Often when we are traveling, Ruthie and I help to shorten our trips by reading aloud. Sometimes when the traffic is heavy it’s difficult to focus. But then there are those long, clear Interstates when we can get a lot of listening done. We’ve read a bunch of great books through together, some more than once.
A few days ago, about midway between Bristol, VA, and Bristol, TN, she was reading in Psalm 66, when her words struck a nerve. We knew we had read the verse before, but this time it caught us both up short: “Shout for joy to God all the earth…make His praise glorious.” We thought back of some of the “song services” we had endured and how often they had missed the mark. “Make His praise glorious…” How would that sound in a small church? Or large?
Who of us hasn’t been singing a familiar song during a worship service and suddenly realized that its message wasn’t really registering in our hearts, the needle wasn’t moving? Sounds were coming out of our lips, but praise wasn’t issuing out of our spirits. We were getting the words right but the message wasn’t getting through.
Then something happens – we catch a new glimpse of Calvary, a new realization of the price paid to cancel our wretched record, a new insight into the depth of His love for us – and the black-and-white morphs to full color.
Not long ago we were worshiping in a congregation of pastors, I’d guess maybe 500 or more. The worship leader led us in a song I didn’t know well, but the words of the chorus suddenly began to resonate in my soul:
He was wounded for our transgressions;
He was bruised for our iniquities;
Surely he bore our sorrows,
And by His stripes we are healed.
As those raw words struck me – wounded…bruised…sorrows…stripes – I felt hot tears run down my cheeks. You don’t gaze around the room at a time like that, but I sensed that nearly every person there was affected as deeply as I. We could barely finish the song. I vowed I would never again worship Him in bland mode, I would never allow those rich moments to dissipate because of my inattention. If my words were truly a gift I was offering Him I would never again sing them with my heart in neutral.
All together now: Enter His courts with praise…and make His praise glorious.