“Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.” (Psalm 39:4–5)
Behold, O Lord, My Days
1. Behold, O Lord, my days are made A handbreadth as their span. Before the noon, my flow’r must fade, The end of ev’ry man.
2. So teach me Lord, to know my end And know that I am frail. To heav’n let all my thoughts ascend And let not earth prevail.
3. What love of earth can keep me here? I hope in You alone. When will You open glory’s gates And call me to Your throne?
4. A stranger in this land am I, A pilgrim far from rest. O be not silent to my cry, My yearning soul’s request.
5. Though I’m exiled from glory’s land, I dwell with glory’s King. My God is ever near at hand; He wakes my voice to sing.
Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150)
Psalm 150 anticipates the coming of Christ and foresees the day when God’s praise will cover the earth. Jesus said that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). This psalm, like all the psalms, points us to Christ. The final words of Psalm 150 anticipate Christ’s words in the Great Commission. The psalmist calls upon “everything that has breath” to “praise the Lord.” In Mark 16:15 Jesus commands His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” We are to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Psalm 150 finds its ultimate fulfillment in the conquering grace of Christ displayed in His church.
Church history is a testimony to the fulfillment of Psalm 150. God is at work sanctifying instruments and voices from every tribe and tongue, culture and nation for His glory. He is continually adding new voices, new instruments, new cultures, and new songs to the tapestry of His praise through the ages.
The fulfillment of Psalm 150, however, has not been without opposition. Satan has been enraged and at war with church since its beginning (Revelation 12). It has been his scheme to thwart the spread of God’s praise. He has attempted to shroud the world in darkness so that men remain blind to truth. He has sought to hinder the spread of the gospel so that men remain in bondage to their sin. He has sought to distort truth about God so that men believe and sing lies. And he has cast doubt on music (especially the use of musical instruments) miring them in sinful associations.
In the early days of the church, many musical instruments from Greek and Roman culture were associated with pagan worship and pagan cults. The aulos (a wind instrument like the flute) was used in the worship of the goddess Diana. The lyre (a stringed instrument) was said to be played by the Greek god Apollo. Many Christian writers and commentators of the first three centuries condemned such instruments based on their associations with pagan rituals. Some presented farfetched explanations and allegories in an attempt to reinterpret passages like Psalm 150, that include clear commands to worship God with musical instruments. (An excellent resource is: Music in Early Christian Literature by James McKinnon, Cambridge University Press, 1987.)
Throughout the history of the church, well-intended arguments have been made that certain musical instruments are incompatible with worship. Some have tried to constrict the Regulative Principle so that it excludes the use of musical instruments in the church altogether. Drums, guitars, banjos, kazoos, and even the piano have been scorned and disparaged.
One musical instrument that was slow to be accepted by the church to accompany praise to God was the organ. This may be surprising, since today the organ is regarded as the grandest musical instrument of the church.
“The organ was invented around the 3rd century BC. Back then it was designed to use water rather than air in the pipes and was called the hydraulis. The water organ was quite loud and was used most prominently in the amphitheaters.
“During the time of the Roman Empire it was used to accompany the processions and events at the gladiatorial games. Some ballparks today use the organ in a similar way to create a festive atmosphere—to signal and stir up the crowd. It was to the celebrative sounds of the organ that many Christians were paraded in before cheering crowds to be martyred.
“So you can imagine the difficulties with association that early Christians must have had whenever someone finally had the idea to introduce the organ into church as a worship instrument. How could this instrument that accompanied so much death, ever be used in worship?
“But God had a purpose for the pipe organ. He designed to rescue that instrument and use it for His glory. Rome was sacked in 410 and the empire fell over the next 150 years. The organ was finally brought into the church around 7th century AD—well after the fall of Rome. It was not until the 1300s that the first organ was permanently installed in a church. But for hundreds of years after, the pipe organ was a prominent instrument in carrying the praise of God’s people.” (from Thoughts on Music and Worship)
The reality is that there are no musical instruments that cannot be used to worship God, only instruments that are incompatible with our comfort zone and expectations as to what worship music should sound like.
Certainly, we want to use music wisely. We want to be like the sons of Issachar and have “an understanding of the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32). We want to employ music in ways that will adorn worship and serve our singing, not hinder worship and obscure the words we are singing. The inscriptions on the psalms in Scripture teach us to be intentional in our musical arrangements. In an earlier study on the Psalm Inscriptions, I concluded:
“The psalms set a musical precedent for worship that God will accomplish in fuller measure in the New Testament through the church. Throughout church history, God has added and continues to add many musical styles and sounds to His praise. As the gospel goes out in the power of God’s Spirit, conquering hearts and lives, people from each generation and from every tribe and tongue and nation add their voice to the music of the church. There is not one sound that is solely sacred, but a vast array of musical composition that God is weaving into a tapestry of praise for His glory.” (from Lessons from the Psalm Inscriptions: Titles of Interpretation).
The sanctification of music—musical expression, musical styles, musical instruments—to the praise and glory of God is an outcome of the spread of the gospel and fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Some will still ask: Where are the musical instruments in the New Testament? Where in the New Testament do we find precedent for using them in the church? Musical instruments are there, of course. They are inherent in the New Testament fulfillment of God’s commands to fill the earth with His praise. They are implied in Paul’s admonitions to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). And they are explicit in John’s descriptions of music in heaven (Revelation 5:8; 8:2, 6; 9:14; 14:2, and 15:2). But it should come as no surprise that the New Testament doesn’t provide an orchestration for music in the church. The New Testament emphasizes the spiritual nature of worship and sees it spread to the ends of the earth. Unlike the worship music of the Old Testament that was specific to one place (the tabernacle / Temple), music in the New Testament is adaptable to every place—everywhere there is breath!
We don’t have descriptions as to how to build our buildings and worship spaces.
We don’t have orders of worship to plan and design our services.
And we don’t have specific instruments designated as necessary and sacred.
There may be times when the church is not able to use musical instruments. They may be scarce. There may not be skilled musicians available to play them. Most of the first three centuries of the church, believers faced severe persecution and had to worship in secret. Loud instruments and music would have needlessly attracted attention.
As the gospel goes out and conquers hearts and lives, where there are musical instruments, they should be sanctified and employed for God’s praise. Where there are no musical instruments, God can still be worshipped with voices alone. He is sovereignly orchestrating His praise throughout the ages and around the world. All glory is His!
Open your Bibles this evening to Psalm 43. Tonight, we return to our study of Psalm 42 and 43. These two psalms are two halves of a single psalm. Together they form a lament with 3 stanzas and 3 refrains.
In this psalm, the psalmist expresses sorrow. He is afflicted and oppressed. He is separated from the people of God. And he is providentially hindered from being in Jerusalem at a time when the nation is gathering to worship God. His heart longs to “go with the throng” and join with the “multitude observing the pilgrim festival.”
In this study we are specifically interested in what we can learn about worship. What are the joys that come from corporate worship? What are the blessings that the psalmist longs for and desires to experience again?
The Psalmist longed to be in God’s presence in the midst of God’s people. His chief joy in worship was seeking God and delighting in God with the people of God.
When God brought Israel out of bondage and established them as a people, He promised to be their God, to be near them, to tabernacle among them. This great truth—God dwells with His people—fills the Old Testament and finds its fulfillment in the coming of Christ, the Messiah, who is Immanuel, “God with us.”
The presence of God with His people was the psalmist’s greatest joy in worship.
The psalmist remembered the times and places where God had brought deliverance to His people. He was encouraged and drew strength when he saw and heard about God working in the lives of His people.
He also longed to return to worship so he himself could testify of God’s goodness in delivering him from his trial. He desired that his own suffering be turned to praise and thanksgiving. He looked forward to the time when he could bring a peace offering of thanksgiving and testify to the gathered congregation that God had heard and answered his prayer. All the people of God would rejoice and give thanks when they saw him—his joy and thanksgiving to God would be multiplied many times over in the context of corporate worship! His experience would bring encouragement and strength to others who were facing difficulty.
This evening we are going to consider the third joy of corporate worship. It is found in the third stanza (Psalm 43:1–4) and the final refrain (43:5): The Joy of Walking Together in Light and Truth.
Open your Bibles this evening to Psalm 42 and 43. Last time I had an opportunity to bring God’s Word to you, we began a study of these two psalms as they relate to corporate worship. The psalmist who composed Psalm 42 and 43 was one of the sons of Korah. He was providentially hindered from being in Jerusalem and thus could not take part in the pilgrim festivals of Israel and worship God with all those who gathered. He was in the midst of trial and persecution, and was separated, at least for a time, from the people of God. As he pours out his lament and seeks God’s help, he reveals his longing to worship God with the multitude in Jerusalem. He reveals, as well, why corporate worship is so precious to him.
This evening I want us to once again consider the joys ofcorporate worship.
What is it about corporate worship—
That worship of God that we enjoy, as we gather at certain times in a designated place to seek God together, to sing and pray together, and to hear God’s Word read and taught together
What is it about corporate worship that is so necessary and desirable? Why does the psalmist long for worship in the company of God’s people?
If you remember, last time I left you with a question. We understand from Scripture that God is present everywhere. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. God was near the psalmist as he poured out his lament. So, what is this thirst that the psalmist has for God and His presence?
Why does he long to meet with God in a setting of corporate worship?
Is it really as important as the psalmist seems to indicate, that we gather together to seek God? Is it really necessary to worship God as a gathered church?
OR Can we worship God just as well apart from each other,
in the privacy of our own hearts and in our own homes?
I hope to demonstrate for you as we continue to work through this psalm, that corporate worship really is necessary in God’s design of worship, both in the Old and New Testaments. It is essential that we come together as God’s people, as His gathered church to seek Him in worship. There are joys and blessings that we will miss and sorely lack if we neglect the frequent and consistent meeting together of the visible church in this place.
When you think about corporate worship, what first comes to mind?
When you are providentially hindered and unable to attend, what do you miss?
When you made the effort to come to the service today, what motivated you to attend?
What brings you the most joy in corporate worship?
Please open your Bibles to Psalm 42. Tonight, we begin a brief series from Psalm 42 and 43 on “The Joys of Corporate Worship.” These two psalms may at first seem like an unlikely source to learn about corporate worship. They are not composed by one who is in the midst of God’s people, enjoying the blessings of gathered worship. They are rather a lament of one who is providentially hindered from joining in worship—he is prevented from being in Jerusalem and is, at least temporarily, separated from the people of God.
In this lament the psalmist pours out his heart to God and reveals his longing to return to Jerusalem and gather once again with the people of God in worship. Through his words, we are taught what should be most desirable about worship. We learn why corporate worship is so necessary for the people of God.
Psalm 42 and 43 are actually a single psalm made up of three sections. Each section ends with a similar refrain. In each section the psalmist sings about an aspect of worship that he especially misses and longs to experience again.
The Joys of Corporate Worship.
I. (42:1-4) The Joy of Seeking and Delighting in God together. (42:5) Refrain
II. (42:6-10) The Joy of Strength and Encouragement in time of suffering. (42:11) Refrain
III. (43:1-4) The Joy of Light and Truth (43:5) Refrain
Psalm 146 reminds us to put our hope and trust in God alone.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The Lord shall reign forever— Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146:1–10, NKJV)
Below is one of my favorite psalm settings of Psalm 146 from The Psalter, 1912.
Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah
Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise; I will sing the glorious praises Of my God through all my days. Put no confidence in princes, Nor for help on man depend; He shall die to dust returning, And his purposes shall end.
Happy is the man that chooses Israel’s God to be his aid; He is blessed whose hope of blessing On the Lord his God is stayed. Heav’n and earth the Lord created, Seas and all that they contain; He delivers from oppression, Righteousness He will maintain.
Food He daily gives the hungry, Sets the mourning pris’ner free, Raises those bowed down with anguish, Makes the sightless eyes to see. Well Jehovah loves the righteous, And the stranger He befriends, Helps the fatherless and widow, Judgment on the wicked sends.
Hallelujah, praise Jehovah, O my soul, Jehovah praise; I will sing the glorious praises Of my God through all my days. Over all God reigns forever, Through all ages He is King; Unto Him, your God, O Zion, Joyful hallelujahs sing. “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah”
If we are to know truth, we must abide in God’s Word. If we are to follow Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), we must know and obey God’s Word. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).
But truth is not something we can comprehend on our own. One thing we must always do when we open God’s Word, is pray that His Spirit would illumine our understanding and help us rightly apply truth. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that without the Spirit, we cannot understand the Word. To those who are dead in sin and have no spiritual life, the truth of God’s Word, in fact, appears to be foolishness. Any time we read the Bible, or hear it taught and preached, we should pray that God would teach us, give us understanding, and help us walk in truth.
This is how God instructs us to pray in His Word. The book of Psalms serves as the Bible’s inspired songbook, providing us divinely prescribed instruction on how we must sing and pray and worship the Lord. In Psalm 119:33–40 the psalmist prays:
Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
Incline my heart to Your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.
Establish Your word to Your servant,
Who is devoted to fearing You.
Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your judgments are good.
Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me in Your righteousness.
(Psalm 119:33–40, NKJV)
The following setting of this portion of Psalm 119 is from The Psalter, 1912. Take time to read (and sing) the words. And make this your prayer as you look to God’s Word and seek to walk in its light.
Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall keep it to the end” (Psalm 119:33).
Teach me O Lord Thy way of truth,
And from it I will not depart;
That I may steadfastly obey,
Give me an understanding heart.
In Thy commandments make me walk,
For in Thy law my joy shall be;
Give me a heart that loves Thy will,
From discontent and envy free.
Turn Thou mine eyes from vanity,
And cause me in Thy ways to tread;
O let Thy servant prove Thy Word,
And thus to godly fear be led.
Turn Thou away reproach and fear;
Thy righteous judgments I confess;
To know Thy precepts I desire;
Revive me in Thy righteousness.
Tom Wells (Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas) composed an excellent tune for this setting of Psalm 119:33–40. Download free sheet music (PDF), including a guitar chord chart, an arrangement of the hymn tune CROSLAND for classical guitar.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
The first three verses of Psalm 34 are an invitation—a call to worship. In verse one David expresses his own commitment to praise God.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
God is worthy of all praise—worthy of unending praise. David desires that God’s praise be continually on his lips—at all times, whether it be in enemy territory or in the courts of God’s temple with His people.
In verse two David calls upon the humble to hear him and rejoice with him as he lifts his praise.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
His words are good news to the humble. For those whom God has brought low, for those who see themselves in peril and needy of a way of escape, David knows where to point them for hope and strength.
In verse three he invites those who hear him to join his praise, that God would be magnified.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
This psalm, like many in the book of Psalms, begins as personal praise and then spreads as it is shared and joined by others. What was individual devotion is now sung by many as corporate worship. David is not content to praise God by himself for his deliverance—he wants the people of God to join him. He wants the Lord to be magnified.
As we help and encourage others to look to God and acknowledge God and praise Him; as we share what God has done for us to encourage the hearts of others to look to Him and trust in Him, He is magnified—not in the sense that we add to God or make Him appear large or great (as a microscope would take a small thing and make it look large), but rather we take who God is and what He has done and bring it close to others, so they can see it and know it and rejoice in it (as a telescope would take a large and magnificent object and bring it into focus so all can enjoy and marvel in viewing it up close).
David wants to take the deliverance he has experienced by the grace and mercy of God, and bring it close to the people of God so that they can see it and rejoice with him in an overflow of praise and thanksgiving.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
Verse 7 of Psalm 14 represents a crucial turning point. The psalm began as a meditation, that quickly turned to a lament, but now is a petition, looking forward to a time of praise and rejoicing.
David considers the hopeless of man left to himself. He mediates on the depravity and corruption of man, and realizes that if anyone can be saved, it must be through God’s grace and life-giving power.
But notice from where God’s salvation is to come: out of Zion!
What is Zion?
David could have prayed that salvation would come from hand of God. He could have said that salvation would come from the promised Messiah. And this would be true. But he expands his statement at the end of the psalm, praying that salvation will come out of Zion.
This is more than a reference to the physical city of Jerusalem, where Christ would be crucified and accomplish in time and space the salvation of God’s people. Zion is also used in Scripture as reference to the people of God.
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.
God’s purpose in salvation includes its being fulfilled and accomplished by Christ-but also its application and proclamation in us! God is the One who saves. Notice—
Verse 7 continues: “When the LORD restores…”
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
It is the Lord who restores! But God uses means to accomplish His salvation. As God saves, we respond with joy and gladness-joy and gladness that compel us to share the good news of salvation with others. It is our joy and responsibility to spread the Gospel—out of Zion, knowing with confidence that God will work-His Word will go out and will not return void.
He has established us here as a church in this community for a purpose. I encourage you to think from this mindset—out of Zion. God has put us here to make Him known. Every friend, every acquaintance, every relationship is in your life for you to magnify Jesus Christ.
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so…
(Psalm 107: 1–2)
Psalm 107 teaches us that we are to give thanks to the Lord. And we are to do so in the hearing of others: Let the redeemed of the Lord say so! In each stanza we see people in various afflictions and trials. And each time the Lord brings deliverance, each time we see His hand at work, we see an exhortation to give thanks.
In light of God’s glory manifest in His work in us, we are to speak and sing and pray His praise. We are to encourage one another by giving thanks for what God has done and what He has promised to do. God intends that our words and our prayers strengthen those who are weak and feeble among us, that they might hear and have faith and persevere in prayer and hope.
The word that is translated “thanks” here in Psalm 107 is the Hebrew word yadah. Literally it means “to publically confess or acknowledge.” Thanksgiving in the Hebrew understanding of the term was not a private affair. It was always public—making known what God has done. The verb yadah simply means to declare or recognize a fact, whether that fact is good or bad. When it is used in the context of sinful human beings, the verb denotes the acknowledgment of a person’s character, most often in the context of confessing or acknowledging sin. When it is focused upon the glory and splendor of God however, it denotes the giving of thanks—a grateful acknowledgement and public confession of the greatness of God.
Having an attitude of thankfulness was not just for the Old Testament or worship in the temple. We see it in the New Testament as well, especially in the ministry of Paul.
Listen to what he writes to the churches:
To the church at Corinth:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4).
To the church at Ephesus:
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Ephesians 1:15–16).
To the church at Colossae:
giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:12).
To the church at Thessalonica
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
And remember, these were churches that were experiencing many problems and troubles. Paul writes long letters explaining how they are to live and serve together as sinners saved by grace. And yet when Paul thinks of them, he give thanks. He recognizes that each assembly is a miracle of the power of the gospel, a display of God’s glory in changed lives. Here were people who had been in darkness, worshipping idols and false gods, and now they are serving Christ and giving glory to God. The transformation of their lives is amazing!
We need to keep this in mind as well—as we live and serve here at Grace—as we remember and think of one another. We are a testimony to the saving power of the gospel and we have every reason to give thanks.
Paul instructs the churches—including us:
[give] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Let me encourage you to take time to give thanks. Think about God’s work in your life and in the lives of brothers and sisters here in the church. Where you see evidence of God’s grace and mercy—Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.