May 19, 2020 by Bob Whitaker
Psalm 93-100 is a cluster of praise songs to God, Psalms that call the community together in worship. The English roots for our word worship come from two words. The first is weorth which means worthiness or honor. The second is scipe which means to create. Putting together those two words we might say that worship means to create honor or worthiness.
There are many definitions of worship but one of the most quoted comes from William Temple. “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.”
The Psalms of praise reflect a pattern of worship that includes all of the elements of that quote. The psalms also employ grand ideas and creative language to express the glory of God. In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer offers some directives related to prayer and praise which are a pathway to knowing God. He begins by asking a question: “How may we form a right idea of God’s greatness? The Bible teaches us two steps we must take. The first is to remove from our thoughts of God limits that would make him small. The second is to compare him with powers and forces which we regard as great.”
Notice how often this pattern is repeated in the Psalms. “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountains peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (95:5). In other words, God is the creator and sustainer of the earth from its highest point to its lowest depths. “The Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary” (96:5-6). Even the grand power of the heavens do not overshadow the majesty of God because he created them and they are his sanctuary. Furthermore, the heavens themselves and the whole earth are singing the praises of God. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord” (96:11-13).
At the edge of my backyard a forest begins which stretches for miles; it is part of the Sycamore Land Trust. As I look at the soft green leaves of spring in that forest and hear the rustle of their leaves I will remind myself that those fields are jubilant and everything in them; that the trees are singing for joy. It will remind me to join the chorus. I hope that today or tomorrow these words will remind you to join with all of creation in praising our creator.