“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise.” – Psalm 84:1-4
As you drive to church each Sunday morning, do these words echo the thoughts of your mind and heart? Do you, like the psalmist, long to get to the sanctuary to meet with God, to sing his praises, to hear his Word expounded through the preaching and teaching? Is your heart’s desire to stay there, to dwell in the place of worship, “ever singing his praise”?
For so many of us, the beauty of worship has been lost. Covid-19 began a massive disruption of our Sunday routines in which church services moved from a gathering of God’s people to individuals or families watching a livestream via Facebook or the internet. Many others had their routines disrupted well before the virus, and they found themselves at baseball or soccer games, on the golf course, or running to the grocery store. Sunday became like every other day, just another day of the grind of children’s activities, work, or if one was lucky a bit of recreation. What happened to the Sabbath, the day in which the Lord set apart for rest and for worship?
Sadly, very few people can echo the words of the psalmist here today. Few people truly delight in the worship of the Lord. Again, it begs the question – why? Why don’t we long to meet with God? Why aren’t our hearts inclined to worship? Why has everything else in life taken precedence over the Lord in our lives? Certainly, we would not confess that we choose things above the Lord; we don’t need to. The confession of our hearts is revealed in our habits. Instead of worshipping the Lord, we worship his gifts in our lives – our children, our careers, our homes, our hobbies, etc. Not one of these things is bad. Again, all that we are and all that we have is a gift from God. However, it is the elevation of these gifts above the giver of the gifts that makes them wrong. Hence, the very first commandment is to worship no gods except the Lord God. Sadly, children can become our gods; careers can become our gods; recreational activities can become our gods; even our homes can become our gods. This is what the Bible refers to time and time again as idolatry.
How do we recognize idolatry in our lives? Look at what you long for the most or what you look forward to the most? In Psalm 84, worship is the desire of the heart, the cry of the soul, and the source of greatest joy and pleasure. If this psalm does not describe the disposition of your heart today, there is still hope. The Lord is gracious and longs to restore to you the joy of encountering him in worship. The Lord is eager to forgive and to welcome you back to his sanctuary. The way back to joy in worship is repentance. If your heart has strayed to idols, then confess that to the Lord, ask for his forgiveness, then reorient your life so that God is at the center. It may take practice and intentionality; however, the Lord will restore the joy as he meets with you.
Oh Lord, search our hearts and our minds and reveal anything that has captivated our hearts above you. Cleanse and heal us so that we love you with all our hearts and come to love the worship of you more than anything else in this world. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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