Sunday 17 January
Worship: Breathing in the Spirit
In Genesis 1:2 we are told that when God creates the world, God’s Spirit was hovering over the face of the waters in the dark void which existed at that time. This Old Testament Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach which is often translated as Spirit, wind, or breath in English versions of the Bible.
In Ezekial chapter 37 this Spirit breathes life into dry bone. In the New Testament, in John chapter 20 Jesus breathes upon His disciples & says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
The saying “as I live and breathe” is used to support some truth that we are asserting. Spiritually the truth is, If we are truly Christians we breathe in the spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit gives us vibrant spiritual life. It gives us guidance and comfort. It gives us a heightened conscience towards sin. It fills us with the peace that passes all understanding, and it fills us with reasons to praise, adore and glorify our creator, for He is the one who gives us purpose and life and meaning. This is what the Psalmist wants us to grasp in verse 6 as he writes, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD”.
The imperative tense is used precisely because that is what we are created to do. I suspect generally that most of us are in some ways grateful that we are alive. Our gratitude, when we become children of God should be expressed as we breathe out words of thanksgiving; words of truth about our amazing God and of His graciousness. In this Psalm (150), 13 times the words Praise aimed at God occurs. Bible Scholar Robert Davidson says, “Never forget that central to authentic faith is the Praise of God”.
I’ve heard so many people over the years trying to justify their absence from church on the Sabbath by saying, “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian”. This Psalm tells us, that you do have to praise your God to have authentic faith in Him. So in verse 1 it is declared “Praise God in His sanctuary”.
Of course this is partly why so many Christians are at a loss during this pandemic – the sanctuary doors are closed yet again – it is not right or good for us as Christians. It makes me think of the Hebrew exiles who were taken away from their temple, but found a way to praise God – By the rivers of Babylon. You can hear their words of Praise in (Psalms 136, 137).
So I want to ask, how are we all coping, singing in our homes? Are we able to praise God authentically, or are we pinning for the way we want to praise God, through singing together, leading worship together in His Sanctuary? We all need to process this.
The Hallelujahs which occur in this Psalm are the Hebrew word that means Praise the LORD. We are called to do this “in God’s Mighty Heavens” – in God’s created expanse – so yes in our homes, out on our walks, as we receive good news on the phone, as we celebrate good news etc. (verse 1)
It is my understanding that many workers in hospitals, education and other services are experiencing great demands, even greater than before the pandemic took us into lockdown the first time.
These pressures can push our Sabbath rest and our daily Hallelujahs into the, once I am less busy category. It’s a very real danger.
However, let us never forget that God is in ultimate control or that we have the freedom to make choices. God has surpassing greatness and miraculous interventions as He chooses. However, we can choose to be busy and miss out.
So if we are wrapped up in the worlds demands, it is most likely our praise for God’s gracious and powerful acts will be inadequate verse 2. So let us not forget this call to worship. For it takes away our spiritual breath, and when we don’t breathe well our health is in danger. We may gain the things of this world, but they rust and decay, while we lose the treasures of eternal blessing.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 in the MESSAGE version of the Bible it reads,: “Every part of scripture is God-breathed and useful in one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way” Our Sabbath and daily interactions in God’s word, guided by His Spirt, cause us to have many reasons to fill our hearts and minds with praise.
Worship lifts us up before our powerful and great God. It causes us to utilise our musical talents and creative abilities to dance) and celebrate (see v3-5) Let us remember that, “God’s mercies are new every single morning” – even when the world around us may be in chaos.
For Christians living like this, as Paul says in Romans: 8:31 “If God is for us who can be against us”, we are empowered. We are not depressed or downcast, we are not caught up in low self-esteem or shame or grief or overpowered in our suffering – “no, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” – and we know this personally – as we breathe, as we praise, as we live each day in-Christ and for His purposes.
How many days each week do we praise our God? In song, by using our talents and giving our time to Him; in prayer, as we read His holy word, as we seek His will, as we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to the one who offered Himself for us. All these instruments in verse 3-5 are the orchestra. I might be a clanging symbol and you might be a sweet floating melodic flute, but together we become a harmony of rich praise.
It is fitting to end where we began, so let us go out then this week with the mantra – Let everything that has breathe praise the LORD