Grab Your Harp!
Duane Vander Klok
In the book of Jeremiah we read an account of the Israelites taken captive and sent to the city of Babylon. Imagine the difficulty and fear they must have faced! But God knew their hardship and gave them a promise saying, “…And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace…For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope…” (Jeremiah 29:7, 10-11). What a promise!
However, some of the Israelites did not put their hope and faith in God and His promise to them. Instead they focused on their circumstances and fell into despair. In Psalm 137:1-2 we read,
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
These musicians and worshipers hung up their harps – their instruments of praise – and chose not to worship. They chose to focus on their circumstances rather than the Lord.
Worship is such an important part of our relationship with God, but how can we keep an attitude of worship in the midst of hardship and difficult circumstances?
What is worship?
Too often we limit worship to just music in a church sanctuary surrounded by others. Singing with the church body is certainly one way we worship God, but worship is really the entirety of how we live as an offering to God. Worship is found in our simple acts of service, the kind words spoken to someone in need, or the time we take to care for our families. There are countless ways to worship God and music is just one of them.
We worship with our heart attitude—an adoration of who God is—and our behavior—actions that express our love for Him. We can praise Him by giving thanks for who He is and what he has done, and by living in accordance with His Word and will. Anything that praises and pleases God is worship. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. We are able to worship God in everything we do by choosing to honor Him in every thought and action we take.
In Romans 12:1 the apostle Paul says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. How can we include God in every action and decision that we make? Well, the direction of our lives depends on our heart attitude – you will move in the direction of your dominant thought. As we continually commit ourselves as a living sacrifice to God and keep our hearts focused on Him, our actions and decisions will follow. You are routinely giving adoration and worship to someone or something whether you realize it or not so intently focus your eyes on God and do not be easily distracted by the things of this world.
Why do we worship?
As we aim to understand worship, we need to know that the central reason we worship God is that He is worthy. He is our creator, the source, all-powerful, almighty, and the great I Am. There is nothing and no one beyond Him. He is worthy of all the praise, adoration, and honor that we could possibly give. In the gospel of Luke chapter 19, Jesus’s disciples were praising and glorifying Him aloud. When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus responded, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” All of creation was made to honor and glorify God – if we do not praise Him, the rocks will glorify Him instead!
You and I were created to know and enjoy a relationship with God now and for eternity. There is a need for connection to the Savior inside each one of us, and we cannot be truly fulfilled without worshiping as a child of God. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” We can do nothing apart from our Heavenly Father, and worship keeps us connected to Him.
We worship God because of who He is, what He has done throughout history, and for what He is doing today and in the future. No matter the circumstances, God deserves to be worshiped.
Stop and think: what has God done in your life that you can give thanks for?
What happens when we worship?
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Because we were created to worship, we are deeply impacted by who or what we worship. When we give praise and glory to God, we are moved by and connected to Him more and more. Worshiping God recalibrates our souls, refocuses our eyes, thoughts, and heart on Him, and invites Him into our circumstances. The world pulls our focus in so many different directions and drives us to chase things other than God, but worship unwinds unbelief and builds faith. It exposes the lies of the world and the truth of God’s Word. We so often put limits on God and what we think He can do, but worship allows us to slow down and remember His faithfulness, goodness, and all-powerful character.
When we seek our God, we will find Him. And when we choose to praise Him, we invite Him into our situation. We can give praise in every situation like Paul and Silas who worshiped God in prison, Daniel who prayed even when it was dangerous, or Noah who obeyed and loved God when no one else would. God wants to walk with you through every stage of life—the ups and the downs, the good times and the bad. Valleys and mountain tops will come throughout our lives, but know that you can invite God into the mountain top moments, and especially the valley trials, with an attitude of praise.
God can turn all things for the good of those who love Him. When Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den, God brought him through; when David faced Goliath, God had the victory; and when Jesus was on the cross, God defeated the enemy. When we invite Him into our lives with praise, we align our hearts with His Word and promises. We can be in the midst of our hardest trial, but we can still praise Him because He has the victory!
Not only does worship remind us of God’s faithfulness in the past, it is also a weapon against the battles we are fighting right now. Turning to God in the midst of hardship allows Him to work in the situation. When the enemy tries to separate you from God with pain and fear, turn to God in praise. You receive the strength, encouragement, and perseverance you need in the presence of God.
Isaiah 26:3 says, You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Your circumstances cannot dictate the condition of your spirit. When your heart and mind are focused on God, you can have perfect peace no matter the battles that you are facing. Notice that you cannot host negative or fearful thoughts and expect to have perfect peace at the same time – you have to choose to fix your eyes on the Lord and trust in Him over all else.
Make a decision to keep your eyes on Jesus and His promises. Do not hang up your harp and allow your circumstances to dictate your relationship with God. Play your harp!
(All scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)