Preparing Your Heart to Worship

Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!

(Psalm 113:1–3, ESV)

What does the Bible mean when it extends a call to worship? Is it talking about quiet, solemn, personal times of devotion, or does it mean corporate praise with brothers and sisters in church? Well, both. As a matter of fact, in many ways, we can’t define “praise” in the context of a church service until we have understood how it must impact our heart attitude toward God on a personal level.

God, speaking through the prophet Malachi, despised the worship of his people. He said in Malachi 1:10, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”  The people’s hearts were not right with God, so no matter what they sacrificed, it was not acceptable to him.

I like what Steve Lawson wrote in regard to Psalm 113:1. The word ‘praise,’ he said, “…carries the idea of an exuberance, radiance, jubilance, or celebration. It means to light up for God, to be radiant for God, to be shining forth for God, to boast in him, to brag in him.”[1]

That’s a great definition because it captures the joyfulness of praise. So, how can we get that back if it is missing, and how can we stoke the fire if it is present in us, but we want our passion to burn hotter? Let’s look at why the Lord is worthy of praise:

  • His Covenant (v. 1a)

The first line of verse 1 is sometimes given as Hallelujah which is the Hebrew word translated “Praise the LORD.” The “Yah” part is a shortened version of the holy name of God, “Yahweh.” This you’ll remember, is his covenant name, given to Moses at the burning bush by the Lord.

Why should we give praises to the Lord? Because he is our Lord. He has made covenant promises with his people, and of all people on the earth, we who are his children should give the loudest praises to him.

John Calvin wrote, “This psalm contains abundant reasons for all men without exception to praise God. The faithful alone being endued with spiritual perception to recognize the hand of God, the prophet addresses them in particulars.[2]

What Calvin meant was that God commands men everywhere to give praises to God, but in their sin-filled blindness, they can’t see God the way we can. So we, who have been forgiven and set free from our bondage to sin, should give praise all the more because of this!

  • His Commitment (v. 1b)

The second line of v. 1 calls the “servants of the LORD” to praise God. If we are servants, that makes him our what? Master!

Later on, in the last part of the psalm, the psalmist demonstrates in greater detail the kind of things that the Master does for his servants—things such as lifting us up from the dust and ash heap of sin and death and placing us upon thrones. But even before we think about that aspect, we must remember that we are his servants because he redeemed us from our sin.

As his servants, we are called to praise our Master. Our Lord is so good to us. The Israelites traditionally sang this psalm and psalm 114 at the beginning of the Passover meal. As they retold the account of God’s great salvation from the hands of the Egyptians, they would remember how great and good God really is!

You know, the Lord didn’t have to commit himself to Israel, nor to the Church. He did so freely. Christ bound himself to His Bride willfully. It wasn’t a shotgun marriage! We aren’t as lovely as we need to be, but Christ keeps his commitment to us. O how we need to worship him!

  • His Character (v. 1c)

Notice the last praise of verse 1 is a call to praise “the name of the LORD.” The “name of the LORD” is a shorthand way of speaking about the character of God. His name encapsulates all that he is.

When you read you Bible, you read who this God is that loved and saved us. He is merciful and compassionate. Just ask Jonah! He is forgiving and kind—remember the woman caught in adultery?

He is holy, righteous, and just, and will come with the full wrath and fury he has promised. We see that in the way Christ suffered on the cross—the very punishment that was meant for you and me.

We see love on that cross as well, don’t we? Is your heart beginning to warm with praises toward our God? Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day. I pray the our voices and hearts will resonate with praise that will ascend to heaven and give the honor that is due God’s name.

[1] Steve Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary, “Psalms 76-150”, p. 205.

[2] John Calvin, Psalm 93-150, p. 331.

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