GOD’S SONGBOOK: Shout for Joy!

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 1.38.27 PMOver the past few months at CrossPointe Church we’ve been working through Wednesday night Bible study series on the Psalms, & I chose Psalm 66 because, as a Worship Pastor, this is ONE OF MY FAVORITES!

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
Sing the glory of His name;
Give to Him glorious praise!
Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (Psalm 66:1-3a)

Don’t read it – SHOUT IT! Think on this: the book of Psalms is an ancient liturgical book – a collection of hymns & poetry for the purpose of aiding God’s people in worshiping Him as He ought be worshipped.

Do we do such a text any justice to read it dully, without emotion… “shout for joy to god all the earth” (said in monotone)? When your favorite sports team scores the winning goal, or your favorite band closes the show with that awesome sing-along, is your response, “oh…yay”?

Check this list of Scriptures out, & you should grasp what I’m meaning…

Isaiah 29:23 – “(they) will stand in awe of the God of Israel

Psalm 9:2 – “I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 71:23 – “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.

2 Samuel 7:18 – “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?’

Psalm 47:1 – “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

Exodus 34:8 – “…Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshiped.

Psalm 5:3 – “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch.

Matthew 26:39 – “And going a little farther he (Jesus) fell on his face and prayed…

Psalm 149:3 – “Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to Him with tambourine and lyre!

That is just a tiny sampling, but  it shows one thing clearly: worshiping God Biblically is multi-facetted, and ENGAGED.

And this is why any band or choir that I’ve ever worked with already knows what I’m going to say next:

Do whatever you must with your body,
to get your heart to respond emotionally
to what your mind has heard intellectually
so your spirit can receive it fully.

That is the first and greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength”. FOLKS – THAT. IS. WORSHIP!

So, when Psalm 66 verse 1 says, “Shout for joy” it’s not a metaphor… and this is why we know it’s not a metaphor… verse 5 tells us:

Come and see what God has done:” (Psalm 66:5)

The Word gives us a reason to shout: take a look around, & note what He has done for you.

And immediately it gives us examples that were true for the God’s people when this was penned, but God does not change: the same God who worked wonders in their day is working wonders today in ours!

But sometimes I live too close to me – constantly in my skin – so I have no objectivity when looking at my own life, especially when things are rough. However, the Bible often refers to God as “the God of Jacob”, “the God of David”, “the God of Abraham” – each time the weight of each of those individual’s lives weighs in on our image of God. Often it’s helpful to look at someone around you who’s life is clearly being touched by God, and lean on that for hope. Sometime we’re just too close to ourselves to see well, so I may need to take a look around to see God’s hand.

And another thing to remember; God isn’t done with us? God didn’t look at history and proclaim, “Okay, it’s a wrap!” He is still at work.Hebrews states that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word”… Eugene Peterson says “He holds everything together by what he says”, but the most literally meaning of the phrase is that Jesus, the Word of God, carries forth HISTORY… that moment by moment, as events unfold, they are held in the sovereign hands of Jesus, King of the

Universe – God with Skin on! What that means is that HE IS STILL WORKING!

Shout for JOY to God, all the Earth!” That is our rightful response to such a glorious truth!

But, what if I don’t ‘feel it’? What if I know the truth in my head, but at the moment it’s just not moving my heart? I’ve been there: the circumstances of life have just drained you of all praise, & you’re just holding on.

Let’s look at the next section…

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you…” (Psalm 66:13)

Now, we know that in Christ we no longer make burnt offerings, but we still make sacrifices… coming back to Hebrews 13 – and Hebrews is a great book to turn to when trying to understand how the Old Testament applies to us today – Hebrews 13:15 calls us to make a sacrifice: “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.” That is good – what a challenge… that our lips be fruitful in praising God, even when that praise is a sacrifice!

Did you know that there is only one time in Scripture where God states that He DOESN’T want our worship & praise? Isaiah chapter 1 unpacks it for us when it says, “Your hands are full of blood”, & God commands them “cease to do evil”, explaining to them that they must “seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widows cause.” Ouch. Those are harsh words, but I bring it up because there is a direct connection here to Psalm 66.

In Isaiah 1:15-16 says that when God’s people don’t repent from injustice & lift their hands to Him, that He hides his eyes – the Scripture even states “even though you make many prayers, I will not listen.

Psalm 66:18 likewise says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

I have a hard time imagining God averting His ear to prayer, just a confession. That means this is serious. What does it mean to “cherish iniquity”, then?

It means to love something dearly that God wants us to let go of.

Here’s how to know if you’re “cherishing iniquity”: take a look at what makes you angry. If it’s not a “righteous anger” – in other words, anger directed not at people themselves, but at sin, injustice, & oppression … if it’s not righteous anger, someone has probably triggered you in an area that you are “cherishing iniquity”. It could be your pride, an excuse we cling to in order to cover over our sin or the sin of someone close to us, or even our own self- justification. These are roadblocks to having God’s ear. The fact is, cherishing IS worship, & if we are worshiping anything above God – especially our own self-justification – our first response needs to be REPENTANCE, then we can worship. That is why whenever an accusation is brought against us, individually or corporately, our first at should always be humble repentance, & a heart & mind open to change. That’s because even in a false accusation, there is always an element of truth, & in every encounter is an opportunity for repentance, forgiveness, & restored unity. In fact, that’s the literal, Biblical meaning of the word “repentance” is “to change one’s mind.” When we have a heart open to change, then God works that transformation – that’s what the give & take relationship of prayer is all about: our growth in grace. As C.S. Lewis once said; “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping… it doesn’t change God. It changes me.

Psalm 37:4 holds a related verse on prayer & worship; “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This is the true heart of prayer & worship, all wrapped up in one verse – instead of cherishing iniquity, we delight in the Lord. And if we delight in the Lord, what will be the desire of your heart? THE LORD! So, what do we get when we find our joy & pleasure & delight in God: MORE OF GOD, WHICH MEANS MORE JOY & MORE DELIGHT! God promises to those who cherish Him above everything to get exactly what they want: more of Him! That’s what comes from repentance – a transformed heart. Those are the prayers God promises to answer, because God will never withhold Himself from someone who truly seeks Him! So “SHOUT FOR JOY, ALL THE EARTH!”

Lastly, verse 20:

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me!”
I particularly like how Eugene Peterson spun this in the Message: “Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear. He stayed with me, loyal in His love.”

I believe that once someone is truly Jesus’s, He won’t let them go – some call it “once saved, always saved”, others use the phrase “perseverance of the saints”, but either way it’s the recognition that “Salvation belongs to the Lord”, & what that means is that salvation is not ours to lose!

SHOUT FOR JOY, ALL THE EARTH!” We are safe in Him!

Looking back on this verse with a New Testament lens, in 1 Corinthians 11 & James 3 we are reminded that we are made in the image & likeness of God. Galatians 3 & Colossians three both speak of use “putting on Christ” & being “clothed with Christ”, & Ephesians 5, the whole book of Acts repeatedly speak of we believers being “filled with the Spirit.” When God looks at us “in Christ” He sees someone made in the image of the Father, paid for & cleansed by the blood of Jesus & clothed in Christ, & filled with the Holy Spirit – “in Christ” we’ve got God all over us! That is why 2 Timothy 2:13 says that, even if we are “faithless, HE REMAINS FAITHFUL” – why? “FOR HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF!” In Christ, we are safe. Even when we struggle with our faith, Jesus is what Martin Luther calls “the Hound of Heaven”, & He will not abandon you, forsake you, or stop pursuing you!

SHOUT FOR JOY, ALL THE EARTH!” We are safe in Him!

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; Sing the glory of His name;
Give to Him glorious praise!
Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!’” (Psalm 66:1-3a)

God is WORTHY of our Praise!

Come and see what God has done:” (Psalm 66:5)

Because He is working, & He is NOT DONE WITH YOU or ME!

I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you…” (Psalm 66:13)

Because he is Worthy, & He is not done with us, He deserves a sacrifice of praise… all that I am, all that I have… it’s His…

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
So use every moment as an opportunity for transformation – live in continual repentance, because He is always ready to hear your prayer, & promises good things to chose who TRUST HIM!

Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me!

Because IN CHRIST I am SAFE IN HIM! “SHOUT FOR JOY, ALL THE EARTH!

He is WORTHY! AMEN!

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