Last week, we learned about the essence of what worship truly is. We learned that worship is more so a lifestyle than it is a simple song or genre of music. To truly worship is to lay down our lives and to exalt God; the only one truly worthy of our worship.
With this in mind, however, music is still a powerful act of worship and the expression of worship that we find most frequently in the scriptures. In fact, there is clear evidence that Heaven, itself, is filled at all times with this expression of worship to God. When Jesus gave John a peek into Heaven, he wrote:
2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
There are creatures before the throne of Jesus in Revelation 4 that never stop crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” There are 24 elders that sit on the throne and worship Him and say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” In just a quick glimpse into the future of when all things are made new by Jesus, John records over and over again the many, many expressions of worship taking place. Heaven is a place of celebration, rejoicing, and worship like we’ve never experienced before!
This morning, we come together to celebrate Palm Sunday. We do so to remember this glorious event. Here, Jesus is worshiped as the savior and king of peace by a large crowd as He enters Jerusalem beginning the week leading to His death and ultimately, His resurrection.
1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the (palm) trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
(Hosanna means, “save us” and is used to express praise and joy.)
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
This morning, we come together to celebrate the traditional Palm Sunday, but we’re also reminded that this was not simply an event which occurred a few centuries ago. This is an event that we will celebrate together once again! Another thing that Jesus revealed to John was this awesome glimpse at what we will experience together one day:
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Music and songs of praise to God are expressions of worship that will still exist long after all sacrifices and other expressions of worship are long forgotten about. For this reason, we’ll finish this morning by learning of specific times when we should turn to these expressions of worship.
When should we worship?
1. When we need to hear from God
In 2 Kings 3, Elisha requested the worship of a harpist and while they were playing, the Lord spoke to him and gave him a strategy for the kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom to implement to win a battle against Moab. There is something very powerful that occurs in an atmosphere of worship that seems to drown out all of the nagging voices in our minds and enables us to focus on God and hear from Him more clearly. Very often during worship, God will speak to us. This is why we allow for time, following worship, for people to share what God may have spoke to them during worship for the whole church.
When we need to hear from God, worship!
2. When things aren’t going well
We learned last week about Job’s sacrifice of praise, how he chose to worship God even when everything was stolen away from him. Another example of worshiping when you find yourself having a rough day is found in Acts chapter sixteen. Here, Paul and Silas encountered a slave girl who was a fortune teller. She followed them around for many days telling everyone that they were telling people how to be saved. Eventually, Paul gets annoyed enough and commands the demon to leave her in Jesus name. It left her, so that was a pretty awesome victory! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute, that’s a pretty good day!”
However, when that demon departed, so did that girl’s ability to see into the future. Apparently, Paul and Silas didn’t have enough time to lead her to Christ and impart the gift of prophecy before her owners found out about this event. Since they lost their income as a result of her deliverance, Paul and Silas were severely flogged and thrown in prison. Right, that’s when a good day took a quick turn for the worse. Oh how quickly victories are stolen away by apparent defeat… They had just been beaten very badly and wrongfully jailed and we know that Paul was already annoyed, so how do they respond?
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
When things aren’t going our way, we choose to worship. Why worry in despair wondering what you can do to right the wrongs done to you when you can instead cast all of that anxiety on Jesus? Does worrying and complaining change our circumstances in any way? No! Why not simply trust that Jesus is going to do something awesome even through our difficulties and worship Him anyways? Here, Jesus not only freed them from jail, He also delivered all of those around them. Even more so, the jailer and his entire household accepted Jesus as their savior! Then, the same people who beat them and threw them in jail publicly escorted them out of the city and did all that they could to appease them.
What could our personal lives and communities look like if we responded to difficult times with worship? What would happen if instead of grumbling and whining and complaining, we chose to worship and offer God a sacrifice of praise despite how we are feeling? Remember, Paul and Silas had just been literally, physically beaten and flogged severely and this was done so wrongfully and illegally. I’m sure that they didn’t feel like worshiping, but they chose to lay down their lives all for Jesus and do it anyways.
Complaining doesn’t change our circumstances, but worship can! Remember from last week, complaining exalts us and lifts us up thinking highly of ourselves, that we deserve better than what we are experiencing now. Since our relationship with God works like a teeter-totter, we’re putting Him down and cutting off the flow of God’s resources from our lives. When we choose to bow ourselves down worship and exalt God instead of complaining, God’s Kingdom comes rushing into our lives and into our circumstances and things can radically change!
Worship literally unlocked every shackle and lock within that prison and set every prisoner in that jail free, then saved an entire household, healed all of their wounds, feed them, fill others with joy, and caused their enemies to lift them up before the people of that city. What could worship do for our circumstances, which are far less severe than these?
When things aren’t going well, when we feel like giving up, when we feel complaints rising up within us, worship!
3. To celebrate success
We learned last week about the return of the arc of the covenant to Israel and how the entire nation worshiped with all of their might in celebration of God’s Presence. Honestly, we won’t spend much time on this one because it’s very easy to worship when we’ve obtained a great success so long as we remember that ultimately, it was God who enabled us to be successful.
4. To overcome the enemy
We learned a little bit last week about the war that rages between Satan and his fallen angels kicked out of Heaven and God for worship. We learned that we have the choice, the free will of who and what to worship. This is what makes our worship to God so powerful! Angels worship because they have been in the physical presence of God and the glory of His Kingdom. They can’t help but worship God!
For us, however, we often worship in faith. We worship trusting that God is good though we live in a world that is not good. We praise God whom we’ve never seen. This pure and faith-filled worship is something that Satan and the demons can’t stand, but long to receive. In Matthew chapter four, when Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, the final temptation was for Jesus to bow down and worship Satan in order to receive the kingdoms of the earth. He, of course, reminded Satan that God alone is to be worshiped. We are reminded in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 that during the end times, Satan will exalt himself over anything called God or worshiped and demand that he alone be the object of worship on the earth.
If we feel that we are being tormented or oppressed by the enemy, one way that often enables us to overcome it is through worship to God. Satan simply can’t stand it! We see a clear example of this occur here:
1 Samuel 16:14-23
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”
17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”
18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”
19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”
23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.
When we feel the pressure and attack of the enemy, when the oppression and torment comes on strong, when reminders of our weaknesses and failures are being whispered in our mind, we simply remind Satan of whose we are. Remind him who created him and where his power came from; the all powerful Creator God. Remind him that he is the one who will be tormented for all eternity while we enjoy life eternal, freed from his influence. We do all of this and more when we actively engage in this war and choose to worship God. Worship wins battles!
Ephesians chapter six reminds us that the war is not against flesh and blood, but the war takes place in the spiritual realms. Though we may perceive it and experience these battles in the natural world, the true battle is waged and won in the spiritual. One awesome example of this reality is found here after Jehosophat learned that a vast army was coming against him from Edom. He called for a fast all through the nation of Judah when this occurred:
2 Chronicles 20:14-26
14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.
15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord.19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”
22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. 25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26 On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day.
Worship wins battles! When we’re feeling the pressure of the enemy, we overcome by worshiping!
This morning, we are reminded that at all times, in all circumstances, in every season of life, we are to worship. As warned against in Romans chapter one, we are not ones who worship the creation, but rather the Creator. We worship the one true God who was, is, and is to come. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let these palm leaves be reminders to us, calling us to worship. Bowing down ourselves and exalting God is a choice that we must make which will release the authority, power, and resources of Heaven to us and through us!