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Acceptable Worship (1): Awe Before God

Awe Before God

How often have you prayed or heard a prayer that says, “May our worship today be acceptable in your sight”?

What do we mean by this prayer? Are we praying that our ritual of worship be exactly as the Scripture teaches it should be so God will accept it? Or are we praying that our hearts may be humble and submissive before God? Which does God most desire of us? Precise performance or pliant hearts?

What makes “worship” offered to God acceptable or unacceptable? In this series of posts, I will examine these questions and try to have something for all of us to think about.

This is a Biblical prayer:

First, let us begin by stating that this is a good prayer. It is very Biblical. In Psalm 19, David concluded this Psalm of praise to God from the wonders of Creation and the Perfection of God’s Law by praying,

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock, and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

Most of us have probably sung (or chanted) these familiar words. We do not use this chant as often now as in the past, but most probably have still used it at some point.

The main part of the Psalm is a meditation of David’s heart as he marvels at the wonder of the heavens as they declare the glory of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God; The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; Night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language Where their voice is not heard. – Psalm 19:1-3

From the message of the heavens, David turns to praise the other book of God’s revelation of Himself to mankind: The Law of the Lord, on which the man whose heart is turned toward God meditates day and night (see Psalm 1:1-3).

The Law of the LORD is perfect, Reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, Making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, Giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, Giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, Enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure And altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, Than much pure gold; They are sweeter than honey, Than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; In keeping them there is great reward.– Psalm 19:7-11

The Creation in all its glory and the Law of God in all its purity and wisdom have had the desired effect. Paul spoke of both of these in Romans. In the first chapter he said,

since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Then, in the seventh chapter as he wrote of man’s continued struggle with sin, he praised the Law of the LORD.

So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful” (Romans 7:10-13).

That is the same effect the Law of the Lord had on David. He turned from thinking of the Heavens, the work of God’s hands, and of the Law of God, the work of God’s heart to look within himself. His contemplation of God, His Creation, and His Word drove David to his knees:

Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; May they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, Innocent of great transgression. – Psalm 19:12-13.

David saw himself as a sinful man and prayed for God’s forgiveness. He knew some sins were hidden, perhaps even from David himself. Certainly, other people did not know all of the King’s faults! However, not one of his sins was hidden from God. David also was honest enough to confess that there is willful sin. He asked God to keep him from that, so that he might be innocent. Was he even in this Psalm aware of the tendency of his heart of rear itself up against his Maker?

It was at the end of this Psalm, then, that he concluded his prayer:

May the words of my mouth And the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

We who have advanced so far beyond David technologically should be even more impressed with the wonder of God’s handiwork. With our giant telescopes, we can see the almost limitless vastness of the universe with its billions of galaxies and stars without number. With powerful microscopes we peer into the secrets that hide at the molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic levels. With other machines we examine the interior of a beating heart to see what faults it may have, so we can correct them.

David had none of these marvelous machines. He only had a heart sensitive to God. Had he seen what we see, is it likely he would have been even more astounded? He would not have marveled most at the wisdom and ingenuity of Man, but at the God who made all of these things that we examine so closely.

Our astonishment, however, is in our own greatness in invention and manufacture of such wonderful tools. We dare to think we can approach and surpass God in our wisdom! It is time for us, again, to pray with David that our meditations be acceptable in God’s sight.

The first thing necessary for acceptable worship is a sense of awe at the greatness of God in His Creation and in His Word, especially the Word that became flesh, lived among us, and showed us the glory of God in ways of which David only dreamed.

NEXT – (2) Worship by Cain and Able

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