As I read the Christmas stories in the four Gospels I realize how much emphasis is placed on worship
Worship as a response to what God is doing
Worship because of how God is touching people’s lives and changing them forever
Worship because people are becoming involved in the supernatural and experiencing miracles, seeing signs and wonders
Worship that is both heavenly – the angels singing – and earthly as the Wise Men kneel before the Christ child and worship Him
And I notice the times when the response to what God was doing or Jesus was saying seems to fall short of worship or even a recorded response at all
In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, “Let Me teach you…” No apparent response!
Wow! You bet. Let’s go for it. Note book and pen at the ready, Bible open…
In my studies this week I came across a passage in the Bible that spoke of what Jesus was doing and how the people who saw it were amazed and broke into praise and worship
Matthew 15:29-31 NIV “Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Ah! They worshipped God and thanked and praised Him for what was happening to them personally
They praised God for all He was doing even if it was for others and not for them personally
However, here and in many other places, you would wish that the New Testament writers had been a bit more descriptive
This is one of those times – “And He healed them” seems too short a phrase to describe what must have been an astonishing sight
When we read the Scriptures we need to use a little bit of sanctified imagination
Let your imagination go – Picture the scene in your mind’s eye
Enter into the story with your heart – feelings, emotions…
Can you visualize the blind husband seeing his wife for the first time?
His eyes gazing into her tear-filled ones as if she were the queen of the morning?
Envision the man who had never walked, now walking!
Don’t you know that he didn’t want to sit down?
Don’t you know that he ran and jumped and did a dance with the kids?
For three days it went on
Person after person
Mat after mat
Crutch after crutch
Smile after smile
No record of Jesus preaching or teaching or instructing or challenging
He just healed
Then Matthew, still the great economizer of words, gave us another phrase, one which I wish he would have elaborated: “They praised the God of Israel.”
I wonder how they did that
I feel more certain of what they didn’t do than of what they did do
I feel confident that they didn’t form a praise committee
I feel confident that they didn’t make any robes for a choir
I feel confident that they didn’t sit in rows and stare at the back of each other’s heads
I feel confident that there was not a worship team with a worship leader
I doubt seriously that they wrote a creed on how they were to praise this Jesus they had never before worshipped
I can’t picture them getting into an argument over technicalities
I doubt they felt their praise had to be done indoors
And I know they didn’t wait until the Sabbath to do it
In all probability they just did it
Each one — in his or her own way, with his or her own heart — just praised Jesus
Perhaps some people came and fell at Jesus’ feet
Perhaps some shouted His Name
Maybe a few just went up on the hillside, looked into the sky, and smiled
I can picture a mom and dad standing speechless before the Healer as they hold their newly healed baby
I can envision a leper staring in awe at the One who took away his terror
I can imagine throngs of people pushing and shoving, wanting to get close
Not to request anything or demand anything but just to say “thank you”
Perhaps some tried to pay Jesus, but what payment would have been sufficient?
Perhaps some tried to acknowledge His gift with their own gift, but what could a person give that would express a heart filled with gratitude, amazement, and worship?
All that the people could do was exactly what Matthew said they did: “They praised the God of Israel.”
However they did it, they did it!
And Jesus was touched, so touched that He insisted they stay for a meal before they left
Without using the word worship, this passage in Matthew 15 defines it
Worship is when you’re aware that what you’ve been given is far greater than what you can give
Worship is the awareness that were it not for His touch, you’d still be hobbling and hurting, bitter and broken
Worship is the half-glazed expression on the parched face of a desert pilgrim as he discovers that the oasis is not a mirage
Worship is the “thank you” that refuses to be silenced
We have tried to make a science out of worship
We can’t do that
We have managed to make a big business out of worship
We shouldn’t do that
Worship has little to do with the songs we sing and a lot to do with the heart from which we sing them – the heart from which the words flow
We need to understand that
Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Saviour — the kind of gratitude exhibited in the heart of the man born blind (John 9)
John in his gospel introduces him to us with these words:
As [Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth” (John 9:1 NASB).
This man has never seen a sunrise
Can’t tell purple from pink
The disciples fault the family tree: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (John 9:2 NASB)
“Neither,” Jesus replies. Trace this condition back to heaven. The reason this man was born sightless? So, “the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3)
Talk about a thankless role
Selected to suffer
Some sing to God’s glory
Others teach to God’s glory
Who wants to be blind for God’s glory?
Which is tougher — having the condition or discovering it was God’s idea?
The cure proves to be as surprising as the cause
John 9:6 NASB “[Jesus] spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes.”
The world abounds with paintings of Jesus:
In the arms of Mary
In the Garden of Gethsemane
In the Upper Room
In the darkened tomb
But I have never seen a painting of Jesus spitting
Christ smacking His lips a time of two, gathering a mouth of saliva, working up a blob of drool, and letting it go — down in the dirt
Then He squats, stirs up a puddle of … I don’t know, what would you call it?
- Holy putty?
- Spit therapy?
- Saliva solution?
Whatever the name, He places a fingerful in His palm, and then, as calmly as a painter plasters a hole in the wall, Jesus streaks mud-miracle on the blind man’s eyes
“Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,” Jesus says (John 9:7).
The blind beggar feels his way to the pool, splashes water on his mud-streaked face, and rubs away the clay
The result is the first chapter of Genesis just for him – light where there was darkness
Virgin eyes focus
Fuzzy figures become human beings
And John receives the “Understatement of the Bible Award” when he writes: “He came back seeing” (John 9:7)
Don’t you want to yell: “Come on, John! Running short of verbs are we?
- “He raced back seeing”?
- “He danced back seeing”?
- “He roared back whooping and hollering and kissing everything he could — for the first time — seeing”?
The guy had to be thrilled
We would love to leave him that way, but in this man’s life he has just stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire
Look at the reaction of the neighbours:
“Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Others were saying: “ This is he”
Still others were saying, “No, but he looks like him”
The blind man now seeing keeps saying: “I am him. I am the one” (John 9:8-9 NASB)
These folks don’t celebrate; they debate!
These folks don’t praise and worship the God who heals
They have watched this man grope and trip since he was a kid (John 9:20)
You would think they would rejoice and praise / worship God
But they don’t
The Pharisees call him a heretic and cast him out of the synagogue
The Bible states: “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him” (John 9:35 MSG)
In case the stable birth wasn’t enough — God humbling Himself and becoming one with us — one of us
If three decades of earth walking and miracle working were insufficient
If there was any doubt regarding God’s full-bore devotion, He does things like this
He tracks down a troubled pauper
The beggar lifts his eyes to look into the face of the One who started all this
Jesus has one more question for him:
“Do you believe in the Son of God?”
He answered and said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”
And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.”
Then he said, “Lord, I believe” (John 9: 35-38)
John described the final act of the once-blind man, and it is the only response you can have when you realize you are not looking into the face of a man but the face of God Himself: “he worshipped Him” (John 9:38 NASB)
Don’t you know he knelt?
Don’t you think he wept?
And how could he keep from wrapping his arms around the waist of the One who gave him sight?
He worshipped Him
And one day when we are finally fully healed and standing in front of our Saviour face-to-face, we will do the same.
We will worship Him
I have said all this to say:
1> We need to be in an attitude of worship because of who God is
Not just worship Him when He does something we ask Him to do or something that is obviously supernatural
But also when He does not do what we ask of Him and we don’t understand why He is not moving on our behalf
Worship is a decision and not a feeling!
2> When we read the Scriptures we need to read slowly and pause to think and feel — we need to engage our imaginations and step into the story
To imagine how the people would have been feeling
To imagine how they would have understood what they were seeing and hearing
To imagine what they did with what they saw and heard
We need to understand that these were real people facing real life – people with thoughts and feelings, families and finances, needs and wants
3> When we are reading the Scriptures we need to engage the heart and not just the head … so we can experience and encounter truth and not just understand it
Then it is life changing … transformational
4> We need to ask Jesus to teach us and show us – bringing revelation to our hearts and heads and let Him open the Scriptures to us as He did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus
Matthew 11:28-29 (partial) “Come to Me … and learn from Me”
Luke 24:32 “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures”
5> We need to do whatever we can to bring life to our Bible reading and Bible study times … to regain a lost dynamic or to experience a dynamic for the first time
Using the Scriptures as a basis for prayer and worship
Pray the Scriptures
Worship as you read and become personally engaged in the stories and events