1 Chronicles 16:28-36 NET
28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the nations, ascribe to the LORD splendor and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the splendor he deserves! Bring an offering and enter his presence! Worship the LORD in holy attire! 30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is established, it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be happy! Let the nations say, ‘The LORD reigns!’ 32 Let the sea and everything in it shout! Let the fields and everything in them celebrate! 33 Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth! 34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good and his loyal love endures. 35 Say this prayer: “Deliver us, O God who delivers us! Gather us! Rescue us from the nations! Then we will give thanks to your holy name, and boast about your praiseworthy deeds.” 36 May the LORD God of Israel be praised, in the future and forevermore. Then all the people said, “We agree! Praise the LORD!”
I want to begin today’s message with a very controversial and politically charged statement. I’m asking you to bear with me because I am not bringing this up just to ruffle feathers. I am not saying this as clickbait. I’m making this statement for two reasons. One, it is true. Two, it can illustrate something that is taught in today’s text about the subject matter of this series of messages.
Now that I have warned you so that you can be prepared, here is the statement: “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”
I call this statement politically charged because people generally have a political agenda behind using it. It is designed to make white people rethink their attitudes. It draws attention to the fact that it is very easy to ignore people who are different than you are and to devalue their existence. This is especially true if those people are a minority.
I don’t have a “BLACK LIVES MATTER” bumper sticker on my car, but I do believe that black lives matter. When I say that, though, I am not making a political statement. I’m making a theological statement. I believe that every human being matters because God created us all, and he created us all equal in his sight. For that reason, I am trying my best to erase from my heart the racial prejudice, bigotry, and fear that I learned growing up. I think that is only fair because when our Lord Jesus returns, he is not going to set up separate countries for separate races. If we are part of his kingdom now, we will be part of his kingdom then, and the color of our skin is not going to be the basis of our value to him. It shouldn’t be a basis for our valuing people now.
Jesus grew up among a people who had mastered the art of devaluing the other ethnic groups around them. The Romans looked down on everyone but Romans. The Jews hated the Gentiles, but they especially hated the Samaritans. The Jews would not associate with Samaritans. But Jesus walked into a Samaritan town one day and preached the gospel to a Samaritan woman at the well.
While they were having a conversation, the woman brought up the subject of worship. She said that her ancestors worshipped on Mount Gerazim, and the Samaritans still do. But she pointed out that the Jews insist that true worship must take place in Jerusalem.
But Jesus told her that true worship is not about the place where you go. It’s about your attitude when you are worshipping. He talked about worshipping the Father in spirit and truth. I’ll talk more about that conversation later in the series.
True worship was very important to Jesus. He commissioned us to teach others to obey all his commands. One of those commands is that we should worship the Father in spirit and truth.
Today I want us to look at this passage from the Old Testament because it was given in the context of the welcoming of the ark into Jerusalem as David was setting up his kingdom, and preparing for the worship in the temple which would be built by his son Solomon. It tells us that in Israel, people mattered because they were made in God’s image. But God mattered most of all. So, worship was not to be something that only a few religious people did. It was not a fringe activity. Because God matters most of all, worship was essential.
This Scripture helps us to understand why we need to worship God.
We must worship God because he is glorious (28-29).
The command was to “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the nations, ascribe to the LORD splendor and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the splendor he deserves! Bring an offering and enter his presence! Worship the LORD in holy attire!”
Notice that even though this prayer was being prayed in Israel at a certain event, it was intended to reach beyond the borders of Israel and beyond the limits of time. It is a command to all the families of the nations. Every human being is commanded to acknowledge the glory of God.
His glory is described using two words in Hebrew. First, there is Kavod (כָּבוֹד) — a word signifying honor, splendor, and magnificence. Then, there is Oz ( עוֹז) — meaning strength. Together these words indicate that our God is the supreme being in both character and power. That is what we mean when we say he is glorious.
Human glory is always limited. There is always someone more honorable, more beautiful, and stronger. So we should not worship any human being. We should respect everyone and acknowledge the inherent worth of all human beings, no matter who they are or how old they are. But God is in a different category altogether.
We must worship God because he is sovereign (30-31).
“Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is established, it cannot be moved. Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be happy! Let the nations say, ‘The LORD reigns!’ “
Ezekiel had a vision in which he saw four amazing living beings with wings and wheels. The wings and wheels depicted their ability to move wherever they wanted. Ezekiel was impressed by these four beings until he looked up, and over their heads was a sky, and then he looked above that and saw God himself on the throne, and fire and brilliant light was coming out of him. The vision showed Ezekiel who he should be impressed with.
Knowing that God is sovereign should produce two opposite reactions in us. First, we should tremble. We should fear God above all others. Jesus taught us that we should fear God, not those human rulers because all they can do is kill us. But God can destroy us completely in Gehenna. He’s the one we should fear.
But the second emotion this passage in 1 Chronicles encourages seems like a contradiction. It tells the earth to be happy. True happiness does not come from ignoring God. True happiness comes from submitting to his sovereign plan for our lives.
We must worship God because he is good (32,34).
“Let the sea and everything in it shout! Let the fields and everything in them celebrate! Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good and his loyal love endures.”
The sea and the fields are always celebrating God’s goodness. The abundance they share with us is a testimony of a loving God who has built provision in his creation. He did that even before he created us. He did that because he is good. Every harvest — whether it is fish from the sea or grapes from the vine — testifies to our Lord’s goodness. Every tithe check in the offering plate is our way of saying “Thank you God for providing.” Our worship is the least we can do seeing that God has been so good to us.
We must worship God because he will deliver us (33,35-36).
“Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth! Say this prayer: “Deliver us, O God who delivers us! Gather us! Rescue us from the nations! Then we will give thanks to your holy name, and boast about your praiseworthy deeds.” May the LORD God of Israel be praised, in the future and forevermore. Then all the people said, “We agree! Praise the LORD!”
Now the trees of the forest are getting into the act. Their worship sounds strange coming from trees. They are praying for God to rescue them from the nations. They are promising to praise God for his rescue. Why would they say something like that? Because the LORD is coming to judge the earth. It is not just people whom the LORD will deliver. Jesus says he is making all things new. He has a plan to restore the universe to God’s original intention.
Paul told the Romans “that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now” (Romans 8:20-21). Even though the world around us is filled with amazing majestic beauty, it is also falling apart. Go to the forest, and you will see tall, stately trees, but you will also see fallen, decomposing trees. When you see that, remember that the trees are telling us that they also long for God’s new creation.
God is glorious. God is sovereign. God is good. God is going to rescue the universe. No wonder we are commanded to worship him.