September 2018 Newsletter - "Praise and Worship" by Nathan Padilla

What is Praise and Worship? Is it keys and synthesizers holding hypnotic chords setting the “atmosphere” with smoke machines and lasers? Is that how the Earliest Christians set the “mood”? I have a hard time picturing the Apostle John looking over to Polycarp and saying, “Get on the keys, I’m about to prophesy.” Worship isn’t even when you sing and dance. It is more of a mind set and lifestyle. Let us observe worship in the way the Early Church did.

The Apostle Paul spoke in two of his epistles on singing spiritual songs [Eph_5:19; Col_3:16] very briefly. In today’s modern church there can by many interpretations; however, Paul’s teachings are often misunderstood and “twisted to their own destruction” [2Pe_3:16]. If they wanted to sing to the LORD, in the Early Church they would sing from the Psalms.

On common days they sing the Psalm (Psa_15:1-5), Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle? entire with its canon, of the mystery of the sacraments. [1]

If thou desirest something to sing, thou hast the Psalms; [2]

Be not careless of yourselves, neither deprive your Savior of His own members, neither divide His body nor disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house: [3]

Now, the psalms that David wrote were not just poetic songs that were put together but were a new set of doctrine. According to Yahushua himself, he calls the psalms law. In the Gospel of John, he says, "Is it not written in your law, 'I SAID, "YOU ARE GODS"? ' " [Joh_10:34] is a reference to Psalm 82:6. Hippolytus expounds on the meaning of this.

“The book of Psalms contains new doctrine after the law which was given by Moses; and thus, it is the second book of doctrine after the Scripture of Moses. After the death, then of Moses and Joshua, and after the judges, David arose, one deemed worthy to be called the father of the Savior, and he was the first to give the Hebrews a new style of psalmody, by which he did away with the ordinances established by Moses with respect to sacrifice, and introduced a new mode of the worship of God by hymns and acclamations; and many other things also beyond the law of Moses he taught through his whole ministry. And this is the sacredness of the book, and its utility. And the account to be given of its inscription is this: (for) as most of the brethren who believe in Christ think that this hook is David’s, and inscribe it “Psalms of David,” we must state what has reached us with respect to it. For why is it that even the simplest inscription is wanting in them - such as the one which runs thus, “A psalm of David,” or “Of David,” without any addition? Now, my idea is, that wherever this inscription occurs alone, what is written is neither a psalm nor a song, but some sort of utterance under guidance of the Holy Spirit, recorded for the behoof of him who is able to understand it.” [4]

The Psalms were a new set of doctrine that was to transition us from physical sacrifices to spiritual sacrifices. What does sacrifices have to do with worship? The sacrifices are Levitical worship [1Sa_1:3]. This is how the priests would worship Yahuah (Jehovah). David understood what God had always desired from His people and it was “not with the blood of goats and calves,” otherwise he would have offered that to Yahuah. In the fifty-first Psalm, David says “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise,” [Psa_51:16-17]. David understood what God desires. Origen illustrates for us what “a sacrifice of praise” [Jer_33:11; Heb_13:15] is:

For the soul ought to present an offering when "it becomes known to it" that God does not seek a carnal sacrifice because "a crushed spirit is a sacrifice to God." Therefore, "its sin becomes known to it" when it learns from the Lord who says, "I prefer mercy rather than sacrifice;" and when it should know to offer "a sacrifice of praise" in the Church and to render "prayers to the Most High," through Christ our Lord, "to whom be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen!" [5]

I believe that one to be he who praises God in all his actions and fulfills through him what our Lord and Savior says: "That men may see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven." Therefore, this one offered "a sacrifice of praise" for whose deeds, doctrine, word, habits, and discipline, God is praised and blessed. [6]

The praise God has been desiring from us is the offering of our thoughts, words, and deeds by understanding the spiritual law. The Psalms are not just songs to sing; they are doctrine meant to be understood, walked out, and taught to others. The rabbis would actually sing the Torah when they would read it. They would sing the Torah for number of reasons, one of which was to help retain the Torah and commit it to memory and even having an effect on our soul/conscience when we understand the meaning.

St. Jerome also portrays what it means to sing to God.

‘Sing to God, chant praise to his name.’ “Cantate” in Scripture invariably denotes consideration: sing meditatively, that is, think about the mystery and the sense of divine Scripture. “Psallere” on the other hand, implies the chanting of praise to God through our work: for example, that the sense of hearing offer its service, and likewise the mouth, and eyes and the hands, and all the members of the body harmonize, as it were, and pluck the chords of the Psaltery in noble acts.

If we listen to worship music only considering that we like the beat or the sound it gives but we lack the spiritual understanding of these songs, then we are no different than the heathens. I used to listen to Pink Floyd and other albums and could have an “experience” and that seems to be what people in the church today seem to be chasing after. Even those who are in the New Age movement understand how tones can “alter your state of conscience” to enter a spiritual domain. Some churches have adopted these methods, thinking that turning down the lights, playing atmospheric tones, majestic lights, and some catchy lyrics with sprinkled bible references are the way. It’s trying to enter in a different way. We don’t need those instruments, we are the instruments, we are the sanctuary, the song is within us, the song is in our thoughts, words and deeds. If our forefathers didn’t need such antics to be in the Father’s presence. The church uses such buffoonery, thinking this is what makes us “spiritual” and “free.” Using instruments and singing to the Father is not carnal; it’s when you lack the understanding and are just playing these instruments and singing like you would in the world. In fact, it is one of the plagues that was released in Egypt. Origen describes false worship the croaking of frogs.

I think the songs of the poets are indicated figuratively by the second plague in which frogs are produced. The poets with a certain empty and puffed up melody introduced deceptive stories to this world as if by the sounds and songs of frogs. For that animal is useless except that it produces an inferior harsh sound. [8]

Poets are also considered to be Prophets according to the early church. So, this could be depicted as well as a false prophetic worship. There is also excerpt from Clement disclosing to us this type of false worship.

To me, therefore, that Thracian Orpheus, that Theban, and that Methymnaean, - men, and yet unworthy of the name, - seem to have been deceivers, who, under the pretense of poetry corrupting human life, possessed by a spirit of artful sorcery for purposes of destruction, celebrating crimes in their orgies, and making human woes the materials of religious worship, were the first to entice men to idols; nay, to build up the stupidity of the nations with blocks of wood and stone, - that is, statues and images, - subjecting to the yoke of extremist bondage the truly noble freedom of those who lived as free citizens under heaven by their songs and incantations. [9]

We are to worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth. We are the true instruments of God, and He wants to use all of us in such a powerful way that even demons will flee those who are tormented, as with David and Saul. This is the worship that brings transformation. Understand who you are and what you have been created to be. Don’t be limited.

And He who is of David, and yet before him, the Word of God, despising the lyre and harp, which are but lifeless instruments, and having tuned by the Holy Spirit the universe, and especially man, - who, composed of body and soul, is a universe in miniature, - makes melody to God on this instrument of many tones; and to this instrument - I mean man - he sings accordant: “For thou art my harp, and pipe, and temple.” - A harp for harmony - a pipe by reason of the Spirit - a temple by reason of the word; so that the first may sound, the second breathe, the third contain the Lord. And David the king, the harper whom we mentioned a little above, who exhorted to the truth and dissuaded from idols, was so far from celebrating demons in song, that in reality they were driven away by his music.  Thus, when Saul was plagued with a demon, he cured him by merely playing. A beautiful breathing instrument of music the Lord made man, after His own image. And He Himself also, surely, who is the supramundane Wisdom, the celestial Word, is the all-harmonious, melodious, holy instrument of God. What, then, does this instrument - the Word of God, the Lord, the New Song - desire? To open the eyes of the blind, and unstop the ears of the deaf, and to lead the lame or the erring to righteousness, to exhibit God to the foolish, to put a stop to corruption, to conquer death, to reconcile disobedient children to their father. [10]

 

References:

  1. ~Early Liturgies-The Blessed Apostles Vol. 7
  2. ~Constitution of the Apostles Book Ch. VI, Vol. 7
  3. ~Constitution of the Apostles Book 2 Part 3
  4. ~Hippolytus-Fragments Pt. 1.5 Vol. 5
  5. ~Origen-Homily on Leviticus Homily 2
  6. ~Origen-Homily on Leviticus Homily 5
  7. ~St. Jerome-Homilies on the Psalms
  8. ~Origen-Homily on Exodus Homily IV
  9. ~Clement-Exhortation Book 1 Ch. I, Vol. 2
  10. ~Clement-Exhortation Bk. 1 Ch. I, Vol. 2
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