Worship           Nehemiah 12 27-47

I love to get down to the beach early pre dawn often for photos or to just soak it all in. It’s an act of worship and act of celebrating the creation of a brand new day. Watching the daylight melt away the inky black of night and the colours of the day dance upon the water. This is worship for me.

Here in Nehemiah 12 we have preserved for us an enduring example of worship.

But what is worship? We know it’s more than singing or the start of a contemporary service at church. These passages provide some important framework for us to better define and understand worship.

The Westminster Catechism describes as the purpose of our human existence  our; ‘Chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever’.

William Temple described adoration as ‘the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable, and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin’.

Though worship is a word used widely and commonly in Christian and other circles; these is no consensus on this topic especially in churches. We discuss themes, styles, ideas; things like charismatic worship, contemporary, traditional and ecumenical worship.

One of the most important things we need to consider when discussing planning or thinking about worship is not what pleases us in worship but what most honours God. often worship is discussed from our own subjective perspectives, what we like, what we are used to, what we grew up with or even songs we have felt we have encountered God through. The biggest problem with this approach is that its all about us… and not God. We need help from scripture to somehow sort through our different sometimes opposed preferences; we need to find out what pleases God most in worship.

The purpose of worship is not to establish an elevated feeling inside of us. This may be produced via worship just as equally as through quiet silent prayer and contemplation or the reading of the word. The purpose of worship is to adore; give adoration to and ascribe worth to God. To make much of him and little of us.

Here the people expose a 3 fold purpose in their worship. They have gathered together to celebrate what God has done, thank him for such astonishing generosity, and dedicate the people and their work to his glory.

1. Magnify His name (Celebration) 27 at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

By celebration the Israelites magnify Gods name. Celebration is a major aspect of worship. It does not begin with what we are doing when we pray or sing or speak or ponder in adoring silence or stand arms raised in excited worship. It begins with who God is, what God has done and said. We should glory in the far reaching acts of God, flowing from his very character and nature; acts that he undertook long before we had any desire to think or say anything to him. In worship we stand before the eternal, immortal, invisible God we extol with all we have the initiative of God. We recall what he has done, what he has said and all that he is to his people. We remember that he is the great I AM he is active and we are passive.

2. Acknowledge Gods gifts. (thanksgiving) 27 with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is another key aspect of worship. They marveled at Gods astonishing and totally undeserved generosity to them.  In worship they give voice in adoring amazement and wonder to Gods gracious nature, they do this with immense gratitude. They do this repeatedly (27) thanksgiving; (31)appointed two great choirs that gave thanks; (40) both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God.

3. Dedication (27) celebrate the dedication. The israelites not only dedicate the wall they offer themselves in dedication. To dedicate means to put over ‘the work of human hands to Gods ownership’. This is why we dedicate ourselves our efforts and our children unto the Lord. It was not enough for these israelites to celebrate Gods achievements in history and experience, even if it was recent history and their personal experience. Its not even enough to thank him for his merciful intervention in their circumstances.

Worship demands the surrender of ourselves, and the surrender to God of all he has given us. Rom 12: 1 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.

These 3 elements of celebration, thanksgiving and dedication are given life and expression by our total being our giving of ourselves in worship. The intellectual, the emotional and the volitional wilful self. In Celebration the mind (intellect) recalls what God has done and said, the revelatory and redemptive initiatives of God; in thanksgiving, the heart (emotion) is moved with gratitude, to love the giver of life and in dedication, the will is surrendered to him, as we abandon our will to his our desire to his desire and his purposes and glory.

This is the core of true worship in spirit and truth. Sadly we can engage in worship we can even touch upon these 3 areas and still do so in the wrong manner.

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.     Mahatma Gandhi

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.      C. S. Lewis

Wonder is the basis of worship…. Worship is transcendent wonder.      Thomas Carlyle

“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.

C. S. Lewis”