Introduction to the Psalms: Biblical Worship

Charles Spurgeon, the great prince of preachers, once said, “All places are places of worship to a Christian. Wherever he is, he ought to be in a worshiping frame of mind.” The Bible supports Spurgeon’s words. Throughout the Old Testament, we see worship being done particularly upon altars with sacrifices being made to God. From Exodus onward, these altars of sacrifice are specifically erected with the tabernacle or temple, which were buildings where God’s presence chose to dwell. Thus, biblical worship has always centered around two keys: being within the presence of God and offering sacrifices to Him.

A History of Biblical Worship

Jesus upsets this entire system of worship by claiming the temple would be destroyed and that He would rebuild it in three days.[1] Jesus’ fellow Jews must have thought Jesus was, at best, insane for claiming something like that and, at worst, blasphemous because He seemed to be threatening to destroy God’s house. The temple was enormous and incredibly ornate, so how did Jesus plan to destroy and rebuild the temple within three days? It so happens that Jesus was not speaking about the physical temple but about His body.[2] As the God incarnate, Jesus was the living, breathing, walking presence of God upon the earth. Thus, with His death, the temple was destroyed, and upon His resurrection, the temple was rebuilt.

Yet another significant event happened at the moment of Jesus’ death: the curtain within the temple was torn from top to bottom.[3] The purpose of this curtain was to separate “the Holy Place from the Most Holy.”[4] Hebrews 9 explains that God’s presence resided upon earth within the Most Holy and that only the high priest was able to enter. Even then, the high priest could only enter into the Most Holy Place one time a year in order to offer sacrificial blood for his sins and the sins of the people. In this way, God allowed access to Himself (which is grace, in and of itself), but the access was extremely limited.

Fortunately, Christ is a greater high priest. Jesus entered into the Most Holy Place to offer payment for our sins with His own blood. Because He lived a sinless life, Jesus had no need of making sacrifice for His own sin; rather, He was able to offer Himself as payment for ours. Furthermore, His sacrifice was perfect and complete. “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”[5] What glorious news! Jesus died once for all. His sacrifice carried enough to weight to cover all of our sins.

The New Temple

Thus, because Jesus truly overcame sin, God tore the curtain to show that His presence was no longer separated from His people. By His blood, Jesus has made us righteous before God; we are, therefore, able to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”[6] We are now able to come into the presence of the holy God, knowing that our sins have been judged already in Christ.

But the Bible does not stop with us coming before God; it also teaches that God now dwells within us. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”[7] As the church, the body of Christ, we are the temples of the Holy Spirit. We are the dwelling places of God. So we are constantly within the presence of God.

What about sacrifices then? If Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice, what more is there for us to offer to God? What sacrifice could we possibly bring to Him? Paul gives us this answer: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”[8] His phrase “by the mercies of God” encapsulates Romans first eleven chapters, in which Paul powerfully described the work, death, and resurrection of Christ. Thus, Paul is saying that our response to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice should be presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices. Out of gratitude for the acceptance, grace, and mercy we now have before God, we live lives that are pleasing to God. We orient our lives around His will, rather than our own.

Or as Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “You are not your own, for you were brought with a price.” We now belong exclusively to the One who paid our debt. God now lives within us, and our lives of obedience are now living sacrifices being offered up to Him. Truly all places are places of worship to a Christian.

Concerning This Series

So why discuss worship from the book of Psalms? Consider the book’s title. The original Hebrew title of the Psalms was Tehillim (or, Praises). In English, the word “psalm” refers to a song or a hymn that is intended for worship. Thus, we can think of Psalms as the Bible’s hymnal. It is a collection of God-breathed hymns from many writers, written over many years. There is no question then of whether or not the Psalms are connected to worship, as they are intrinsically bound to worship. The only question left for us to ask, as we approach them for study, is what they are saying and teaching about worship.

My prayer, therefore, for this sermon series is that we will understand the concept of worship more fully by looking to this book that centers upon worshiping the LORD. I fear that many Christians today believe that singing songs is the only form of worship to God, which most often happens on Sunday morning. The Bible, however, is adamant that worship happens every moment of the day, with every breath that we take. Thus, I hope that by viewing some of the most popular psalms, we might be able to extract principles for how to properly worship God.

Note, then, that I am by no means attempting to address all facets of worship, nor am I going to cover the full range of themes within the Psalms. Instead, we will merely study six of the most popular psalms in order to understand what they teach regarding worship. Hopefully, in the future, the LORD will grant me to be able to return to this series by covering more psalms and addressing even more aspects of how we ought to worship. For now, we will only be covering six psalms, and I pray that the LORD will teach and sanctify us through them.

[1] John 2:19

[2] John 2:21

[3] Matthew 27:50-51; Mark 15:38

[4] Exodus 26:33

[5] Hebrews 9:26

[6] Hebrews 4:16

[7] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

[8] Romans 12:1

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