God’s Prayer Book – The Church, part 2.
Wednesday November 9,2022
The psalms that speak of the gathering of God’s people instruct them in the condition of their heart and paints that condition of the utmost importance when worshipping God.
Psa 15 lists ten characteristics of righteousness that the worshipper must have to commune with the Lord and with one another.
Psa 15 A Psalm of David.
O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
2 He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
3 He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the Lord;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.
We do not ascend the actual hill of Zion to worship at the Tabernacle, but none would doubt that as we gather together, our hearts should be in this condition.
For us there is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in prayers, hymns, and a life lived according to God’s commands. Our entire life becomes worship, the offering of thanksgiving. Those who are truly grateful, no matter what are the conditions and circumstances of their lives, are the ones who see God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Psa 50 is the Lord’s indictment against empty, formal, and hypocritical worship and calls for a spiritual renewal based on obedient trust in the Lord.
Psa 50 A Psalm of Asaph.
The Mighty One, God, the Lord, has spoken,
And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God has shone forth.
3 May our God come and not keep silence;
Fire devours before Him,
And it is very tempestuous around Him.
4 He summons the heavens above,
And the earth, to judge His people:
5 "Gather My godly ones to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
6 And the heavens declare His righteousness,
For God Himself is judge. Selah.
7 "Hear, O My people, and I will speak;
O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God.
8 "I do not reprove you for your sacrifices,
And your burnt offerings are continually before Me.
9 "I shall take no young bull out of your house
Nor male goats out of your folds.
10 "For every beast of the forest is Mine,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
11 "I know every bird of the mountains,
And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
12 "If I were hungry I would not tell you,
For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
13 "Shall I eat the flesh of bulls
Or drink the blood of male goats?
14 "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And pay your vows to the Most High;
15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me."
16 But to the wicked God says,
"What right have you to tell of My statutes
And to take My covenant in your mouth?
17 "For you hate discipline,
And you cast My words behind you.
18 "When you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
And you associate with adulterers.
19 "You let your mouth loose in evil
And your tongue frames deceit.
20 "You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother's son.
21 "These things you have done and I kept silence;
You thought that I was just like you;
I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.
22 "Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.
23 "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright shall show the salvation of God."
The Psalms teach us to be thankful to Christ and to gather together to praise God in the congregation with heart and mouth.
Psa 84 For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.
How lovely are Your dwelling places,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 The bird also has found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.
4 How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
They are ever praising You. Selah.
5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
6 Passing through the valley of Baca [either arid and dry; or weeping] they make it a spring;
The early rain also covers it with blessings.
7 They go from strength to strength,
Every one of them appears before God in Zion.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
9 Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
10 For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
The psalmist praises the house of the Lord, the holy city, and the blessings on the pilgrims, in so doing he is indirectly praising the Lord Himself. Without the Lord’s presence, it would just be a building or a city. The first line shows this: How lovely are Your dwelling places, or, the places where You dwell. It’s not the loveliness of the building that the pilgrims are after. Several names are used for the Lord (Lord of Hosts (armies), living God, God of Jacob, Lord, Lord God, King, and a sun and a shield). He is the one who receives worship and hears prayer and blesses His people.
Without the Lord’s presence in our own gatherings, we are just a group of people. If we’re not in unity, in love for one another, serving one another, and worshipping the Lord, then we’re only gathered for something of the fallen world, and the Lord made it clear to us that He was not of the world and nor is any saved person.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
The way of Christ is to consider others as more important than yourself. When you come to church, the person sitting next to you is to be more important than you. Consider if they have a need, need your comfort or encouragement, need your time, or service of any kind. If we come with only ourselves in mind we are not gathering in the midst of Christ. We pray, “Your will be done.”
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
“And why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me, and hears My words, and acts upon them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard, and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house upon the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Like the lawyer in chapter 10 who only wanted to test the Lord and debate the moral problems that he saw in the commandments, we could argue, who is our enemy, and which words do I keep, etc.?
Christ perfected the ultimate sacrifice and by it showed us what sacrifice is – obedience unto death. We are to love one another. We are to consider one another more important than ourselves. We are to serve one another, considering everyone in the church and wondering how we can stimulate them to love and good deeds.
Our sacrifice in the church, what we are always considering and what we are offering when we gather in the place where God dwells, is thankful doing for others, sharing good words (psalms and hymns and spiritual songs), sharing our joy (making melody in our hearts), always giving thanks, and being subject to one another in the fear of Christ. This is what Paul describes as a life that is filled with the Spirit. Have you ever thought of someone, or perhaps even yourself, as having a full life?
Having a full life - What would a life filled with the Spirit look like?
For us, our sacrifice is found in thankful doing for others, and not in half-measures. Our tendency to hold back is in the flesh, and all of us struggle with it, but our struggle is not to be an excuse to put off our obedience to Christ. Obedience is immediate and full. When the lawyer asked Christ what was the greatest commandment, Christ’s response disarmed him. We find that the man asked the question not for the purpose of obeying it. What else are commands for?
If we keep posing problems, even theological ones, we keep pushing actual obedience down the road.
Jesus isn’t interested in debating the question. He says to the lawyer, you already know the answer, so you tell Me.
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" 27 And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 28 And He said to him, "You have answered correctly;
The whole law is summed up in these commandments, and since Christ is the fulfillment of the law, these commandments are summed up in Him.
We are told explicitly that the lawyer means to test Jesus. He intends to land the Lord with himself in the place of moral doubt and difficulties which call for endless debate.
Jesus demands one thing from him - do it.
And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE."
The lawyer has lost the first round, so he must counter. He moves on to the next moral difficulty he can think of:
But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
You can keep asking this question without ever getting an answer.
“Who is my neighbor? Who is my enemy? How much am I supposed to give? What does continually praying mean? How long should Bible study be? I’m not yet sure what my spiritual gift is. I really want to do God’s will, but He doesn’t tell me who and what exactly; it seems all quite vague, so I guess I’ll just have to wait.”
Debate rather than spontaneous obedience is only justifying doubt and disobedience.
And yes, we don’t know the direction it is going to take us. We don’t get to calculate and debate where we are going. Christ said to pick up our crosses and follow Him and live today without worry for tomorrow. Where will Christ lead us if follow Him fully in all things: prayer, service, giving, etc.
Our Lord Jesus points out that the definition of neighbor never came into the command. Read it again, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The neighbor is you.
Jesus replied and said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 "And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 "Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 "But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 "On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' 36 "Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?" 37 And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same."
Neighborliness is not a quality of in other people, it is simply their claim on ourselves. We are the neighbor to all others.
Every person and situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not. We must behave like a neighbor to him or her and love them as we would love ourselves if we were serving ourselves (our clone, if you will).
Perhaps you still think you ought to think about before hand. To that there is only one answer. You can only know and think about it by doing it. You can only learn what obedience is by obeying. It is no use asking questions; for it is only through obedience that you come to know the truth. The Lord calls us to spontaneous obedience.
Everything that is of this life in Christ has a place in prayer. “Your will be done,” put the question of our spontaneous obedience on our minds before our Father to whom we cannot lie, nor should we try since there is not condemnation in Christ Jesus. Do we often debate the issue with ourselves as we put off our obedience? Do we ponder the moral difficulties rather than doing God’s will?