Total Worship II

The manager looks to the owner for the resources needed to fulfil his duties. What happens when the manager ignores the owner and does what he wants? The house is built to serve particular functions yet he is not using it the way it was intended. Paul observes that instead of serving the creator we are serving the creation. Water for instance is vital for domestic life. When you start asking the tap about issues regarding plumbing clearly madness has broken loose in the house. Problems arise from this error and this is what has affected creation. Instead of creation being subject to us we have to contend with it.

Being made in the image of God means we should function as image bearers. Like the manager who ignores the owner, even though we may still have control over certain things, others will definitely not be under our supervision. This is exactly the observation the author of Hebrews makes when he says we do not yet see all things under human control.

In any job death is the ultimate reason why anyone cannot function. Death in humanity means there is a systemic failure in the creation.

Humans are the pinnacle of creation but creation was not yet complete until the seventh day when God rested. To better understand the meaning of the Sabbath we need to look at the Law of Moses. It was not only the last day of the week which was called a Sabbath. The last day of a festival where all activities peaked, the “high day”, was also known as Sabbath. The people disengaged from their normal activities to engage directly with God, acknowledging he had come into his temple to be honoured in the midst of his people. It meant God was inhabiting the created order, sustaining and preserving it from moment to moment. Isaiah speaks exactly in this breadth when he says,

Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? – Isaiah 66:1 ESV

God delivered the people of Israel from the hand of pharaoh so they could serve him. Worship was the highest act of national life in Israel. Worship is the pinnacle of all activities in creation. It is the consummate expression of creation acknowledging its creator. The pinnacle activity must be expressed through the pinnacle creature, humankind. Humans are the focal point through which creation recognises its creator. When creation does not recognize God has placed us as its masters it is because we do not recognize our own divine master. When we do not bear his image it is as if we have evicted the Lord from his own world and the creation cries out in rebellion. When we are occupied with our holy calling of worship the creation through us is able to express its praise to God. We are cosmic worship leaders bringing the creation together in worship before God. This is not merely figurative language.

The psalmist calls on everything that has breath to praise the Lord. He speaks of the morning and evening shouting for joy, the valleys and the meadows singing to God (Psalm 65:13.) The prophet Isaiah also talks of the trees of the field clapping their hands and the mountains bursting into joyous song (Isaiah 55:12.) Habakkuk speaks of the earth being covered with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14.) He is not only the Lord of men but he is the God of all creation. The creation is given personal attributes because it is through human persons that his praise is summed up and expressed. When we take delight in what God has made, and with our hearts overflowing with gratitude from our mouths, we give the creation a voice to acknowledge its maker.

The Bible has a lot of figurative language and no doubt the examples I have given are laden with metaphor. Figurative language however does not make it untrue. Science tells me the sun is a burning ball of gas powered by nuclear fission but this does not take anything away from the beauty of a sunrise. Furthermore, in the biblical worldview nature is not thought of in purely materialistic terms. There is a mysterious and wonderful dimension to reality.

When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. – Psalm 104:28-30 ESV

In this passage the author says the Spirit of God, the very breath of God, is the same wind he has breathed into creation to give it life and sustain it. The creation is strangely alive by the presence of God’s spirit in it. God has literally breathed life into the creation. In this mysterious dimension of the spirit there are different ways of perceiving life and existence. What we might have considered as only poetry or metaphor takes on new meaning.

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.” – Revelation 5:13 ESV

In one of the most epic scenes in the Bible all creation rejoices when it is announced that Jesus is worthy. We must remember that John received these revelations when he was “in the spirit”. God had pulled back the veil to reveal to him another dimension of reality. Psalm 150 ends with saying let everything that has breath praise the Lord. In the Book of Revelation this is fulfilled through the resurrection of the Messiah Jesus. Death as I mentioned earlier is the greatest impediment to any purpose or goal. If worship sums up the duty of humanity and the cosmos at large, death stops us from offering worship the way we ought to.

The dead do not praise the LORD, nor do any who go down into silence. – Psalm 115:17 ESV

Humanity is chosen to lead God’s creation. The worship of creation is expressed through human beings. Death however prevents man from fulfilling his purpose. The creation is also affected by the same death, decay and failure that Adam is subject to. Paul says the creation is groaning for release from this state. Paul explains when those who believe the Gospel are finally given new resurrection bodies then nature itself will also be released from the shackles of death. He calls this the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

The apostle Peter describes the Church as a royal priesthood. In the new creation the purpose of humanity is restored in a new and exciting way. If Jesus has made us priests to his God and Father, who or what is the Church interceding for? We are not only interceding for people who do not know God but on the grand cosmic stage we are interceding for the creation. It is through us the Church that God is going to bring restoration to all of creation as Paul writes in Romans 8. Jesus our High Priest through his sacrifice was able to bring us to God. It is through this same Jesus that God is reconciling all of creation back to himself. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is going to bring to life to all of God’s creation.

As I have already said elsewhere the Gospel is the breaking story of what God is doing. Jesus commissioned his apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature. Paul described the preaching of the Gospel as priestly ministry (Romans 15:16.) The Gospel of Jesus the Messiah brings the creation back into worship. Since humans represent the rest of the created order, when people hear the Gospel, it is as if the remotest star is hearing the good news that our God reigns. When we sing and praise the Lord it is not only for ourselves. The Church of God is part of the cosmic choir that leads the entire creation in the great worship chorus to God and his Son Jesus. It is through us that God has chosen to make known what he has accomplished through his Messiah (Ephesians 3:8-10, 20-21.)

Through the mysterious power of the Spirit the entire cosmos has been made aware of what happened on Easter morning. Worship in the spirit is about God’s cosmic worship agenda being fulfilled through human beings. When we worship in spirit and truth all creation is brought together in the Spirit of Jesus to adore the Lord. Through the truth of the Gospel, the total worship we see in Revelation becomes a constant reality we live in from day to day. Again,

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! – Psalm 150:6 ESV

⇐Part I


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