Each time we come together for worship as the church, we must remember that our primary reason for gathering is indeed to worship God. We come to acknowledge Him, to honor Him, to point one another to Him, and to humbly lay our lives before Him. We worship God in humble reverence when we rightly recognize His Person and respond appropriately to His presence. Reverence is an aspect of worship that is often misunderstood. We might associate it with a particular style of music. We might identify it with a certain posture. We might see it in a specific building decor. We might assume it in stillness and solemnity. And yet, even in times and places most conducive to worship, we can miss it entirely. Consider the following scenarios:
A young man walks into a church. The room is quiet and solemn. The music comes from a stately pipe organ. The service begins with a congregational recitation of a creed. The man thinks to himself: “This is strange. These people have no life. Where is the joy? How can this be worship?” Across the aisle is another man. He sings the hymns and recites the creed, and is overwhelmed with the truths he is singing, saying and hearing. He thinks: “God, You are holy and mighty! You are so much greater and higher than me. Thank you that because of Christ I can be in Your presence today and worship You.”
Who is worshipping with humble reverence?
A lady walks into a church. The room is alive with sound and movement. The music is loud and upbeat. The service begins with a worship band. People are on their feet, hands raised, some even jumping to the beat of the song. The lady thinks: “This is preposterous. These people are crazy. Where is the reverence? How can this be worship?” Across the aisle is another lady. A year ago she was in bondage to drugs and without hope, until someone shared with her the good news of the gospel. Now she is rescued and redeemed by God’s grace. She thinks: “God, I am an unworthy sinner; but You are a great and merciful God! Thank you that because of Christ I can be in your presence today and worship You.”
Who is worshipping with humble reverence?
Reverence is not necessarily being still or somber. Neither is it being exuberant and joyful. It is not a matter of worship style or building decor. Reverence has everything to do with the attitude and bent of our hearts. Reverence is the heartfelt acknowledgement of God’s grace and the humble response of being in God’s presence. The psalms model a humble reverence in worship. Psalm 95 begins with a call to worship:
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:1-2)
Verses 3-5 remind us who He is:
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:3-5)
Verse 6 calls us to humble ourselves:
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6)
And verses 7-8 call us to listen to God’s Word and again remember who we come to worship:
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness (Psalm 95:7-8)
We see this focus on and acknowledgement of God in Psalm 100. The psalm begins as well with a call to worship, reminding us that we are coming into God’s presence:
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1-2)
Verse 3 then reminds us who God is:
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)
The call continues in verse 4:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4)
And verse 5 reminds us of God’s goodness, love and faithfulness.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)
This is the God we worship! This is the God we serve. If we are to worship God with humble reverence, we must not lose sight of Him. We must stay anchored in His grace. We must aim to keep our focus on Him, even in worship. Sometimes churches can get so caught up in themselves, they become oblivious to the fact that God is there. They continue on with much busyness and ministry, yet reverence slips away. Their attention and affections are drawn aside by their programs, their activities, their favorite style of music, even their pursuit to understand the deep truths of theology—so much so that the simple truth that they are there to meet with God is lost. May God help us in our times of gathered worship to come before Him in humble reverence. May He grant us a longing for and an expectation of His presence and power. May we always remember that we are a people saved by His grace. And may our attitude and conduct in the gathered worship of the church display our conviction that God indeed is with us.
See a Table of Contents (thus far) for this series: Gathered Worship in the House of God
(Scripture quotations are from the Holy BIble, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)