In David's School of Worship (Psalm 9:1-2)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Psalm 9:1–2
I. When You Hear the Word “Worship”
What comes to mind when you hear the word “worship”? I would guess for most people who regularly attend church, what comes to mind is music... that is, worship music. Or maybe, more specifically, a time of worshiping God through music. Someone visiting a church might tell a friend, “They have great worship at that church!” At other times, worship could be referring to the Sunday morning service as a whole. Someone who missed church might ask a family member, “How was worship today?”
But as wonderful as our times together can be, when Christians think about the word “worship” in terms of something that mainly happens at a particular time, at a particular place, maybe with a particular kind of music, maybe resulting in a particular kind of feeling, we're missing something fundamental about the biblical teaching on worship.
But this is where David can help us. David. Yes, that David. King David. David and Goliath David. Almost half of all the psalms in this biblical book called Psalms are attributed to David. For anyone who's read about David in the books of Samuel, this shouldn't be surprising. One of the first things we learn about David in 1 Samuel 16 is that his musical ability was well-known. You see, psalms are songs. The book of Psalms may look like a book of poetry at first, but this is actually a collection of songs. Some of these even come with tune information. A psalm is a song. As we read in Psalm 47:7, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm!”
So how can David help us in terms of the fundamentals of worship? By using music, yes, music as a doorway, to take us further into the fullness of genuine, biblical worship. This morning I'd like to use just one of David's psalms to do that very thing. Look with me at Psalm 9.
II. The Passage: “I Will Sing Praise to Your Name” (9:1-2)
Let's focus on the first two verses of this psalm. These are the words of David...
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
While it may not be obvious at first, what God has given us here (remember, these are not only the words of David, they're also the inspired words of God, right?... What God has given us here...) are reminders about the basics of worship. Now, as you read through the book of Psalms in the coming weeks, you may notice there are different kinds of psalms. There are wisdom psalms, like Psalm 1 for example. There are psalms of lament (like Psalm 22 from your readings this week). But most of the Psalms are songs of praise. Songs of worship. Not that worship is disconnected from teaching wisdom or crying out to God with a heavy heart. But these psalms of praise give us a really clear window into the fundamentals of biblical worship.
Now when I talk about worship let me throw in a little bit of an aside here. How am I defining that term, worship? What you find in the back half of Romans chapter 1 when Paul was writing there is a really simple comparison. Paul explains all the nations are guilty before God. Why? Because they worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator who is forever blessed. Amen. (Romans 1:25) But if you back a few verses you find a definition for worship. It says earlier “they did not honor God as God or give thanks to Him” (1:21). And that's probably the best definition of biblical worship. Honoring God as God.
I'm here to affirm to you that you already are a worshiper but God's word to you this morning is “What are you worshiping?” You will always be worshiping something. There is not a moment in your life where you are not worshiping something. That is you may not be honoring God as God (I pray that you are; I pray that I will be), but you are honoring something else as God. You are putting something up into that place and saying 'This is my God'. No, you're probably not making a statue of it and falling down and bowing before and burning incense in front of it, but you are allowing it to rule your life. It is ruling your priorities. How you spend your money. How you spend your time. You're building your identity off of it? That's worship and the world around us is abuzz with that very thing all the time. So I'm not here to convince you to be a worshiper. I do want to persuade you to be a true worshiper and we'll talk about that coming up. What is true worship? True worship is to honor God as God.
So what you'll discover is that what we find here in Psalm 9 can be found all over this book of Psalms. And what exactly do we find here? Well, in David's school of worship, using the Psalms as our curriculum, we discover that 1) worship is a response to the truth about God, 2) worship flows from the heart, and 3) worship will find expression outwardly. Truth. Heart. Expression.
1. Worship as a Response
So first consider the truth about God that's revealed here, truth that fuels the psalmist's worship. First, God is identified in verse 1 as Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. Second, God is identified in verse 2 as El Elyon, the “Most High” God; the Ruler over every ruler, and God over every so-called god. Third, David refers in verse 1 to God's “wonderful deeds”. Which deeds does David have in mind? Well, since he's focused on Yahweh, the name God revealed to Moses in a unique way through the burning bush, David might have Israel's deliverance from Egypt in mind (and all the ways God revealed his power in that Exodus story).
But if we were to continue through the psalm, we would discover God's the deeds David has in mind are the “wonderful deeds” on display in David's own life. Verse 3: David's “enemies turn back” and “stumble”. Verse 4: God has “maintained [David's] just cause”. Verse 5: God has “rebuked the nations”. Verse 9: God has been “a stronghold in times of trouble”. But notice right there how what God has done reveals the truth about who God is. Look at verses 7 and 8...
But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice,  and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. [What this saying? That God's deeds reveal or confirm that he is the righteous Judge!]
But don't forget v. 9? God is revealed as “a stronghold for the oppressed”. And thus, verse 10, “those who know your name [i.e., those who know who you have revealed yourself to be, they] put their trust in you”. David says this about the God who punishes the wicked and redeems the righteous: (v. 16) “The LORD has made himself known; he has executed judgment...”
So the worship we find in the opening verses of this psalm is a response to who God has revealed himself or confirmed himself to be in David's life. True worship is always a response to the truth about God. Thus, there is no worship of God apart from the truth about God.
2. Worship Flows from the Heart
But it's also extremely important to understand that the response we call worship begins in the heart. No book talks about the heart, about that inner self, more than this book, this collection, we call Psalms. David mentions his heart right away in verse 1. Did you see that? “I will give thanks to Yahweh with my... whole heart”. He wants to make it clear his worship is not half-hearted worship. It is whole-hearted worship!
Just look back over verses 1 and 2 and think about what they tell us about David's heart. He is grateful, isn't he? “I will give thanks...”. So when David talks about his heart here, he's telling us something about the depth of or extent of his thankfulness. He is also in awe of God. Did you see that? “I will recount all of your... wonderful [or wondrous or marvelous] deeds.” In light of what God has done, he is in awe of God. Finally, we read in verse 2 that there is a gladness or joy welling up in David. “I will be glad and exult in you...”.
So if we're talking about true, biblical worship, we're talking about 'from the heart' worship. When the truth about who God is and what God has done collides with David's heart, it begins to fuel worship by stirring up things like gratitude... to God; awe... of God; joy... in God.
3. Worship Expressed Outwardly
But in most cases, that's not where it stops. God is certainly honored when you are grateful for what He, and He alone, has accomplished in your life. But when the Bible talks about worship, usually it also includes an outward expression of that inward response. So for example, if David is grateful to God for (v. 4) maintaining David's just cause (and not allowing injustice to triumph), then David's gratitude will be expressed in worship. What kind of worship? The giving of thanks. “I will give thanks to Yahweh with my whole heart.” God is glorified when we sincerely acknowledge his gifts, and him as the Giver, with sincere appreciation.
What about the awe that filled David's heart in light of God's amazing works? Well, David was going to worship God by “recount[ing] all of your wonderful deeds”. We honor God, we glorifying God when we proclaim, when we detail, when we rehearse, when we remind each other of God's powerful works; his wonders; his miracles; his mighty acts. As we later read in Psalm 145:
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts... to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds... (vs. 4, 12)
What about the gladness or joy that filled David's heart in light of these truths about God? According to David, it was going to be expressed in exulting (not exalting, but exulting). Verse 2: “I will be glad and exult in you”. Exulting is an outward expression of joy; of jubilation; like a “wahoo” or a “yeehaw” or a passionate “yes”. That's exulting. David actually goes on in the second half of the verse to explain that he would exult by singing praises to this amazing God.
III. In Spirit and Truth
So think again about the lessons we can draw from these two verses, especially as they represent hundreds and hundreds of other similar verses in the Psalms. We learned or were reminded that 1) worship is a response to the truth about God, 2) worship flows from the heart, and 3) worship will find expression outwardly. Truth. Heart. Expression.
Now think with me about why all of this is so important. If and when we neglect some of these worship fundamentals, we can find ourselves on a very dangerous path. For example, when Israel (the very people who used these songs... when they) adhered to certain forms of worship (like, for example, offering up an animal sacrifice of thanksgiving) but they did this, not as an expression of sincere gratitude, it wasn't truly worship. Or if someone today were to emotionally sing, “I am in awe of you God” on Sunday morning, and yet, treat him as inconsequential Monday through Saturday, the outward expression of his or life is calling into question the validity of a truly worshipful heart.
For both the ancient and modern readers, David's lessons, David's example, are extremely helpful. If the Psalms are, for the most part, a book of worship, then we must allow God to use these songs to teach us, to grow us, as worshipers. They can safeguard us from worship distortions, while at the same time, help us honor God “in spirit and truth”.
You may recognize those final words. They are the words of Jesus. Because Christ came, because of what He revealed about the Father, because he fulfilled all of the Old Testament's shadows and symbols, because he fulfilled God's purposes for all people, for all nations, when we talk about worship today, we are not talking about worship tied to a particular, sacred location, or to a set of sacred rituals that have now become obsolete. No. We are talking about worshiping “in spirit and truth”. As Jesus said in John 4:23,
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
Is it your desire to worship God? To worship Him “in spirit and truth”? Notice that Jesus uses the phrase “true worshipers”. This assumes there will be false worshipers as well. So how can we know whether we are true or false worshipers? Through the Spirit of God, and in light of the truth Jesus has revealed.
When we embrace the truth of the gospel, the Good News about Jesus, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are reconciled to only One who is worthy of our worship. And when that happens, we are empowered in a new way to learn, for example, what the Psalms can teach us about worshiping God. The Son of David empowers us to truly live in light of David's lessons about worship. So for example, if it's your desire to engage in genuine worship, then...
Number one, meditate regularly on the truth that inspires true worship. There is always a temptation to take what we know about God for granted; to allow that knowledge to cool into interesting information rather than radical revelation. Or maybe we're tempted to focus on the Bible as a moral guidebook rather than a divine biography. But when we lose sight of who God truly is and what God has actually done, we remain uninspired in terms of genuine worship. Instead, as we talked about last week, let's set our hearts to grow in knowledge and faith in light of the truth about (the reality of) our great and gracious God. Genuine worship will be our response as we grow in that way.
Number two, guard yourself against heart-less worship. Another common temptation is to sing or give thanks or participate in the Lord's Table or give an offering, and then tell myself, “I've worshiped God.” And yet, where is my heart in all these things? If those thing acts of worship are not flowing from a heart of worship, I need to acknowledge that. Is there still value in participating in such things. Yes, but with a clear acknowledgment of both where you are and where you need to be. That should inform our prayers and guard us against rote obedience.
Number three, grow in the wide variety of ways to worship God. In this psalm, David worshiped God by giving thanks to God, by recounting God's wondrous deeds, and rejoicing in God through song. In all of these ways David was honoring God as God. That's worship! And all of those things should be regualr expressions of your own faith-filled heart, on Sunday, but also on Monday through Saturday. But let me finish with what Paul taught us about worshiping as followers of Christ. This is Romans 12:1... “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Using imagery from OT worship, from the worshiper bringing a sacrifice to God, Paul encourages us to offer ourselves up every day as living sacrifices to God, as an act of worship. So we do that inspired by the truth of who God is and what he's done, we do that from the heart, and then we express that by allowing every part of our lives to be used in worshipful ways: in our giving and going, in our sharing, in our caring, in our speaking... and listening, in our repenting and confessing, in our obedience... may the fruit of God's Spirit, in light of Jesus the truth, overflow as worship, “in spirit and truth”. And may that worship inspire our every song!
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023)
September 24, 2023Speak the Word with Boldness (Acts 4:23-31)
August 27, 2023Praying for God's People (Daniel 9:17-19)
August 20, 2023Daniel's 'Not of This World' Example (Daniel 1:8-17)