January 31, 2013 by
We love the Psalms. They are full of devotion, usually succinct (except for Psalm 119, of course) and easily apply to our ever-needy souls. We can read a psalm in a few moments yet gain a days’ worth of truth to meditate upon.
Now, there are several Psalms that – at first glance – seem out of place with the purpose of a book of songs for worship. Picture with me the festive throng gathered at the Temple, choirs amassed with instruments blasting, cymbals crashing and priests running to and fro in their duties, all while the Psalter is opened and sung with some ancient melody:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)
My first thought about Psalm 1 is that it belongs in the book of Proverbs, as though Solomon got a hold of his father’s songbook and added his own page of pithy wisdom. I don’t picture it being sung by worshipful crowds. Even more striking is the fact that this Psalm is the firstPsalm. This is the kick-off, the start gun, the tone-setter for our divinely inspired hymn book. You might think that something like Psalm 150 (with all of its cymbal-crashing, foot-stomping and Hallelujah-ing) would make the best start to a psalter.
I cannot improve on Pastor Ray Ortlund Jr.’s comments on this incredible Psalm from the upcoming book on the Psalms, “Forgotten Songs”:
So why does Psalm 1 stand as the doorway of this book focusing on the worship of God? What does that tell us? It tells us that delighting in God’s Word is where true worship begins. It tells us that we step into the worship of God through and according to the Word of God. It tells us that the first filter for guiding and assessing and inspiring our worship of God is the Word of God. It is not as though we are worshipping God only when we are singing, and then listening to the sermon is something else. The whole of a church service from beginning to end is all worship if it is focused on the Word. Christians worship God by singing the Bible, praying the Bible, reading the Bible, preaching the Bible, hearing the Bible, believing the Bible, and obeying the Bible. Psalm 1 defines biblical worship because only the biblical message can lift us to God in worship pleasing to Him…
Psalm 1 nails it: our worship of God will be true and blessed inasmuch as we are motivated and directed by the Scriptures. My worshipful feelings for Jesus and my passion will result in something awful if not shaped by and inspired by the Word. The Bible, therefore, must remain open from start to finish whenever Christians gather. It’s not just a “sermon thing” and Bible references ain’t just for notetakers. Scripture is for every single second of corporate singing, fellowship, preaching, serving, etc. and etc. I love how Pastor Ortlund puts it later in his chapter: “Our heavenly Father is a good teacher. And when we become lovingly fascinated with what He teaches in the Bible, we are worshipping Him.”
Worship of God, in all the wonderful facets of a worshipping life, will always be biblical (bible-directed and bible-inspired). If it isn’t biblical, then chances are:
- We worship someone or something other than the one true God
- We attempt to worship God as we feel or believe, rather than as he has required – which is just as bad as #1.
(Remember the first two of the Ten Commandments?)
The whole chapter by Ray Ortlund Jr. is available online for free perusal here.
*This post first appeared on the Crossway Church (PA) blog.
Doug Plank is a pastor at Crossway Church located in Millersville, Pennsylvania, where he oversees worship, singles, and young adults. Doug and his wife, Brenda, have five children. You can listen to some of Doug's songs here.