by Ken Yonish

“I love you Lord and I lift my voice to worship you, oh my soul rejoice. Take joy my king in what you hear, may it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear.” (Laurie Klein, 1978). Is that the prayer of your heart today? Shouldn’t it be the prayer of every child of God? Shouldn’t we desire a closer relationship with the Lord so much that it’s pleasing to His ear, especially when we worship Him? But what kind of “sound” is pleasing to God? Is it simply the sound of our voice that pleases Him? Is it a beautiful voice alone that is pleasing to Him? Of course not. Obviously, the writer of this worship song is suggesting a much deeper and intimate meaning that goes far beyond what we think is pleasing to Him.

In the natural, one could make the argument that one of the sweetest sounds to the human ear includes the sound of close tight harmonic voices blending together. This is especially true with trios or quartets. We love the sound of the deep bass voice contrasted with the high tenor voice, then all tied together with the complimentary harmonies in the middle. It’s almost as if it creates a sound of its own, a pleasing sound indeed to our natural ears.

But how does this apply to us as His church today when we come together to worship? What about God’s ears? What sounds pleasing to him? What happens in the spiritual realm? What about every choir, song leader, musician, praise and worship team? Every congregation?

Surely just the sound of our praise pleases Him, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In Isaiah 29:13, the Lord through the Prophet Isaiah said, "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught”. Clearly from this scripture we can see that it is not just the act of singing the words that pleases God. We can go through the motions, doing all the right things and saying, “Hallelujah” or, “Praise the Lord” at just the right moment and never once touch the heart of God. Jesus quoted this same scripture to the Pharisees and Scribes when they condemned the disciples for not living according to the traditions set forth by the elders.

May we never measure the worth of our worship through the traditions of our past. If His mercies are new and fresh every day shouldn’t our praise be new and fresh every day? Shouldn’t we lift up a new praise to Him every time we worship? In the Psalms there are many references to singing a new song to the Lord. Is the Psalmist referring to learning a new song every week or so to please Him? No! He means being engaged with all our heart, soul and being and not simply reciting words and phases in a meaningless way.

The Apostle Paul put it this way. “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” 1 Corinthians 14:15. Although Paul is referring to speaking in tongues, the same principle can be applied with regards to worship. If we do not understand what we are singing how can we truly worship him and not just be reciting memorized words, or worse yet, just reading them out of a Hymnal. We must engage our hearts and our minds.

So how can we know if our worship is a sweet sound to God? How do we avoid just going through the motions? First of all we are His children. When He saves us He puts His Spirit in us crying, “Abba, Father.” In other words, it is the Holy Spirit within us singing praises to the Lord. But our spiritual growth is a process. We don’t springboard from spiritual adolescence to spiritual adulthood overnight. Much of our growth process comes simply by walking day by day in unity with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. As we walk in unity together God enables our new heart to worship on a higher plane. For example, David, in Psalm 34, starts the psalm by saying, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” Psalm 34:1-2.

But then David almost seems to turn a different direction. He adds, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

Together? Yes, together.

In this Psalm David is exhorting us to worship with him. Together means unity. Can we truly worship God together without unity? Psalm 133:1-3 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.”

It is impossible to have God’s presence in our midst without unity. It is impossible to have God’s presence in the midst of our praises without unity. It is impossible for our worship to be a sweet, sweet sound in His ear without unity.

Thank God for the measure of unity we have in our fellowship. But don’t be fooled into thinking there is any other way. You can’t say that you love God if you hate your brother. “If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20. Of course you’re not going to say you “hate” your brother, but do you talk about him behind his back? Do you gossip about him when he’s not around?

What’s the difference?

But, thank God, He provides everything we need from start to finish to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. It’s not within us to love anyone but ourselves. That’s why we need His Love in us. However, there is a part we play. We have to be willing to do His will. It’s a death-to-self message. Paul encouraged the Ephesians this way: “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3, NLT.

If we have to make every effort to keep ourselves united in the Spirit as Paul encourages us to do, then that implies there might be occasions to put that into practice, doesn’t it? This is when we must die to our own ambitions and purposes. We must seek to understand His purpose. Paul addresses the Philippians this way: “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” Philippians 2:1-5, NLT.

What does Paul mean we must have the same attitude that Jesus had? In verses 6-8 Paul adds, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross.” Now God may not require us to physically die on an actual cross but he may (and most certainly will) give us opportunities to humble ourselves to one another from time to time. Just as Jesus Christ humbled himself and became a servant so must we humble ourselves and become servants one to another. This is truly having the same attitude that Jesus had.

Paul instructs the Colossians with the same message. In Colossians 3:12-17, he writes, “Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

What is Paul’s message here? He is defining the very heart of God. What is the main attribute and characteristic of God’s behavior? Is it not that God is Love? Just look at the message of the Cross. Is that not the full expression of God’s Love to us? Romans 5:8. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If Love is the principal force that defines God’s heart shouldn’t it also be the principal force that defines us and motivates us toward one another? Absolutely. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35.

The ears of God are tuned into the sweet, sweet sound of unity among His children as we walk together in love — His Love. Every time we gather together in His Name He is there in the midst. This is the place of His Habitation. This is where He commands the promise of His blessing where brothers and sisters dwell together in unity. To Him there is no sweeter sound.

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