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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Desperate Worship

Ezra 3:11-13 (ESV)
11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.


It has been over seventy years since Israel has been able to worship in Jerusalem. There have been no sacrifices since they must be done there. The old men, possibly eighty or ninety years old, remember what it was to worship in the Temple. They weep at the laying of the foundation. The younger ones weep and shout for joy because they desperately wanted to worship for so long in this way. The place of worship is being restored.

Antiphonal singing fills the air with the sounds of weeping and shouting. They sing of God's goodness toward them. They do not try to blame their hardships on God. They know they or their ancestors were responsible. They are merely joyous over the worship that they have now. It fills them up and overflows.

I have never been in such a worship experience. I have seen people weep. I have heard great singing. I have heard a few shouts of joy. Yet I have never heard a whole congregation caught up in worship like this.

I long for this type of worship. I didn't realize this until I read this scripture this morning. I long for a worship that focuses completely upon God. I want one in which people allow their emotions to erupt unimpeded. I want to hear the singing which tells of God's goodness toward us. I want to be caught up in it. I don't want to be a spectator. I want to be it.

I have dreamed of this type of worship for a long time. I have seen God's presence almost take over. I have seen many people come to know the Lord at one time. I have seen people make commitments but it seems that something was holding people back in my experiences. Ezra describes a worship with nothing being held back.

This is desperate worship. It is my desire too.

2 comments:

Anthony Chia said...

I rarely lead a worship formally, and never, in any big setting; yet I believe informally every week in church services, by worshipping picturing God is present by His Holy Spirit, and God is in Heaven on His throne, with the Son, by His side, and the four heavenly creatures worshipping, with 24 elders all around the throne, and thousands upon thousands of angels in the background worshipping, I lead (informally) the congregation in worship, from the congregation side, right there, in the first row, centre pew, while the church formal worship leaders and his team leads from the stage.

So very often, the Holy Spirit would touch me on some part of my body, literally, in the sense, I can feel sensation at that part of the body. Common, has been His touch of one of my hand, and I would respond by leaving the particular hand at the position He touches; and He would linger for some time, like He is holding my hand. At times, I would have this cooling sensation going around my wrist; occasionally, I would get a localised sensation in the palm of my hands, which I have come to understand that the Lord was reminding He was pierced on the Cross for me and others.

We have to worship expecting and knowing God is present by His Spirit in the place where we worship, and the Father and the Son, in Heaven attending to our worship. Even when I worship alone, my posture is the same. This is, I believe, the most basic of the “worship in spirit and in truth”. When God is your audience, you put your mind, your soul and your entire heart into your worship; unless, impromptu, you are to prepare even before you begin. Imagine if you have to sing before a man-king; then, think for a moment, He is more than that, how would you come into your performance, and how should you perform. I have deliberately used the words, “performance and perform”, and I know some people would say, “That’s works; that is a slippery slope, he is going down!”, but I say, “You get behind me, you are a stumbling block!” Where does it say in Scripture, all works are taboo to God?

Once, I did this: My then wife was overseas for some time, on her job assignment. She was well-paid and she had lots of money to her name, and was able to have good food, and buy any luxurious items she wanted. I was and still am somewhat not earning much income. I thought of what I could do to give her a pleasant welcome back. I learned simple cooking in my youth, for I then had to cook for my younger siblings, at times. So, I thought she had eaten and could eat anything she fancied (she probably and did have good meals, overseas), but since she liked to eat (nice food), I ought still to have a meal for her. I could NOT buy her any better food than she could, herself, with the so much money she had, so I went about working/cooking up curry chicken for her to eat. And I did prepare it before she came back home, but she shown no appreciation, despite all the effort I put in. But the God I know is NOT like that.

People said, all God wants us to do that He may be pleased is that, we do absolutely nothing, just bask in grace. No, even though, my then wife showed no appreciation, she was NOT displeased either. Would she have been pleased if I did nothing? I could NOT and I still cannot sing well by the standard of men, but right from my early days as a believer, I have been talking to God of my desire to worship Him, despite being tone-deaf (maybe I am NOT now!). I told God I would be faithful, and I would work at it; and I tell you, the Lord honoured and continues to honour my desire, as I continue to be faithful in my working to worship Him. Years ago, the Lord blessed me with the gift of singing in tongues; then I as far as I knew there was only two others who sang in tongues, openly in church services, in my country (there could be others, I did NOT know; today it is common).

cont...

Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

In terminology of piano-playing, I started with grade 1, in the singing in tongues, today, I am, NOT grade 8, but perhaps, grade 16! The normal grade already busted, and I am now on supernormal scale. My human language (English) singing is now probably 6-7, because the Lord enables and I work on it. Sure, God can duplicate Himself to the floor and worship for Himself; sure God can make the stones cry out in worship unto Him; but God is pleased with our offering of worship from whatever little that we are having, in terms of our talents and musical inclinations (of course, the macro worship includes a lot more things, NOT just singing or praise and worship). It is still “the poor widow has put in more; out of her poverty, gave everything!” This is the kind of offering that pleases and moves God. We cannot compel God, but God does allow Himself to be moved. I hate to say this, “You kill all the good works; you get a dead church, for God is NOT there!”

Some people read the same passage of Ezra 3 given in the blog entry, and conclude there was no works, only spontaneity. There is NOT necessarily anything wrong with spontaneity; I am NOT against it; but what many people are NOT understanding is that before the spontaneity there was much works, often, NOT seen and so, NOT realised; but God saw it all. It is still “I will NOT offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing!” is the posture of giving unto God. God does ask for our works and effort, that we humanly can do.

What were some of the prior works:

1. The Israelites had to uproot and move back to Judah. As said, some 70 years had elapsed. Many had settled in Babylon. To uproot is one thing, to go back to the Judah, which were then, “over-ran” by other peoples (that was the strategy of expansion, take the captives away, put in other natives or peoples, so that revolt became difficult), was another. Ezra 1:11, Sheshbazzar led the exiles to come up from Babylon to Jerusalem.


2. Got to give towards the rebuilding of the house of God. Ezra 2:68 tells us so, according to their ability they gave to the treasury.


3. They had to 1st rebuild the altar of God to make sacrifices. Ezra 3:3 tells us that the returned Israelites had to fear the people around even as they built the altar and sacrificed offerings on it, morning and evening. They had to make all the various offerings as can be read from Ezra 3:4-6.


4. Then in Ezra 3:7 we read, they had to give money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and olive oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that the latter would bring cedar logs for the rebuilding of the temple.


5. Only in 2nd month of the 2nd year they arrived, that they could begin to work on the rebuilding. People got to be assigned to supervise the rebuilding work. And then as the work was being done, praise and worship had to be offered, as prescribed (Ezra 3:10).

Spontaneity came after efforts, works, sacrifices, and doing things as prescribed. Spontaneity came after taking ownership. Spontaneity came after hearts were prepared by God as they work with God on the necessary works and desires of God.

Desperate worship can come just like that, but more often than NOT, it did NOT come suddenly out of the blue. More often than NOT, desperate worship arrives as a result of much prior effort and works, including prayers and intercessions in accordance to the will and desires of God.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions