Worship in the Wilderness
This psalm has thrilled my soul these past few days. Initially it seems out of place to have a ‘Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day’ in a section characterised by the wilderness journey, for typically there is no rest in the wilderness.
When we think of Israel’s wilderness wanderings, they looked forward to that Land of Promised Rest – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ (Ex 3:8). It was to be the place where they would flourish!
Yet, when they got there, they found no rest. ‘For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.’ (Hebs 4:8)
But the mistake they made was to think that their rest, their flourishing, would be found in a place. Rather, as the psalmist here shows, our Sabbath rest is found in a person – in ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’ (Matt 12:8), Jesus Christ – and therefore every day can be a Sabbath Day for the Lord’s people … even in the wilderness!
But when the wilderness journey is so hard, how can we practically enjoy being at rest, never mind flourishing?
Begin and End each day with Worship
‘It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night …’ (v1,2)
- three components to worship: thanksgiving, praise and testimony, which we will see this exemplified in this psalm;
- two considerations for worship: particularly considering the Lord’s lovingkindness in the morning, and His faithfulness in the evening; and …
- one conclusion concerning worship: it is good, both morally as being the appropriate response, and practically in terms of our own well-being!
Thank the Lord for what He has done
‘For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.’ (v4,5)
I am reminded of the disciples in John 20. There they were in sorrow and fear. They had just seen their Lord crucified upon a cross, and no doubt their grief was intensified by guilt for having deserted Him, or in Peter’s case, denied Him.
No doubt there was confusion as well, wondering what why it had happened. What was God doing? They felt defeated!
‘Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.’ (John 20:19,20)
This was no defeat. Their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ had accomplished a mighty work, and was victorious. Sorrow, fear, guilt and confusion were all gone, and in their place … gladness and joy!
Similarly, we cannot understand the ways of God today: ‘thy thoughts are very deep’, but ‘though now for season’ … we may be ‘in heaviness through manifold trials’, yet when we consider what Christ has already accomplished for us, ‘we greatly rejoice’. (1 Pet 1:6).
Praise the Lord for where He is
‘But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.’ (v8)
Then we bow our knees and like Thomas we worship: ‘my Lord and my God’ (John 20:28), recognising that God hath appointed him ‘heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (Hebs 1:2,3)
Testify of the Lord by living for Him
‘But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be mingled with fresh oil.’ (v10)
And having gone into the presence of a God to worship the Lord privately, we then go out to worship Him publicly through living Spirit filled lives.
I want you to note the word ‘mingled’ in v10. In the KJV it is given as ‘anointed’ but it is not the usual word for ‘anointed’. Rather it is the word used in Lev 2:4,5 in reference to the meal offering: ‘unleavened cakes of fine flour mingled with oil’.
Does this not really bring out the thought of a life lived in worshipful service, to the glory of the Lord?
We often think of how Christ Himself is the perfect example of a life lived in worship to God, but this also applies to us. Our lives should similarly be holy and without blame. Consider how Paul could say:
‘Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.’ (1 Thess 2:10)
And he challenges them, and us, to ‘walk worthy of God’, but this is only possible when the ‘fine flour is mingled with oil’, or in the words of Eph 5:18, ‘filled with the Spirit’.
Living in such a way before our God leads to us being strengthened in His might, which is the thought of ‘the horn of the unicorn’ being exalted.
We’ll conclude these thoughts tomorrow when we consider three aspects of flourishing in the wilderness.