Today in the gathering of Cornerstone, in continuing our major series on the topic of worship, I looked at Psalm 33. I specifically emphasised four points (or really 3 of them due to time).
- Our praise to the Lord (vs1-3)
- The word of the Lord (vs4-12)
- The eye of the Lord (vs13-19)
- Our hope in the Lord (vs20-22)
But more than anything else, burning deep within my heart was the second point – the word of the Lord in our worship gatherings.
The word of the Lord has an extremely important role in our worship gatherings. An extremely important role! If our goal is to simply gather together and sing three, four or five songs and then move on to the next ‘part’ of our gatherings, our services, well, I think we have missed the point.
Oh, I do believe that God speaks through the exposition of the Scriptures. I do believe God stirs through the conversation that takes places amongst the saints. I do believe Christ is very present at the table when we share the bread and wine. All of these things are very important. But if we move through each of these elements and are never really aware of the word of the Lord, then we have missed something.
When I use the phrase, ‘the word of the Lord’, as in Psalm 33:4 and 33:6, I am not only talking about the Scriptures. Oh yes, I believe the Scriptures are the faithful, God-breathed word. Extremely important. But I am convinced the word of the Lord is not only contained in the Scriptures. I believe they are the starting point for our faith and the practise of such. But the word of the Lord continues on, never contradicting that of the testimony of the full and final revelation in Jesus Christ, but nevertheless still coming forth in the present day.
Now, interestingly enough, many of us can identify with God speaking via the biblical text. I can recall a worship gathering where God spoke to me through Exodus 15:3 – The LORD is a man of war, the LORD is His name. I don’t remember how I ended up in Exodus 15, but there I was with it open. And it was like Niagara Falls opened up over me with regards to the revelation that came from that verse. I had an understanding that day like never before with regards to how God fights on behalf of His people.
But I can also point to times when I did not necessarily have Scripture open, but the Spirit of the Lord communicated and spoke something. Not specifically a prophecy that needed to be shared publicly with the saints or with a specific individual. Rather simply God speaking and communicating something about Himself. Oh, it fit in very well with what Scripture teaches, complementing and not contradicting. But there wasn’t a specific chapter and verse to quote.
Specifically, I remember a time in a small church in a small town of England. On one Sunday as the congregation was engaging with God through song, God helped me realise that I have never tasted of His unfaithfulness. Never! I have tasted of difficult times. But never of His unfaithfulness. And I have clung to that on a regular basis for the past 4 or 5 years since that day. I’ve clung to such a revelation very tightly.
So I must say that an insight, no, a revelation has been stirred and kindled a fresh in me this week. It is that we must remember the role of the word of the Lord in our worship, in our gatherings. To go through the service step by step, part by part, portion by portion, without realising the importance of the word of the Lord, well, as I have said, I think we will have missed something.
Please understand that I am not wrapping this all up in some kind of super-charged Pentecostal experience. That is not the point by any means. But if the word of the Lord is truly living and active, even that which He speaks that is not directly found in the Scriptures but still does not go against the teaching of Scripture, then we need the word to come and be alive in our midst. Does man not live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 5:4)?
But do we listen? Do we turn our ears? Do we ask God to speak? I know plenty of times where the saints have gathered together and I have moved on not even engaging with God on much of any level. Again, I am not trying to tie this all into an extreme subjective experience, though these are not necessarily against the workings of God (see more here). But I suppose this God who has drawn us to Himself, this Jesus who is actively involved in our lives by His Spirit, He wants to communicate with us on a regular basis. Hence, the word of the Lord will come forth. But do we hear.
And you know what, when God speaks things happen. If we are listening and truly hear God speak, things will take place. At times, fulfilment will come instantaneously (think about the creation account or the changing of Abraham’s name). At times, there will be waiting (think the birth of Isaac or the coming of the Messiah in flesh). But, regardless of immediate fulfilment or a time of waiting, things will happen if we hear the word of the Lord. Faith will be stirred, hearts will be awakened, hope will be kindled. And we will be confident that what God has said is truly what He said.
If there is an element of fulfilment to come, we can be certain it will be fulfilled at just the right time. This is not an excuse to appease the skeptic who challenges something as truly from God because it was not fulfilled immediately. We can keep on listing that which is in the Scripture itself that was spoken from God but took years, decades or even centuries to be fulfilled. Rather, I remind us that His word is certain and will certainly be fulfilled to encourage us to cling to the word of the Lord.
Weigh it – with Scripture, with our leaders, with our brothers and sisters in the body. But that which is truly the word of the Lord will come to fruition. And our spirits will testify when the Spirit of the Lord has truly brought forth the word of the Lord. But if we are not sure, again, we have the Scripture, our faithful leaders, and the faithful body.
So, let us dearly remember the importance of the word of the Lord. It is of absolute import in our gatherings. Yes, in our personal devotion and walk with God as well. But the word of the Lord in the gathering of the saints, when it is truly His word, will come forth like a two-edged sword, and God’s people will testify to it’s changing power.
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does. (Psalm 33:4)