A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com
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Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 10/06/1996
If the Lord's Prayer is our model, then prayer begins and ends with praise. "Hallowed be thy name . . . Thine be the kingdom, the power, and the glory." If the Psalter is our guide, then the devotional life begins and ends with praise. If the book of Ephesians is any indication, then the whole process of salvation begins and ends with praise, for election and predestination were done "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:6). Certainly praise is what took place in Israel after their great deliverance at the Red Sea.I. THE PIVOTAL PLACE OF THE PASSAGE
This passage gives us the first recorded example of public corporate worship, by the nation or church as opposed to the individual or family, in the Bible. It was led by Moses himself as God's prophet and lawgiver, and it is quoted or alluded to by both testaments. Psalm 118 was sung by worshipers in procession to the Temple. Verse 14 quotes Ex. 15:2. Revelation 15:3 shows that this song will be part of worship in heaven. All these facts make this a determinative pattern for the worship of God by his people throughout not only time but also eternity. It shows that worship gives glory to God by celebrating not only his mighty acts of deliverance but also his nature and character from which those acts flow. It shows that this is done through poetry and song, including the use of musical instruments, and even dance. And both its content-heavy form and its repeated use in the rest of Scripture show the centrality of the Word in worship. There is more to worship than this as the concept is more fully developed by the rest of Scripture (neither Sacrament nor Sermon nor petitionary Prayer are mentioned here), but there is never less. It is a determinative pattern for worship for all of time and eternity. Let us never let our own celebrations fall short of it.II. THE CHURCH AS A CHOIR
One interesting thing about this worship service is that the whole nation sang the song together. With neither printing presses nor overhead projectors, how did such a large group of people learn these words and get that coordinated so quickly? Probably they used the call-and-response method still followed in some black churches, and many African churches, today. Moses led out with a line of verse, and then the people repeated it. It enabled them to all participate together without chaos, and it drove home the message as well. There is something significant about God's people praising his name together.
Not only the children of Israel and the church praise God together as a choir. The angels, the cherubim and seraphim, and the elders in heaven all set us this example. And this is both pleasing to God and beneficial to us. It pleases God because it allows us to express simultaneously our praise of him and our unity in harmony as a Body as we do it. And the expression and, by expressing, the reinforcement of that praise and that unity is good for us as well. We need to be reminded, but more, we need to enact these things symbolically so that we can grasp and participate more fully in the reality. But there is a third reason why we do this: not only is it pleasing to God and beneficial to us, but it also is effective in presenting the Good News to the world. Think of the grand choruses of Handel's "Messiah": "For unto us a child is born"; "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain"; "Hallelujah!" The arias and recitatives convey important content, but it takes the full choir to convey the majesty and glory of God along with that content. We also become a picture of one of the outcomes of salvation when we sing in this way: unity in harmony on the part of people who may be natural enemies apart from the work of this God in their lives. The Church should sing in unison and harmony because it should be living in unison and harmony even when it is not singing. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Another important realization that comes from looking at the Church is this way is the assurance that you are not alone. You may feel isolated and marginalized in society; you may feel like a single voice crying in the wilderness. But the reality is that we are all in this business of celebrating the glory of God and broadcasting his praises abroad together. And not just we: the saints of the past who are now in heaven are also adding their voices. The ones who left behind their books can be heard still singing even now, even with our physical ears. But learn to listen with the ears of the spirit. And then you can hear your own voice as part of the great choir of praise that is going up from every corner of the globe and every period of time. As you learn to hear that choir, to blend your voice with it, then even you little voice becomes a thing of power that can shake the very foundations of Hell.CONCLUSION
Let us learn to see the Church as a part of the great choir that includes angels and archangels and all the heavenly host. Let us see our meetings as rehearsals for the day when all these voices will be joined and as concerts in which the beauty of our Master's character and the wonder of his Grace and the joy of the Deliverance he has wrought for us are communicated to the world. Then the Church will function as it was designed to function; then the Lord will be praised as we cannot praise him in isolation; and then the Gospel will be heard as it deserves to be heard. "And he shall reign for ever and ever." Amen.
Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams