Why kneel in worship?

February 5, 2017 in Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship
1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. As we have noted, every church has traditions – and those who claim they don’t are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles – and it is this that we are doing with our exhortations.
Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable (physically challenging is okay!) – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?
This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholicism. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman Church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.
Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. Kneeling is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not bow the knee to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.
But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. There are times when kneeling is the right thing to do.
So what about worship? Is worship an inappropriate or appropriate setting for kneeling? Well, let us consider: we have entered the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose holiness must judge all sin and wickedness; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to bear the punishment that our sin deserved – how could we imagine that to kneel in this One’s presence is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But inappropriate? Never.
So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamb and they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord.

Why Kneel in Worship?

January 11, 2015 in Bible - NT - Revelation, Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Rome, Tradition, Worship
1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
In its public worship, every church has traditions. Whether it is a tradition of spontaneity or a tradition of regularity, traditions are unavoidable. They are an inescapable part of human life. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles.
Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?
This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church today. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholic worship. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.
Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. It is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not kneel to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.

But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. In such situations, how can one do anything but kneel? So what about worship? We have entered into the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose glory fills heaven and earth; the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to rescue His people from sin and Satan and death – how could we imagine that to kneel before this One is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But profoundly wise and biblical.
So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamband they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord.

Show Yourself a Man, Part 2

April 5, 2010 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Ecclesiology, Meditations

1 Kings 2:5-9 (NKJV)
And David charged his son Solomon, saying, “Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. 6 Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down to the grave in peace. 7 “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 “And see, you have with you Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a malicious curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim. But he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by the Lord, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood.”

This morning we bring to a close the lessons which young men teach us as the people of God. It is fitting that we do this on Palm Sunday, the day the Church historically has celebrated the Triumphal Entry of the Lord Jesus Christ into the city of Jerusalem. For this day Jesus demonstrated that He was a faithful son of David, willing to risk His all for the glory of His Father, and a true specimen of manliness.

Last week we noted that David urged Solomon to “show himself a man.” This manliness would manifest itself in two ways: robust obedience to God’s law as it was revealed through Moses and conscious dependence upon the promises which God had made to David.

Today David gives Solomon two more charges that highlight what it means to be a man. David had left some unfulfilled business which could pose some potential problems for Solomon’s reign – Joab who was a murderer and Shimei who was a traitor. And so David exhorts Solomon, “Show yourself a man! Take care of these men. Don’t ignore them and pretend that they will go away. Deal with them.” In the ensuing history, Solomon shows himself a man by fulfilling the charges his father gave him.

Jesus too manifest this same type of manliness. Luke tells us that Jesus “steadfastly set his face” to go to Jerusalem – knowing the opposition he would face, knowing he would be rejected, knowing he would be slain. But He did it. He was a man.

Likewise, young men, you have been given tasks to fulfill. Whether these are placed before you by your parents, your teachers, or your Lord, the measure of your masculinity is in how you respond to the challenges. Will you do the work and show yourself a man or will you sluff and procrastinate and show yourself a milksop? This is the choice that lies before you.

But David not only charges Solomon to take care of his enemies, he also reminds him to take care of his friends. “Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for so they came to me when I fled from Absalom your brother.” A man, David insists, not only strives to overcome his enemies, he is doggedly faithful to his friends and his father’s friends, looking out for their best interest. Solomon would later write in Proverbs, “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away” (Pr 27:10).

And it is this faithfulness and loyalty that were and are manifest in our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to fulfill the promises made to the fathers, came because of His Father’s great love for us, and continues to teach and instruct us by His Spirit – no longer calling us servants but calling us friends.

So, young men, are you being faithful friends? A friend who sticks closer than a brother? Are you looking out for your friends’ best interests? For this is what it means to be a man.

Reminded this morning that true manliness consists in a willingness to deal with conflict and in a tenacious loyalty to one’s friends, let us kneel and confess that we have failed in both respects.

Show Yourself a Man, Part 1

April 5, 2010 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Ecclesiology, Meditations

1 Kings 2:1-4 (NKJV)
1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: 2 “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. 3 And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; 4 that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

We are losing our sons. Let us candidly admit this truth. As Douglas Wilson remarked in our Leadership Training yesterday, the number of women in evangelical churches greatly exceeds that of men. This, despite the fact that men outnumber women in both Islam and orthodox Judaism. By and large the ladies remain in the churches while the men head to the locker rooms. What has caused this lack of interest on the part of evangelical men? Part of the answer lies in our failure to appreciate that which is distinctly masculine and to cultivate that masculinity in our sons.

This failure is remarkable in light of the Bible’s delight in both masculine and feminine forms of piety. While we modern evangelicals tend to be inordinately fond of the latter, the Scriptures extol each in their place. We would do well to learn what this masculinity looks like and how it should be manifest in our congregation. What is biblical masculinity? What are the traits of the man of God? It is to these questions that we address ourselves as we begin to wrap up our discussion of the lessons which young men teach us as the people of God.

When David was on his death bed, passing on to the land of his fathers, he exhorted Solomon, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kgs 2:2). David expected Solomon to live up to the training he had received and to exhibit certain traits that were distinctly masculine. How was Solomon to do this? The portion of David’s charge we have read today identifies two ways.

First, Solomon must obey the voice of the Lord. Solomon was to “keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies. . .” (2:3). Masculinity, David emphasizes, is not found in rebellion, as fallen culture erroneously surmises, but in a rigorous, zealous, full-orbed obedience to the God of all creation. Masculinity is willing to say, “No,” to ungodliness and unbelief; willing to say, “No,” to a gang of thieves and stand up against them; willing to say, “You idiot,” to a friend who speaks disrespectfully to his mother. So young men learn this lesson early–the mark of true masculinity is dutiful service to God. Disagree if you will, young men, but do it in a way that manifests a heart of obedience to the Father of Glory.

But there is a second lesson in our text that David teaches Solomon about showing oneself a man: humility. Solomon was to recall what God had promised his father and to live in light of this promise. This implies that masculine virtue is not afraid to confess its dependence upon others. Real men are willing to learn from their elders; to stand on the shoulders of their forebears; to glean all that can be gleaned from their teachers; to rejoice in the heritage which their parents have already passed and are continuing to pass down to them. As Coleridge once remarked, “A dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulder to mount on.” Young men, you are dwarfs, but if you are willing to mount upon our shoulders and we are willing to mount upon the shoulders of our fathers, imagine how far you will be able to see.

So give heed to the words of David today – Show yourself a man! Obey the Lord; treasure the inheritance of your parents. This is a taste of biblical masculinity.

Young Men and Peer Influence

April 5, 2010 in Bible - OT - 1 Kings, Ecclesiology, Meditations

1 Kings 12:6-11 (NKJV)
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” 7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ”

A catalogue of the lessons that young men teach us would be woefully inadequate did it neglect the danger of peer influence. As we learned several weeks ago, the very strength of young men can condition them to scorn the different types of strength that God has bestowed on others at different stages of life. And it is this folly that we find in our text today.

Rehoboam has received a deputation from Jeroboam and the northern tribes of Israel – be kind to us; reduce our workload; stop taxing us so heavily. Rehoboam begins well – before he responds he seeks counsel. The elders advise moderation, kindness, and service from Rehoboam. “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” The elders urge Rehoboam to humble himself, to acknowledge the complaints that the northerners are making against him, and to serve these people.

But the idea of serving is distasteful to Rehoboam. And so he seeks other counsel – and counselors to tell him that these elders are just a bunch of fools are not hard to find. Don’t listen to them. You’re the king. These people must submit to you. Let them know who’s boss.

Young men, beware the folly of Rehoboam. There will always be fools about to counsel you to spurn the words of your parents and elders. Unfortunately, today, there are even old folks who would counsel you like Rehoboam’s companions. God is speaking to you from the life of Rehoboam – listen to the wisdom of your elders. Give heed to their voice. Do not be overcome by the flattery of your peers.

So, young men, imitate Rehoboam in this: seek counsel before you act. But don’t play the fool and seek counsel only to spurn it. Listen to your elders; listen to the Word of God; humble yourself. In other words, imitate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who grew in favor with God and with men by honoring and respecting his parents and elders.

Likewise, the rest of God’s people. Learn from Rehoboam’s folly – seek counsel and follow those who speak in harmony with God’s Word not with your own desires.

Reminded that we are often prone to listen to the wrong counselors, that we scorn the wisdom that God sets in front of us for folly, let us kneel and confess our sins to God.