I have been reading and meditating in the Book of Psalms for awhile now. Now I’m sure you are familiar with several; maybe even committed The 23rd Psalm to memory. But I haven’t heard from the pulpit with much in-depth teaching. I’ve wondered why not? Maybe it’s because of the dynamic nature–they’ve got all the ups and downs of life–the nitty-gritty. But then, I’m just guessing.
My wife’s most favorite book in our library is The Singer Trilogy by Calvin Miller–the mystic retelling of the Story of the New Testament. Let me quote exerts from Chapter 1, page 14:
“You, too, are higher than the earth! You sang the higher music once, before the oceans ever crashed their craggy coasts…Earthmaker, tell me if I have the right to sing…” But then his final word trailed off into the gales. The gull screamed, “No,” he thought, “only Earthmaker is everlasting. His alone must be the theme from which sprung the world I stand upon.” And so he only loved but never sang the song.”
“And the song which dogged his aching steps and begged him pleadingly to sing it was completely unfamiliar. Only stars and mountains knew it. But they were old. And man was new, and chained to simple, useless rhymes; thus he could not understand the majesty…But daily now it played upon his heart and swept his soul, until joy exploded his awareness–crying near the edge of sanity, “Sing…sing…SING!”
A Psalm Sung In 4-Part Harmony.
OUR WORSHIP SONGS–
Sometimes, and I mean sometimes, our worship songs seem a bit to homogenized–nicefied.
The Psalms Are the Hebrew Hymnal
The words are so raw–dynamic–life & death–the kind of thing we need to hear more of in these turbulent times. There is so much CHANGE in the air–so much uncertainty. And in the midst…in the valleys, the Psalmist begins to lead our PRAISES.
Psalm 96–Teaches Us A NEW SONG!
VERSE I: “O SING to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, ALL THE EARTH!”
I think as we grow older (I’m 72 yrs. old), some of us don’t really like anything new–let alone MUSIC. What happened to The Eagles, the Bee Gees, The Imperials, The Florida Boys…I could really dig that kind of music. I knew the tune, the lyrics, the applications to my state-of-being…those were the good old days.
But have you listened to the new stuff on the radio lately? Even on the local station PRAISE 106.5, I have to turn a deaf ear at times. A NEW SONG! Blah h… The new music of the day brings out the curmudgeon in me–the bellyacher–the whiner! I begin to nitpick, and my wife will whisper in my ear, “You’re ruining my praise.” It sometimes amazes me how the Holy Spirit can use our spouses to get His point across.
We’re really not different today from the Hebrews of old…
The Hebrews were set in their ways and patterns of life that made things a whole lot easier; they didn’t have to sing a NEW SONG–to change. It’s easy being in a spiritual rut. So, to all of us nostalgic people…it’s “time to sing a new song.”
“Okay, okay…if I’ve got to learn a new song–at least you should give us the music!”
And that’s exactly what Psalm 96 is about–teaching people to sing a NEW and different SONG.
A Psalm Sung in 4-Part Harmony:
My life has been involved with MUSIC since I was 4 years old. I’ve sung in school choirs, church choirs, and a men’s gospel trio in Southern California from 1976 to 1980. And my enjoyment in singing has been the HARMONY that the music has provided. So much so, that I tend to forget the MELODY line–once a First Tenor, always a First Tenor! In saying, I still need to be attentive to the melody line, or I’ll get lost!
As Christians, We ALL Have a part to sing…
When you start looking closely at the words, meditating on the Psalm, you realize that it’s full of four-part harmony–four parts, all of which we’re singing–at once. But as Calvin Miller would say, “the Earthmaker is always singing the melody line–we join in harmony.”
The New Song Becomes Global…
It is a SONG you can’t miss, and as I discovered, maybe this is the MELODY.
Vs. 1: “…sing to the Lord all the earth!”
Vs. 3: “Declare His glory among the nations.”
Vs. 7: “O you families of the peoples…”
Vs. 9: “…tremble before and reverently fear Him, all the earth. (10) Say among the nations that the Lord reigns.”
This IS World Music–
The OLD SONG is insulated; operates on the assumption that it all revolves around me and my issues. A lot of “I” in the old song.
The NEW SONG becomes Global; it isn’t one that can or should be confined to church walls, or a single group of people. It should challenge us and look beyond our own needs–our families–our own church–our own people–our own country. It challenges us to look out and see the Big Picture, the world.
“I’d like to teach the world to sing in harmony…”
Do you have any friends or connections (real connections) with people outside of your circle?
The First Part to learn in harmony: Acts 1:8 describes the NEW SONG as a GLOBAL SONG.
Most of us probably know the tune, but do we hear the harmony?
“But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might!) when the Holy spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.”
Secondly, the Song to Learn is About the Wonder of it All!
I used to love to hear a song sung at almost every Billy Graham Crusade I ever attended. It was written and sung by the late George Beverly Shea: The Wonder Of It All!
Psalm 96:2 — “Sing to the Lord, bless (affectionately praise) His name; show forth His salvation from day to day.”
Psalm 96:6 — “Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
The NEW SONG is a WORSHIP SONG:
The New Song refocuses our lives so that they are responding to…WHO GOD IS! – “awesome”–and what He does!
“His SALVATION is day to day” (verse 2).
I find it easy sometimes to get sidetracked to start singing our own songs–or at least songs that are about ourselves. We like to sing about ourselves–our issues–our struggles–our loves–and perhaps that’s okay–to some degree. My wife once pointed out how she often changes the “we’s” & “our’s” to “I’. Instead “we Love you Lord”, to “I love you Lord.” And I think that’s a great idea to make worship songs more personal.
BUT, there’s a NEW SONG out there waiting to be sung–not about you and I but about the glory of GOD!
Thirdly, the New Song is Exclusive!
Verse 4: For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be reverently feared and worshiped above all gods.
The Bible recognizes other spiritual beings–deities–gods–with a small “g”–deities that have been reduced to idols. But they are important compared to the LORD who, BTW, is seen in the tag at the end of verse 5, saying “made the heavens.”
The other so-called gods of that day–and in much of our world today–attached to various forms of nature: gods of thunder, gods of the sky, rivers, ocean, and of nature…but the Psalmist says–THE LORD MADE the heavens–all over these things. THE LORD OVER ALL!
That now gives us direction and informs our reading of vss. 11-13:
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all things which fill it. Let the field be exultant, and all that is in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy. Before the Lord, for He comes, for He comes to judge and govern the earth! He shall judge the world with righteousness and justice and the peoples with His faithfulness and truth. (Amplified Bible)
The heavens, earth, sea, fields, and crops, the trees–all had gods associated with them in mythology–but here, they are commanded to enter into PRAISE OF THE LORD!
VERSE 11: LET THE HEAVENS BE GAD, AND LET THE EARTH REJOICE…LET THE SEA ROAR, AND ALL THE THINGS WHICH FILL IT.
UNCONVENTIONAL SINGING–this is not the usual kind of instruments you might expect to hear in worship. The point the psalmist makes here, is they sing to the Lord! He alone is WORTHY…ALL of our attention, our affection and our song. It is the HEART OF WORSHIP!
The Fourth Part of the New Song…
Any great men’s quartet that you may be acquainted with, would sound incomplete without a Tenor, Second Tenor, Baritone, Bass. Or in a choir–Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. Psalm 96 teaches us the same “singing in 4-part harmonies” principles.
The NEW SONG is based in the future JUSTICE of the Lord:
VERSE 10: “…He shall judge and rule the people righteously and with justice.” [Refer to Revelation 11:15; 19:6.]
VERSES 12 & 13: “Let the field be exultant, and all that is in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy  Before the Lord, for He comes to judge and govern the earth! He shall judge the world with righteousness and justice and the peoples with His faithfulness and truth.” [See 1 Chronicles 16:23-33; Rev. 19:11.]
So much of what we sing today is grounded in the past–we certainly don’t want to forget the past–but it shouldn’t define who we are. As frustrating as life gets, as much as the unfairness can eat at us, there is a day JUDGEMENT is on the way. And so the notes and the lyrics of the NEW SONG we sing should be drawn from that future day.
What if you could see the future?
On August 19th, 2004, Google’s initial public stock offering were at the price of $85/share. March 7th, 2014, the NASDAQ listed Google’s shares at $1213/share + or -.
If you could have only known this ahead, you might have rearranged your life–re-prioritized your spending habits so you could invest in the future–with Google.
That’s what the psalmist is doing with his NEW SONG. He sees the future and is saying, the TUNE is getting really old–stale. But, it doesn’t matter because…I’m singing a NEW SONG anyway!
The Day of Judgement in Psalm 96 Isn’t So Much A Threat…
It is not so much a threat as it is a PROMISE.
We can REJOICE…
We can live JOYFULLY….
We know the Lord’s FAIRNESS and TRUTH ultimately WINS OUT!
“AMUSIA” becomes part of the problem…why we’re not singing in harmony.
According to a Harvard Health Publication from the Harvard Medical School, September 2007, explains in detail, the explanation behind AMUSIA:
Do people cringe when you sing? You’ve got company. But researchers have found that only 1 in 20 people truly have AMUSIA, the technical term for TONE DEAFNESS. Test have shown that some people with bad singing voices hear music just fine. Amusics, a smaller group have a perceptual problem and can’t pick out differences in pitch or follow the simplest tune. The Harvard Health Letter goes on to say, the white matter of the brain in Amusics was thinner, which suggests a weaker connection. Moreover, the worse TONE DEAFNESS, the thinner the white matter.
We are all hopelessly “Tone Deaf” [Bradly Boydston–“Learning A New Song”]
But the GOOD NEWS IS…the Singer has come into the world and started a new song again–we just have to join in with Him–follow His lead. He has given each one of us an invitation to join in commitment to the Singer and His New Song.
GOD GAVE THE SONG TO US ALL!
Several years ago, Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote a song that many well-known singers (Sandy Patty to name one) and choirs have been introduced to. I sang this song in choirs on several different occasions in the 70’s, and got goose pimples each time I heard the music and the words.
NARRATION: Yes, God gave the song. It’s always been with us. The song came into our world through a manger in Bethlehem. It was a simple song–a simple lovely song for every man. Right from the first, some tried to ignore it. They said, “There’s no song! It simply doesn’t exist.” Others tried to change the tune. They made laws to stop it. Armies marched against it. They killed some who sang the song. They screamed at it in furry; they tried to drown it out. Finally, they nailed that song to a tree. They said to themselves, “There…that should take care of that.” But it didn’t.
What’s that I hear, I still hear the music.
Day after day, that song goes on. For once you know that source of music,
You’ll always hear it, GOD GAVE THE SONG.
LOOKING BACK ON THAT ‘ONE PARTICULAR MORNING’:
The week before the awakening of a particular Sunday Morning– after the pastor’s message, my wife and I headed towards the church parking lot. I found myself in a quandary. Why had his words fell flat in my hearing? I was feeling the pastor’s presentation was being directed to a younger generation; my age group was being totally ignored, disrespected and my feelings were hurt . The more I thought about it as I left that day, the more outraged and disenchanted I became.
On arriving at our car, I opened the passenger side of the car for my wife (yep, after 48 years of marriage…I still open doors), then went around to the driver’s side and sat quiet in thought, as my hands rested on the steering wheel and finding myself in a trance.
My wife asked if I was alright. My response was hesitant in the beginning, and then… the floodgates opened wide. I told her I was dismayed with the Sunday morning message…then proceeded giving her all the reasons why this young pastor had missed the boat; he was preaching to the wrong audience. Maybe it would be better to just skip this series of pastor’s messages. I also went on to ask, “And besides…What did we get out of worship this morning?” I’ll rephrased the question: “What did I…get out of worship this morning?”
— Needed counseling began that afternoon...
Later that day, by the prompting of the Spirit of God, I realized that I had entered a designated place… of PRAISE & WORSHIP– out of my own needs, my selfish motives, without even thinking why I was there in the first place–to give PRAISE to Who praise was due.
–the following Sunday morning.
So Holy Spirit urged me to go to church the following Sunday. I knew He had something in mind. I was to go with a blank slate and not… with a predetermined outcome. I reluctantly obeyed.
To my surprise, the pastor didn’t continue with his message from last week. He had the flu all week and was unable continue in his message series. Since our pastor also leads the music on Sunday mornings, I sang out with everything I had with voice and spirit– with my focus on who God is and the glory due His name. Not the glory due to pastor…nor to my feelings, but to God’s Presence.
And after the music and singing stopped in the sanctuary, with my hands raised and head bowed, I waited IN SILENCE until praise began to rise in the heart of the people. GUESS WHAT? God turned up!
— It’s not about me, it’s all about You Jesus…
One of my favorite worship songs is a song that comes out of this tune by Matt Redman’s HEART OF WORSHIP:
When the music fades and all is stripped away,
and I simply come, longing just to bring something that’s of worth, that will bless Your heart.
I bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required, You search much deeper within, than the things appear, You’re looking into my heart.
I’m coming back to the heart of worship and its all about You Jesus.
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, cause its all about you, all about you Jesus.
It’s not our singing that brings a change in the Atmosphere, it is our PRAISE and WORSHIP!
EXPERIENCING GOD’S PRESENCE:
Even though God is OMNISCIENT…”the attribute by which God perfectly and eternally knows all things that can be known past, present and future” [NIV Bible Dictionary]–He can and does manifest His presence in a realistic way in a place or in the midst of His congregation. We have to look for it!
“But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered]” (Psalm 22:3 AMP).
— When God shows up, the atmosphere changes! Things happen!
ASCRIBE TO the Lord, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in holy array.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks cedars; Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. And He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord hews out flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer to calve, And strips the forests bare, And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
The Lord sat as King at the flood; Yes, the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace (PSALM 29 NAS).
— When we release a sound of praise, the Earth must respond. God’s Voice is manifested!
When Israel was ordered by the Lord, into ranks and tribes…
When they crossed the Red Sea…
Whenever they moved forward and traveled on in their journey (Numbers 2)…
Whenever they went to war (Judges 1:1-2)…
Whenever they were called to stand before the Lord…
ONE TRIBE always took the lead position–JUDAH
JUDAH in the Hebrew means PRAISE. So what the Lord was saying, in asking the Tribe of Judah to take the lead role was…PRAISE always leads us into the things of God.
— God’s Presence isn’t just a place to visit:
And the Lord said, My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest (Exodus 33:14).
JUDAH must go first! PRAISE must go first in our lives as well!
— Our church
— Our Ministries
— Our cities
— Our Nation
“What are the benefits in The Presence?”
One of the first questions asked in a job offer are these words. We are living in a “benefit-oriented” society; everyone wanting to know, “What’s in it for me?”
We don’t seem to realize that we are missing out on a greater source of benefits coming from living and dwelling in the PRESENCE OF ALMIGHTY GOD.
EVERYTHING you could ever need or want can be found in THE PRESENCE of the Lord.
— Do you need healing today? You will find it in His Presence!
— Do you need provision today? You’ll find it in His Presence!
It’s so simple, yet many Christians are missing out on the powerful truth. It’s so amazing that many believers fail to exercise or practice God’s Presence.
Think about it. Everyday in making decisions, we say no to God’s offer of fellowship and choosing instead, filling our minds with TV, gossip and mindless recreation. Am I saying all of that is bad? Not at all. But if it takes or gets in the way of His Presence…you make the decision.
Results of Training and Practicing God’s Presence…
“TRAIN YOURSELF…For physical training is of some value, but godliness [practicing GOD’S PRESENCE] has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 NIV–and my words added in the brackets).
— The experiencing of God’s Presence is the consciousness of His presence.
“And the Lord said, My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you REST ” (Exodus 33:14).
God’s Presence isn’t just a place you visit…it moves with you wherever you go! In fact, Moses goes on to say to God, I’m not moving from this spot until Your Presence goes with me:
“And Moses said to the Lord, If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here! ” (Exodus 33:15).
Can you imagine yourself saying tomorrow morning before your day begins, Lord…I’m not going to start my day without Your Presence going ahead of me!
Experiencing God’s Presence is the direct consciousness of God’s Presence in our lives. It’s not making God become present on Sunday morning’s Worship and Praise, but it’s becoming more aware of the Holy Presence that is here and now!
One of the ways, the most basic, most powerful in experiencing the Presence of God is through His Word. How?
“IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself” (John 1:1 AMP).
GOD AND HIS WORD ARE INSEPARABLE!
When you are in the presence of the Word, you are in the Presence of God.
Something powerful happens when you spend quality time in your Bible. Something happens to your heart; it feeds your spirit, changes you right where you are and continues to actively work in you, even after you close the Book and walk away.
— Benefits of Two Partners Found In God’s Presence:
“Glory and honour are in His presence…” (1 Chronicles 16:27 KJV).
GLORY – the God-kind, appears any time something promised in the Word is manifested [made visible] in the physical realm.
AN EXAMPLE: When HEALING, as promised in God’s Word (Scripture), comes into someones life, that’s GLORY!
Where can you go to see the GLORY of God manifested…made visible in your life? According to the above verse, when you enter into the Presence! THAT…is a definitive BENEFIT!
— GLORY HAS A PARTNER: HONOR
What kind of HONOR? The HONOR OF GOD.
 “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of [earth-born] man that You care for him?
 Yet You have made him but a little lower than God, and You have [crowned] him with GLORY and HONOR” (Psalm 8:4, 5 AMP).
SOME PRACTICAL STEPS IN “PRACTICING AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE”:
— What works for one, doesn’t mean it works for every one.
Being aware of God’s Presence is not some kind of formula. I haven’t spent much time before this blog-post, in analyzing what I do to be more aware. I like to think it’s a work in progress.
These are but a few STEPS that I practice:
STEP #1. Make sure my awareness is not required by anything or by anyone else. EX.: i’M NOT DRIVING A CAR, CROSSING A STREET, TALKING WITH SOME ONE ELSE–or, with myself for that matter :-). Nothing that requires my attention.
STEP #2. I always practice my awareness in a quiet place; where I am not likely to be interrupted.
AWARENESS and ATTENTION are fleeting,jumping from one thing to another; one thought to another. I wish some churches who initiate “fellowship time” right after Worship and Praise on Sunday mornings, would re-evaluate their practice.
So, a quiet place with few distractions works best for me.
STEP #3. I close my eyes. Visual stimuli are distracting for me. Maybe it’s is just my age :-). The fewer the distractions, the more aware I become.
STEP #4. I turn my attention away from the daily activities in my life. I turn my attention towards God’s Presence in the ‘right now’. I sometimes have to take a deep breath and relax. Then start praising God in the Spirit of Who He is! Giving thanks that God so loves us “that each of us is in God’s Presence.”
So What Works For You?
Use your own creativity. It may be that the awareness you might have is unique to you.
In closing, my responsibility is to be aware of God’s Presence. I don’t somehow conjure up God in doing magical things that might cause God to be present in the moment. That’s already done for me, and, I believe for all.
It is up to me to do something about this Presence–not the pastors–not the music team–not the congregation–to reap the benefits available of God’s Glory; healing, provision, etc.
The “ball is in my court”, as, I believe, it’s in yours. So let ‘JUDAH PRAISE’ lead out, and then start practicing–being aware–of God’s Presence in your life. And maybe one Sunday morning, the music will stop…and you too will be aware of His Presence manifested in your Tabernacle. It’s a work in progress for me and I hope it will for you.