Let Us Worship God

A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas on October 23, 2022.

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. (ESV) (Psalm 122).[1]

Of the many things we take for granted in the Christian life, worship is certainly one of the greatest, which is quite curious given the privilege we have been given. In his song of deliverance, David describes the Lord as “worthy to be praised” (2 Sam. 22:4), further confirmed by John’s revelation of the throne room of heaven, where those who cast their crowns before the Lord cry out, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God” (Rev. 4:11). If God is worthy of earthly and heavenly, universal and eternal, praise then worship is not only a necessity for all of creation but is a privilege of the people of God.

Privilege of Worship

Rightly does David confess, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” But David’s joy is not reclusive but inclusive, not private but public. Individual, private worship has its place. This is not it. David desires to worship him who is worthy with those who are not.

For this, he has been waiting with his brothers and companions. Their “feet”, he puts it poetically, “have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.” Personifying the locale of the Lord’s house, he announces their readiness, even anticipation to worship the Lord: “Let’s go to the house of God” (MSG).

As David went with his brethren to worship, so we have the same privilege every Lord’s Day. We worship not in but as the temple (2 Cor. 6:16), not on the seventh day, signifying creation’s completion, but on the first day of the week, worshiping as new creations through Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We worship the one, true God through the Spirit of the risen Christ. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20), not as a promise to “claim” out a statement of fact, not awaiting a head count or an invitation but by his indwelling spiritual presence in our worship as a sacred assembly (which is what the word “church” means).

But unlike David and his brethren, we have a privilege he only longed for. Though king of the nation, he was restricted to outside the curtain, apart from the holy, dwelling presence of the Lord. But on this side of the cross, the writer of Hebrews explains, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:19-22). Let this sink in: In Christ, you enjoy a privilege that a man after God’s own heart did not (1 Sam. 13:14). How then can we not exclaim too, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

Surely, this must be the heart attitude and exclamation of every child of God. But does it sound foreign to you? Perhaps a bit too zealous? After all, this was the man who danced before the ark of the covenant in only a linen ephod (2 Sam. 6:14). We can count on David for passion and exclamation points (!). But this is to miss the point of the privilege of worship. “In our time,” R.C. Sproul observes,

we have experienced a radical eclipse of God. …[It] hides the real character of God from His people. It has brought a profound loss of the sense of the holy, and with that, any sense of the gravity and seriousness of godly worship. …

[Consequently, we] fail to make a transition Sunday morning from the secular to the sacred, from the common to the uncommon, from the profane to the holy.[2]

One of the reasons for this “eclipse,” I believe, is that we have forsaken “the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb. 10:25 KJV) in Lord’s Day worship. Lord’s Day worship is one option among many, and it rarely wins in the multiple-choice contest of Sunday morning options. David’s fervor sounds foreign to ears that have grown deaf to the call to worship. May God have mercy upon the American church, sounding a Sunday morning wake up call to assemble for worship.

But shame will not open deaf ears to hear the church bells ringing. Only the grace of the gospel will do. And in it we see the privilege we have, leading us in gratitude to gather in worship. Yes! We gather in gratitude! When we assemble in worship we are getting to do and doing the very thing we were created to do with whom we were created to do it: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” Let us assemble singing, “Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 150:6). And let us cultivate a grateful heart that can pray:

            O LORD…

                        We rejoice in another Lord’s Day

                                    When we call off our minds from the cares of the world

                                    and attend upon thee without distraction…

                        We are going to the house of prayer,

                                    pour upon us the spirit of grace and supplication;

                        we are going to the house of praise,

                                    awaken in us every grateful and cheerful emotion;

                        we are going to the house of instruction,

                                    give testimony to the Word preached,

                                                and glorify it in the hearts of all who hear…[3]

Beloved, we enjoy a high privilege indeed: Let us worship God!

Place of Worship

In considering the privilege we have to worship, we can’t miss David’s emphasis of place. As if on his way to the House of the Lord, David begins to commentate not on the tabernacle but on the city of Jerusalem. For David, place and praise are unequivocally yoked. By God’s design, Jerusalem is the capital city of a nation consisting of his chosen people. But it is more than a city; it is the designated place of assembly, the locale of the house of the Lord.

Fittingly, David describes Jerusalem as “a city that is bound firmly together,” a poetic expression meaning it “is a city designed to accommodate an assembly” (NET). And so the children of Israel come, tribe by tribe, assembling in Jerusalem, precisely as God decreed. Three times a year, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorating the exodus, at the Feast of Weeks commemorating the conquest, and at the Feast of Booths commemorating the Lord’s continued care, men representing their families and tribes would bring sacrifices in worship (Deut. 16:16), giving thanks “to the name of the LORD.” For, the Lord’s “name” signifies his blessing and protection as well as “the solemn guarantee by covenant that he will fulfill all of his promises” (Longman, 135).

David then adds that Jerusalem is the location of “the thrones of judgment,” specifically “the thrones of the house of David.” To American ears this sounds odd, linking the judicial with the spiritual but we must remember that in the covenanted kingdom of Israel there was no separation of church and state. The civil, political, and religious offices were centered in Jerusalem. As one commentator explains, “people looked to [Jerusalem] for justice. It was to be the place where truth came to the forefront of all disputes and the king meted out just and equitable rulings” (Dodson, 45). As David’s son Solomon would pray,

                        Give the king your justice, O God,

                                    and your righteousness to the royal son!

                        May he judge your people with righteousness,

                                    and your poor with justice!

                        (Ps. 72:1-2).

But we must be careful in our consideration of David’s Jerusalem. Every earthly place has its limits. When Jesus traveled to Jerusalem, he did not rejoice but wept, knowing its imminent destruction (Lk. 19:41-44), and lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken” (Lk. 13:34-35a). For, Israel, its capitol city, and its house of worship were pointing to something greater and global, transcending Jerusalem’s city limits. As Jesus revealed to the woman at the well, “the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. …the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him (John 4:21, 23).

As the Father sought, so we were found according to his sovereign grace, calling us not to trek to Jerusalem but to assemble everywhere and in every place by his Spirit. For, the New Covenant place of worship is where we assemble, as “the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16), not built upon the rocky temple mound of Jerusalem but “on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-21). Rightly did the Puritans call their church buildings “meeting houses,”[4] for the church consists of those who profess faith in Christ and their children,[5] “bound firmly together,” assembling locally yet comprised of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Looking back to David’s Jerusalem, Matthew Henry says, “It was a type of the gospel-church, which is compact together in holy love and Christian communion, so that it is all as one city.”[6] This certainly echoes what the apostle John saw, and what we will witness in the new heaven and earth, in terms descriptive of the church: “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). In realization of who we are and in anticipation of what awaits us, every Lord’s Day we assemble and ascend corporately, as the church militant unites with the church triumphant offering up our sacrifice of praise to God” (Heb. 13:15). In our worship, there is a foretaste of heaven. Beloved, this is the place of worship: Let us worship God!

Prayer of Worship

It is not coincidental that David follows his description of justice in Jerusalem with a command to pray for her peace, as justice and peace unite in the worship of God. As the “thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David,” so the king commands: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!” The Hebrew word translated “peace” (shalom) means more than merely the absence of conflict but connotes a holistic well-being. In the case of Jerusalem, it is a civil, political, and religious peace, enjoyed according to God’s favor, pointing toward the perfect justice of God satisfied in the cross of Christ and the peace with God enjoyed within his eternal kingdom.

You will note in the ESV translation of this psalm that quotation marks are inserted following David’s command to pray, as if to say, pray like this for Jerusalem: Pray for the security of those who love it; Pray that it will be a peaceful and secure place. Employing metaphor, David points to Jerusalem’s emblems of security: her wall and citadels. Such is the petition for her peace: “within your walls,” “within your towers,” “within you.” It is “within,” not without, that peace and security are enjoyed.

In a sense, we hear an echo of David’s zeal when Jesus drove out the money-changers from the temple, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matt. 21:13). John says that his disciples remembered, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17), and so it did. For, the temple and Jerusalem pointed to something greater than their temporal location. As the place of worship became one of spirit and truth, so all true worshipers are called the house of prayer, a place of praise.

When we assemble in worship, we do so presenting our petitions and singing our praises to the Lord our God. There is a time and place for private prayer, of course, but when we assemble we pray collectively, corporately: “I” becomes “we,” “me” becomes “us.” King David’s command foreshadows King Jesus’s command, “Pray then like this,” in which we are taught to praise and petition “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9) together, as Christ’s church, for in it we enjoy the peace and security of the Lord’s presence.

And so we sing:

            Now with joyful exultation

            let us sing to God our praise;

            to the rock of our salvation

            loud hosannas let us raise.

            Thankful tribute gladly bringing,

            let us come before him now,

            and, with psalms his praises singing,

            joyful in his presence bow. (Ps. 95)

Every Lord’s Day we gather together in worship, to bow before him in his presence. We assemble not in but as a house of prayer, praising him who is worthy of our praise. This is our privilege in this place. Let us bow our heads in prayer, for we are in his presence, Beloved: Let us worship God!

[1] Unless referenced otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001).

[2] R.C. Sproul, A Taste of Heaven (Lake Mary: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2006) 11.

[3] Arthur Bennett, Ed., The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 378-9.

[4] Derek W.H. Thomas, Let Us Worship God (Sanford: Ligonier Ministries, 2021), 9.

[5] “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God; of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms 25.2 (Lawrenceville: Christian Education & Publications, 2007), 124-5.

[6] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, ed. Leslie F. Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), 716.

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