Online Text Sermon - The Beauty of Holiness, Psalm 29 v.2
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Beauty of Holiness|
|Text||Psalm 29 v.2 |
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"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (Psalm 29, 2).
I suggest that there are three things to be noticed in the words of this text. Firstly, we have God commanding us in this word: "worship". Secondly, here, we are told about the name of God Whom we are to make the object of our worship: "worship the Lord." Then thirdly, we are told in what way we are to worship God, and the way explained to us and set down before us is in these words: "in the beauty of holiness". In other words, we are told, with regard to our worship of God: -
1. What We Are To Do
2. To Whom We Are To Do It
3. How We Are To Do It
The theme, clearly, is that of worship. Worship is the highest activity which it is possible for us to be involved in. I know it is so possible to think of Sundays and Sabbaths as being a different day when we, as it were, do not do the real things of life. It is so easy to develop that way of thinking. You can put it like this: People tend to drift into the attitude of mind when they think the real business of life is work; we work Mondays to Fridays, or Mondays to Saturdays, and that is the real business of life. When it comes to Sabbath and Sunday, that's not really so very important; the important things are the things we do Monday to Saturday, but on this day we do something which is not so important. That way of thinking, if we have it, of course, is entirely the wrong way round. The way the Bible puts it is quite the reverse of that popular mode of thinking. We can never do anything more important than to worship God. Let me prove this to you.
The first argument I bring to you is this: When God made man in the beginning, He made man different from all the lower forms of life in this world: animals, birds. The difference is this; not just that we walk on two legs and animals walk on four. The really important difference is men and women have a soul. We have a spiritual part to us. That is because we were made in the very image of God. That is to say, it is possible for us to have fellowship with God. That is what is involved and implied in having a soul and bearing God's image. The beasts know nothing of that. It never comes into the thought of a beast to worship God, but it does continually come into the thought of men to do so. Therefore, the highest form of all activity in this world is really not the work we do on the other days, but it is in the activity of giving glory to God, which is referred to here.
Another argument is this: You now find for yourself the evidence of what is told us about the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Study His life as it is written for us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and elsewhere in the Bible. You look at the life of this Perfect Man: this only Perfect Man; the only perfect man, of course, who ever lived. Study to see how He lived His life. We do know that He was born into a home in which His foster-father, Joseph, was a carpenter. We may assume that Jesus Christ Himself, as He was growing up as a young man, learned the trade of carpentry. However, my friends, you know very well, that almost nothing is made of that point in the Bible.
He is not described in the Bible as being a master craftsman in carpentry. The very thought is ludicrous. No, the great thing about Jesus Christ is that His whole life is one of worship. He was consecrated to God. His whole lifes work was service to God, worship to God. Indeed a large part of His teaching, if not, in a sense, all of His teaching, had to do with this great theme of worship to God. So, I say, if this is how the one and only perfect man lived and talked, it shows where our priorities ought to be - yours and mine - not so much in earning our daily bread, which is necessary, but not supremely necessary, not supremely important. No, no, the supremely important thing in life is not what we do: teaching, or driving a vehicle, or in a shop, or whatever occupation we have. The great task of life, as we have it set before us in the Bible, is this: Giving glory, and worship, and praise and honour and majesty to God. You cannot do anything higher than that.
My friends, this is very relevant to the time in which we are living today. If there is one thing missing in modern life, it is this: Worship has dropped out of the lives of men and women and young people. Not indeed, thank God, not all - you are an exception to this. Your very presence here proves that there are exceptions, but you know that I am not exaggerating when I say, that by and large in this country, worship of God has fallen down to a dead, low level. No wonder therefore, people have trouble. No wonder their lives are going wrong. They are cracking up. Their health, their nervous system, their families, their children, the school system, and the government - everything is cracking up. All sorts of wonderful attempts are being made to put it right - understandably, that is the business of government, to put right the things that have gone wrong.
You and I can say to them with great love and deep respect, "Sir," we can say, to those who have power to govern this country, "Sirs, what we first need to get back to is the worship of God. Put the things of God where they ought to be and other things will fall into their proper place." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God... and all these (other) things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6, 33). That is, undoubtedly, the thing which the Bible has to say to us. If an angel were to come from heaven to give advice to our Prime Minister and our Cabinet and all our government and parliamentarians, the advice they would give would undoubtedly be this: "Get back to the worship of God. Put God in His place. Give him the glory which is due to His name. Then you see that He will bless you in all aspects of our national life." So we are not here dealing with something which is a mere footnote to the important values of life. No, no, when we are talking about worshipping God, we are talking about that which is first; that which is number one on the list of important priorities in your life and mine, and the lives of others. We are talking about that which is the supreme necessity and requirement if all things are to be rightly ordered and fittingly done in your life and in mine.
1. WHAT WE ARE TO DO
I have indicated three elements within my text. Let me say on this occasion, just a little about each of these. First of all then, I look at the command to worship. Here it is in verse two. "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Worship! This text of Scripture tells us what worship is: it defines worship. You will see it defined in the first part of the verse: "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name." That is what we mean by worship. It is a conscious act of a man or of a woman, whereby, their mind and heart is lifted above themselves and above all created things, and they ascribe honour, and glory, and power to God. That is what we mean by worship. Of course, we do so in various ways. I will come on to that when I come to my second heading. Let me just say at this stage that it is a right and most fitting thing that we should worship God. A right and most fitting thing that you and I should do what we are commanded to do here, and that is to give unto God "the glory due unto his name."
My dear friends, we live in a world where there is order. Those of you who are in secular employment, you have to give something to those who pay your wages; and, of course, what you give to them is your time, strength, work and labour. Supposing a person works in the nearby Raigmore Hospital, the Health Service pay your wages so what do you give in return? You give your strength, your time, your efforts to contribute to the well-being of the patients in the hospital; that's what you are paid to do. They are your superiors; they pay your wages. You are their employee; you give of your time and strength. So it is with the government. The government, whether it be in Edinburgh, Cardiff, London - or anywhere else, they govern the nation, and we give something to them. They are above us in terms of authority to rule. God has given them power to rule and we are the ruled, governed, and we give something back to them. They rule us, and we give taxes to them and all due and responsible subjection to the laws that they make. So it is on a far higher plain with God. God has made us. We wouldn't even exist without His power. We would have nothing at all apart from His kindliness.
You had your breakfast, I presume, this morning. You are looking forward to your lunch, I assume, later on. You hope for other mercies in the course of the day. My friends, remind yourself where all these great things came from. Who put food in your mouth, but the great and merciful God? Who put breath in your lungs to breath, but the same great God? Who gives you health or strength, or favours or blessings of any kind; is it not He Who made heaven and earth and all its fullness? He did, and therefore, we give something back to Him. Not very much admittedly, but He requires us to give something back to Him, and this is what we are required to give: to "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name" - consciously, deliberately. With our mind and heart, to ascribe honour and glory to God. That is what my verse is saying: "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." You know, my dear friends, it is right.
This worship, what do we mean when we talk about 'worship'? We mean a conscious and a deliberate putting ourselves under God. You understand what I mean. We show Him the respect which is due to His very Being. He is above us, infinitely; we are below Him, infinitely. We are to think of ourselves in a certain way. How do we think of ourselves? Well, when we worship God, we think of ourselves as mere dust. That is why in Bible prayers, you sometimes have people saying this: "I am the dust before Thee"; Abraham said it and Job says it. "We are dust and ashes in Thy sight," and so we are. Our body is formed from the dust. Or, sometimes you have phrases like this in the Bible: "We are the worms of the earth." So we are. In the sight of God, we are just like tiny, creeping things, compared to His infinite glory and power.
Because that is so, we must take conscious steps to recognise the vast difference between God and ourselves. That is why, often and normally when we worship God, we change our position when we pray. Either we kneel in secret, or we stand as we do in public. That is a gesture of recognition of the glory which is His. Jesus Christ - at least in the Garden of Gethsemane, possibly oftener for all we know - He actually laid Himself full out on the ground, His face downward - prostrate on the ground as He prayed to God.
It was the custom of the apostle Paul to bow his knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. These outward things are the signs of the attitude of soul, and it is the attitude of soul which we are being taught to develop here as we worship God. It is a conscious placing of ourselves under God. Our whole being is deliberately, and intentionally laid open to His scrutiny and to His examination. Our mind, our life, our thoughts, our conscience, all that we are, all that we have been, all that we have done, as it were, we open the book before God and we say, "O God, Thou seest me; Thou knowest me. Here I am with all my weaknesses and sins. I pray Thee, O Lord to have mercy upon me." We desire therefore, to give the glory to God for what He is.
It is the greatest possible loss, to a man or a woman's life, when they never do this; when their Sabbath's are sadly taken up with shopping and washing and baking, and all the things that can be done another day; when men needlessly work on the Lord's Day. Some work is needful. Acts of necessity and mercy have to be done: the sick have to be cared for. That is fully acknowledged. But when people needlessly and thoughtlessly work on the Sabbath Day, and never worship God, never attend His house, I say they are doing themselves the greatest possible harm. No omission in their life could possibly match the gravity of the omission of failing to give glory to God. To fail to worship God is to live at the level of a beast - to live at the level of a crawling serpent that has no more vision of importance than what it eats and what it drinks and a little company with its fellow creatures before it dies.
My very dear and beloved friends, this is the sad and the tragic, as well as the criminal condition, of many thousands who are living, sadly, all around us in our time; would to God that we had the privilege and opportunity, kindly and lovingly of pointing this out to them. That failure to worship God, I say, is the greatest possible loss that a person can sustain in this life: to live without glorifying God. I'll give you a text to prove it - one of many. Do you remember what was said to Belshazzar at his feast in Daniel, chapter 5? The fingers of a mans hand were writing on the plaster of the wall, when suddenly the king, seeing the hand with no body behind it but simply the fingers only, writing on the wall 'MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN'. The king's knees began to smite one against another with terror, knowing that this was a visitation from God. Do you remember what the angel said? "The God in whose hand thy very breath is, and whose are all thy ways: hast thou not glorified."
It was his greatest omission. The one thing, which would have made him worth anything, is the one thing he failed to do. He had not lived to the glory of God. But then, the glory of God is the reason for our existence. "Whatsoever you eat or drink or whatsoever you do," says the Bible, do all consciously, deliberately, intentionally, to the glory of God. Where men fail to do so, I say again, it is the tragedy of a wasted life, and a life, which in the end, will be extinguished in outer darkness. So the command comes to us here, "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name." "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (text).
2. TO WHOM WE ARE TO DO IT
My second head is the object of worship. Whom are we to worship? The answer is: The Lord. You will notice that in our old version, it is in capital letters. Some of you may have a different version in front of you for all I know. It is the famous name for God: JEHOVAH. Jehovah: JHWH, the Tetragrammaton, as we call it. That is to say the glorious name for God: the sacred name for God which the Jews will never pronounce. We say JEHOVAH. Now, that title of God refers to His eternal self-existence. That title for God refers to the fact that He is faithful to Himself and faithful to His own worshipping people. It is a glorious name.
The name Jehovah has been taken over by a certain heretical Arian cult who call themselves, usually, Jehovah's Witnesses. They would say that we should refer to God always as Jehovah. They maintain that orthodox Christians, like ourselves, are at fault and are committing sin in that we failed to worship God in that name, Jehovah. What they say is perfectly false and not true. We worship him under the name Jehovah, but Jehovah's Witnesses' Jehovah is not the Jehovah of the Bible. The Jehovah of the Bible is the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three Persons in one ever blessed and eternal Godhead. So the Jehovah of the Bible, is the God of the New Testament and of the Old: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And here is the God to Whom we are to give this glory. It is right and proper to worship the Father and the Son and the Spirit; all three Persons are equally God. It is right and proper therefore, to treat each of the persons as God, and as God, to worship all Three. Although, usually, in Scripture, the order of worship is - we give worship to the Father, through the Son (as Mediator), and in the Spirit (Who is the One Who indicts and excites our souls in prayer). So the usual way to worship God, in the Scriptures is, worship the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit.
But now, it is right also to worship the Son. You remember also that Jesus Christ in His lifetime, accepted worship, notably from the blind man in John, chapter 9. When the blind man was informed that the Person standing in front of him was the eternal Son of God, He knelt down and said, "I worship you, Lord." Thomas when he saw the risen Lord, used these words as he saw the nail marks and the spear mark, he said, "My Lord, and my God." It is right that we should worship Jesus as God, and it is right that we should worship the Holy Spirit as God. My friends, how we should love the Holy Spirit: that blessed mystery of the Godhead, Who opened our blind eyes to see the truth of the Gospel; Who gives us grace to recognise the face of Jesus Christ speaking to us in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is given too little glory, too little love, and too little worship. O, let us remember that He is to be worshipped. "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" (text). The Father, the Son and the Spirit.
Briefly, I must apply and say this to you: We must not worship any other being apart from the Lord. We must never associate false worship with the Lord. It is very disappointing to hear that members of good churches and ministers of some good churches take part in ecumenical services. It is very disappointing. They should know better. Do they not realise, these dear friends, that if you participate in an act of worship in which a Roman Catholic is also participating, you are participating in what is an idolatrous act of worship. It is guilt by association. You should never go to Roman Catholic worship. You should never go to Jewish worship. Jewish worship is superstitious worship. They don't acknowledge the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They don't pray through the name of Christ. Roman Catholics associate with God not only the three Persons of the Godhead, but also Mary, and the saints, and who knows what else.
So you see, we are to remember the second Commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" (Exodus 20, 4-5). Why not? "For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God" (Exodus 20, 5). "Why is God jealous?" you say to me. "Surely God ought not to be jealous". Yes, He should. God is jealous for one thing, and that is for His own glory. "My glory, will I not give to another," says God, "neither my praise to graven images" (Isaiah 42, 8). God is very kind, very patient, very longsuffering, very good in every way, but He is very jealous of His own honour and of His own glory. If He sees you or me, bowing down to any false god, we are in for trouble; we are laying a snare for ourselves. Worship none but only the three blessed, holy, eternal Persons of the Godhead. Give unto JEHOVAH; "Give unto the Lord, the glory due unto His name. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (text).
You know what it is to associate in a false act of worship where idolatry is being associated with it? Do you know what it is? It is hatred of God, and that's the way God views it. If you and I associate in an act of worship where some false god is also being worshipped, or some false view of God, is being implied, then what we are doing is we are expressing our hatred of God: our contempt of God. That's what it is; it's idolatry, more or less. Let us shake in our boots, let us tremble, rather than offer to God any false worship. Let us keep our souls pure from false worship: be not partakers of their sins lest we be partakers of their judgement.
3. HOW ARE WE TO DO IT
Thirdly, and briefly: the manner of our worship. How are we to worship? The answer given here is: We are to worship God "in the beauty of holiness" (text). That expression, "the beauty of holiness", occurs more than once in the Bible. I hope you noticed it in Psalm 96, which we read, but it occurs in other places as well: "In the beauty of holiness". My dear friends, there is nothing more beautiful than holiness, and God is, as you know, infinitely holy. Therefore, our worship also ought to be characterised by holiness, and by the beauty of holiness.
What does this expression mean: "The beauty of holiness"? Some people think it refers to the temple of the Old Testament days: that we are to worship God, at that time, in His temple. Well it is very good to have a fine religious building to worship in, but not essential. The early Christians had no fine temples or worshipful buildings to worship God in. Often they worshipped in the open air, or as we do, in some secular building obtained for the purpose. Other people feel that this expression, "the beauty of holiness" refers to the priestly robes and garments the priest used to put on. The priest put on beautiful robes to worship God, as you know. This is very much associated, I think, with what our forefathers used to call our 'Sunday best'. When we worship God we put on our 'Sunday best', and the thinking behind that is, the holiness of God, the glory of God. Nothing can be too good for Him.
You may know the story of Mary Jones and her Bible in Wales. I think she had saved up for twelve years to get enough money to buy a Welsh Bible in the nineteenth century. You may know the story. As she was walking, she didn't put her shoes on, she tied them round her neck with string, and she walked barefoot. Many of the people did that in those days in the Highlands here. They walked barefoot to spare their shoes. Their shoes were kept for 'Sunday best'. The thought of the holiness of God, the glory of God - we must keep the best for His house, and His day. It is all connected, you see, with this very theme here.
There are many things I have to say, but time won't allow. Let me content myself with saying this. To worship God in the beauty of holiness, for us, means this: Not so much fine buildings, not so much fine clothes (although they might have their place), but above all, to delight ourselves in God. When we come to His house, we deliberately and consciously, set our minds and our hearts, in adoration of Him, in prostration of Him. The quality of our worship may vary greatly. It is possible to be in God's house and to be at least half asleep. That is not giving Him the glory we should. Let us sleep at home. I'm not saying that we have never done it, all of us - we have, owing to the shear weakness of our own body we sometimes do - but if we possibly can we should concentrate with all our might upon His worship, and throw ourselves into it. In our singing, pour out our hearts to God. That is the way we are being taught: to delight ourselves in the Lord, His greatness and His goodness.
Then we have a certain attitude to ourselves. If our view of God is a high one, then our attitude to ourselves is a profoundly humble one. It is very typical in true worship to find the worshippers faces bathed in tears; tears which arise from two thoughts. First: from the mercy of God, that He has not sent us all to the hell we deserve to be in; but through the blood of His own precious, and dear Son has cleansed us from the filthiness of our fallen nature; also, the thought that we are so unworthy of the least of all His mercies. In times of real blessing and worship and revival, as I said, the faces of God's people are often bathed in tears for this very reason: the realisation of the goodness which we don't deserve.
My dear friends, let me set this text upon the table of your heart today. Let me urge you to stir up yourself all the days you live, in the great and glorious duty laid upon us all in these words; to "give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" and to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (text). May He help us so to do.
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