The Tax collector in the temple did not even look up to heaven, he dared not, he simply beat his chest and confessed his need for mercy. It was not skilful or beautiful, but it was true, and God heard him, and granted him mercy, so much so that he went home justified.

I am a worship songwriter and a worship leader, I love many of the big songs, I long for the experience of hearing one of my songs sung by large congregations, I say this as confession, not because I think this is a good thing. But I am convinced that God is not honoured by techniques that are used to manipulate a crowd. And I believe that techniques are used deliberately in church for this effect. Many simply follow instruction and do only what they have simply grown up doing, it is part of their culture, others, like me, look on longingly, wishing my congregation experience would somehow transform into what I often seen on the worship videos online. But God cannot be manipulated. Even Job, in his suffering, realized his stupidity in trying to force an answer or action from God.

God is Holy. He is truly Holy. We are obliged, morally, and in every other way, to offer him all that we are, all that we have, all that we look forward to, our skills, our homes, our families, our relationships, our bodies, everything, as a gift of praise, recognizing that all that we have is from Him, and acknowledging all that He has done for us, not just in sending his dear Son, but even our day to day mercies, our being fed and housed and cared for, and our utter unworthiness, yet complete acceptance into his own precious family by the pouring out of his Spirit, the giving of his Son, and the resurrection that assures us that all of the promises he has made are true.

I realize this short word may offend some, even some I know and love.
I love music, I love my guitars, I struggle with all the trappings of music, in particular, the desire for recognition. I confess this with honesty.
But my heart is burdened with these thoughts.
May the Lord allow us to continue in fellowship.