“What worship means is the submission of the whole being to the object of worship. It is the opening of the heart to receive the love of God; it is the subjection of conscience to be directed by Him; it is the declaration of the need to be fulfilled by Him; it is the subjection of desire to be controlled by Him. And as a result of all these together, it is the surrender of the whole being. It is the total giving of self.” – William Temple
There are times when the words of the Bible just jump off the page, leaping out to teach, correct, training, and yes, reproof. Today was such a day for me, as I read Psalm 119:20. In the New American Standard Bible, the verse says, “My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times.” I wondered, almost out loud, whether or not I could claim the universe truth of that verse in my own life.
At once, I was met with a myriad of questions. For starters, this verse paints soul crushing as a positive effect of following God’s ordinances. In what universe is soul-crushing a good thing?! Secondly, the soul is crushed because of longing. What kind of longing is this, that it has the ability to crush the soul? Thirdly, the longing and the soul-crushing is a result of God’s ordinances. What commands, at once, have the effect of crushing the soul and producing great longing?
I can tell you, I have been a Christian since I first knew the Lord at age four. (It is true, he knew me well before that!). But, I have never, in all the years following, thought of God’s commands as being simultaneously soul-crushing and life-giving. But, that’s what the verse in Psalm 119 claims as true!
Now, here is the deal: most of the time we view God’s commands as something that grinds us into some lifeless, colorless submission. And apparently, there is some reason that we think this. God’s commands (and all commands, by nature) are designed to drive us to submission! So, submission, yes! But, that is only half of the story. God’s commands also grant us longing, passion, LIFE!
Doug Brown says that we rightly assume that coming to Christ means that we will have to give our very lives over to Him. But, we wrongly assume that doing so will rob us of the joy that this life has to offer. Remember what Jesus Himself said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Friends, the Good News is not only that God has provided a way from sin, but also that He has given new life to you and to me. And it is Hebrew poetry like this that gets at the heart of what Christian worship actually is. We give our very selves to God so that He can, at once, crush our souls and fill us with longing for Himself.