RUTH: Searching for Christ in the Book of Ruth


Lesson Notes: Lessons 1-6

You will find here the Lesson Notes for the 6-part study we conducted in our Sunday School class on the book of Ruth.

As the course title states, this is not intended to be a detailed study of this precious and prescient short story. Volumes have been written about the events that transpired in this story, explanations of the Scriptural, historical, and cultural practices that are acted out in this story, and the prophetic significances of the redemptive pre-enactments that the characters lived out in their actions – all of which were sovereignly superintended by God’s redemptive purpose and plan and pointed to Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

I am not capable, nor was it my purpose, to reproduce those studies. Think of these Lesson Study Notes more as “talking points” to guide us through the reading and discussion of these lessons. All of these “talking points” opened up much more explanation and discussion of the exciting truths that are written here in this Romance of Redemption.

As I have reminded our class repeatedly, these lessons are not intended to be structured lessons or studies. Rather they are prepared and presented to help us all better learn how to read our Bibles on a daily basis and search for and find Jesus Christ there. After all, the Bible is “God’s Story about His Son, Jesus Christ, to us” and Jesus Himself declared that they ALL testify to Him [see John 5.37-40 & Luke 24.25-27, 44-48].

So what we want to do is better learn how we should read, study, understand, and most of all, worship Jesus Christ as He is promised, prophesied, and pre-enacted in the Old Testament Scriptures.   

I use the word “pre-enactment” a lot in our Sunday School lessons especially when we are studying from the Old Testament Scriptures because that is what the whole OT is: it is a pre-enactment of the Redeemer God would send us “when the fullness of time had come” [see 1 Peter 1.10-12 & Galatians 4.4]. This Book of Ruth is rich and replete with such pre-enactments.

So I’m making them available to you with the prayer and hope that as we read the Word of God together, we’ll hear the echoes and invitation of Philip’s question to the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  When the Ethiopian answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” … “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the Good News about Jesus” [see Acts 8.26-35].

I did use three resources in particular to enrich my own understanding and help me prepare to present these lessons to our class. Each of them was extremely helpful to me in distinctive ways:

Christopher Ash, Teaching Ruth & Esther

Daniel I. Block, Judges, Ruth [The New American Commentary]

Sinclair B. Ferguson, Faithful God

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“…set apart and ordained to the work of THE GOSPEL MINISTRY…”


We, the undersigned, hereby certify that

upon the recommendation and request of


which had full and sufficient opportunity for judging his gifts,

and after satisfactory examination by us in regard to his Christian experience,

call to the ministry, and views of Bible doctrine,


was solemnly and publicly set apart and ordained to the work of


by the authority and order of

the HILLCREST BAPTIST CHURCH at Winston-Salem, North Carolina

on the Twenty-seventh day of August, 1973.

(signed) E. W. Parks, Pastor


E. W. Parks, Pastor of Ordaining Church

Harry J. Simms, Moderator of Ordaining Council

L. Leroy Pack, Clerk of Ordaining Council

Herbert H. Wilson

Thomas D. Flynn

Roger Lackey

H. Rondell Rumburg

Charles C. Vogler

Brant H. Seacrest

T. B. Freeman (who preached the Pastoral Charge)

Donald S. Fortner

I. (Irvin) L. Wallace

B. (Bill) E. James, Jr.

[Note: of these 13 pastors who comprised this Ordaining Council, 10 are now with the Lord]

27 August 1973 – One of the most solemn, significant, and memorable days of my life.

A host of the members and friends from Berea Baptist Church had driven the 50 or so miles to attend and participate in this service. They had called me to be their pastor a little over a month before, 4 July 1973, and had requested my ordination by my home church, Hillcrest Baptist Church. I was only 22 years old, and this was my first pastorate. They were and are a most gracious people, though most of them who were in attendance that night are also with our Lord. Those who are still living remain among my sweetest and dearest friends.

The service lasted over two hours. We convened that Monday evening around 7 pm as best I can remember.

Harry J. Simms was the Moderator of the Ordaining Council. He was a most influential man to all of us in our family. “Preacher” Simms was my immediate predecessor-pastor at Berea church. He was the one who had introduced me to them by inviting me on a number of occasions to preach in his absence. [I also have vivid memories of the first message I preached at Berea. It was from Psalm 11.1-7, God’s Immovable Foundations. That was 6.6.71. I’ll tell that story another day…] Preacher Simms was also my Dad’s primary mentor and friend from the beginning of his ministry. Shortly after the Lord saved my Dad, he became acquainted with Preacher Simms. They began to talk and study the Scriptures together regularly. Preacher Simms discipled Dad and taught him the doctrines of the Word of God. As a consequence, Dad confessed and identified with Baptist teachings. When Dad started conducting Sunday afternoon services in a small church building on Goldfloss Street [this was in Winston-Salem NC] that had been vacated when the former church relocated, he invited Preacher Simms over to preach in those services. After a few months, Preacher Simms told Dad that he needed to start preaching in his own services. He led in my Dad’s ordination also. That was around 1949 – 24 years before this time of my own ordination.

For my ordination service that night, they had set up a small table on the pulpit platform of Hillcrest Baptist Church. [This was in the small auditorium in the original building…it is now their fellowship hall.] It was barely big enough for the two of us – Preacher Simms and me – to sit around. Our faces were probably not three feet apart. Keep in mind that this was August 1973. The Nixon-era Watergate hearings had been televised for several weeks back during May-June. So as we took our places around this little table for my interrogation and examination, Preacher Simms looked at me and quipped, “Kind of feels like Watergate, doesn’t it?” But he also assured me that the purpose and spirit would be more kind than those hearings were. So for the next 1 ½ hours, he and the other members of the ordination council asked me questions about my salvation testimony, my call to preach the Gospel, my doctrinal beliefs, how I intended to shepherd and lead the flock of God, and my commitment to be faithful to Jesus Christ and the Word of God. It was a detailed and thorough examination.

T. B. Freeman delivered the Pastoral Charge. Brother Freeman also had been associated with our family and a part of my life for as far back as I could remember. He was originally from Bristol TN but had re-settled in Mims/Titusville FL where he also pastored. Brother Freeman was an evangelist and revivalist. He travelled extensively among churches in many states preaching revival and protracted meetings. He was a godly, humble, Spirit-filled man of God. More than anything else, T. B. Freeman was a man of fervent and passionate prayer. My Dad had invited him on numerous occasions to come to the churches he was pastoring and preach revival meetings. He was like another father-figure to me. I respected and admired him immensely. So I asked that he be invited to come and preach my Pastoral Charge to me. He would later invite me to come to the churches he pastored and preach in revival meetings.

And then, of course, my Dad. Dad had been my Father, my Pastor, and my primary teacher, trainer, and role model from the beginning of my life. Even before the Lord saved me and called me by His Grace to preach His Gospel, I still had always wanted to be a preacher … because Dad was a preacher, and I wanted to be like him. Dad delivered the final charge to me to be faithful to Christ and to give myself and my life totally to serve Him. My Dad had modeled that charge for me to emulate and imitate. He then presented me with my ordination Bible [which, of course, I still have right here…].

The other ten preachers on the ordination council were either preachers in the Hillcrest church or pastors of other churches with whom we fellowshipped. Looking back over those names, I had preached at some time or another in all of their churches. All of them were brothers in ministry who had encouraged and helped develop me, and I was blessed by God to have been influenced by them in so many ways.

I think back on that night and that service very often. That occasion – the purpose of it and the commitments I made – still grips me and convicts me. I hope and pray to God that I have been faithful to the stewardship that has been entrusted to me, and I want to continue to be faithful to Christ who called and appointed me to this ministry until my appointed end – and I stand before Him to give account.

It’s coming back to me again in power on this anniversary day.

And with whatever remaining life and time of service God may be pleased to grant me, I still commit to this charge:

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the Grace of God” ~Acts 20.24      

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Treasure in jars of clay

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay,

to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” ~2 Corinthians 4.7

Here is our Pastor Hershael York’s message from 2 Corinthians 4.7-18, The Paradox of the Christian Life.

All of his messages are delivered to us from the Word of God with clarity, conviction, integrity, and passion – “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2.1-5). They are all challenging, convicting, and confirming – all at the same time.

But this one is so very personal to me. If ever I have had a ‘life verse’ [as is so common to have] that summarizes and defines my experience as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a minister of the Gospel, it is 2 Corinthians 4.7.

In fact, in a very real sense, it has been my “signature” verse. For all of my life over the past 50 years, I have signed “2 Cor 4.7” along with my name because it so tells my life story.

My very best friend from our very first day of Bible College, Jim Park, gave me this NASB back around 1972. “II Cor 4:7” was already imbedded into my experiences and conversations with those closest to me.

God began crushing me 50 years ago to the point that I thought He was taking my future ministry of preaching away from me. I despaired that I had any future in Gospel ministry.

I had never wanted to do anything else. I had never prepared to do anything else.

I was just getting started, and I thought I had already slammed into an impassable dead-end. I had just begun my ascent, and I was already in an irrecoverable tailspin, ingloriously crashing and burning.

In fact, I told my Dad during that season [I was still living at home at the time], “Dad, please don’t ask me to preach again. I can’t do it anymore.”

I was kind of the “rising young star” among the younger generation of preachers in our particular circles and fellowships of churches. I was beginning to receive invitations from pastors we knew to preach in their churches, at their events, fulfill pulpit supply for them, preach in revival meetings, etc.

But all that prospect of future ministry hung precariously in the balance … quivering and ready to tip to the “dread” side. It was like I had just walked out on the stage of ministry, but all of a sudden, the curtains were descending and all the lights were going dark.  

And [to run ahead of my story just a bit…] I am convinced of this as much as anything: as I pondered these dark experiences and cried out to God “What are You doing? What is going on with me? What am I supposed to learn from all this?” [as in 2 Corinthians 12.7-9] – it became obvious to me that God was, indeed, taking my ministry from me so He could give it back to me again with the understanding that He is the Potter, I am the clay.

{A personal aside:

as I have evaluated these experiences over the past decades, I have come to the conclusion – at least for me – that God will not give me a signal gift, blessing, or privilege to enjoy and exercise for His Glory without somehow, somewhere along the way taking it from me and then giving it back under the terms of His gracious Lordship (2 Timothy 2.20-21; 1 Peter 4.10-11). I have no idea how He is pleased to deal with you or any of the others of His faithful servants. I have no empirical or anecdotal witnesses to cite. I just know that any time I have ever referred to Abraham’s test in Genesis 22, or Jacob’s in Genesis 32, or Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 12, I have at least alluded to this personal principal in my own ministry. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103.14), and He can blow or kick our dust at His pleasure when we need to be reminded that our dust is His making and He has framed us for His Glory – not to seek great things for ourselves (Jeremiah 45.5)…}

He had begun to pound me, break me, crush me so He could re-make me to be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the Master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2.21).

He was willing to allow me the privilege to serve Him, but I must surrender to His terms. He was making me willing in the day of His power.

I vividly remember the crisis watershed occasion and the specific message I was preaching when this crisis experience took place. I’m looking at the notes to that message right now. [Yes, I still have pretty much every sermon outline and message notes I have ever used.] It is dated 4.11.71.

I was just barely 20 years old.

That Sunday morning was Easter Sunday morning 1971. I had prepared the message from 2 Corinthians 5.14-21, “Life with the Living Lord.”

But from that Sunday morning, God began to crush me with what I can only best describe as a total ‘nervous breakdown / emotional, psychological meltdown’ to the point that I was terrified at the prospect of standing in front of people to speak – what could be called ‘stage fright,’ I guess.

I suffered panic attacks, high anxiety, hyperventilation to the point of having sudden rushes of adrenalin, becoming mentally disoriented, feeling almost detached from myself and ‘out of body,’ sweaty, and breathless. It was more than just mere nervousness or jitters. It was total, abject, paralyzing, debilitating fear … terror. And it was all triggered by the very thought of standing before others to speak.

I still continued to preach as I received invitations [and I was receiving more and more invitations to preach at this time], but I lived in this paralyzing terror that I wouldn’t be able to speak when I got up and opened my mouth to do so. That I would get up to speak, but that when I opened my mouth, my voice wouldn’t come out.

I even got to the point that I would prepare my preaching notes, but I wouldn’t put the date on it, because I didn’t know whether I would be able to speak to deliver it. I would insert the date after I had, in fact, delivered the message.

What was even more distressing and disconcerting about this whole experience is that I had no idea what was happening to me. At that time of my life, I had never heard of ‘panic/anxiety attack.’ As far as I was concerned, this had never happened to anyone else before, and I was the only one who had ever experienced this kind of breakdown.

I told no one. I honestly thought that no one would understand what I was experiencing – that they wouldn’t know what I was trying to describe. Also I was afraid to even acknowledge that this sort of thing was happening to me at all. I couldn’t deny it was happening, but I thought that if I didn’t acknowledge it, it might just go away, or at least I would be able to manage and survive it. I was also afraid that if I acknowledged it, that it would spiral totally out of control and completely, totally consume me.

And I didn’t tell anyone about these experiences for probably 25-30 years afterwards. When I did relate some of these experiences, it was only to individual persons who were struggling with the same anxiety for the purpose of helping them, encouraging them, and giving them hope.

I have never been as publicly transparent and open with this testimony as I am now.

These seasons of suffering this kind of fear, high anxiety, and panic attacks would go on for months on end at a time. They would be accompanied by bouts of deep depression, mainly just from the mental and emotional stress of constantly dreading and being in terror at the prospects of preaching again [which I still was], and also from the possibilities that my future ministry was being taken from me.

I couldn’t see any prospects that it would ever be any different than this. And I couldn’t bear the thought that maybe I was going to suffer this fear and anxiety for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to entertain the prospects of that future. I didn’t even want to live with that kind of future.

I am thankful to God that He began to teach me what He purposed for me to learn from these experiences. It was at that time, very early on in these experiences, that God led me to 2 Corinthians, and especially to chapter 4, verse 7. As I learned it in the Authorized Version,

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”

I had no doubt from the very beginning that God was dealing with my pride. My pride, self-confidence, and all seeking of any recognition, glory, and praise for myself must be crushed. And crushed, it was. It has to be if I am going to be God’s preacher. And I did want to be God’s preacher.

The ‘excellency of the power’ or ‘the surpassing power’ belongs to God and is given and ministered through us by God in the moment when it is used. The ‘treasure’ that God has entrusted to us is His Son and His Gospel – what Paul describes in chapter 3, verse 18 as “the glory of Christ,” and later in chapter 5 as the ministry and message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.11-21).

God entrusts this glorious Treasure to us, as clay jars, so that when His power is ministered to others through us, we will know that it is Him and His power – and not from us. We need to know, and we will have to learn, that as ‘jars of clay,’ we are weak, fragile, brittle, and broken. If we don’t know that sufficiently, then God will proceed to break and crush us until we do.

But when He does crush us, then we learn to cast ourselves helplessly and hopefully upon Him to work and minister the Glory of Christ through us to others. God continuously works death in our fleshly bodies through our afflictions so that He can clear the channels so His Life can flow through us to others.

So, going back to 1971… This initial season of crushing didn’t last forever. It did go on for a long time from then – maybe as long as two years. But God was teaching me to commit my ministry to Him for His use, His Glory, His pleasure. And He would supply the strength I needed to fulfill His calling and assignment.

2 Corinthians 4.7 was becoming my life’s and ministry’s “user guide.” It was the protocols by which I learned to function. It became my very signature.

In the ensuing years, there have been seasons when it would return. The fear, the anxiety, the panic, the depression – sometimes it would come back on me. I have cycled in and out of it for seasons at a time. But there is something loving that is going on even in those times. It is a Hebrews 12 kind of season. My Heavenly Father is exercising His loving discipline to train me more completely, develop me more fully, and share His Holiness with me. And as He promises, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12.11).

There is an inexplicable and unique kind of intimacy with the Father that grows and is cultivated to ‘the peaceable fruit of righteousness’ during those seasons. And maybe, just maybe, it can’t be experienced and enjoyed apart from them.

It is like my Father has to touch me every now and then with His heavy finger of love to remind me, “Son, remember, it’s not about you – it’s about the Glory of Christ. You belong to Me. You are My chosen vessel, and I will be pleased to use you; but I will use you My way. You’re not sufficient for any of this – but My Grace is always sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

To which I can only reply: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses … For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12.7-10).

In that same message from Pastor York that I referenced at the head of this testimony, he quoted from Amy Carmichael a poem I had never heard before. I instantly identified with it and related to it.

Hast Thou No Scar | by Amy Carmichael

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

Yes, I do. I have some wounds, some scars. They are the cracks and brokennesses in my jar of clay so the Glory of Jesus can shine through me – “to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

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That’s what she looks like to me!

She’s the brightness of sunshine;

she’s the whiteness of snow;

she’s the pureness of a dove flying free!

she’s the romance of moonlight;

she’s the freshness of dew;

Ah, that’s what she looks like to me!

She’s the splendor of dawning;

she’s the glory of noon;

she’s the sunset reflected on the sea!

she’s the colors of a rainbow;

she’s the softness of clouds;

Ah, that’s what she looks like to me!

She’s the harvest of autumn;

she’s the new life of spring;

she’s the fullness of summer’s green trees!

she’s the quiet strength of winter;

She’s my Joy! She’s my Life!

She’s all my world to me!

~dsp 9/25/75

Debbie and I were engaged to be married in the Fall of 1975. (We would be married in June 1976.)

Back in those days, we had to do whatever ‘courting’ we could do over 400 miles.

I was pastoring in Alexander County/Hiddenite NC and she was living in Lexington KY. So, I would travel to Lexington every opportunity I could find (or make up), and she would occasionally come to NC.

I was living in the parsonage of the church I was pastoring, so she would stay with our dear friends, Pastor Jim and Shirley Park. Jim was my very closest friend from Bible College days, and he pastored in nearby Statesville NC, probably 15 miles from Hiddenite.

Jim and Shirley had a young son, Bradley. I guess Bradley was pre-school age. Bradley was excited about Debbie’s coming to visit with me and stay with them for the first time.

So he asked me one day: “What does she look like?” So what do you tell a 4-5 years-old what someone else looks like?

I began to describe the best I could what he could expect to see in her physical features when he first saw her.

That’s when I began to think about what she looks like to me – her virtue, her character, her outer and inner beauties.

I wrote this little song to express just some of my admiration, adoration, and love for all the beauty I saw in her. And my smitten admiration only continues to grow and increase.

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Some ways you can pray with us for our Vacation Bible School ministry…

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Years ago – I mean, like, 50 years ago … before I left home to begin my own pastoring ministry – I was leading the worship in singing and music in the small church my Dad pastored in Winston-Salem NC. We committed as a church that we were going to learn and incorporate into our church’s worship services all the older hymns that were in our hymnal. These were hymns that dated back to the 1700-1800s and were written to extol the nature, character, attributes, and works of God. We called them the “anthem-y hymns” because so many of them were written and sung as anthems and expressions of formal worship.

We loved them and sang them often with great delight and they richly enhanced the expressions of our own worship to God.

One of those beloved hymns is this one: The God of Abraham Praise. Thomas Olivers originally wrote it in 12-13 stanzas. Our hymnal – and most hymnals – will include only 4-5 of his original stanzas.

I have included also after the hymn a couple background/historical links and articles that will give you a little fuller understanding of the history and context of this hymn. There is also a link to the congregational singing of the hymn by Grace Community Church, Sun Valley CA.

So, here for your worship, edification, and enjoyment…

The God of Abraham Praise | ~Thomas Olivers, 1772

1 – The God of Abraham praise,
Who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days,
And God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM!
By earth and Heav’n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred name
Forever blessed.

2 – The God of Abraham praise,
At whose supreme command
From earth I rise—and seek the joys
At His right hand;
I all on earth forsake,
Its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only portion make,
My shield and tower.

3 – The God of Abraham praise,
Whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days,
In all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend,
He calls Himself my God!
And He shall save me to the end,
Thro’ Jesus’ blood.

4 – He by Himself has sworn;
I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne,
To Heav’n ascend.
I shall behold His face;
I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace

5 – Tho’ nature’s strength decay,
And earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way,
At His command.
The watery deep I pass,
With Jesus in my view;
And thro’ the howling wilderness
My way pursue.

6 – The goodly land I see,
With peace and plenty blessed;
A land of sacred liberty,
And endless rest.
There milk and honey flow,
And oil and wine abound,
And trees of life forever grow
With mercy crowned.

7 – There dwells the Lord our king,
The Lord our righteousness,
Triumphant o’er the world and sin
The Prince of peace;
On Sion’s sacred height
His kingdom still maintains,
And glorious with His saints in light
Forever reigns.

8 – He keeps His own secure,
He guards them by His side,
Arrays in garments, white and pure,
His spotless bride:
With streams of sacred bliss,
With groves of living joys—
With all the fruits of paradise
He still supplies.

9 – Before the great Three-One
They all exulting stand;
And tell the wonders He hath done,
Through all their land:
The listening spheres attend,
And swell the growing fame;
And sing, in songs which never end,
The wondrous name.

10 – The God who reigns on high
The great archangels sing,
And Holy, holy, holy! cry,
Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same,
And evermore shall be:
Jehovah—Father—great I AM,
We worship Thee!

11 – Before the Savior’s face
The ransomed nations bow;
O’erwhelmed at His almighty grace,
Forever new:
He shows His prints of love—
They kindle to a flame!
And sound thro’ all the worlds above
The slaughtered Lamb.

12 – The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high;
Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
They ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine!
(I join the heav’nly lays)
All might and majesty are Thine,
And endless praise.

From: Wikipedia

The God of Abraham Praise is a Christian adaptation of the well known Jewish hymn “Yigdal“, loosely translated and Christianised by the evangelist Thomas Olivers after a visit to the Great Synagogue of London in 1770.[1][2] It was first published in 1772.[3] The title of the hymn was based on a verse in the Book of Exodus: “I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham”.[4] (Exodus 3:6)

Olivers worked with John Wesley during the time that “The God of Abraham Praise” was written. During the time, he often met with members of London’s Jewish community. In 1772, Olivers was attending The Great Synagogue in London and heard Cantor Myer Lyon sing “Yigdal” in Hebrew during a service. Olivers then paraphrased and translated “Yigdal” into English and gave the hymn more of a Christian focus.[5] He then asked Lyon if he could use the Jewish melody for the new hymn. Lyon gave him the music and Olivers named this hymn tune “Leoni” after Lyon.[5] When he showed the new hymn to a friend, he annotated each line with scriptural references from The Bible.[4]

“The God of Abraham Praise” was first published as a leaflet titled “A Hymn to the God of Abraham” in 1772. It was later published nationwide by Wesley in the Methodist hymnal “Sacred Harmony”. The hymn later made it to the United States after being published in Joshua Leavitt‘s “The Christian Lyre”.[5] The hymn was composed by Olivers with thirteen verses however later reprints of the hymn omit a number of them[4] with the majority of hymn books using four verses.[5]


He was orphaned at age 4. After getting bounced from relative to relative for years, he was eventually apprenticed to a shoemaker. The shoemaker was a god-fearing man, but this young apprentice, he would have none of it. And eventually this young man lost his way.

As the decade of the 1740’s was coming to a close, he heard the great evangelist, George Whitefield, preach a sermon on Zechariah 3:2, “Is not this a brand, plucked from a fire?” And having heard that sermon, Thomas Olivers became a new creation. This orphan was now a child of God.

In a few years, Thomas Olivers teamed up with the brothers Wesley. And he had quite a ministry of his own. And while not nearly to the extent of John and Charles Wesley, Thomas Olivers also wrote hymns. While in London in 1770, Thomas Olivers went to hear a renown Jewish cantor by the name of Myer Lyon, at the Great Synagogue in London. This is a building that would later be destroyed by the Blitz in World War II. Myer Lyon also doubled as an opera singer under the name, Max Leoni. Olivers had likely heard Leoni sing opera at the Covent Garden Theatre, and now he wanted to hear him sing sacred music in the Synagogue.

That night, Lyon sang the Yigdal, a song dating back to the 1400’s. It prayerfully speaks of the majesty of God. So moved by the song, Olivers waited after the service to meet with Lyon. In the ensuing days Oliver said about transforming this Jewish prayer in Hebrew into a Christian hymn in English. He worked with Lyon on the tune. The collaboration resulted in a 12 stanza hymn we know as, “The God of Abraham Praise.” Olivers credited the tune to Lyon, entitling it “Leoni.” The first stanza rings out:

The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;

Ancient of Everlasting Days, and God of Love;

Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and heaven confessed;

I bow and bless the sacred name forever blessed.

As the stanzas unfold, The God of Abraham Praise reminds us that God is a Trinitarian God. Part of the conversion of this piece from a Jewish liturgical prayer to a Christian hymn involved adding stanzas on Christ and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the words of the ancient doxology remind us that when we say, “Praise God,” we are saying, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

This hymn by Thomas Olivers has another level of richness to it, and this richness lies in helping us think of something else. Now Abraham first appeared on the biblical scene in the closing words of Genesis 11. He then dominates the next several chapters until his death comes in Genesis 25. Now we do have the rest of the Bible to see God at work in the lives of His people, and at work in His world, and revealing to us His character.

But stop, and consider though what we learn about God from the span of Genesis 12-25.

We learn that God is the God most high—El Elyon in Hebrew. We learn that He is God Almighty—El Shaddai. We learn that He is Jehovah Jireh—the Lord who provides, told for us in that story in Genesis 22, and Abraham and Isaac. We learn that He is a promise making, covenant-keeping God. We learn that He will bring judgment on sinners, but we also learn that He is merciful and compassionate. And in the episode with Hagar in the desert we learn that God is the God who sees, and He is the God who hears. The God of Abraham praise.

As we think of these chapters, we find reason upon reason to praise God—Abraham’s God, and ours.

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May 28th [2021]

Today marks the 4th anniversary of one of the most dramatic transitions Debbie and I have made in our years of serving the Lord and ministry together. In 2017, 28 May was on a Lord’s Day, and on that day, I resigned the pastorate where we had ministered for the previous 35 years.

I resigned without our having or knowing where our next place of service would be or what our roles would be when we got there. But we believed that Jesus already knew all that … and we would just follow Him.

But we immediately covenanted together and made two commitments to God:

1 – The first commitment we made is that we would continue following and serving the Lord with our lives and gifts in whatever opportunities and ways He would choose and open up for us. John 12.24-26 had become our call, cue, and prompt.

24 Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Our lives, places of service, and ministry assignments have always been “His call” – not only His call and claim on our lives, but His call as to where we go and what we do when we get there – in other words, our ministry assignment.

2 – And, the second commitment we made is that our continuing service would be in the context and community of a local church. God saves us and calls us to serve Him in the local church. Disciples of Jesus follow Him in the local-church company of other fellow-disciples. We were going to commit to and serve the Lord in the fellowship of His body, the local church.

We hadn’t planned ahead for this transition. But God had. Literally, within the next week, I received an invitation to have some conversations that led us to where we are now – and where we have been since our transition.

We have learned a new song [to us] over the past four years worshipping and serving in our church, Buck Run Baptist Church: “All My Ways Are Known To You.” We have come to love this song and its message because it is a re-affirmation and blessed re-assurance that we are never lost or out of the way when we are following Christ. We may not ourselves always know where we are, but our Shepherd is never lost, confused, or disoriented.

All our ways are known to Him long before we ever get there and they become known to us.

I know that the message of the song is so universal to our experiences and to the themes and threads of so many Scriptures, but I wonder if it may be inspired by and based on Job’s painful and yet confident testimony:

If I go east, He is not there,
and if I go west, I cannot perceive Him.
When He is at work to the north, I cannot see Him;
when He turns south, I cannot find Him.
10 Yet He knows the way I have taken;
when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold.
11 My feet have followed in His tracks;
I have kept to His way and not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commands from His lips;
I have treasured the words from His mouth
more than my daily food.

~Job.23.8-12 CSB

Here are the words of the song that so thrills us every time we sing it:

In days of peace and days of rest,
In times of loss and loneliness;
Though rich or poor, Your word is true,
That all my ways are known to You

No trial has come beyond Your hand,
No step I walk beyond Your plan;
The path is dark outside my view,
Still all my ways are known to You

And oh! what peace that I have found,
Wherever I may be –
For all my ways are known to You!
Hallelujah, they are known to You!

I do not fear the final night,
For death will be the door to life;
You take my hand and lead me through,
For all my ways are known to You.

And oh! what peace that I have found,
Wherever I may be;
For all my ways are known to You!
Hallelujah, they are known to You!

Open up my eyes so I may see
That You have made these ways for me!
Open up my eyes so I may see
That You my God, will walk with me!

And oh! what peace that I have found,
Wherever I may be;
For all my ways are known to You!
Hallelujah, they are known to You!
Hallelujah, they are known to You!

I pray that you will seek and know this same peace and assurance – that ALL your ways are already known to God!

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“We have seen His Glory!” / “Please, show me Your Glory!”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

and we have seen His Glory,

Glory as of the only Son from the Father,

full of grace and truth.” ~John 1.14

John is describing here a personal encounter with God Himself in this physical world of human experience, and knowing that it was God Himself he had that encounter with because of the evidences of His God-ness.

John uses the word “glory” – “and we have seen His Glory.”

Isn’t this what all religion is seeking and grasping for?

Isn’t this what the human soul longs for?

Isn’t this what our blinded hearts are desperately groping in the darkness to find?

Don’t you wish you could share that same experience of a fresh personal encounter with God in His Glory?

Well, here it is! Here HE is! God – the eternal Word – became flesh and dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν / pitched His tent, tabernacle) among us! The eternal, ineffable, unapproachable God in-fleshed Himself in our human form and came to live among us!

In the muted veil of His flesh [Hebrews 10.19-20], we SAW the Glory of God who otherwise cannot be visibly viewed. John explains the mystery of the incarnation of God in the Person of Jesus Christ just four verses later:

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” [John 1.18].

No one has ever seen God – except that we have! In Jesus Christ!

John sums up the human experiences and interactions of the apostles with Jesus Christ as “we have seen His Glory…” He draws out this real, personal, physical “seeing” God in 1 John 1.1-3:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2the Life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal Life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

This is a parallel statement with what this same John wrote in the Gospel of John 1.1-18. Here in 1 John 1.1-3, he is just expanding on the physical human experiences of personally interacting with God and knowing it is God you are interacting with!

But, the point is that what John exclaims that they physically and visibly saw was “His Glory,” meaning the very Glory of the very God. When they saw His Glory, they saw GOD!

What is this “His Glory” that they saw in the in-fleshed Jesus Christ?

1. We know, first, that this is a clear, unambiguous, confession of the Deity, the God-ness of Jesus Christ. What they saw in Jesus Christ was the exclusive Personal Glory of the Presence of God. God Himself is The Glory.

God is not only glorious as a descriptive adjective; He is The Glory, the essence of the noun. God not only ‘has’ glory, God Himself IS Glory.

Do you remember how that when God was threatening to distance Himself from Israel because of their sin over the golden calf, Moses was pleading with Yahweh not to leave them? God said he would not. Moses wanted a confirmation that God was there. He made this astounding request to the Voice that was speaking to him:

“Moses said, ‘Please show me your Glory!’” ~Exodus 33.18

Yahweh did indeed show Moses His Glory. What He showed Moses was Himself!

And He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and I will proclaim before you my Name ‘The LORD’” … “But,” He said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my Glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” ~Exodus 33.19-23

When Moses saw Yahweh’s Glory, what he was seeing was God Himself! That’s what John is saying when he exclaims, “We have seen His Glory! We have seen GOD!” In fact, the Glory that John declares that they saw is the same Glory that Yahweh told Moses “But you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” This is the same Glory that John says they saw – and lived!

God has no physical form, but when He reveals and manifests His Presence, He does so in a visible Glory. Glory is brightness and brilliance. Glory is shining-ness. Glory is bursting, blazing, and even consuming light. 1 Timothy 6.16 declares, “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”

And so when John says that ‘we beheld, we have seen His Glory,’ he sees and recognizes that when they saw Jesus Christ, they were beholding the in-fleshed Person of God Himself in all of His splendor and shining excellence. Jesus Christ is the Light who is God [John 1.4, 5, 7, 8, 9].  

2. We know also that when John says “we have seen His Glory,” he is alluding back to the Presence of Yahweh with His people in the Old Testament Tabernacle.

God came down to visibly dwell upon and among His people in the Tabernacle. A ‘tabernacle’ is a ‘tent.’ In fact, when John says that The Glory became flesh and ‘dwelt’ among us, he uses the common verb form for the noun ‘tent’ – He ‘tented’ or ‘pitched His tent’ among us.

This is an obvious allusion to the ‘tent of meeting’ that God prescribed and provided for Israel in their wilderness sojourn. They lived in tents [tabernacles], so God would, too. God’s tabernacle was a special one, an exclusive one. He personally gave Moses the plans and schematics for it, and told him to follow the pattern exactly.

Then, when it was done, God Himself came in a visible Glory and dwelt among them in the Holy of Holies. Whatever it looked like, there was a visible shining Glory that dwelt among them in the Holy of Holies.

The Glory of God’s Presence also hovered over the Tabernacle by day in a visible cloud and by night in a visible fire. The Glory was a visible manifestation of the Presence of God. When ancient Israel saw The Glory, they knew that God was with them, that God was claiming them as His people to belong to Him, and that God was giving Himself to belong to them.

In Romans 9.4, Paul reminds the Jews about the special privileges they enjoyed even under the Old Covenant. And among those blessings was “The Glory”:

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, The Glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises…”

“The Glory” that belonged to them was God Himself living and dwelling among them in the visible Glory.

Now, God was coming to in-flesh Himself in our nature and likeness and physically live among us. John and the other apostles saw this – they beheld the Glory of God in the human tent of Jesus Christ.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us [tented among us, God pitched His tent among us in His human body of flesh and blood], and we have seen His Glory, Glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  

3. When John says “we have seen His Glory,” we know also that John is pointing us to our future eternal Glory-Home with God and this same Jesus Christ.

All of this future Glory that God has reserved for us will be revealed to this same John just a few years later.

In the Book of the Revelation, Jesus showed John the visions of what our future Glory will be with Him in Heaven – the New Creation, the New Heaven and New Earth.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.’” ~Revelation 21.3

What is most significant about this description of Heaven is that John uses the same imagery and even the same words here that he uses in John 1.14. “The dwelling place of God” is “the tent” of God. “He will dwell with them” is the same word “make His tent” or “tabernacle” with them. God Himself will dwell with us in the Glory of His own Personal Presence. God’s Presence is the Glory of Heaven.

Just like God “tented among us” and lived among us in the in-fleshed Person of Jesus Christ, so He will “tent among us” forever in the resurrected body of Glory that Jesus Christ now is [Philippians 3.20-21]!

When the angel told John he would show him the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,

“…he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the Glory of God…” ~Revelation 21.9-11

The Glory of that city, and indeed of all Heaven, is the Presence of God.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God, the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the Glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” ~Revelation 21.22-23

The same Glory of God and the Lamb that will be the Light of our eternal Heavenly Home is the same eternal Word who in-fleshed Himself to come and live among us through His human birth. John said of their relationship and fellowship “we have seen His Glory, Glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is!” ~1 John 3.2

And we, too, shall see Him and His same Glory forever as He lives among us and makes His daily home among us. We will see the spiritual-physical Face of Jesus Christ – we will visibly see His Glory – just as really as John and the apostles saw His Glory during the days of His in-fleshing.

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His Face, and His Name will be on their foreheads” ~Revelation 22.3-4

“Please, show me your Glory!”

So, here’s where I’m going with this: Can I see this Personal Glory that John said they saw and beheld so freely? Must I wait until the New Jerusalem comes down from God out of Heaven where Jesus will “tent” among us forever?

NO! This same Glory that is:

  • the Personal Presence of God
  • the communal dwelling that God had with Israel in the Tabernacle
  • indeed the same Glory that dwelled and walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before their fall into sin
  • the Personal visitation that God made among men during the days of His flesh
  • the Personal Presence and Light that will make Heaven, Heaven

… I can see this same Glory if I’m willing to love and seek Him.

The same Glory that John says they saw when “the Word became flesh and lived among us” is the very same Glory that shines from the Word of God when I look into it and the Spirit of God unveils the Glory of Christ!

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the Glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” ~2 Corinthians 3.18

And this Glory that we are beholding in the Word of Scripture is the Face of Jesus Christ, whose Glory John said they saw! What we are seeing in Scripture is The Gospel of His Glory that God Himself shines into our hearts by the new birth and by faith.

The Scriptures radiate with

“the Light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ, who is the image of God … For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ!” ~2 Corinthians 4.4-6

So, YES! You, too, can see and experience – and have a fresh personal encounter with – the very same Personal Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ as you read The Word, as you receive His Gospel, and as you fix your eyes of love and faith on Him without looking away!

…unless you are looking at something else that you think is more glorious?

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WORSHIP / Part 3: The Audience of ONE

COURSE: Spiritual Exercises


Part 3: The Audience of ONE

Scripture: Psalm 96.7-9 & Revelation 4-5

This is Part 3 of this multi-part current lesson we are studying together on the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP.

If you haven’t watched Parts 1 and 2, I would encourage you to do that. You can find both the Lesson Notes and the links to the YouTube video on the links I have provided for you here:

 Part 1 on The Call To Worship

Part 2 on Flourishing Through Worship

So now we come to Part 3. I’m calling this lesson The Audience of ONE – and, of course, the ONE is God Himself.

I would encourage to go ahead and get your Bible and begin by turning to a couple Scriptures: the first is Psalm 96 and the other one is Revelation, chapters 4-5. Just get a couple bookmarks and tag those two Scriptures. [By the way, there are at least a hundred other Scriptures we could refer to – and we will mention others just by referring to them, but these are very pointed and explicit expressions of how God Himself must be our Audience of ONE when we worship…]

A probing question…

Before I even get into our Scriptures, let me start off with a probing question you can ask yourself when you go to worship, and especially our public, corporate worship. The same question can be asked two different ways:

“Who are you worshiping?” And, of course, our answer will be, “I’m worshiping GOD!” That’s what worship is. We are GOD-worshipers. We worship GOD.

“Who are you worshiping FOR?” Now this question is the same question as “Who are you worshiping?”, but it probes a little deeper into our motivations for why we worship the ways we do. “What audience do you have in mind when you worship?” … because it is very easy to tell ourselves and believe that we are worshiping God as our Audience of ONE when in fact we may be worshiping FOR the audience of others.

  • When you sing, who are you singing FOR? Are you singing TO God as your Audience of ONE, or are you singing FOR and TO the audience of others, to be applauded and complimented by then?
  • When you pray, who are you praying FOR? Are you praying TO God as your Audience of ONE, or are you praying FOR the ears of others, to be complimented for your fine praying?
  • When you give, who are you giving FOR? Are you giving TO God as your Audience of ONE, or are you giving FOR to be seen by others, to be recognized for your generosity?
  • I would ask those of us who preach and teach, who are you preaching and teaching FOR? Are you preaching and teaching TO God as your Audience of ONE, or are you preaching and teaching FOR the approval and compliments of others? This one hits close to home for all of us who preach and teach. And if we would be honest with you, we would have to confess that this is a constant struggle and a point of constant examination and frequent conviction. Every one of us who preaches and teaches has to closely watch and examine our hearts and our motives and keep a guard and a check on our hearts. We all want to be liked and even respected. But we mustn’t allow the desire to be liked, appreciated, and respected be the controlling motivation for what we preach and how we preach it.

Let Jesus set the rule

Let Jesus set the rule here. We are all familiar with Jesus’ words in Matthew 6.1-6. Jesus begins with this summary warning:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

Now you tell me: who’s the audience here in the minds and motives of these hypocritical worshipers? They would profess that they are worshiping FOR the glory of God, but really, they are worshiping FOR the audience of others. It is the other people who are seeing them conducting their exercises of worship! “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…” They have the Name of God in their mouths, but their attention is on the audience of the others who are watching them.

Jesus goes on in verse 2:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.”

And again in verse 5:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

They have received their reward from their intended audience. They are doing their good deeds, they are serving, they are giving, they are praying not TO God and FOR God, but rather FOR the compliments and praises of the audience of others that they are performing FOR.

How about those of us who preach and teach? When we preach and teach and conduct all our ministry activities, who are we doing it TO and FOR? I know that people are always our immediate and physical audience. That’s how it’s done. And it is for the profit and welfare of other people’s souls and lives that we do everything we do. But who is our commanding audience? Who are we looking at to please when we minister? Who are we ultimately ministering TO and giving our services FOR? It must be FOR the pleasure, approval, and glory of GOD.

God Himself is always our Audience of ONE.

Here’s what Paul said about the motivation of his ministry.

Galatians 1.10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Paul was facing fierce storms of criticism and even rejection by some of the saints in the churches in Galatia because he insisted on preaching the pure, simple, saving Gospel of the grace of Christ. Some of the members of the churches were critiquing him by the standards of their own approval and what they liked and what they wanted to hear. They had designated and established themselves as the “audience,” and Paul’s responsibility was to appease and please them. They would listen to Paul and judge whether he was acceptable and approved or not.

But Paul soundly rejects that way of thinking and judging his ministry. Paul stakes his claim and makes his stand that he preached only for the Audience of ONE – and that ONE is God, the approval of God! All of his service was being rendered TO and FOR the Audience of ONE – and that ONE is to please Christ and serve Christ!

Who is your intended “audience” when you worship?

OK – I think we know where we’re going with this Audience of ONE theme. I want you to be examining your own heart and spirit especially as you engage and participate in worship exercises. It applies to all of our daily services for the Lord, but I want us to closely examine our hearts to ask ourselves: Who am I really worshiping when I worship the ways I do? Who is my intended audience? Who do I most want to see, know, and recognize my worship expressions? Who am I really giving my worship exercises TO? When I worship the ways I do, who am I really worshiping FOR?

“The Audience of ONE” in Psalm 96

Now let’s go back to Psalm 96. As I have said, I could read and teach from a hundred or more other Scriptures, but this one says it very pointedly and succinctly. I encourage you to read the whole Psalm with this theme in mind. But for now, let’s just focus our attention on verses 7-9:

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
    tremble before Him, all the earth!

So – I’m going to ask you three simple questions as you read these worship expressions:

  1. Who is our worship given TO?
  2. Who is our worship given FOR?
  3. Who is the audience of our worship?

1. Who is our worship given TO?

Well, of course, all our worship is given TO the LORD. “Ascribe TO the LORD…” We read this call to worship three times. Ascribe TO the LORD glory, strength – the glory due His Name. When you ‘ascribe’ something, you give credit and recognition. When you ascribe TO the LORD glory, strength, and the glory due His Name, you are directing it all away from yourself and TO the ONE to whom it all belongs.

And, you will note also that verse 7 begins by calling on “O families of the peoples” to ascribe all this worship TO the LORD. “O families of the peoples” includes every single human being of whatever ethnicity, nationality, culture, tribe, language, whatever – every single one of us is to universally and unanimously ascribe all worship TO God! No one from “O families of the peoples” is to be ascribing or directing their worship and praises TO anyone else but the Audience of One. Keep this thought in mind as we later wrap up this lesson in Revelation chapters 4 and 5.

2. Who is our worship given FOR?

By ‘FOR,’ I mean, FOR whose attention? FOR whose approval? FOR whose pleasure? FOR whose compliments? All our worship is to be given FOR God! Verse 8: “Ascribe TO the LORD the glory DUE HIS NAME!” No other person or creature is worthy of our expressions of worship. No other person’s or creature’s approval, or compliments, or pleasure is worthy of our giving our worship FOR them. Only God is worthy of our giving our worship FOR His praise, glory, and pleasure.

Let’s read verses 1-6:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless His Name;
    tell of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
    His marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
    strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

3. Who is the audience of our worship?

There is no doubting or mistaking that we worship the LORD, He Himself is our Audience of ONE. I know that we worship in the physical presence of one another. I know that we worship together to teach one another, and encourage one another, and exhort one another. I know that we have leaders and ministers who speak to us and prompt us in our exercises of worship. That is God’s prescribed order. But in all of our exercises of worship, THEY [that is, our worship leaders] are not the audience of our worship, and WE are not the audience of our worship. There is only ONE Audience. And that is God Himself. God Himself is our Audience of ONE.

Listen to verses 8-9 again:

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His Name; bring an offering, and come into His courts!”

The picture is one of a subject coming into the audience of royalty. And so the custom always has been that when you come and appear before royalty, you come with an offering of some sort to express your worship of the Majesty and His worthiness to receive your worship. The Majesty is your Audience, and you are coming into His courts. And the offerings that we bring are our worship: our singing, our praying, our confessing of our sins, our hearing and receiving the preached and taught Word of God, our commitments and resolutions to obey and follow what the Majesty commands.

Verse 6 again:

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”

When we come to worship, we are coming into God’s very Presence! The splendor and majesty that are ‘before Him’ are the splendor and majesty of His Presence. God Himself is the Audience into whose holy and august Presence we are coming. We mustn’t forget that or be distracted from Him!

Just think about all the times we remember the psalmists use these phrases to describe our worship being in God’s audience: “come into His Presence,” “before Him,” “unto the LORD.” In Psalm 42, the psalmist describes coming to worship as ‘appearing before God.’

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”

And then verse 9 of Psalm 96:

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth!”

When the psalmist calls us to “tremble before Him,” we understand that He is the Audience of ONE! And when we are commanded to “tremble before Him, all the earth!” we understand that there is no other audience in ‘all the earth’ but God: The Audience of ONE for ‘all the earth.’ In all the earth, among all the peoples and creatures that inhabit the world, there is no other audience for ‘all the earth’ but God: The Audience of ONE!

It’s not that we are not aware of the others who are around us when we worship. It’s not that we don’t recognize their presence. It’s not that we don’t greet them, and respect them, and appreciating them being there with us to worship God together. It’s not that give them no attention or pay them no mind.

It’s just that we are not worshiping FOR them. No one of them is our audience. All of us together are worshiping together ‘before the LORD’ and He, and He only is our Audience of ONE!

Kierkegaard’s metaphor – actors and audience…

Let me illustrate the difference from something I read years ago. It made a deep impression on my thinking back then when I first read it, and it has stuck with me ever since. I think about it all the time.

Back in the mid-1800s, there was a Danish philosopher by the name of Soren Kierkegaard. Along with being a philosopher, he was also a theologian, and he called himself a religion critic. I’m not condoning his teachings or advocating for him because we wouldn’t agree with almost all of what he believed and wrote.  But as a “religion critic,” he wrote extensively about what he observed to be the hypocrisy and emptiness of what was called Protestant Christianity in Denmark in his day. And especially in their established and traditional Protestant worship.

In fact, his criticism was that what should have been the worship of God had degenerated into what was no better than a Greek theater. He compared their traditional worship service to a Greek drama. There were actors [the preachers and leaders in singing], and then there was the audience. He calls them the ‘listeners,’ or in his metaphor ‘theatergoers’ – his words: “and the listeners as theatergoers who are to pass judgment upon the artist.” In this metaphor, the listeners [the congregation/audience] in a worship service watch and listen to the preacher and the leaders in singing, and as Kierkegaard perceived it back in his day, the listeners serve not only as the ‘audience’ for what was no more noble than a religious performance and production – and they also served as self-appointed ‘judges’ of how good it was!

You know and I know that this sort of critiquing, evaluating, and judging goes on all the time among us. We, the church-going congregants, attend worship services with the attitude that we are the audience that the performers and the actors [that would be the leaders of our singing/music worship and the preacher] are there to please us, the audience. And we will judge for ourselves how well they do. We wouldn’t dare to say that out loud or to verbalize it to anyone, but how often does that attitude govern the ways we think, and watch, and listen?

How many of us – and how often – attend worship services like judges at the Winter Olympic indoor events – like, for example, gymnastics or figure skating? We sit before those who are leading us in our exercises of worship as if we were watching ‘performances’ of those who are ‘performing.’ We have our judge’s score cards in our mental ‘hands,’ ready to throw up our numbers on how well we thought they did. Was it a ‘10’? Maybe … rarely. How about a ‘7,’ or a ‘5,’ – or if we are especially ticked off, maybe only a ‘2,’ or a ‘3.’ 

Why, I’ve even had comments made to me by congregants leaving the service – or more often, get a note or email or phone call later that day or the next day – letting me know that I scored so low in the negatives that they didn’t have enough room on their judge’s score card to write all the negative numbers! [They used other words, but that was the distinct message of their negative critiques.]

This is what Kierkegaard was criticizing when he compared a lot of traditional church-going to a Greek theater performance with actors and audience – with the church-goers being the audience and judges. We, the church-goers, the worshipers, are NOT the audience. All true worship has an Audience of ONE – and that ONE is God Himself!

Sadly, many leaders do it also…

Sadly, also, so many who are in the leadership of our worship services practice and have cultivated the same perversion of true worship. There is too much of a culture of this kind of celebrity leadership pandering to the audiences they want to please. They have been all too willing to see themselves as “performers” and have embraced the task of pleasing those who come to see them or hear them. Musicians and preachers alike have used the services of the sacred worship of God to promote themselves and gain followers for themselves.

We, in our church, should bless God that our pastors and the leaders of our worship services preach, teach, sing, and lead us in our worship exercises to give all of our worship together to our Audience of ONE. Our pastors, preachers, teachers, and leaders in singing worship may serve as prompters – but in all the exercises of our worship, they ultimately join us as we give our offerings of praise and worship together and in unison to our Audience of ONE!

The “Audience of ONE” in Heavenly worship!

I’m going to bring this lesson to a close by inviting you to come along with me as we attend worship as it is expressed in Heaven. In fact, this is precisely what the angel said to the apostle John when he showed him these visions of how worship is given and expressed in Heaven.

And, whatever goes on in Heaven is shown to us to serve as a model and pattern for how we must conduct the same exercises here on earth – now in our own experiences…

John describes the angel’s invitation this way:

1After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” ~Revelation 4:1 ESV

Now, what John will describe from here on through the remainder of Revelation, chapters 4-5, is how, in Heaven, all of the expressions of praise and worship are given to the Audience of ONE! Listen to him describe what he saw in this vision of Heavenly worship: all attention and all worship is centered on, directed to, and given to The Audience of ONE!

There are going to be many worshipers – I want you to listen for all the worshipers to be distinguished, named, and identified – but every worshiper has this one thing in common: every single worshiper, all together, all in unison, give all their attention, praise, and worship to The Audience of ONE!

Revelation 4:2-11 ESV

2At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with One seated on the throne. 3And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

John continues – reading on into Revelation, chapter 5 … keep your attention fixed on The Audience of ONE!

Revelation 5:1-14 ESV

1Then I saw in the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5And one of the elders said to me,

“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

6And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7And He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who was seated on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

14And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

And every single one of them: the twenty-four elders, the four living angelic creatures, the many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, and every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them – ALL of them together, in unison, with one voice are all worshiping THE AUDIENCE OF ONE!

I repeat: whatever activity we are privileged to witness in Heaven is revealed to us to serve as a model and pattern for how we conduct our lives here on earth.

So, I ask you again as I did at the beginning of this lesson:

  • When you attend worship, who is your audience? Is it others, or is it God, The Audience of ONE?
  • When you sing, who do you sing FOR? Who is your audience? Is it others, or is it God, The Audience of ONE?
  • When you pray, who do you pray FOR? Who is your audience? Is it others, or is it God, The Audience of ONE?
  • Those of us who preach and teach, who are we really preaching and teaching FOR? Is it for the recognition, compliments, and praise of others? Or is it FOR God, The Audience of ONE?

And on and on – examine and question every activity and expression of our worship. Yes – continue to worship and serve for the encouragement, instruction, and building up of others. But in everything we do, let’s do it “before the LORD, in the Presence of God,” The Audience of ONE!

Now may the God of peace who brought up again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. ~Hebrews 13.20-21



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WORSHIP / Part 2: Flourishing through Worship / Psalm 92

COURSE: Spiritual Exercises


Part 2: Flourishing through Worship / Psalm 92

This is Part 2 of this multi-part current lesson we are studying together on the spiritual exercise of WORSHIP.

If you haven’t watched Part 1 on The Call To Worship, I would encourage you to do that. You can find both the Lesson Notes and the link to the YouTube video here:

This Part 2 of WORSHIP will come from Psalm 92. If you don’t have your Bible open in front of you, I encourage you to do that now. Our lesson content and comments will come from the words of Psalm 92.

The theme of Psalm 92 and the title of this lesson is Flourishing through Worship. When anything is flourishing, that means it is thriving, doing well.

  • If a business is flourishing, it is booming, growing, and prospering.
  • If your health is flourishing, you are healthy, full of strength and energy, and free from the afflictions and ravages of sickness and disease. I realize that many of you are not flourishing in your physical health. I am going to be specifically and personally addressing you in the hopes that I can encourage you to continue to give yourself to the worship of God. Please stay with me through the course of this lesson. I want to encourage you especially to continue in your fellowship with God and your worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please don’t allow your chronic afflictions and weaknesses discourage you from seeking and worshiping God. You can and will flourish spiritually through your worship of God, and I pray that you will.   
  • If a plant is flourishing, it is growing, strong, and abundantly bearing the fruit that it bears. I’m going to give you a heads-up about this Psalm 92: those who are unceasing in their worship of God are said to flourish in this way. Verses 12-14 promise “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…” We’ll talk more about what that means when we get to it.
  • In fact, if you want to know what flourishing through worship is and what it looks like, it is announced to us in the very opening words of the whole Book of The Psalms in chapter 1, verse 3: “He is like a tree planted by the streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”  

So, let’s read Psalm 92 together:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
    to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great are your works, O Lord!
    Your thoughts are very deep!
The stupid man cannot know;
    the fool cannot understand this:
that though the wicked sprout like grass
    and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
    but you, O Lord, are on high forever.
For behold, your enemies, O Lord,
    for behold, your enemies shall perish;
    all evildoers shall be scattered.

10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
    you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

So, let’s develop our theme of Flourishing through Worship.


Let’s begin with those ancient words that are at the head of the Psalm: A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath. We call those words a superscription because they are written over the psalm or at the head, the beginning of the psalm. These words are ancient words. They are not added by the editors of whatever edition of the Bible you are reading from. They are as old as the oldest manuscripts and copies of the Scriptures we have.

And so, what these words tell us is that when the psalmist wrote this psalm and delivered it to the leaders of their ancient worship services, he was telling them what he wanted them to do with the psalm. This was his purpose for giving it. This psalm contains the lessons he wanted the worshipers to sing, and learn, and take home with them.

So, what did the psalmist want them to do with this psalm? He wanted the leaders of their worship to sing this as a song for the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day was their designated day for worshiping the LORD. And since the worshipers didn’t have their own copies of the Scriptures or their own hymnals, the psalmist wanted them to learn the Scriptures by singing them and remembering them.

And so, this Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day was not only to be sung and offered to God on the Sabbath Day as an exercise and expression of their formal and corporate worship of the LORD, but as they sang it, they were to learn it, remember it, practice it, and live it out in the whole of their lives from then on.

“It is GOOD … to WORSHIP!”

So how does this Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day begin? It begins by announcing the theme of flourishing through worship. The theme of Flourishing through Worship is introduced in the word “GOOD.”  You will flourish with GOOD as you unceasingly worship the LORD. You will flourish from your worship of the LORD.

The psalmist begins by announcing “It is GOOD to worship!”

“It is GOOD to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to Your Name, O Most High!”

Now, by announcing that it is GOOD to worship God, the psalmist is making two points:

  1. It is GOOD to worship God because it is the proper and fitting thing we should do. Worshiping God is GOOD because it is the right thing to do. It is what we should and must do because worshiping God is the GOOD, the best response we should give God … because GOD IS GOOD! God Himself is the summation and consummation of all that is GOOD. How many times do we read especially in the Psalms “for the LORD is GOOD!” In fact, in Psalm 119.68, we read: “You are GOOD and do GOOD…” So since God is Himself GOOD, and since everything He does to us and for us is GOOD, then it is a GOOD thing to recognize and confess His Goodness through our worship of Him.
  2. But I think the psalmist wants us to learn something else: the worship of God is GOOD FOR YOU! In other words, your worship of God will also return GOOD back to you! GOOD will come back to you through your very worshiping of God. The LORD will make you flourish through the very exercise of your worship! HOW? Through your very worship of the GOOD God, you will receive more of HIM! I say again, this is where the theme of Flourishing through Worship is announced and introduced. And it is developed throughout the remainder of this psalm … as the psalmist promises from God how the righteous will flourish through the exercise of their worship.

Next, the psalmist gives us three instructions or directions that we can do in our worship that will yield flourishing to us:

1 – There are two ways that we express our worship to God:

  1. “it is good to give thanks to the LORD…” Giving thanks to the LORD is our expression of recognizing that God is GOOD, and that He is the Giver of all the good things that we have and enjoy.
  2. to sing praises to your Name, O Most High…” In this expression of worship, we sing our praises to Him.
    • Notice here also that our attention and worship is turned from addressing Him in the third person – “to the LORD” – to addressing Him directly and personally in the second person: “to your Name, O Most High.”
    • And when we call Him “O Most High,” we are confessing His Deity, His Majesty, His Supreme Glory – and that He is Most Highly-Exalted of all and over all. The psalmist will repeat this confession of God’s O Most High-ness in verse 8: “but you, O LORD, are on high forever.”

2 – Also, when we worship God, we worship Him at all times of every day.

“to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” This is why I have said that this Psalm or Song of the Sabbath Day is not just for the Sabbath Day of worship, not just in the service of worship itself; but by singing it and learning it on the day of worship, we are also learning to take it home with us so we can continue our unceasing worship of the LORD every morning and every night of every day.

  • And what we are thinking about and meditating on every morning and every night of every day is God’s Goodnesses: “your steadfast love” and “your faithfulness.”
  • Regardless of what we are experiencing or going through, regardless of how we feel in our physical bodies, or what afflictions we may be suffering, or even what mood or frame of mind we may be in mentally, we just know that God is GOOD all the time … and He is making all things work together for GOOD to us through our unceasing worship of Him.

3 – And then, the third instruction for our worship is: when we worship God, we must employ every instrument and faculty of our being to worship Him.

“to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre…” OK, I know that not all of us are so gifted and talented that we can play musical instruments. Some of you are, and some of you can. And we appreciate your service in music, and you minister to us immensely when you do. But, even if you can’t play any musical instrument, you can employ the most beautiful instrument that God has given to all of us: and that is, your voice! Even if you can’t carry a note in the proverbial bucket or pitch a single note on key, God loves to hear the sound of your voice as you worship Him! When you voice your worship and praises to God, He just loves to hear you. Whether you are in the congregated assembly or worshiping alone and in private at home, use every instrument and faculty of your being to give your praises to our GOOD God. “Tune my heart to sing Thy praise!” If your heart is in tune and on key, your song of praise will be beautiful and pleasing to the LORD!

And when you worship God in this way, He will receive it, smile, and say: “That is GOOD – that is VERY GOOD!” And He will say it to your soul in a way that you will know it. And God will send His pleasure right back to you and will make your heart and soul flourish.

He will return your worship of Him back to you in the flourishing of your joy!

In fact, that is exactly what the psalmist says next, verse 4:

“For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy!”

Do you see this? In your worship, you are meditating on the GOODNESS of God and the GOODNESS of all His works. Isn’t that what the psalmist is saying? “For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy!” What are you thinking about when you worship God? What about God are you worshiping? You are worshiping God for who He is and what He has done: “your work…the work of your hands.” You are contemplating, confessing, and celebrating God’s GOODNESSES in His creation, in His redemption in Christ and His Gospel, and in His providences – all the ways He loves you, saves you, and provides for you, and supplies all your needs!

And, as you contemplate, confess, and celebrate the GOODNESS of God, He feeds His love, and grace, and favor back into your soul. He makes you to know “This God is my God. He has done all His works on my behalf. He is giving Himself to me and for me!” And this worship fills you with gladness and joy! Your worship of God is making your gladness and joy flourish! You are already flourishing! God is making you flourish and giving you His flourishing through your worship of Him. And your joy will continue to increase as you continue to worship.

Your flourishing is limitless because God’s greatness that we are worshiping is beyond our comprehension!

Read verse 5:

“How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!

You cannot and never will exhaust or plumb the depths of God’s steadfast love and His faithfulness that you are worshiping.

I’m thinking here of Paul’s outburst of worship in Romans 11.33:

“Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!”

Or again, his worship in prayer for the Ephesians [and for us!] in Ephesians 3.16-19:

“…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

God’s works of creation, redemption, and providences – which we are worshiping – are vast, awe-inspiring, all-inclusive of everything He has done … and we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around them all or grasp them with our understanding. Just contemplating, confessing, and celebrating the greatness of God and all His works is beyond our range and capabilities to take them all in. But God thrills us with flourishing as we worship what we do know about Him, and seek more of Him, and immerse ourselves in His worship!

But, here’s yet another way God makes us flourish through our worship of Him: and that is, He gives us vision to see, and insight to understand, and the capacity to receive and experience the flourishing that He gives!

Verse 6 will begin a contrast between the temporary and fleeting ‘flourishing’ that those who do not worship God seek and think they enjoy … versus the true, lasting, soul-satisfying flourishing that God gives back to those who worship Him.

After the psalmist has already said in verse 5, “How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!” … you can supply the word ‘however’ before verse 6:

[However…but] The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:

Now before we go on, we have to ask ourselves, “What in the world does he mean by calling those who do not recognize and worship God ‘stupid’? Can we even use that word to refer to anyone? What does he mean by ‘stupid’ and ‘fool’?” Well, be sure of this, the psalmist is not referring to anyone’s IQ or intellectual deficiency. That is not what in view here. What the psalmist is referring to is the spiritual perception and perspective that those who do not worship God have of God. He is simply saying that they are ‘void of good sense.’ They don’t know GOOD when they see it. They think evil is good. Their values, thinking, and perception of what is good, and their perspective on what is good and what is not is distorted and perverted by their sinful nature and unbelief.

Since we’re talking here in this psalm about God being GOOD and the worship of God being GOOD and GOOD for our flourishing – those who do not worship God do not recognize or confess that. They do not seek God. They put no value on God. They do not love or worship God. Psalm 10.4 indicts those who do not worship God:

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’”

Do you see that? Yes, you do, if you worship God. But the wicked do not. We know that God is GOOD, and that our worship of God is GOOD and GOOD for us. God is making you flourish with understanding by showing you that difference.

You know how we sometimes say, “You don’t know what’s good for you”? That means that whatever this person is seeking or doing will only ruin them. What they think is good for them will fail them and harm them and destroy them.

So, here’s the contrast of flourishing between those who do not worship God and those who do. Let’s pick up verse 6 again and connect it with verse 7:

“The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this [cannot understand what?] that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever…”  

THAT is what they cannot know or understand. They are seeking their own ‘flourishing’ in their own pride, self-desires, self-will, in their own earthly prosperity, and accomplishments, and pleasures. They think they are flourishing. But what they do not know and cannot know and will not recognize and accept is that though they seem to be flourishing and appear outwardly to be flourishing in their own ways, “they are doomed to destruction forever.”

The psalmist goes on to say [verse 8]:

“but you, O LORD, are on high forever.”

Do you see the same “forever” in verses 7 and 8? The wicked are “doomed to destruction ‘forever,’ but you, O LORD are on high ‘forever.’” This same LORD who is “on high forever” is the same “O Most High” that we worship [see verse 1]. Our LORD reigns in holy Majesty and sovereign LORDship forever. “You, O LORD, are the One who judges and determines the forever flourishing and ends of all people.”

Then again in verse 9, the psalmist picks back up and repeats what he saw from his worship of God in verse 7:

For behold, your enemies, O LORD, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.” [This is what they cannot know and cannot understand…]

I just want to repeat and re-emphasize here that God will give you this flourishing of wisdom and insight to see the GOODNESS of worshiping Him … through your worshiping! In other words, the LORD will give you personal reassurances of the riches of your inheritance in Him. And that reassurance will make you flourish with hope and joy.

Asaph in Psalm 73: another illustration…

Let me give you another psalmist’s testimony of how God gives you the flourishing of your wisdom through your worship. Go with me to Psalm 73. The author of this psalm is one of David’s chief leaders of worship, Asaph. In Psalm 73, Asaph begins by confessing that “Truly God is GOOD to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” But this confession comes only after he had been worshiping God in spirit and in truth. God made his understanding of what true flourishing is to flourish through his worship of God! He didn’t go to worship that day with this same flourishing of hope and joy.

As Asaph tells us in the verses that follow, he was in a deep depression of doubt about the worthwhileness of his continued worship of the LORD. He had begun questioning the good and benefit of his worship. Why? Because he began to look around at the apparent ‘flourishing’ of those who were not worshiping God. He began to envy them. It looked to him like everything they touched turned to gold. They appeared to be prospering in their sin and wickedness. They gave no thought to God. In fact, they defied God and scoffed at God – and at Asaph for worshiping God. They didn’t give their lives and hearts to worshiping God. Asaph had.

In Psalm 73.13-14, he even began questioning whether he had wasted his life by worshiping God: “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.” Then God radically changed his perception and perspective on what true flourishing is. And how did this radical change in his perception and perspective come about? It came about through worship!

Psalm 73.16-19

But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!

How does God give us flourishing through worship?

Now, we’re coming to the home stretch. I hope you have hung in with me this far. Please stay with me for the rest of the story … because in verse 10 on through the rest of this psalm, the psalmist is going to give us the other side of the contrast he began in verse 6: the contrast between the apparent, temporary, fleeting flourishing of those who do not worship God … versus the true, lasting, soul-satisfying flourishing of those who do unceasingly worship God.

In verses 6-9, the psalmist describes the temporary, fleeting flourishing of the wicked with their inevitable and inescapable ‘forever’ doom and destruction. Then, in verse 10, he begins with “But…in stark contrast to those who don’t worship You…” Now, he will give us the promises and assurances that God will give us true, lasting, and soul-satisfying flourishing through our unceasing worship of Him.

How does the LORD give us unceasing flourishing through our unceasing worship?

In what ways does the LORD make us flourish through our worshiping of Him?

Here’s how…

Verse 10: “But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil.”

Let’s paraphrase these two metaphors this way:

“But You have made me to flourish with courage, strength, and confidence in You – like the horn of the wild ox. You have refreshed me and revived me, You have re-invigorated me with joy and desire for You with the anointing of Your Holy Spirit. You have given me a sense of my belonging to You. You have filled me with the joy of knowing that You have accepted my worship and that You are pleased with my worship!”

And also, by confessing that the LORD had “exalted my horn like that of the wild ox,” he was thanking and praising the LORD [see verse 1] that He had given him the assurance, and confidence, and the strength to push back victoriously even against those who were mocking him and ridiculing him for his commitment to unceasingly worship the LORD! Some of you may need that flourishing of your courage and confidence in the LORD.

In verse 11, he returns to reiterate what the LORD had shown him about the inevitable and inescapable end of those who do not worship God [see verses 7 and 9]:

“My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.”

He had seen and heard this contrast in their eventual ends through his worship. The seeming, apparent, temporary, and fleeting ‘flourishing’ of those who do not worship God quickly wilts away and dies – and they are destroyed forever. The true, soul-satisfying flourishing of the worshiper of God grows, thrives, and lives on forever!

Verses 12-14: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green…”

Listen to all those ‘flourish’ words!

  • “flourish like the palm tree” – the palm tree grows straight up, it is abundant with nourishing fruit – the palm date which is so rich in nutrients that it will sustain life for a long time even without any other foods … and can continue to bear its fruit for a century, it is exceedingly resilient to wind and storm, it is an oasis tree and a most welcome sight to the weary traveler or sojourner.
  • “grow like the cedar in Lebanon” – the cedars of Lebanon were legendary for their strength and durability.
  • “planted in the house of the LORD” – your worship of the LORD will establish you and make you unmovable, give you deeply-planted roots of conviction and confidence in the LORD. When you are “planted” in the house of the LORD, you belong there. You are at home there. You grow and flourish there.
  • “flourish in the courts of our God” – well, ‘flourish’ says it for itself: flourishing is thriving, being full of wellness, growth, vigor, and vitality.
  • “still bear fruit in old age” – your flourishing will keep on growing, increasing, and bearing fruit as long as you do … I want to say more about this here in a minute…
  • “ever full of sap and green” – ALWAYS full of life and vitality! Your flourishing in worship will come back to you in unceasing abundant supply through you unceasing worship of the LORD!

Now, to you who are suffering your various weaknesses and afflictions – and maybe even discouraged in your worship … to you who may even be homebound and can’t attend the worship services you so love and long for…

Do you even doubt that this flourishing promised here still belong to you and apply to you? Especially, what about that one that promises: “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green”? You have given your life to the worship of the LORD and your service in His church. You love the services of worship, and all your life you have been active and faithful and fruitful. But now, your body has grown weak and frail. You suffer from chronic afflictions. Your strength has been diminished and your activities are so limited. You feel like you are useless now. You think the times of your usefulness and fruit-bearing are over.

THAT’S NOT TRUE! THAT’S NOT WHAT THE LORD PROMISES HERE! He promises “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green!”

Your old-age weakness may prevent you from being as active as you have been and used to be – but nothing prevents your worship of the LORD and your flourishing through that worship! Do you remember singing that verse of “How Firm a Foundation” that sings:

“Even down to old age, all My people shall prove

My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love.

And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn

like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”  

“So,” you ask: “What fruit can I still bear in my older-age years and in my present weakness?

OK, now read that last verse of Psalm 92, verse 15:

“…to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

This is a summary of the fruit you have borne and are still bearing by your life of unceasing worship of the LORD which you are still bearing.

By your unceasing worship of the LORD, God will give you unceasing flourishing:

  • …by feeding His own GOOD Presence back into your soul with His fullness of life and refreshment!
  • …by making your lifetime of worship and service to Him your living, lasting witness and personal testimony to His worthiness of our worship!
  • …and by inspiring all those who know you and see you to follow your example of life-long worship of the LORD!

Yes! even in your older-age and physical weaknesses and frailties, you are still bearing all these fruits!

And, as the LORD gives you unceasing flourishing through your unceasing worship of Him, your flourishing will declare that He is faithful to His children, He will be the source and supply of all the strength they need, and He will fulfill ALL His covenant word and promises!

You are singing, “He’s never failed me yet!”  



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