Chapter 4 Joy In Worship

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name (Psalm 100:4).

I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:18).

Those of us who have traveled in foreign lands have been shocked at the lewd, licentious abominations men worship. In God’s calling Israel to be a vessel for His own revealings, we see how different was their worship to that of the nations around.

Israel was called to worship the living God “in the beauty of holiness.” Each mercy from God brought forth the louder praise. Gratitude expanded their adoration. As God’s goodness fell in swelling showers, so the heat of devotion ascended in higher flame. David, in the psalms of worship, rises to great heights of exuberant joy before the Lord. He soars high on the wings of adoring praise to God’s holy name.

It was never intended that worship be morose, and the skies over the head of a worshiping people be full of somber gloom. David even danced with joy before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14). Worship was robust, not anemic; virile, not lifeless; spontaneous, not forced. There was a natural overflowingness of the heart in worship. “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95:1).

Joy in Going up to God’s House

It ought always to be a joy to anticipate worship, to go where the Lord is in the midst. It is surely the full grant of blessedness to meet the Lord, the living God, and our Saviour. In Old Testament times this was expressed in Israel as “going up to mount Zion.”

It was so different from Sinai. It was at Sinai they heard the law. It spelled out God’s will, what must be if they would be accepted of Him. “This do!” and life is purchased—Heaven is won. If man shares God’s holiness, then he may ascend God’s throne. But man failed, and hope from self died forever. The broken law frowns terribly upon men. It claims its payment. It utters its inexorable curse. Perfect obedience is its due. One breach makes it a foe forever.

But Zion’s mount is in the Promised Land, and symbolizes God’s system of grace. It is bathed in perpetual sunshine. It calls men to come and meet with God. “All your males shall appear before Me in Zion”—and three times a year they came! “The joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion” (Psalm 48:2). Zion means “projection.” It was in the world, but rose out of the world and jutted high into the heavenlies. It represented a heavenly position, a heavenly consciousness, a heavenly hope, a heavenly education, and a heavenly joy.

As they climbed Zion’s mountain, the Israelites sang Psalms 120 through 134. These are called “psalms of degrees” or “of ascent.” On the earthly level Israel was a divided and scattered people, but Zion drew them together. The higher they climbed, the nearer they came to one another, until, on the top, they were together and sang: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Unity is not a mere organizational thing. It is the outcome of spiritual ascent into our heavenly things in Christ. And the higher and higher these people climbed mount Zion with God’s house in view, the louder and louder sounded their praises.

This response to God, and their ascent of Zion, was a most joyful experience. “O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:3-4). If Israel had such joy in going up to Zion’s hill to the house of the Lord, surely we believers of this dispensation have greater reason for joy in going to meet our Lord and our God.

Joy in God’s Holy Presence

The last psalm in that special group of psalms is 134, and this they sang when on top of the mount and in God’s house—in His holy presence. “Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD.” No longer were their hearts cold, dead, rank with nature’s weeds. They were now warm; faith sprang to life in them—they were in the house of God to adore and praise the beauties of the Lord. It was a grand reality of joy and bliss. What a lively, happy feeling it is to be where God’s presence is real and manifested and realized.

We read that in those days: “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD … for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:13,14). Exultant souls brought down the glory of the Lord. It was an unfathomable flood of bliss.

We live in an era when God is known and worshiped as the Father of all who believe. Believers in the finished work of Christ Jesus are in a closer, more intimate, and more settled relationship with Him on the ground of redemption than Old Testament saints. The Holy Spirit has been given, the fruit of His life is joy, and His enabling help is the power for worship. What a joyous experience it should be, then, to be within the veil, in the presence of God, accepted of Him, made complete in Christ, all fully saved! Where are words to testify the joy of faith? The Spirit pauses and exclaims: “Unspeakable” (1 Peter 1:8). The Lord Himself is the believer’s overflowing cup. We have access to His smile. The weary rest upon His loving breast. The full heart can throb no happier throb, know no greater joy, than pure, joyous worship of the Father and the Son.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.