Week of July 12

Shout to the Lord!

Read: Hosea 13-14; Psalm 100, 102; Hebrews 5

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Psalm 100:1, ESV


Hills church (later Hillsong Worship) recorded the song, “Shout to the Lord” in February 1994. Some of the most powerful words are: “My Jesus, my Savior/Lord there is none like You/All of my days, I want to praise/The wonders of Your mighty love.” Are you like me? I have already begun to sing the chorus, “Shout to the Lord all the earth let us sing.” It is estimated that the song is sung by 30 million worshipers around the globe each week.

I cannot help but bring to my mind the words of the psalmist when I think of that many people singing praise to God. Worshipers would approach the temple and chant “Make a joyful noise to the Lord,” which translates the Hebrew word for “shout.” God’s people were called to shout His glories so that all the people of the world might hear them! Let’s get our worship on today as we examine the psalmist’s call to praise.

A Biblical Lens

Psalm 100 is a hymn of praise to the Lord that was used in worship. It may well have been the practice for the people to chant verses 1-3 of this psalm as they entered the temple to worship and the choir inside would sing verses 4-5 (HCBC; Handbook). Either way that must have been a glorious sound! Worship, my friends, involves so much more than simply the songs we sing, and the hymn writer provides us with rich instruction today in how to apply the psalms to our daily lives.

He calls “all the lands” to raise a shout to the Lord (100:1). Can you imagine all voices across the planet raising their praise in unison to God, the Lord of Creation? Well, the psalmist did! He uses a word in verse two, like many Hebrew words, that has more than one meaning. The word “worship” also means “to serve” in many contexts (cf. ESV, “Serve the Lord” in verse 2). Here it likely means to sing praise to God who inhabited his temple (100:2). However, you and I know how it important it is for us to embody our songs as we leave to serve the Lord throughout the world. Hmm. Let’s hold on to this thought because I will take it up again in the Moral Pathway section.

Sound worship not only sings and serves, but it also confesses the name of the Lord (100:3). The psalmist calls the people to “know,” or “recognize,” hence confess that God is Lord. Work with me here for a moment. When he writes, “he who made us,” he is not only referring to the truth that God created humanity, which He did, but that God had formed Israel into a covenant people. In Ashlock speak, “He made them out of nothing into something!” This sure makes the person sitting six feet away, covered with a mask, seem all the closer to me in this time of pandemic and separation! We may be required to sit separately, but nothing can overwhelm the truth that we have been newly created as the Body of Christ!

I had a dear Christian family that would invite my family over for most post-church service Sunday meals. Lonnie never failed to meet us at the door with a smile and say loudly, “Get in this house!” We were so thankful for the love of that family. We may not be able assemble in full number for worship at this time, but we may always “enter into God’s courts (presence) with praise!” He wants us, whether we are streaming inside the building or livestreaming through the internet. to “come into His presence with thanksgiving” (100:4). Why? The Lord is good and his “hesed,” steadfast love, never ends (100:5). Shout to the Lord! Or, maybe not, due to the pandemic? Read on.

A Moral Pathway

The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the Department of Public Health issued an order last week requiring most Californians to stay at home to “disrupt the spread of COVID-19 among the population” (covid19.ca-gov). There has been a rapid surge in new coronavirus cases across the state of California in recent days and 30% of hospitalizations were patients with the disease (The same has been true across the South). OK, So, what is the big deal?

It also called for a halt to choir rehearsals and singing or chanting in worship services. This news flash went viral on social media. Were churches being singled out? I believe that targeting churches is unlikely to be the case. Even so, one prominent Texas pastor tweeted, “Telling Christians they can’t sing in church is like telling the sun not to shine. God inhabits the praises of His people.” He, it appears, decided to structure his response to the call to cease singing in worship on the basis of a higher Biblical/moral duty to worship (Psalm 22:3). Other Christians based their choice not to comply on civil rights (1st Amendment). Hold on withe me because solid moral analysis requires us to acknowledge potential biases that may hinder good decision making. So, let's all draw a breath together!

I sacrificed 15 minutes of my already busy life and watched the California governor’s news conference, listened to his appeal, and analyzed his moral reasoning. He argued that there could be no rights to assemble on beaches and in backyard BBQs—and, even church services—if there were no human life. He’s correct. If we are deceased, there is no need for a “right” to go to the beach. Then, he used a “pro-life” argument, which I find to be compelling; especially since people are dying tragically because they have been infected with the disease by other humans who were in close proximity (To date: 132,000+ deaths in U.S.; 528,00 worldwide deaths).

Do you remember the news report of a choir rehearsal in Washington State that led to 32 confirmed cases and 20 “probably secondary cases” of coronavirus and 2 deaths? Bring also to mind the Richmond, Virginia, worship service where the pastor contracted the disease and died. Like you, I have read the argument that deaths from COVID-19 are minimal, which causes me to wonder who among my beloved fellow Oak Knoll Baptist church members might I consider to be expendable?

Disease-bearing respiratory droplets that spew from the mouth while talking, singing, and shouting are no respecters of persons! They do not care if they infect me at a backyard BBQ or at church service. I personally believe that the issue before American churches is foremost not about Constitutional rights. Life and health are two core human values, and they necessarily precede rights. We need to keep in mind that governments have a duty to protect public well-being.

The same California publication also encouraged churches to consider practicing these activities through alternative methods (such as internet streaming) that “ensure individual congregation members perform these activities separately in their own homes.” My state has similar guidelines for my consideration. So, what did I do? I got my “alternative method going” and found a video of “Shout to the Lord” on the internet. With tears streaming down my face, I joined the thirty million others who use the song weekly to ascend God’s hill to worship Him!
Shout to the Lord
(Hillsong Worship)

For Your Journaling

1. Take a moment to reconsider the right to life and incredible value of that gift from God (100:3, “It is he who made us”). Turn down the volume on the cultural rhetoric and open your ears to hear a word from the Lord on how to offer your worship. Ask Him: Mask? Proper distance? Hand washing?

2. Remember the Biblical context indicates how the verb “serve” was interpreted and applied. In the context of Psalm 100 it likely meant to praise but there are other contexts where it means “to serve.” Well, you and I are “sheltering” and “protecting” at the present, so let's make our praise evident in where we "serve" today? Serve the Lord loudly today.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock