Monday, November 03, 2008

Wrapping Up With Worship

As we come to the last psalm in our study of the Psalms of Ascents, we come to Psalm 134. A quick review will allow us to see the themes which lead up to the final of these psalms. In Psalm 130, the psalmist prays about the conflict which comes from inside himself. In the next psalm, Psalm 131, the psalmist praises God for the life which God gives him. In Psalm 132, he begins to pray for the whole of God's people by anticipating the restoration of the Davidic line. In Psalm 133, the psalmist praises God for the unity found in the people of God. Not surprisingly, with Psalm 134 this series of psalms ends in a prayer for more worship to flow from God's people.

Read Psalm 134 (NASB, NIV, KJV)

Here is my working outline. I would appreciate any suggestions for improvement.

The Worship of the Lord

I. The continuation of worship (1)

II. The expectation in worship (2)

III. The blessing from worship (3)

It is fitting that the last psalm of this series ends in an exhortation to continue in worship. One can imagine the priest climbing the steps of the temple singing one of these fifteen psalms for every step he takes. Then he stands at the top of the stairs and sings at the top of his voice the words of this psalm.

He begins by first encouraging those who are to serve the Lord into the night to continue to praise the Lord. The priests did not serve 24 hours a day. Instead, they served in shifts. The psalmist came to Jerusalem to participate in one of the yearly celebrations which required all the males to return to Jerusalem. He came to worship and they had been worshipping all day. The psalmist now asks those serving in the temple to continue this worship into the night. The worship of the Lord should and will always continue.

Next, the psalmist tells those who are worshipping to lift their hands to the Lord in their worship. This is a physical posture which indicates a spiritual attitude of expectation. The lifting of hands to heaven shows the worshipper is expecting to receive whatever they have asked for from the Lord. It shows they know the Lord is able and willing to give to His people. The NASB says raise your hands "to" the sanctuary and the NIV says to raise your hands "in" the sanctuary. The NASB is indicating where the receiving is coming from and the NIV seems to connote the place where the worship is taking place. While a minor issue, it is one which needs to be addressed.

Finally, the psalmist asks the Lord will bless the reader. One of the draw backs of the NIV translation is that it translates the word "Bless" as "Praise" as in verse 1. However, the NASB translates this psalm better in showing that verse 1 and verse 3 both have the word "bless" in. In this case, it is almost a reciprocal relationship: you bless the Lord and He will bless you. Whatever the best translation should be, the point is that there is a benefit of worshipping the Lord, specifically, that He will bless His people.

This is a great way to finish our study of the Psalms of Ascents: We should pray for the continuation of the worship of the Lord, we should have expecation that God will work great things when we engage in worship, and there are great benefits of worshipping the Lord.

As I have tried with all these psalms, I want to find a song sung in today's churches which communicates the same theme as the psalm. For this final hymn, I think Amazing Grace communicates the message of Psalm 134. I think the three points of the outline are represented in reverse order in this psalm. The first three verses of Amazing Grace portrays the benefits of worshipping the Lord. The fourth verse relays the expectation of receiving good things from God. The final verse of Amazing Grace pictures the continuation of worship all throughout time.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

I will have one more post on the Psalms of Ascents to sum up the whole study. Please let me know if any of these have been helpful.