The Worship Quote of the Week for (08/12/2008):

Flabby Worship
Today's WORSHIP QUOTE deals with the majesty of God and how our understanding of His greatness shapes our worship. The author is J. I. Packer.

Our word "majesty" comes from the Latin; it means GREATNESS. When we ascribe majesty to someone, we are acknowledging greatness in that person and voicing our respect for it: as, for instance, when we speak of "Her Majesty" the Queen.

Now, "majesty" is a word which the Bible uses to express the thought of the greatness of God, our Maker and Lord. "The Lord reigneth, he is clothed with MAJESTY . . . Thy throne is established of old" (Ps. 93:1 f.). "I will speak of the glorious honor of thy MAJESTY, and of thy wondrous works" (Ps. 145:5). Peter, recalling his vision of Christ's royal glory at the Transfiguration, says "we . . . were eyewitnesses of his MAJESTY" (2 Pet. 1:16). In Hebrews, the phrase "the Majesty" twice does duty for "God"; Christ, we are told, at his ascension sat down "on the right hand of THE MAJESTY in the heavens" (Heb. 1:3; 8:1). The word "majesty," when applied to god is always a declaration of His greatness and an invitation to worship. The same is true when the Bible speaks of God as being "on high" and "in heaven"; the thought here is not that God is far distant from us in space, but that He is far above us in greatness, and therefore is to be adored. "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised" (Ps. 48:1). "The LORD is a great God and a great King . . . O come, let us worship and bow down" (Ps. 95:3, 6). The Christian's instinct of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God.

But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack: and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby. We are modern men, and modern men, though they cherish great thoughts of man, have as a rule small thoughts of God. When the man in the Church, let alone the man in the street, uses the word "God," the thought in his mind is rarely of divine MAJESTY. A recent book was called YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL [J. B. Phillips, 1953]; it was a timely title. We are poles apart from our evangelical forefathers at this point, even when we confess our faith in their words. When you start reading Luther, or Edwards, or Whitefield, though your doctrine may be theirs, you soon find yourself wondering whether you have any acquaintance at all with the mighty God whom they knew so intimately.

Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that god is PERSONAL, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are--weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! Our personal life is a finite thing; it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite, and almighty. He has us in His hands; but we never have Him in ours. Like us, He is personal, but unlike us He is GREAT. In all its constant stress on the reality of God's personal concern for His people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience, and yearning compassion that He shows towards them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of His majesty, and His unlimited dominion over all His creatures.

J. I. Packer, KNOWING GOD. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973, pp. 73-74. ISBN 0-87784-867-X


Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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