“Because worship is a way of life, you cannot worship corporately on the Lord’s Day if you haven’t been worshipping throughout the week – apart from repentance! Christians don’t have a Sunday ‘worship switch,’ despite what is sometimes portrayed on television. Neither must we be allowed to think that ‘worship’ is only a part of the service – as if singing and praise were worship in contrast to the preaching. And ‘worship leader?’ What an odd term! Does the worship end his or her part is done?” (Kent Hughes, Worship by the Book)
“The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other, is by music. When I would form in my mind an idea of a society in the highest degree happy, I think of them as expressing their love, their joy, and the inward concord and harmony and spiritual beauty of their souls by sweetly singing to each other.” (Jonathan Edwards)
“If worshipers leave a service with no thought of becoming more godly in their lives, then the purpose of worship has not been achieved. If they walk away from an assembly without a conviction that they need to conform their lives to Holy Scripture, even if it means changing their lifestyle, then worship has been perverted somewhere…The clear teaching of Scripture is that genuine worship is life changing.”
(Allen Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory)
“Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Psalm 111:1).
The English word “hallelujah” is a transliteration of 2 Hebrew words, hallelu and Jah. The 1st word, hallelu, is the 2nd person imperative of “praise.” The 2nd word, Jah, is the short form of Yahweh – God’s name. So, when we say, “Hallelujah!” we are exhorting everyone to join us in praising Yahweh.
To shout, “hallelujah” is like standing in front of all false gods and boldly saying, “Not you, Molech!” “Not you, Baal!” “Not you, Dagon!” “Not you, Artemis!” “Not you, Zeus!” “But to Jah, and Jah alone, I give praise.”
So, the next time you sing “Hallelujah” pause for a split second between hallelu and Jah and say it like a name. We praise you . . . Jah! You are above all gods Jah! Join me, all you heavenly hosts, and praise Jah!
The psalmist teaches us to hold back nothing when we sing.
Are your praises whole-hearted? What good is half-hearted praise? Half-hearted devotion is no devotion; half-hearted worship is no worship This is why John Calvin translated the phrase “whole heart” as “sincere heart.” It is not just 100% of the heart but the heart of integrity. There should be no divisions in one’s heart.
And just when you might suspect, this is a declaration of private praise as he refers to his own “heart,” the psalmist reminds all his readers that his praise is for “the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.” His whole worship is best served in the confines of the assembled body.
What a reminder for us! Corporate praise is better than individual praise. Public praise trumps private praise. Why? Let me give you 2 reasons.
First, corporate praise is better than individual praise because God set up the church. If God thought our private praise was a better use of our time, He wouldn’t not have set up an assembled group of saints and called it the church and commanded them to assemble for the purpose of worship (Hebrews 10:24-25). If none of that was necessary, He would have left it all up to us to praise Him on our own time. But he did not leave us as Lone Rangers. We are corporate worshippers.
Second, corporate praise is better than individual praise because that is what heaven is all about. That really is heaven’s activity (Revelation 5). Sure, we will do other things, but we will all be doing it for the purpose of glorifying Him. Corporate praise is better because that is what we see people doing in heaven.
The psalmist doesn’t want His praise to be only between him and God; he wants it public. It is much better to praise God in the company of the like-minded. That is the psalmist’s declaration. He is assuming the role of a worship pastor and calling everyone to praise God.
“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.” (Psalm 98:4).
This type of shouting sometimes refers to celebratory shouts at a king’s coronation (e.g., “Long live King Solomon” in I Kings 1:39-40 or “Long live the king” in II Kings 11:12-14 or “Hosanna” in Matthew 21:4-9); it could also be that type of shouting that is like a war cry. In this context, it would be celebrating the coming of a King.
To “break forth in song” refers to an exuberant outburst that someone cannot repress. It is an eruption of praise. It is the same word Isaiah uses in Isaiah 55:12 – “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall BREAK FORTH into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” It is as if the praise is constant and unstoppable. It is too great to be contained.
You cannot be too hearty when it comes to singing. You can’t sing too loud or be too passionate when you open your lips to sing about God.
The noise in the Temple was legendary. It was borderline rambunctious. Let me give you an example of this from Ezra. Following the captivity in Babylon, the Temple was restored, and the walls were rebuilt. In Ezra 3, we see the formal, communal worship being restored and this is no light moment. We read,
“10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: ‘For He is good, for His mercy endures forever toward Israel.’ Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off” (Ezra 3:10-13).
This was worship with gusto. Reformed theologian and late pastor James Boice gives us this exhortation:
“Should the worship of God’s people be any less exuberant today? Should we be quiet when we have come to know him who is the great King above all kings and the great Lord above all lords? Shame on us for all lackluster worship and all halfhearted praise.”
Don’t waste your singing. If you need to close your eyes, close your eyes. If you need to sit up close during the service, sit on the front row. If you need to learn the songs, spend some time learning them. Do whatever is necessary but don’t waste your singing.