Psalm 95 Bow Down to Reach High (Donovan) 2017-03-22T04:45:18+00:00

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Psalms 95

Bow Down to Reach High

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Psalms 95

Bow Down to Reach High

Richard Niell Donovan

Wasn’t that a beautiful psalm that we read this morning. I have not often preached from the Psalms. I am a teacher at heart, and the Psalms move in a different direction. They don’t instruct. They cry out! They sing! They explode in joy! They pour out despair! They are full of humanity, and they are full of God. I must do more with the Psalms.

I particularly like this Psalm, because it calls us to our central purpose as the People of God.

“Oh come, let’s sing to (God).
Let’s shout aloud to the rock of our salvation!
… Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before (God), our Maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep in his care” (95:1, 6-7).

“O come, let’s worship and bow down.” I wrote a letter to all the deacons recently. I encouraged them to attend worship—and then I said, “Worship is our first duty to God.”

When I said that I was thinking of the old catechism that says:

“What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God
and enjoy him forever.”

Gerald Vann puts it this way:

“Worship is not part of the Christian life;
it is the Christian life.”

John Westerhoff, a Princeton Theological Seminary professor, says:

“There remains to the church
only one unique and peculiar responsibility:
the conduct of public worship.
If the church does nothing other than to keep open a house,
symbolic of the homeland of the soul…,
it will have rendered society and each of us
a service of immeasurable value.”

The Psalmist says:

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before (God), our Maker.”

There must be a thousand reasons that people attend worship services.

• We come to find peace and quiet after a hectic week.
• We come because we are “a quart low,” and are looking to be “refilled.”
• We come because we enjoy the music.
• We come because we enjoy the people.
• Before I was married, I used to go to church to meet girls.

Actually, I went to church to worship God and to meet girls. Sometimes worship was more important to me and sometimes meeting girls was more important. I was lonely; I was looking for a wife; I wanted to marry the kind of person that I would meet in church. I met my wife in church. I thank God that it worked out. We have many reasons for going to church.

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I am reminded of an older couple that met in church many years ago. They sat in church holding hands. It was touching. When someone commented on it, she said, “I just hold his hand to keep him from cracking his knuckles.”

• We come to church for many reasons—perhaps to serve on committees—well, maybe not. Garrison Keillor says that the purpose of guilt is to persuade people to serve on committees—a sort of Protestant penance.

• Actually, Garrison Keillor is very perceptive. He talks about attending church, and has good insights. He says:

“We don’t go to church
to hear lectures on ethical behavior;
we go to look at the mysteries.”

We go (to church) to look at the mysteries. He is saying that we go to church to worship God.

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before (God), our Maker.”

C.S. Lewis became a Christian as an adult. He wrote about the early days of his Christian experience. He said:

“If there is anything in the teaching of the New Testament
which is in the nature of a command,
it is that you are obliged to take the sacrament,
and you can’t do it without going to church.
I disliked very much their hymns,
which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth rate music.
But as I went on I saw the great merit of it….
I realized that the hymns
(which were just sixth-rate music)
were nevertheless, being sung with devotion and benefit
by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew,
and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots.
It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before (God), our Maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people of his pasture”
and the sheep in his care.”

Note that the Psalmist does not simply call us to worship God. He calls us to bow down. He calls us to kneel before the Lord.

Bowing down and kneeling are not popular pastimes in America. Bowing down and kneeling demonstrate subordinate status. We don’t like to be subordinate. We like to believe that we are all equal. We don’t like to admit that anyone is better than we are. We say, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like I do.”

I have often wondered what that had to do with anything. Somewhere, there surely must be an absolute jerk who can put on his pants two legs at a time. And then there is Stephen Hawking, the brilliant physicist who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, who is smarter than all of us put together, but cannot put on his pants at all. But we say, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like I do”––as if that proved something––as if it proved that one person isn’t any better than another––as if it proved that we are as good as the best.

But the Psalmist won’t allow us to take that posture with God. He says:

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before (God), our Maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people of his pasture”
and the sheep in his care.”

You see, God doesn’t put his pants on one leg at a time, just like we do. We need to bow down to acknowledge who God is and who we are.

• When we bow down and kneel, we acknowledge that he is above us as the heavens are above the earth.

• We acknowledge that we need him, just as we need food and clothing and shelter.

• We acknowledge that we can no more live without God than we can live without the air we breathe.

Bowing down and kneeling prepare us to obey God. Obedience is not the favorite American pastime either. Dr. Spock convinced us that we need not teach children obedience––it might stifle their creativity. But the Psalmist says:

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people of his pasture”
and the sheep in his care.”

What do sheep do? They do what the shepherd tells them to do. Where do they go? They go where the shepherd leads them.

God calls us to that kind of obedience. He calls us to step out into the abyss—into the darkness—in the faith that he will catch us. He calls us to empty ourselves of “self” so that he might fill us with himself. Martin Luther put it this way. He said:

“God creates out of nothing.
Therefore until we are nothing,
God can make nothing of us.”

A woman asked her minister to tell her, in twenty-five words or less, what it means to be a Christian. He thought for a moment, and then handed her a blank sheet of paper. He said, “Being a Christian means signing your name at the bottom of this page—and then handing it to God to fill in as he pleases.”

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker.”

God can do marvelous things with the surrendered life. When we finally come to that place where we offer him who we are—and obey regardless of cost—then he is able to drain from us all the poisons of our lives and fill the empty places with the ointment of his presence. When we become soft and malleable in his hands, he can shape us into vessels to contain his glory.

Someone asked Florence Nightingale, the woman who founded modern nursing, the secret of her success. She answered, “I have never refused God anything.”

Meister Eckhart put it this way over six centuries ago. He said:

“God asks only one thing of you:
that you dethrone the creaturely self
and let Him be God in you.”

Would you like God to drain the poison from your life and fill the empty places with the ointment of God’s presence?

Would you like God to pull together the broken pieces of your life and to make you strong at the broken places?

Would you like God to transform your ordinariness into extraordinariness?

Would you like for him to lead you into strange and unaccustomed paths?

Would you like him to make you a healer of bodies or a healer of souls?

If you would have God make something of your life, you must first “dethrone the creaturely self, and let Him be God in you.”

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down.
Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker.”

• When we bow down, he enables us to reach high.
• When we kneel before him, he allows us to touch his face.
• When we surrender our lives to him, he sets us free.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan