Sermon, 5.31.09"The City Worships" Rev. Erik Bonkovsky Nehemiah 12:1-43
This passage is about God's people gathering to worship him. This is the high point of the whole Nehemiah story, and this high point is reached by worship.
- Worship is a joyful response to what God has done. We tend to think that worship is something we do to make God pleased with us. But it's a response to what he's already done for us; his grace and one-way love. This is so important that the Israelites set aside a whole tribe to lead them in worship. Verse 43 says "for God had made them rejoice." We've seen so much more of the evidence of God's love than these guys ever did, so we have so much more to spur us on to worship. Worship ought to be our priority, because it's our acknowledgement of the beauty that's in our lives. We're innate worshipers; it's an acknowledged fact that human beings are bound to worship something. So let's worship the one who provides for us, not the things that he provides.
- Worship is both the end and the means of all of God's work. The purpose of God's creation is that he would be glorified, and this is also the end point of all of history. All of history is charging to this point as seen in Revelation 5:6-14 where everyone is worshiping the Lamb. As C. Fitzsimmons Allison illustrates worship:
"The benefits of worship are not for some future good fortune or something we claim to qualify us for heaven after we die. Worship is an immediate and very present means of God's love, regenerating now the fearful deadness of our existence into the more abundant life...There aren't any heavenly quantity credits amassed by going to church. Worship is an immediat and present means of God's love, making us new creatures and giving us ever more abundant life now."
We're not worshiping to get brownie points with God, we're worshiping because we benefit from it now. In this passage, the two groups that march around the city meet up at the temple, the place where they feel closest to God. We're moving to a point where the whole world is God's temple, because he is dwelling with us. It's not that God has low self-esteem and needs worship from us; it's because he's the most glorious being imaginable. Because he created us, he knows that we find love and joy when we worship him, so it's the ultimate act of love for Him to command us to worship him.
- Worship is always a witness to others. Another term for this concept is "doxological evangelism." When worship is done right; when it comes from the heart, it draws people in. It appeals to peoples' hearts to see others pouring their hearts out. It makes them think, "Hmm, these people must be connected to something bigger." There is a togetherness and a sincerity about it that they naturally want to be a part of. It points to the fact that there's got to be something more in life.
All this talk of worship isn't going to help you worship. The thing that's going to help is for you to know what God has done for you. The thing that's going to lead to genuine, heartfelt, spirit-led worship is to know that God died for you and forgave you, so that you could live in joy! Being reminded of this leads to true worship. Nehemiah went on a tour of the city and saw the good work and how the city had been renewed. This led to some of the best worship in recorded history. Maybe you need to take a tour of the areas of your life that have been renewed, and see again all the work that has been done in you.