The Why, Where, and How of Worship

The Why, Where, and How of Worship

Some things just don't mix! Oil and water always separate, no matter how much we shake them. An open fire and a can of gasoline don't go together. And alcohol and driving should never coexist!

There's something else that doesn't mix--the praise of almighty God and the promotion of self. You cannot blend them, nor should you try. If we devote ourselves to worship, we must remove ourselves from the scene. Psalm 150 teaches about the self-forgetfulness of worship.

The psalm begins and ends with the Hebrew word for "praise": hallel. Yah is an abbreviated word for "Yahweh." Together they form the word hallelujah, a command for us to "Praise the LORD!" Take a look at this. Psalm 150:1–2 emphasizes over and over,

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

The next few verses continue to repeat, "Praise Him . . . Praise Him . . . Praise the LORD!" Humans are conspicuous by our absence, and we should be. In our ego-centric, self-serving culture, Psalm 150 reminds us that self-centeredness has no place in the same breath as God-centered worship. 

And where does praise begin? In heaven. Look again at verse 1:

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in His sanctuary. (Psalm 150:1)

Actually, sanctuary isn't in the original text. The word used here means "holy place." Some theologians believe that the sanctuary mentioned in this verse actually refers to heaven. There is no place more hallowed than heaven—the throne room of God. Imagine it! Worship originates with those winged creatures . . . all the angels who surround God's throne (Isaiah 6:2–4). The psalmist points us to the angelic hosts who praise God day and night as they surround His holy presence.

Look at verse 2. It reveals why we are to praise God:

Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. (Psalm 150:2)

Pause for a moment and think back over the last few months. Can you recall one of God's mighty deeds? Most of us are able to recall at least a few.

My wife, Cynthia, and I can remember several that only the Lord could have accomplished! We praise His name for coming into our lives with His might, which matches our weakness in such a beautiful way! We simply step aside and say, "You are the One who gets the credit for that. Only You could have solved that issue. You're the only One who could have resolved that conflict." The Lord specializes in mighty deeds!

And in verse 3, we find the "how" of praise. Praise Him with instruments—or with whatever we have. Over and over again, this psalm leads us toward a lifestyle of praise. The psalmist pictures worship as a symphony with each instrument playing its unique part and joining in harmony to lift up God's glorious character.

Look at the instruments named.

Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre. (150:3)

David played his harp in Saul's presence, and it lifted the king's depression (1 Samuel 16:23). No doubt David taught himself to play that instrument during those long months while he kept his father's sheep.

Look at verse 4. There's a joyousness in this verse that I love!

Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. (Psalm 150:4)

Then verse 5:

Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals. (150:5)

This beautiful repetition intensifies, inspiring us to join in with our internal instruments—our vocal chords!

Suddenly the psalm ends with:

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! (150:6)

While praising God with our voices and lives may sound great, I know that some of you are thinking, You know, Chuck, if you were where I am, you'd probably tone this down a little. If you've been through what I've been through, you wouldn't be able to express such praise.

Really? I can assure you that if you learn to praise God when life feels overwhelming, your spirit will soar to new heights! It can completely transform your perspective.

Years ago a man named Samuel Scull moved with his wife and their three small children to a desert house in Arizona. They were a long way from anybody. He loved it as they settled in, planted a garden, built a chicken coop, and in time began to gather eggs. They enjoyed their new life out in the middle of the wilderness. Suddenly one night an enormous desert storm brought high winds, huge hail, and pouring rain that pummeled their property. At daybreak, he feared what he would find. Samuel slowly opened his back door and walked out to survey the mess.

It was a disaster! The hail had beaten their garden into the ground and nothing was left alive. His pick-up truck was seriously damaged with many deep dents from the heavy hail. The house had been partially unroofed, such that it needed to be repaired soon. And on top of all that, the hen house had blown away leaving dead chickens scattered all over the back yard. Everywhere was destruction and disaster.

As he stood there dazed, wondering where he would start, something began to stir under a pile of lumber which had once been the henhouse. A rooster scratched his way up through the debris, slowly climbing until he mounted the highest board in the pile, and there he stood . . . featherless. All of his feathers had been beaten off by the storm. Nevertheless, that naked rooster flapped his bony wings and crowed louder than ever.

The farmer looked at the naked rooster and thought, Well, if he can do it, I guess I can, too!¹

And so can you. Praise God! Remember: it's not about you; it's about Him! So in your high and low moments, when you can't see past today, praise Him! When you don't understand why God is leading as He has led, praise Him! When you can't get past grief and sadness, find a way to praise Him. It helps to remember that all of the words in Psalm 150 representing praise are commands, not suggestions.

  1. Adapted from J. K. Gressett, Pentecostal Evangel, as quoted in Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Pastors, Teachers, and Writers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 411.

Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

About the author


Pastor Chuck Swindoll

Pastor Chuck Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

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