Monday, 15 June 2015 10:08

Wholehearted Worship In Praise To God

Written by
Wholehearted worship in praise to God, what does that look like? Isn't that an important and relevant question, especially also in our day? Furthermore, it's a question we can answer from our text, II Chronicles 29-31. And as we start, in this second message in our series on King Hezekiah, just a word about I & II Chronicles as books in the Bible. They are like a revised updated version of some of the history of Israel as given in1 & II Samuel and I & II Kings. Most scholars believe I & II Chronicles were compiled by Ezra and that he wrote it to be read and guided by, especially for the post-exilic generation of the Jews, those who returned from Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem as told to us in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and Malachi. What is noteworthy about this all is the clear emphasis in I & II Chronicles on the true and faithful worship of God and the upholding of the line of the kings of Judah as sons of King David. I & II Kings focuses much more on political and military matters in the history of Israel and Judah, whereas the two books of Chronicles emphasizes much more living in true devotion and worship before God and how that counts above everything else in all of life. This was a key point for Hezekiah. But now the author of Chronicles, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, surely reinforces the point, stressing for his generation and all up and coming generations how crucial that we worship the LORD, the one true God in spirit and truth. We can say what King Hezekiah was in his successes politically and militarily and economically was directly related to his being diligent above everything else in pursuing and restoring the true worship of God in Judah, and getting rid of all the false and idol worship in the land. Who and how we worship always has direct influence on how we live and what we live for. How blessed our lives become before God and our neighbor when we have this matter of worship straight and are doing it. To help us with that, going through chapters 29-31 of II Chronicles, let us see from Hezekiah what wholehearted worship to God’s praise means. For one, it means eager worship. Where do we get the idea Hezekiah worshipped eagerly? Just listen to II Chronicles 29:20. The setting is Hezekiah had called the priests and Levites to open the temple again after his father, wicked King Ahaz, had boarded it up and closed the doors. And they were to clean it all out, getting rid of the idol trash and trinkets in there and to sanctify the instruments for worship. It took more than two full weeks to clean it all up and make the house of God again ready for worship, and when it was all finished, what do we read in vs. 20? “Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord.” That little phrase, “rose early” speaks volumes of him being most eager for the true worship of God. In Hezekiah’s case that true worship of God hadn’t taken place possibly for decades, years and years. I imagine Hezekiah almost running to meet for true worship, and being so thankful the temple doors were open again, and praying as he went: Lord, please bless us as we seek again to worship You in spirit and truth. Bless all involved and may Your Name be praised, God of our salvation, Lord God of hosts! Do you identify with worshipping God eagerly, wherever you worship? Do you come to God’s house with eager and even holy happy anticipation of meeting in a special way with God and His people? What eagerness we see in our world with major sports competitions in hockey, baseball, basketball, golf, and so on. But surely that much and so much more eagerness ought to be demonstrated in the far more significant matter of the true worship of God and every detail of such worship services. Are you eager to go to church for worship? Wholehearted worship involves eager worship. Will you be convicted and challenged by this first point? Notice a second detail of wholehearted worship of God that just jumps out from the text in II Chronicles 29:21ff. Wholehearted worship is always also repentant worship before God. The text tells about many offerings of animals sacrificed as sin offerings and burnt offerings before the Lord. King Hezekiah led the people in confession of grievous sins and sinfulness before God and we are told in vs. 34: “the priests were too few, so that they could not flay [skin and cut up] all the burnt offerings” given in humble repentant worship and devotion to the Lord. We learn too that even in their restored worship there were aspects of it not quite in order especially with the Passover celebration as told in II Chronicles 30:17-20. And there was reason to ask forgiveness even for their sins in worship, which pardon the LORD gave as stated in vs. 20. Do we have any idea how much we can be guilty of sin even in our most holy activities? Do you and I go to church always with a repentant heart before the Lord? Isn’t there endless reasons for us to be repentant every day and every week and Sunday again? Who of us is not guilty of sin and shortcoming in thought, word, and deed, more than we can ever tell or know even, before the all-knowing all-seeing infinitely Holy God? Wholehearted worship to God’s praise is repeatedly repentant worship before the LORD. Aren’t there reasons for the prayer: LORD, revive us in wholehearted worship of You in our times, worship that is eager and repentant before You. In connection with this point, notice next how wholehearted worship and praise to God is God-directed and Christ-focused worship. We read of countless offerings given which all were in view of the promised Saviour from all sin and His once for all sacrifice for sin with the shedding of His blood on the cross of Calvary. The blood of animals could never atone for sin. But these sacrifices pointed always and again to the promised Messiah with whom can be found plenteous remission of all sin and full redemption by God Triune now and forevermore even for the chief of sinners who comes in repentance and faith before the Lord. True worship is all about exalting God as Creator God and God of providence and God of our salvation, the one from Whom all blessings for good flow for us in and through Jesus Christ the Lord, the great Son of David. He is the One who the people in Hezekiah’s time were still looking to come as promised and Whom we today may look back to as having already come in and with Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and now risen and forever exalted Redeemer King over all. How good and gracious to be reminded of this, namely, that true worship is especially and essentially God-focused, Christ-centered, Holy Spirt dependent worship. How much worship today is more self-directed and man-honoring. The front of the church then also becomes architecturally designed to be as a stage for all kinds of man-pleasing performances rather than for the pulpit front and center for the proclamation of God’s word. The book of Chronicles for the post-exilic Jews was like an updated revision of the earlier books with the earnest point to be sure to be particularly God-focused and Messiah-minded in the worship of the Lord or it is not true worship at all. It is striking in this regard how often in II Chronicles 29-31 there is stated about worship that they wanted to worship in a God-honoring way, not according to their ideas but as commanded by Moses and David, and Gad, the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet, ….[and was] the commandment of the Lord by the prophets [II Chronicles 29:25]. God help us especially also in our times not to give in to the whims and ways of the world in worship but to be and remain faithful in true worship distinguishing aright, always with God’s word as our guide, what that means and includes and what it doesn’t mean too. Another detail of such wholehearted worship you can’t miss as you read about the restored and renewed worship in King Hezekiah’s time is that such worship of the one true God is clearly joyful worship. It is neither boring nor sad but most joyful and delightful. For proof of this look at II Chronicles 29:30. We read there “and they sang praises with gladness”, and then in vs. 36 we read, “And Hezekiah rejoiced and all the people.” They rejoiced for the privilege of holy and happy worship of the one true God and that God led them to turn from idols to the one true God in praise and honor to Him. Listen also to chapter 30:21. There we read in connection with keeping the Passover feast once again, along with the seven day feast of unleavened bread, the following, “And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD.” Verse 25 likewise states, “and all the congregation of Judah….and all the congregation of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem….” Finally, to prove beyond measure how delightful joyful wholehearted worship before God is, notice with me what is said in II Chronicles 30:23. “And the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness.” Can you believe it? The people altogether were so joyful and glad in wholehearted worship that they decided to do to it a whole week longer. Oh, that all church people and confessing Christians would so delight in worship in our day. David in Psalm 84 testified he would rather be a day in the courts of God’s house than a thousand days in the tents of wickedness. Behind this all is the gospel truth that God is so great and greatly to be praised. And His love and care for His people is so gracious, so good and kind, purposeful and rich, and eternal and complete. Happy are all who have the God of Jacob for their refuge and strength, consolation and hope, and who live in wholehearted worship before Him. If already in the Old Testament age people were called to worship the LORD with joy and thanksgiving, how much reason isn’t there for God’s people so to worship in our New Testament age under the full revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ now and with all 66 books of the Bible, both Old and New Testament! In the words of Psalm 122, let us be glad when we may go up to the house of God. From the text passage we learn another factor explaining the joy in wholehearted worship in Hezekiah’s time. The people were united in worship. There was harmony together in one focus, all realizing something of their great need of God’s mercy and help and love, and all together not viewing one above another but in the unity of faith worshipping the one true God and being so glad together in and with Him. Sinful disunity and strife can take the heart out of the joy of worship and praise to God. If you are in any way contributing to needless strife and spoiling the communion of saints, and not actively working to maintain and increase the communion of saints even, you need to be aware how the Lord very much cares for true peace and love between His people. Yes, and He prizes blessed godly harmony within the body of Christ. Let no one ever think lightly about promoting sinful tension within the church and body of Christ. Here there were people from the area of what was Israel, and people from Judah, and people from the surrounding areas all involved in joyful harmonious worship. Many times in the history of the Christian church, sinful disunity developed which was not to God’s honor and praise. There must be a break in fellowship when a congregation will no longer submit to God’s word above all and follow the ways of the world and sinful man instead. But as much as possible, says Paul in Romans 12:18, we should live peaceably with all men. What a joy to be part of a Christian congregation where, by God’s grace and Spirit, there is a holy humble joyful harmony in the unity of the faith in Christ Jesus, the great and glorious Saviour, God supreme over all! Saying that, we come also to another characteristic of wholehearted worship before God and that is, such worship is prayerful worship. Except the LORD build the house all our labors and services and activities, also in wholehearted worship, are but in vain. Do you pray for the triune God’s blessing on the worship services and all involved? We read in II Chronicles 29:29: “And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped”. And again at the end of vs. 30, and with all the singing and praising too, “they bowed their heads and worshipped.” Then notice at the end of chapter 30, in vs.27 we read, “Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his [God’s] holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.” There was prayer in and throughout their worship, and no doubt prayer before and after their worship. Are you prayerful in this way too? Jesus said, “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” We read of James in James 4:2 saying to Christians in his day, “…ye have not because ye ask not.” Let us pray, pleading God’s promises for revival and reformation in our church and the churches across this country and throughout the world. Pray for a mighty stirring of the Holy Spirit so blessing the word read and preached and studied that people are convicted and transformed and reformed and made living lights for God and good while it is yet the day of grace. Let us pray that God so bless us in worship that all sin becomes so sinful and abhorrent to us and that Christ becomes so supremely precious to us. Let us pray that this world and all in it become more a place we live in temporarily and that we are not attached to in our hearts but that the world to come be something we have always more in view and look more and more forward to. Let us pray God so to bless the gospel call and the seriousness of it and urgency of it that not only we ourselves believe it wholeheartedly but that also we cannot but speak of it to others as God gives us opportunity. The early church thrived and rejoiced in worship and was filled with the Holy Spirit and missionary zeal not without much prayer. Wholehearted worship involves being prayerful in worship and for worship and praying to be prayerful in spirit and truth. Are you sincerely and frequently prayerful to God in wholehearted worship looking to Him to bless? So praying, who knows when and how God may pour down His salvation blessings upon us and in us and through us to others? Living in these perilous evil days as we do, isn’t there reason to call upon the LORD to come down by His word and Spirit and to bless us thoroughly and to make us a blessing truly in His grace and mercy in and by Christ Jesus, the Saviour of sinners? Here notice still another characertistic of wholehearted worship that so comes out in our text passage. It is also evangelistic missionary-minded worship. We see that in the first part of II Chronicles 30 with the posts and letters being sent out to all Israel and Judah to come for the special time of Passover worship. King Hezekiah would reach to that area where the Israelites had been conquered and to whoever might be left there yet. And it was a strong gentle urgent plea made to all who received the letter and invitation as we read in II Chronicles 30:8 & 9, “Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves, [literally, give the hand] unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified forever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you….For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye will return unto him.” What kind reaching out with the gospel! And surely wherever there is wholehearted worship of God found, there also something of this evangelistic outreach and missionary zeal becomes present as well. Because God’s people know on the one hand not only is it most wonderful to seek and serve the Lord in spirit and truth but it is most awful and terrible when we refuse to do so and will instead live and die in our sins. In that regard isn’t it most sad too what we read about how all too many responded negatively to the gospel invitation and call to come and worship the one true God in spirt and truth? We read in chapter 30:10b of those who responded by laughing to scorn those royal horsemen with their gospel invitations to come to the house of God. “They laughed them to scorn and mocked them.” How sad and tragic, how wicked and fearful, so to respond to the call to seek and serve the Lord and to come and worship the one true God. Do you sometimes shrug off with scorn and mockery the call to come to worship the Lord? How can we when GOD Himself is calling us, the one true God, the only Saviour, the only Hope, is calling us to worship Him? Jesus speaks in Matthew 22 about a wedding feast and how when the invitations were sent out, for all things were ready, that “some made light of it”, preoccupied with so much else, all lesser and temporary matters at best. How infinitely sad that is and with terrible eternal consequences, if people would only realize it. May none of you be indifferent to God's call and may all of us be faithful ourselves in worshiping the Lord. Then also may God bless us and make us a blessing that those around us who make light of the gospel call might become convicted of their sin and be drawn to church to meet the Lord and be converted unto God, all to the praise of His grace and glory in Christ Jesus! Wholehearted worship includes compassion and zeal for the unsaved wherever they are. Clearly the wholehearted worship of God in Hezekiah’s day was warmly and earnestly evangelistic. Altogether we can say it was worship that led to further fruits in the people’s lives in living for God and fighting sin and being focused on the increase and ongoing ministry of the church and kingdom of God. This brings out another detail we can say of wholehearted worship, namely, it is fruitful worship. Here notice with me two particular fruits mentioned in chapter 31. One is that the people worked more heartily and extensively destroying all and any remaining images and altars and groves of false idolatrous worship. II Chronicles 31:1 states this most strongly. And two, the people gave freely and regularly of their “first-fruits” for the temple sacrifices and the support of the priests and Levites ministering in God’s name in the temple. So much was given with the people faithfully tithing and giving beyond even that we read in vs. 5 and following, there were heaps and heaps brought in and new quarters had to be built to store all the provision for the house and ministry of the Lord. What a beautiful problem that is! But where there is wholehearted worship of God this becomes more common that the people give gladly and readily and regularly and abundantly. What does our giving to the Lord say about us? Are we evidently wholeheartedly worshiping the Lord and is that reflected in our giving like in our text? There is still one last point to note about the characteristics of wholehearted worship of God and that is, it is most blessed worship. Wholehearted worship is blessed of God for ourselves as it is so right and due to our God to worship Him as He deserves now and to all eternity. All mankind by nature worships false gods not worthy of our devotion and energy and attention but God is endlessly to be worshipped and never can He be wholeheartedly worshipped too much or too long or in vain. To prove that now listen yet to what is said of Hezekiah in summary in II Chronicles 31:20-21. We read there after these chapters about the revival of wholehearted worship in his time and under his direction, “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah [promote wholehearted worship of God], and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.” God blessed him and made him a blessing to many even as he, by God’s grace, restored the true worship of God and urged for wholehearted worship before Him by all the people and for more and more so to live and die. I end now then testifying how, as minister of the gospel, the great aim and prayer and joy is that more and more people, by God’s grace and Spirit, desire and demonstrate and promote wholehearted worship of God. That true worship involving eager worship, repentant worship, God-exalting, Christ-centered worship, joyful worship, prayerful worship, evangelistic worship, fruitful worship, and blessed of God worship, blessing us in the whole of our lives and making us a blessing to others in numberless ways, more than anyone can tell really. Oh, that there might be a revival and restoration of such true and thriving worship of God Triune in our day that so others may tell during each week after every Sunday: We have met with Jesus and worshipped Him and our lives are above all focused and devoted on Him, the one and only Saviour of sinners. Even so, “Come praise Him, ye that fear the Lord, Ye children of His grace; With reverence sound His glories forth, And bow before His face.” Amen. Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor
Read 4877 times

We have 2134 guests and no members online

© Free Reformed Churches of North America