The Nature of Biblical Worship

December 17, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Worship

Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV)
15 Therefore by [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

In our continuing study of Jesus in the Psalms we examine Psalm 35 today. Three times in our psalm, David will promise to praise God if God will but deliver him from his persecutors. And since Paul urges us to offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name, it seems fitting to study each of David’s promises and to learn what they teach us about biblical worship.

David makes his first promise in verses 9-10:

9 And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation. 10 All my bones shall say, “LORD, who is like You, Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?”

Here David teaches us two things about biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be personal. My soul shall be joyful; all my bones shall say, “Lord, who is like you…” Worship isn’t something “out there” that we participate in, it is something “in here” that emerges from grateful hearts. Second, biblical worship is to be joyful. My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation. Because God saves us from those too mighty for us – from sin, from Satan, from worldly foes who hate God – worship should be saturated with joy. Biblical worship is to be personal and joyful.

David makes his second promise in v. 18:

18 I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.

So let us add two more features of biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be thankful. I will give you thanks… Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, so we ought to thank Him. Second, biblical worship is to be corporate. I will give you thanks in the great assembly [church]; I will praise You among many peoples. Biblical worship does not confine itself to me and God alone because God’s purposes for my life are far greater than my salvation. He saves me in order that I might bless and encourage others, that others might be saved through me. Biblical worship is to be thankful and corporate.

David makes his final promise in verse 28:

28 And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long.

So let us add two final features of biblical worship. First, biblical worship is to be vocal. And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness… Worship isn’t just a matter of the heart, it issues forth from our mouths using our lips and tongues. Second, biblical worship is to be continual. And my tongue shall speak…of Your praise all the day long. While our worship is to be corporate, it cannot be limited to times of corporate gathering – these times are few and far between. Consequently, our corporate worship must spill out into all my day, must shape the entirety of my life. My day should be filled with praising and thanking God. Biblical worship is to be vocal and continual.

Putting all this together, therefore, biblical worship is to be personal, joyful, thankful, corporate, vocal, and continual. Often, however, our worship lacks these traits. So as we enter into the presence of the Lord, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Psalms as the Word of Christ

December 10, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship

Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

For Advent and Christmastide we are continuing a tradition that we started several years ago of preaching through the psalms. It is important that we remember why this is a fitting tradition, why we should devote considerable time and attention to the psalms. In our day, various ideologies divorce Christians from the OT; consequently, Psalm singing has fallen on hard times, especially among Protestants. So as we recover this practice, let us consider the foundation for it that Paul lays in our text today.

First, Paul identifies the content of our worship. We are to let the word of Christ, Christ’s own word, dwell in us richly. Jesus speaks to us today; He is calling today. But where? Paul tells us: He speaks in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. In the Greek translation of the OT, these labels correspond to the varied songs in the psalter. Paul’s categories of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs are, in other words, different ways of directing us to one book, the Psalter. The book of Psalms contains psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which we are to sing. Why? Because they are the Word of Christ – Christ’s own words to us. When we sing the Psalms to one another, we hear Christ speaking to us in the voices of our brethren.

Second, Paul identifies the function of our worship. We are to teach one another and admonish one another. First, we teach one another. When we sing the psalms to one another, we expand our knowledge of God and our awareness of His work in the world. We teach one another of His righteousness, His mercy, His wrath, His love, His patience, His judgments, etc. The psalms force us to reckon with ways in which our own thinking differs from God’s thinking. When we sing a psalm and find ourselves disagreeing with its words, the problem is not with the psalm but with us. Consequently, we not only teach one another as we sing, we also admonish one another. We correct erroneous thoughts, summon one another to trust the Lord more fully, rebuke one another’s complacency, immorality, greed, idolatry, and deceitfulness. The psalms teach and admonish us.

Third, Paul identifies the motive of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts. True worship emerges from a grateful heart; it is an expression of thankfulness for God’s work in our lives. The hypocrite says one thing with his lips and another with his heart; the loyal worshiper joins heart and lips together in song. We are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts.

Finally, Paul identifies the object of our worship. We are to sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord. The Lord is the object of our worship. He alone is worthy of praise, thanksgiving, and honor. He has created us and not we ourselves; He has redeemed us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus. He has sent His Spirit to empower us to walk in newness of life. So we are to give Him thanks and praise, to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to Him.

So as we enter into the presence of the Lord this day, as we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, let us teach and admonish one another as we worship the Lord. Unfortunately, much of the church has abandoned the psalms in favor of songs that do not teach and admonish. We speak to one another our own words rather than the words of Christ. But even when we speak the words of Christ to one another, we often fail to learn from our brethren, we often fail to correct ourselves. So reminded of our failures in this regard, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

First Sunday in Advent

December 3, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Peter, Bible - NT - John, Christmas, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Worship

1 Peter 2:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Coming to [Jesus] as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time of year when we recall both God’s promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Son of Adam to rescue us from sin and death and God’s promise to us that one day that Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust Him. It is this Son who is the subject of Peter’s epistle – for it is to Him that we come in faith. He is the One who was born of Mary; He who was conceived by the Spirit; He who is the object of our faith.

Peter describes Him as a living stone, the foundation stone of God’s Holy City Jerusalem, the cornerstone of God’s Temple. This stone, Peter tells us, was rejected indeed by men – rather than bowing before Him in worship and praise, we crucified Him. So deep is our ailment as human beings that we rejected the One who would deliver us, killed the physician who would heal us, trampled the shepherd who would lead us, and murdered the king who would rule us.

Yet it is this stone, Peter tells us, that was chosen by God and precious. The One we crucified rose again from the dead. He is the Living Stone chosen by God to build up a Temple, a spiritual house, to the glory of God’s Name and to establish a universal priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices to the Lord. So how does He build this Temple? Establish this priesthood? As the Living Stone, Jesus builds God’s Temple out of living stones; He sends forth His Spirit and imparts His resurrection life to men and women and children who are, by nature, spiritually dead. He causes our hearts of stone to live, to beat again, that we might become living stones, members of a spiritual house, and priests of God Most High.

So why has God enlivened our stony hearts? Why is He constructing a spiritual Temple from us naturally lifeless stones? Why is He establishing a holy priesthood from us sinful men and women? Peter gives us the answer – to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. In other words, God has enlivened us that we might worship Him. Listen to the 9th verse of this same chapter:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

God has chosen us that we might sing His praises, declare the wonders of His grace, and extol His excellencies. As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “God is seeking people to worship Him.”

This Advent our sermons focus once again on Jesus in the Psalms. As we consider the psalms, I would remind you why God has given them to us in the first place – they are meant to be sung. God saved you that you might proclaim His praises, that you might offer up spiritual sacrifices, that you might offer up the fruit of your lips to God. Singing praise to God is not optional – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing – don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of your voice. Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth!

As we gather in the Lord’s presence to praise Him, therefore, let us lift up our voices with joy remembering that God has saved us so that we might praise Him. Let us not mumble; let us not be silent in coldness of heart; let us not complain or grumble at God’s ordering our affairs. He saved us that we might offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. So reminded that we were saved to sing His praises, let us confess that we have failed to praise the Lord as we ought – and let us kneel as we confess our sin together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession in your bulletin.

Put Your Trust in the Lord

October 15, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Worship

Psalm 4:4–5 (NKJV)
4 Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.

The call of God upon all people is very simple and straightforward – He wants us to serve Him, not man; to trust in Him, not in created things; to love and cling to Him, not to the idols which we create with our own hands. As our Lord Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.”

Each of us faces the choice in our lives of whom we shall serve: will we serve God or will we serve some idol? And note that this is not a choice that admits of middle paths – there is no third option; no neutrality. We must choose whom we shall serve. Who will be our God? Who is your God?

Have you given yourself to the gods of this age? To glamour, wealth, power, academic prestige, simplicity, body image, sexual expression? Do you sit and worship at their feet? Or have you given yourself to the Triune God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the fountain of true glamour, of lasting wealth, of real power, of profound wisdom, of unpretentious simplicity, of blessed health, of virtuous sexuality? Do you sit and worship at His feet?

It was at God’s feet that David sat and he summarizes well what it means to do so –
· Tremble, and do not sin – Fear God, do anything except offend him; remember that our God is a consuming fire and that sin separates us from Him; so, if we would sit at His feet, we must put away sin.

· Meditate within your heart upon your bed, and be still – in private, when you are laying down to rest and are tempted to let your thoughts run wild, to become anxious and afraid as your hopes and fears run laps about your skull, meditate instead upon God’s presence and His Word. Remember His promises, His assurances, and His threats, and so be still. Remind yourself – God is my Creator; in Christ He is also my Redeemer; He will care for me; He will bless me; He will remember me. And in that knowledge…

· Offer the sacrifices of righteousness – remember that the point of your life is to worship your Creator and Redeemer publicly and privately; so join God’s people every Lord’s Day and serve the Lord with gladness every day; rejoice in His precepts; delight in His law; confess your sins; pray for God to transform your character; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

· And put your trust in the Lord – Don’t succumb to the temptation to worship the idols of the world – many of them are carved quite cunningly, beautiful with their gold and silver accents – but remember that despite all their cunning beauty they cannot do anything for you: beauty will fade; wealth will take flight; power will vanish; but the Lord shall remain ever faithful to those who trust Him.

So what is God’s call upon us? David tells us:
Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.

As we come into the presence of our Lord to worship, reminded that our calling is to trust wholly in Him and no doubt convicted that we have failed to do so, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Tradition of Anti-Traditionalism

June 25, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Children, Meditations, Tradition, Worship

1 Corinthians 11:2
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.

Our culture has institutionalized the tradition of anti-traditionalism. Yesterday’s clothes are outmoded; yesterday’s ideas are passé. No sin is more grievous than being “behind the times.” Each new generation is expected to originate something totally new and eagerly jump on board the new train. Beanie babies have come and gone; Tickle me Elmos have lost their flare; Cabbage Patch dolls are a long-forgotten craze; and fidget spinners will soon lose their luster.

Unfortunately, the Church has imbibed much of this cultural food. Several years ago, I read a story about a Trinity Church in Connecticut. Trinity had been founded by folks who were dissatisfied with the traditions in the churches and who wanted something new, something hip, something relevant. However, ten years into their project they discovered something disconcerting: they had developed their own traditions. The Wall Street Journal remarked that “these churches were founded by people in rebellion against established institutions. Ten years down the road, they have become the establishment.” Consequently, the pastor decided to step down. “You don’t want to become ossified,” he said. “You have to keep thinking freshly on how to do church.”

Contrast this way of thinking with Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians in our text today: Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. Paul praises the Corinthians not for their novelty but for their faithfulness to that which they had been taught. In other words, the Word of God teaches us to value a godly inheritance – to take what is given in one generation and to pass down what is good and precious to the next; to tell our children and grandchildren the wonderful works of God so that they in turn can tell their children and grandchildren.

Popular culture, by design, rejects this idea–it plans for obsolescence. Who could imagine making special note in one’s will of your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Collection? Or your Garth Brooks CD set? The idea is absurd because these things are not meant to be handed down. Products and performers in pop culture are expected to have their day in the sun and then disappear, to be replaced by another. For this reason, it is critical that our worship not reflect the pop culture mentality, not reflect an opposition to a godly inheritance.

Paul’s words reveal that traditions are not inherently bad; in fact, as I have emphasized before, traditions are inevitable. It is only when our traditions undermine what is biblically important that they become destructive. And the tradition of anti-traditionalism is biblically destructive – the constant pursuit of some new style of worship, the longing to be relevant, the overthrowing of older generations because younger ones always know better – what do any of those things have to do with the Word of God?

As we gather to worship, therefore, let us do so with joy, celebrating the great work that the Spirit of God has done in leading and guiding His people to this day – treasuring what is good in our inheritance and passing those things down to the next generation. And the first thing the Spirit does in bringing us into the presence of our thrice holy God is awaken in us a sense of our own sin – in particular, our sin of undermining the Word of God through our traditions. So let us confess our sins to the Lord and, as you are able, let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Father is Seeking Worshipers

June 18, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Communion, Liturgy, Lord's Day, Meditations, Sovereignty of God, Worship

John 4:23–24 (NKJV)
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”

Last week we observed that Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman explained some of the changes in worship from the old to the new covenant. While old covenant worship was centralized in Jerusalem, new covenant worship has been spread throughout the earth; and while old covenant worship was simply monotheistic, new covenant worship is Trinitarian, gloriously monotheistic. Today I’d like us to meditate on Jesus’ remark that the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

In the history of Christianity, one of the names used to identify the weekly corporate gathering of the congregation is the Divine Service or the Lord’s Service. Unfortunately, we rarely use this term any longer, almost exclusively using the word “worship” to label our weekly gathering.

On one level, of course, using the label “worship” is entirely fitting. To worship God is to ascribe worth to Him – it is to announce that He is the Lord and Creator of all and is therefore worthy of all honor and glory and power. Each Lord’s Day we gather to worship the High and Exalted One, the One who has created us from nothing and who has redeemed us from destruction. As Jesus says in our text today, we gather to worship God the Father in the Name of His Son and by the power of His Spirit. Worship is a great term.

But the term “worship” can obscure a fundamental reality to which Jesus points us in our text: The Father is seeking such to worship Him. Jesus declares that when we come to worship the Lord, the reason that we have come is because God in His mercy has sought us out. Our worship, in other words, is a response to God’s action. Why are you here today? Because God sought you out, God summoned you here, God brought you here. We love because He first loved us. We serve God in worship because God first served us by bringing us here.

And this is why the title the “Lord’s Service” is so helpful. The title is intentionally ambiguous – is the “Lord’s Service” our service of the Lord – worshiping Him, honoring Him, and praising Him – or is it the Lord’s Service of His people – calling us together, comforting us from His Word, and feeding us at His Table? Biblically our gathering each Lord’s Day is both. He serves us and we serve Him. And whose service is primary? Whose service comes first? The Lord’s. For if He did not serve us by calling us here then we would not serve Him by worshiping Him.

Ought we not, therefore, to begin each Lord’s Day with gratitude and thankfulness? God has called us here; summoned us to enter His presence and worship Him in Spirit and Truth. So how have you responded to His summons? Are you here with an eager heart and mind? Or are you here cloudy and disinterested, so worn from the cares of the week that you cannot serve Him well?

Reminded that God has sought us out and served us in order that we might serve Him, let us confess that we often respond to His work with ingratitude and indifference rather than joy and delight. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Old Covenant vs. New Covenant Worship

June 11, 2017 in Bible - NT - Hebrews, Bible - NT - John, Bible - OT - Psalms, Israel, Liturgy, Meditations, Trinity, Worship
John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
21
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth.”
On this Trinity Sunday, I would like us to consider the words that Jesus speaks in this text and the way that they help us understand new covenant worship. Jesus is anticipating two changes in the worship of God’s people. Unfortunately, these changes are frequently misinterpreted. Many imagine that Jesus is contrasting the external, formal worship of the OT period with the heartfelt, internal worship of the New. At one time people worshiped externally, now all worship is “in spirit and truth” – that is, heartfelt and genuine.
The difficulty faced by this interpretation is not the insistence that worship must be heartfelt and genuine. That is most certainly true. The difficulty is that this was no less true in the OT than it is in the New. David declares in the psalter, “Sacrifice and burnt offering you did not desire, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”Heartfelt, genuine worship was to characterize the OT no less than the New.
So what are the changes Jesus anticipated in His words to the Samaritan woman? There are two. First, Jesus insists that the corporate worship of the people of God would be decentralized. Remember that in the OT God’s people had a central sanctuary located at Jerusalem. As we will review today in the sermon, three times a year every male had to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to Mount Zion, and worship at the central sanctuary, offering sacrifices, feasting with God’s people, honoring the Lord. The Samaritans, for their part, refused to acknowledge the centrality of Jerusalem but likewise had a central sanctuary at Mount Gerizim. Here the Samaritans had their collective feasts. The woman asks Jesus – “You’re a prophet; so which is it? Mount Zion or Mount Gerizim?”Jesus responds, “Neither! In the Christian era, during My reign, God’s people are not required to gather for corporate worship at a central sanctuary – whether in Gerizim or Jerusalem or Rome. Rather, wherever the people of God gather together in My Name and lift My Name on high, there is Mount Zion, there is the City of God, there is the central sanctuary.” In other words, Jerusalem in Israel is no longer the center of God’s dealings with man; the heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the Church is the center.
Second, Jesus informs us that not only would corporate worship be decentralized, it would be explicitly Trinitarian. When Jesus rose from the dead and sent forth His Spirit, the worship of God’s people was forever transformed. It became explicitly Trinitarian – worshiping the Father in Spirit – the very Spirit whom Jesus promised would come and lead His people into all righteousness – and in Truth – the very Truth who took on human flesh and declared to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the Church has historically emphasized the Triune nature of God. It is this that Jesus does in our text. Worshiping the Father in Spirit and Truth is not an exhortation to heartfelt, genuine worship – that exhortation had been given throughout the OT. Worshiping the Father in Spirit and Truth is to worship the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And it was this transformation that Jesus anticipated and announced to the Samaritan woman. “The time is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.”

So what does this mean for us? It means that this morning as we gather together to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth, as we gather to worship the Triune God, we are approaching the central sanctuary of God, the place where God dwells. Mount Zion is His dwelling place and it is this place to which we draw near every time we gather to worship the Lord together. Hebrews tells us, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born who are registered in heaven…” (Heb 12:22-23) And, like Isaiah, who entered the presence of God in the Temple, the first thing that should strike us is our own unworthiness – in ourselves, we are not worthy to be here. And so let us kneel and seek His forgiveness through Christ.

Make your pastor’s labor light!

May 31, 2017 in Ecclesiology, Quotations, Sanctification, Word of God, Worship

“In preaching the word there is some toil, and this Paul declares when he says, ‘Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.’ (1 Tim. v. 17) Yet it is in your power to make this labor light or heavy; for if you reject our words, or if without actually rejecting them you do not show them forth in your works, our toil will be heavy, because we labor uselessly and in vain: while if ye heed them and give proof of it by your works, we shall not even feel the toil, because the fruit produced by our labor will not suffer the greatness of that labor to appear. So that if you would rouse our zeal, and not quench or weaken it, show us, I beseech you, your fruit, that we may behold the fields waving with corn and being supported by hopes of an abundant crop, and reckoning up your riches, may not be slothful in carrying on this good traffic.” 

John Chrysostom, Sermon on John 2:4.

Raising Hands in Worship?

February 13, 2017 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - Luke, Bible - OT - Exodus, Bible - OT - Leviticus, Bible - OT - Nehemiah, Bible - OT - Psalms, Ecclesiology, Liturgy, Meditations, Worship
1 Timothy 2:8 (NKJV)
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;
In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship – singing the psalms, publicly reading Scripture, reciting the creeds, kneeling for confession, etc. Every church has such traditions and it is important that we regularly evaluate them to make sure that they reflect, not undermine, biblical principles.
Today I want us to consider the practice of raising hands in worship. I raise my hands to assure the congregation of forgiveness and to pronounce the blessing of the Lord; we all raise our hands to sing at the end of the service. Why do such things? Why raise hands at all?
The answer to this question is supplied by the Apostle Paul in our text today: Paul wants us to raise hands. Paul writes to Timothy, I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands… (1 Tim 2:8). If Paul wants holy hands to be lifted up in prayer, then we need to come up with ways to obey him.
So what are the circumstances in which Scripture records the raising of hands by the people of God? First, God’s leaders often raise their hands to bless the people of God. In Leviticus 9:22, Aaron “lifted his hand toward the people [and] blessed them….” Aaron’s action was later imitated by the priests as they blessed Israel. Most significantly, Luke records that after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, Jesus “led the [disciples] out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them” (24:50). The lifting of hands in blessing communicates visibly to God’s people the reality of the blessing that is being pronounced. In our service of worship, this action corresponds to the assurance of forgiveness following confession and to the benediction at the end of service.
Second, God’s people often raise hands to worship or bless God. The psalmist declares, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name” (Ps 63:3-4). In Nehemiah 8:6 we are told that “Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands.” So as we prepare to leave the sanctuary each week, having renewed covenant with God, the entire congregation lifts up holy hands to praise the Lord. Indeed, at certain times of the year, we summon one another to raise hands as we sing in Psalm 134:2, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.”
Finally, God’s people, especially the men, often raise hands to lift their prayers into God’s presence. David prays in Psalm 28:2, “Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.”Similarly, the psalmist prays in 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” One of the most memorable stories associated with the raising of hands and prayer is Israel’s battle against the Amalekites. So long as Moses’ hands were lifted in prayer the Israelites had success; but whenever his hands wavered, Israel began to be defeated. So Aaron and Hur got on either side of Moses and held up his hands until Israel achieved a complete victory (Ex 17:8-16).
It would appear, therefore, that lifting hands in worship is pleasing to God. However, while it is a good and lawful action, it is possible to do it wrongly; we can perform a faithful action unfaithfully. For example, our elders would argue that raising hands haphazardly in corporate worship rather than decently and in good order is problematic. And Paul, in our text today, wants men to lift up holyhands without wrath and doubting… He wants us to raise our hands in a particular way. So what does this mean? Consider that by lifting our hands to God we declare two things: first, we declare that our hands are clean, that they are holy, free from wrath; second, we declare that we trust Him, without doubting. “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Ps 24:3-4a). If we lift up hands that are covered with filth, then this is not pleasing to God; likewise, if we lift up our hands but our hearts are far from the Lord, then this is not pleasing to God. We are to lift up holy hands without wrath or doubting.

So reminded of why we lift hands in worship, let us confess that our hands are often not holy but polluted with guilt and in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. And as we are able let us kneel as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the