Jump Start # 2406
Psalms 34:3 “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”
Our verse today is one of those great worship passages that are sprinkled throughout the Psalms. Of the thirteen words in this sentence, or verse, three of them are about the participants, the worshippers. It’s not simply magnifying the Lord, but O magnify the Lord WITH ME. It’s not only exalting His name, but let US exalt His name TOGETHER. With me. Let us. Together. This is what makes worship so special. You and me, all of us, together, praising the Lord. Young and old. Male and female. Common and complex. All together and all worshipping.
These thoughts crossed my mind the other day in worship. There sat an old believer who came in with canes in both hands. There were young people sitting on the front row. I saw someone wearing a foot boot. She had a recent injury. There were walkers folded up in the aisles. I saw someone with a band-aide on his hand. Some of our younger members had dates sitting with them. There were among us some having tests that week. Some were having surgeries. This was a common mixture of a typical Sunday morning.
However, long ago, in ancient Israel, this scene would not have taken place. The worship in the temple was very different from our Sunday worship. Women were only allowed to go into the temple compound as far as the court of the women. Gentiles could only go as far as the court of the Gentiles. Those who were considered unclean, would not be allowed to enter. So, what we have on Sunday, families sitting together, likely wouldn’t have happened back then. Some of us would not have been allowed in because of medical reasons.
What a joy and what a blessing it is for families to worship together. Many of us remember worshipping with our parents. My dad would always carry some mints in his suit pocket. We kids knew that and would take turns sticking our hands in those pockets to get a mint. When computers first came out, programs were run on individual computer cards. My dad would bring those discarded cards home and they would be just the right size to fit in his Bible to take notes on. He still has some of those.
Worshipping with family—it’s such a blessing. When the children are small, parents often wonder if it’s worth all the effort, with all the hushing, picking up, taking out, holding that is required with small children. At the end of services, moms and dads leave looking like they have just finished a twenty mile hike. But deep down, lessons are being taught and lessons are being learned. That’s why they keep doing these things.
It’s hard to imagine wanting to come to worship but not being allowed to because of being considered unclean. The lepers knew that feeling. The woman with the issue of blood knew that feeling. Not allowed because you are unclean. And, yet, sometimes, we keep ourselves away from worship because we feel morally unclean. We do not feel worthy to worship the Lord. We recognize that we have sinned before God. We have not made the right choices and even though God welcomes us to Him, we often keep ourselves away because we feel so unclean on the inside.
And, yet, where do we find Jesus throughout the Gospels? Around the unclean. A sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. A woman at a well in Samaria, with so many broken relationships. A group of lepers standing at a distance. An unloved tax collector up in a tree. Unclean. Outcasts. Dirty. Social misfits. Not the ones most would invite over for dinner. Not the ones that we’d choose to build a church around. Not the ones whose pictures we’d put on posters and website to welcome others.
And, this is the very reason why, you and I, unclean as we sometimes are, can find a place to worship God. The Lord accepts us. The Lord wants us. Only the Lord can really change us. Only the Lord can really cleanse us. If we had to go away and become clean before we would be allowed to worship, most of us couldn’t do that. It’s not dirty hands that soap can take care of. It’s unclean hearts and unclean minds. It’s thoughts we shouldn’t have. It’s forgiveness that we refuse to extend. It’s attitudes that are not like Christ. It’s prejudice. It’s hatred. It’s selfishness. It’s indifference to others. It’s stubbornness. It’s self-righteousness. It’s viewing others with contempt. It’s pouting like Jonah. It’s refusing to accept like the prodigal’s older brother. There are moments when we ought to be thankful that God allows us through the front doors. And, there we sit, looking at the girl with pink hair, or the black guy who is sitting with a white girl, or the guy with tattoos, and we wonder, “What are they doing here?” And, yet, God allows us to come and worship Him. There’s a teen wearing shorts. There is someone recently divorced, sitting with someone else. So soon. Already? We look around, and we see someone not singing. We see someone who didn’t put any money in the collection plate. We see someone playing with their phone. Oh, the thoughts we can have.
The unclean couldn’t come into the temple. And, today, we can simple miss the blessing that God allows us to worship Him and come into His presence, when we are unclean. And, when we think about this for a moment, we stop focusing upon others and what they are doing and the way they look, and realize that God has allowed us, as we are, to be with Him. Enough thinking like that, and we begin to feel pretty small and very humble. And, what should happen, is that from the bottom of our hearts, we reach upward and ask God to forgive us for being so unclean.
The unclean standing in the presence of the pure God can certainly have an impact upon our hearts. Remember the tax collector who went to the temple to pray? He beat his breast and asked God to forgive him. He understood the concept of the unclean standing in the presence of the clean. The Pharisee, standing nearby, missed this. He never saw God. He only saw this tax collector and he was so glad that he wasn’t like him. But, in truth, he was worse than he was. He was more unclean than he was.
So, a young man doesn’t get everything said just right in a prayer. He’s trying. The brother fumbles at the table talk. He’s trying. The song leader can’t get the song right. He’s trying. And, there we can sit, fuming, fussing and imperfect like everyone else.
Let us magnify His name together. That’s you and me. Give it our best, but even then, we are imperfect, reformed sinners, who are often unclean in the presence of His Holiness. I’m glad that the Lord invites us, includes us and wants us.
Light years ago, when I was in a preacher training program, one of the members in the congregation was involved in a serious car accident. I was mowing the yard when I found out about this. I went straight to the hospital. The person was in ICU. I told them I was a preacher. They looked at me and wouldn’t let me in. Frustrated, I went home and put on a suit and returned to the hospital. They let me in. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t do that for us? We may frown at others, and look at each other with a stinky eye, but God welcomes us.
It is a joy to worship the Lord together!