Psalms, Worship and the Missional Identity of God’s People

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Bobby V & Walter B
Bobby V & Walter B

Paul said the ‘Old Testament’ is “from God and good for doctrinal instruction” and for “equipping the person of God” to every good work.

It is not an accident that Martin Luther referred to the Psalms as a miniature Bible. The Psalms represent the “essentials,” if you will, of what had to be constantly put forward to an oral based culture. So we see God’s people taught the way of thanksgiving, wisdom, commitment, repentance, joy, obedience, true worship, and the reign of God. In fact the Psalms nourish faithfulness in every dimension so that Israel might be on display before the world.

The Holy Spirit, thru the Psalms and its worship, invite us into an “alternative” reality in which we long for, prayed for, believe and seek to be a world that is radically different than that encountered on a daily basis “out there.” We can hear, (in our mind’s eye) as we tag along with that great cloud of witnesses, the Levite proclaim in a loud voice “Welcome to the REAL world!” In the midst of a world that proclaims myriads of idolatries, we gather and proclaim allegiance to the One True Creator God, his mighty deeds, and his righteous claim upon all that he has created.

Thus God’s People whether we call them Israel or the church are anchored consciously in an identity of grace. The corporate worship of God’s people sustains and reinforces this self-understanding. Biblical worship constantly reminds us WHO WE ARE.

We are created.
We did not make ourselves.
We are called.
We are elected.
We are redeemed.
We have a mission.

Worship does not only tell us we are God’s people. Worship consistently reminds us of HOW and WHY we are God’s because it tells the Story of what GOD did for us and to us. Biblical worship, Psalms declares, annihilates self-sufficiency and replaces it with God-sufficiency.

The Book of Psalms, the miniature Bible, also constantly reminds God’s people that we have a calling, we have a mission. We have a purpose for being.  We, by grace, are God’s kingdom in the fallen world. But we are more. Israel, the church, exists FOR THE SAKE OF THE WORLD. Genesis 12.1-4 is floating in the background shaping and framing the Psalter and the worship of God’s people.

Thus Psalms shapes us as “missional people.” Creighton Marlow went so far as to say the Psalms are the “music of missions.” Certainly, Psalms does not let Israel get greedy with God’s grace. This week I have read the entire Psalter looking for references to the “nations,” or synonyms, and there are at least 175 references to the people of the world, the nations, etc. A great example comes in Psalm 67, which alludes to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6 but used throughout biblical worship,

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us –
SO THAT your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among ALL NATIONS.
May ALL PEOPLES praise you, God;
may ALL PEOPLES praise you
” (67.1-2)

The blessing upon the people of God is for the sake of the world.

Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion.
Declare his deeds AMONG THE PEOPLES
” (9.11)

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, ALL THE EARTH.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory AMONG THE NATIONS
” (96.1-3)

The Psalter is loaded with this stuff. The worship inculcated in Bible tells us not only how, and why, we got “here” but what we are supposed to “do.” We are to show the world what it looks like when people take seriously God. It is as if Israel is the answer to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer.  WE are the place where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. We are the New Creation FROM the future breaking into old fallen creation like leaven in a lump. We are the Salt of God poured out upon his world and the nations. We are the lamp he has lit in the darkness.

So biblical worship, as seen in the Spiritual Psalms, constantly reminds us of who we are (creatures of the Almighty King), what we are (we are redeemed by the One who loves us), and what we are to be and do (God’s future on display, God’s instrument of flooding the world with grace and shalom).

The Psalms show us that a biblical theology of worship and its implementation results in a missional people of God.

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