Think about the best worship experience you have ever had. Have you tried to replicate it? The book of Psalms gives us powerful insights regarding how and why we are to come to God in order to connect with His heart. God intends for our private and corporate worship to be both enthusiastic and participatory. When we are engaged with God based on His goodness, faithfulness, and love, worship becomes exciting and meaningful.
To cover the topic of worship adequately, I have broken it into three parts. Not all of the parts will be discussed in this article. The first part explores the why of worship. Next, I will develop the how of worship. Both parts depend on Psalm 100. And finally, I will consider the topic of praise, which will be based on Psalm 103.
BECAUSE HE IS GOD
For the psalmist, the why lies in God’s very identity and nature. “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3).1 We worship the Lord because He is God. Saying “the Lord is God” is much different than knowing it. Friendship may be one of the best examples of this idea. When I know we are friends, I will count on you when I am in need. This knowledge reorients the way I relate to you. If I know God is God, this reality will reorient the trajectory of my life. The psalmist calls us to know, and when we know who God really is, that knowledge creates the foundational why of worship.
BECAUSE HE CREATED US
The reality that God created us defines the inherent nature of our relationship with Him. However, out of His unfailing love for us, He elevated us to being “His people, the sheep of his pasture.” What an incredible reason to worship! This is a call to worship that demands that we recognize the real center of life, that we surrender everything—our greed and self-centeredness—to Yahweh (God) who is all-powerful. When we accept this invitation, we acknowledge and confess all that He is. We also accept Yahweh’s definition of our identity; who He is determines who we are. Not only do we live in the knowledge of the living God, we also must recognize that God made us and cares for us.
BECAUSE HE IS GOOD
Another reason to worship is “because the Lord is good” (Ps. 100:5). It really is that simple. You worship the Lord because He is good. He has lavished His goodness upon you.
When we worship the Lord, we are proclaiming His goodness. Psalm 95 gives us many examples of this goodness: He is the Rock of our salvation (95:1), He is great (95:3), He is strong (95:4), He is our Maker (95:6), and He is caring (95:7). Regardless of whether I experience it in tangible ways in every situation of my life, God is fundamentally good.
As a pastor, I often dealt with people who experienced pain at the hands of others. They told me stories about the evil they experienced from a loved one. I am so thankful the God I serve is not like that. He is a God who is good, One I can trust, who’s never going to hurt me. I get excited about that kind of God.
BECAUSE HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER
Psalm 100:5 goes on to say, “And his love endures forever.” That word “love,” hesed, could be the most important word in the Old Testament—it is used in 241 verses!2 Some Bibles translate it as “mercy” (KJV, NKJV), some use the word “lovingkindness” (NASB), and others use “unfailing love” (NLT). Psalm 103 uses it four times and explains that “for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love (hesed) for those who fear him” (Ps. 103:11). I like to translate it as “loyal love” (NET Bible) because it is a two-pronged word. On the one hand, God has affection for us: “showing love (hesed) to a thousand generations of those who love (another word, ‘ahab) me and keep my commandments” (Ex. 20:6). On the other hand, hesed shows God fulfilling His covenant with us. Some commentators even interpret it as “covenant love.”3 This love of God is so much greater than the love we offer to Him. Time and again Israel turned from God, but He always pursued them and called them back into relationship. God is committed to us regardless of how we treat Him (Gen. 32:10). God’s love will pursue us no matter what—no matter what we do, where we come from, or where we go. God is madly in love with us. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39). What could motivate us to worship God more than this?
I’ve found that when I do not feel like worshipping, I need to take time to reflect on God’s character. This is what inspires me for worship: God is holy, just, loving, gracious, powerful, merciful, and so much more. When we truly know this God, we will want to worship Him. He is a great and awesome Lord.
In the next article, I will explore how we worship the One who is the true creator God, full of goodness and whose love endures forever.
1 Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations come from the New International Version (NIV).
2 Strong’s H2617. The importance of this word can be seen in the fact that it is the word God uses to describe Himself in Exodus 20:6. (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), 698).
3 TWOT, 698.
S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.