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Tonight I’m going to speak to you on the theme of worship and rest. It’s a new theme for me, in a sense, it’s one that God has been dealing with me about and I believe God has given me new understanding of both these things quite recently. Worship and rest. I’ve always realized that worship was one of the main themes of the Bible and something that is of tremendous importance in our lives but I never felt I had a real clear grasp of the nature of worship. I think worship is very different from what a lot of churchgoers envision. In many churches they talk about the morning worship service. Without being critical, I think in many of those churches no worship whatever takes place. They don’t even begin to worship. So I’m going to speak to you, first of all, in a sense, about the steps to worship; the nature of worship and then the outcome of worship which I believe is rest.
I think you’ll agree there’s one scarce commodity in the United States these days—it’s rest. How many people really know what it is to rest?
So, I’m going to read Psalm 95 and then I’m going to offer you some comments on it.
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did are Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter into my rest.
It’s unusual to have a psalm that ends with such a negative statement as that. I believe there’s a special emphasis on that.
There are three things that are closely associated: thanksgiving, praise and worship. But, they’re distinct. I would liken them somewhat to the colors of the rainbow which are distinct but blend into one another. Very simply, I would say that we thank God for what he does, particularly for what he does for us. We praise God for his greatness. But worship relates us to God in his holiness.
Of all the attributes of God—and they are many—the hardest for the human mind to understand is holiness because it has no parallel on earth. We can talk about the wisdom of God, we know wise people. We can talk about the greatness of God, we know great people. We can talk about the power of God, we see demonstrations of power. But apart from God there is no demonstration of holiness, it’s something that is unique to God and those who have received it from God. I believe worship relates us specifically to God’s holiness.
Because it’s hard to understand God’s holiness it’s hard to enter into worship. I believe there are steps into worship. In Psalm 100 it says “let us enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” Those are two steps of approach to God. You come into the gates with thanksgiving and then you move further into the courts with praise. But neither of those is worship. Thanksgiving and praise are essentially utterances of our mouths.
Every word in the Bible, Old Testament and New that means worship or is translated worship is always descriptive of an attitude. I think this is what God has been speaking to me about, that worship is primarily an attitude. There are certain specific attitudes associated with worship all through the scripture. Bowing down the head, bowing down the other part of the body and, in particular, extending the hands out palms upwards. And, an attitude which is spoken of many times in scriptures, falling on our faces before the Lord. It always amuses me when people sing that well known hymn “Crown Him Lord of All.” It says, “let angels prostrate fall.” You know, let angels fall flat on their faces. Most church members would never think of doing that. They’re prepared to let angels do it but we are too dignified!
I’m not going to propose that tonight but I’ll say one thing, it may be controversial. I question that any man who has never been on his face before God has ever been very close to God. You would have to search quite a way in the Bible to find out any of the really key men of the Bible who had not been on their faces before God. I’ll go further and say I practice it not as a matter of legalism, not as a matter of ritual but from time to time when I feel I need security, the most secure place I know is on my face before God. You know what John Bunyan said? “He that is down need fear no fall.” When you’re on the floor there’s no lower you can go. Jesus said, “Every one that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Likewise, “Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled.”
We don’t need to turn there but in Isaiah 6 Isaiah had a vision of heaven and the glorious creatures of heaven and the throne of the Lord. He saw worship conducted in heaven. I’m sure you’d agree with me that they do it the right way in heaven. The particular creatures that he focused on were called the seraphim. The Hebrew word seraphis directly related with the word for fire. The seraphim are the fiery creatures that are very close to the throne of God. It says there each one of them had six wings in three pairs. They were crying day and night, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” But what has always impressed me is what they did with their wings. With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet and with two they flew. Covering the face and covering the feet, I believe, is worship. Flying is service. Notice the order and the proportions. First of all, worship comes before service. You may recall what Jesus said to Satan when he tempted him in the wilderness. He said:
It is written, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.”
I doubt whether our service is ever truly acceptable unless it’s preceded by worship. Thou shall worship and then serve.
And so, with the seraphim, their first activity was worship. The second service. And look at the proportions. Out of six wings four were used for worship and only two for service. I believe that’s a right proportion. Worship is twice as important as service.
Now, let me look at the psalm here that I read to you and let me try to show you what I believe is a pattern for entering into worship.
Let me say one other thing about worship before I do this. You remember what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman. They were having this conversation about whether Jerusalem was the right place or Samaria and Jesus said there’s a time coming very soon when it won’t be either in Jerusalem or in Samaria, but the true worshipers are going to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for God seeks such to worship him. This has always impressed me that God is looking for worshipers.
The word “Spirit” I believe is also very distinctively associated with worship. As I understand Scripture—and I think it’s generally accepted by most Bible teachers—man is a triune being. If you want the reference, it’s 1Thessalonians 5:23. Man consists of spirit, soul and body. We know what our body is. The soul is the ego, it’s the personality, it’s the thing that says “I will” or “I won’t” or “I think” or “I don’t think.” It’s usually identified as being made up of three areas: the will, the intellect, the emotion. Those three things are expressed in the three simple statements “I will,” “I think,” “I feel.” This is very simplified but I think it’s a valid picture of the soul in man.
But the spirit really has one supreme function, it’s to relate to God. 1Corinthians 6:17, Paul says he that is joined to the Lord is one what? He doesn’t say one soul and I believe it would be incorrect to say that. I don’t believe the soul can unite with the Lord. The spirit can. It’s spirit to spirit. God is spirit. They who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. It’s a spirit to spirit relationship.
Having said that let me look again—and you’re welcome to look with me—in Psalm 95. The first two verses speak of what I would call exuberant praise and thanksgiving. I mean, there is no reticence about this.
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
I like that. I think there’s one thing that’s hard for God to accept, it’s half-hearted praise. Scripture says “great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” In fact, if you’re not prepared to praise him greatly, just don’t do it at all.
It’s like somebody putting a quarter in the collection. You know, in this country, to me that is a kind of insult. I mean, God doesn’t need our tips. There could be exceptions. There could be a child here who has got fifty cents and puts twenty-five cents. That means a great deal to God, more than ten or fifteen or twenty dollars from somebody else. But basically, God doesn’t want just something that we put in to get by with whether it’s an offering or in praise or whatever it is. Remember what David said? “How can I offer to the Lord that which cost me nothing?”
If you’d ever been a missionary, you could understand. When we were missionaries in East Africa some of the good church members that supported us would sent us their dried, used tea bags. You know, don’t throw it away, give it to the missionaries! That’s true. I mean, I’m not exaggerating. Well, sometimes peoples’ attitudes to missionaries isn’t much different than their attitude to God. I think the Bible indicates that we don’t really honor God more than we honor his servants. Jesus said, “If they receive you, they receive me. If they reject you, they reject me. The way they treat you is the way they treat me.”
But this psalm definitely gives ample room for loud, vocal, excited, exuberant praise. “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” That’s what I call the entrance with thanksgiving into his gates, with praise into his courts. That’s the access. I don’t believe there is any access without that because in Isaiah 60:18 the prophet says:
Thou shall call thy walls Salvation and thy gates Praise.
In other words, if you want to come into salvation you’ve got to come by the gate and every gate is praise, there’s no other way. You just can’t have access to God without praise.
Now, the next verses, verses 3–5 give us reasons why we should praise God. I don’t want to dwell on them, I just want to point them out. “For the Lord is the great God.” You remember great is the Lord and how to be praised? Greatly to be praised. “The great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it and his hands formed the dry land.” As we look at the whole created universe it tells us of the wisdom and the greatness of the Creator. That should call forth thanksgiving and praise from us.
But having come by these steps of thanksgiving and praise we haven’t arrived. Now the mood changes and we’re getting to what I believe is the heart of the matter. Verses 6 and 7.
Come, let us bow down to worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Now I don’t think there’s any need for noise. As I see it, this is the suggestion. It’s quietness. So that’s worship.
Now we’re given two reasons why we should worship the Lord in verse 7.
For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
The first reason to worship God is because he is God and he’s our God. The one thing that’s uniquely appropriate to God and no one else in the universe is what? Worship. We can praise men and women but we must never worship men and women. Worship is the most distinctive way we have to relate to God as God.
I’m convinced that whatever we worship gains control of us. The more we worship it the more like it we become. That’s why it’s so tremendously important that you never worship the wrong thing because whatever you worship gains power over you. I’ve dealt with people that have been Satanists—actually deliberately worshiped Satan. Thank God I’ve seen then delivered but what a battle! I remember dealing with one young woman years back who’d actually been some kind of a priestess of Satan. It took six strong men to hold her down when this Satanic power manifested itself in her. We made some progress with her and then somebody realized that she had a ring on her hand and that there was some evil power in that ring and she told us that that was the ring by which she’d been wedded to Satan. We determined to take the ring from her but the demon was so smart that he got her to swallow the ring and there was a young man there who had the faith and he commanded her—she regurgitated the ring. We threw it into the lake but her final deliverance came when she burned every item of clothing that she’d ever worn to worship Satan. She had to make a total, absolute break with every association of the wrong form of worship. So, what you worship is your god. Worshiping it makes it your god. If we don’t worship God, how far is he our God?
The second reason given that we should worship him is that we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. I believe that worship is the appropriate response to God’s care for us. It’s the way we recognize him as our God, it’s the way we respond to his care for us.
Now, I think it’s significant that the psalm doesn’t end there. It ends with what I would call a solemn warning. This is the last section. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah.” Then God goes on about that generation. “For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, They are a people whose hearts go astray and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall not enter into my rest.” I believe that sets before us two alternatives. The first is the right one.
In worship we hear God’s voice. Hearing God’s voice and obeying it, we enter into rest. One of the things that I cannot escape from—and Ruth will smile because no matter what I preach about, I end up on this. The importance of hearing God’s voice. Jeremiah 7:23, God says to his people:
This is what I ask of you, “Obey my voice and I will be your God.”
That’s the simplest statement I know anywhere of what God requires. “Obey my voice and I will be your God.” Deuteronomy 28 lists all the blessings of obedience, all the curses of disobedience. The blessings begin, “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, all these blessings will come upon you.” The curses begin, “If you will not hearken to the voice of your God, all these curses will come upon you.” The watershed is listening or not listening to the voice of the Lord. I believe worship brings us to the place where we can hear God’s voice.
I don’t want to shock you but it isn’t enough to read your Bibles. You say that was Old Testament, let me quote you John 10:28.
What? Read the Bible?
“My sheep hear my voice, and hearing my voice they follow me.”
You cannot follow Jesus if you don’t hear his voice. It’s a good thing to read the Bible, I want to say I read it every day more than once. But, you can read the Bible without hearing the voice of the Lord. I believe worship is the appointed way to come into that attitude and relationship where we really hear God’s voice.
And hearing God’s voice, we enter into his rest. This is where Israel failed. They took the wrong course. Let me show you what they did. They didn’t worship, they didn’t hear God’s voice, their hearts were hardened, they provoked God’s anger and they didn’t enter into rest. I’ll give you those statements once more. It’s clear from this passage this is where Israel failed. They didn’t enter into worship, they didn’t hear God’s voice, their hearts were hardened, they provoked God’s anger and they didn’t enter into their rest.
That’s why I’m talking about worship and rest because I believe worship is the way to rest. Only those who really know to worship really can enjoy rest. As I said before, rest is very rare amongst contemporary Americans. They’re a restless, nervous lot of people.
Let me read you a passage in Hebrews 4:9.
There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God...
That’s a very good translation. The King James says a rest but the Greek word is ?sabatismos? which is directly formed from the word for sabbath.
There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
You see, again the scripture brings out the fact that they failed because of disobedience to enter into rest.
Now, I want to talk about the sabbath rest for a little while. I do not preach legalism. Without going into a lot of details, quite simply I do not believe that Christians are under the law of Moses. Romans 10:4:
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
As an ends to righteousness the death of Christ terminated the law—not in its other aspects but as a means to righteousness. We do not achieve righteousness, we are not expected to achieve righteousness by keeping the law of Moses. I personally do not believe that Christians are required to observe the sabbath as the Jewish people were.
I’ll tell you something else. I never could believe that Sunday is the sabbath. Sunday is the first day of the week and sabbath is the seventh day of the week. I mean, I never have been able to believe that. One of my problems is that before I became a preacher I was a logician and it just won’t leave me! One and seven are different things.
Furthermore, if we were required to observe the sabbath and if the sabbath were Sunday, we’re all sabbath breakers. You aren’t allowed to kindle any kind of a fire on the sabbath, don’t switch your light on, don’t turn your stove on, you’re not allowed to travel more than a very minimal distance. Most of you could never get to Calvary on Sunday! You’re not allowed to carry any burden, you couldn’t carry that big Thompson Chain reference Bible of yours around! So, let’s either do it or not do it, that’s what I say.
Now, the British used to have a very strict and rather dismal way of observing Sunday. I remember that my first wife Lydia was considered a backslider because somebody saw her knitting on Sunday. I tell you, in Newfoundland—that’s the eastern part of Canada—five or ten years ago good men didn’t shave on Sunday. That’s true. I mean good Pentecostal churchgoers didn’t shave on Sunday. If you gave people a hug on Sunday evening you got, you know, a little emery paper! I’m talking from personal observation and experience. Children were not allowed in Britain to play with a ball on Sunday. I don’t want to go into that but—no newspapers, that’s right. Absolutely.
Well, I mean, you now, the thing is either do it or don’t do it but don’t make your own rules. Most of those, I would say, are human rules which have got very little relationship to scripture.
But, the scripture says “there remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God.” I’ve made it clear to you I’m not talking about observing the sabbath or making Sunday the sabbath or all that but there still is something there we’ll miss if we’re not careful. I’ve often said that we are not required to observe the fourth commandment. You know what the fourth commandment is? “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” I don’t want to exchange scriptures with people but if you want to look at a scripture, look at Colossians 2:16. Paul says:
Let no one judge you in respect to the sabbath day.
But, God has been dealing with me that that’s not the whole story. In the ark which was in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle of Moses there were three objects. The pot of manna, Aaron’s rod that budded and the tables of stone, the Ten Commandments. I believe that ark represents Christ. It represents Christ in me. The pot of manna is feeding on the hidden manna as it says in Revelation. It’s communion in the spirit with the Lord. The rod that budded is supernatural attestation which comes, I believe, through supernatural revelation.
What are the tables of stone? You know, I’ve always had a little kind of blank space in my thinking. Do you know what I believe they are—and I’m offering you an opinion. I believe the tables of stone are conscience. Conscience that’s been illuminated and brought into line with the word of God. See, there’s about room for two sermons on conscience. Evangelicals and Pentecostals have just about written conscience off. They say, You know, your conscience is defiled, you can’t rely on it, that’s it. But there’s a whole lot more about conscience than that in the New Testament.
What I’m trying to picture to you is that God can do something in your heart where you will naturally keep his divine, eternal, unchanging laws. God is doing something in my heart about sabbath rest. This is personal, I’m not trying to persuade anybody else to do what I do. I have come to believe that I am not pleasing God if I’m busy every week seven days a week. Furthermore, I’m sure to be endangering my own health.
Let me turn to Isaiah 58:13–14. 58 is the great chapter on fasting. I’ve preached fasting and practiced fasting for years. I’ve introduced it to many sections of the body of Christ that didn’t practice it. But there’s a little bit at the end that I never read. The same chapter—and it’s talking about keeping the sabbath. This is what it says.
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Does that have any application to us or does that part of the chapter just drop out? We can preach on fasting but when it comes to the last three verses, that’s for Jews or somebody else. I hate to interpret the Bible that way because every time I do that, it comes back to me. Sooner or later God says that was for you, too. Let me give you some simple statistics. If you always observe the sabbath and you live 70 years, how long would you spend observing the sabbath? How many years. 10 years because it’s 1/7th. You see, this is what the Lord has been saying to me. When God spoke to Israel about their money he said 1/10th. When he spoke about their time he said 1/7th. Which is more? 1/7th or 1/10th? 1/7th. In other words, which did God ask a higher proportion of? Time than money.
The first thing God ever sanctified was time. He sanctified the seventh day. Before he sanctified a place or anything else he sanctified time. I believe time still needs to be sanctified. I think if we haven’t learned to sanctify time we’re living rather, I would say, rather carnal lives. God said to Israel, “Every seventh day, every seventh year. Every seventh year you don’t plant, you don’t do anything.” Do you know what that is? It’s a test of faith. What are we going to eat, God? “I’ll take care of that, you let the land rest.” Israel failed. Basically, they didn’t do it. Some centuries later God said, “All right. Your land didn’t have its sabbath, I’m going to change that. You’re going into captivity and it’ll have nothing but sabbath. You’ll make up all the sabbath that you wouldn’t do.”
You know, God deals with ministers like that, too. You never would rest, week after week, day after day you just went on at the same pace. Never sanctified time to me, you’ll make up all your sabbath for a couple of years in hospital. Does that happen? Believe me, I know quite a number of men this happened to. But they didn’t see the connection.
Now I’m going to close but I’m leaving you with a question mark. That’s probably all right. You know what precipitated the Protestant Reformation? When Luther nailed up his 99 thesis. A thesis is a subject of discussion, it’s not the answer. In other words, when Luther got the church thinking, things happened. I’m going to leave you thinking. Are you making the best of your time? Do you really know what it is to rest? Are you capable of disciplining yourself to stop doing things and even doing them mentally? Can you ever lie down and stop thinking about what you ought to be doing? See, we don’t know what rest is.
God has really begun to discipline me. I’ll say this. Basically I take one day every week and give it to God. It isn’t Sunday. That isn’t a criticism of Sunday but if any minister tells me that Sunday is a day of rest for him, I mean, I will just, you know! It’s not much of a day of rest for people to have to get up in the morning, get the children dressed and in Sunday School or whatever it is. For many housewives it’s the most hectic day of the week.
So, when are we going to rest? Well, I have experienced something new in learning to worship and learning to rest and I find they’re very close together. I believe in thanking God and praising him out loud, dancing, clapping, singing—I’ll do it all. But there comes a time when I’ll put my wings over my face and my wings over my feet and I’ll hear what God says. Today, if you will hear his voice; don’t harden your hearts, don’t miss his rest. God bless you.