The final song on the Songs-That-Lift-You Playlist, is Psalm 134. You’ve done it – you’ve made it! You’ve sung the Psalms of Ascent, and now you’ve ascended. Here we are at Journey’s End, our final destination: we set out for the temple, and now we’re finally here. And we sing:
Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
He who is the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 134)
We started studying these Psalms together back on the 27th of April, and they’ve formed part of our daily and weekly journey together. But of course, for the original pilgrims the journey could easily be a matter of weeks, and for others it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and could even take months!
And so here we are. Here we are… to… what? Where have been headed all this time? What was the point of the long pilgrimage?
The short Psalm (the shortest songs of all the Psalms of Ascent, and the second shortest of all 150 Psalms!) puts it simply: “Praise the Lord! Minister to Him! Lift up Your Hands! Praise the Lord!”.
Here we are… to worship.
There is no greater end to our journey, no higher point on our climb than the place of worship. There is nothing more important or pressing. There is no greater calling than to bring glory to God.
As the Westminster Shorter Catechism goes:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
We are here to worship God. It’s why we were created, and it’s where we find our deepest purpose and most certain identity. And in worship we get to “enjoy Him” – to experience the blessing of His Presence with us:
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
He who is the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 134.3)
If we are completely honest, there are times when we don’t always have that sense of “enjoyment” in worship, there are times it may feel like a burden – rather than a “blessing”. Our mind can wander, we get a bit judgy of people feel are not “doing it right”, we can get tired and weary, or the ways in which we worship God can themselves start to feel tired and well-worn.
And I need to remind myself time and time again, that though God definitely blesses us in worship, that is not the primary reason we do it. Whether I enjoy or it not is irrelevant – He is the Lord, He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Author of my Salvation, the Saviour of my Life, and the Friend who is closer than a brother, and He is worthy.
So here I am, whatever the moment or the mood, to worship.
I’ve discovered too, that the more I put into worshiping God, the more I get out of it. The more present I seek to be in the moment before God, the more rich and real His presence becomes to me.
Pastor and author, A.W. Tozer once put it brilliantly:
The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And leaders who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.
Very often, when I have reflected on times when worship has felt cold or dry or empty, what I really mean is: “That didn’t entertain me enough, or it didn’t entertain me in the way that I wanted it to.”
But in worship – we are not the intended audience, the LORD is. In R.T. Kendell’s famous phrase, we worship “for the audience of One” – and that One is the Only One who alone is worthy!
Of course worship itself is so much more than what comes out of our lips – it’s what is happening deep within us – within our very spirit:
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
And despite the self-isolation guidelines and lock down restrictions – because of Christ we are, in our Spirit, gloriously free! Free to… what? Free to worship!
So wherever we are, and however we feel, praising God and enjoying His Presence, is always an option! Wherever we are on our the journey, the joy of His Presence does not lie locked in a building, or hidden behind a curtain – right where we are, right now – praise can begin. Here we are to worship.
Of course for the pilgrims, after the festival, came the long journey home – but they carried the experience with them. For others, they know too that they might return in future years and stand in this place again. When it comes to worship – we never reach the end of the journey, there is always more to see, always more to know, always more to give. The road goes ever on and on…
How might you discover that place of worship right where you are today? How might you use this song to lift you to a place of praise? What does it mean for you to continue going deeper in your own spiritual journey in God even if (or perhaps, especially when) our physical journeys are limited and locked down?
Someone sent me this recording recently, and commented on how much they were longing to hear this sound again. I really blessed me to hear us in worship together, and I hope it blesses you too: