Over the next several months we will be presenting a series of articles exploring the scriptural roots of the various parts of our Sunday morning worship service. The aim is to increase our knowledge of why we do the things we do with a view to increasing both personal and corporate intimacy in worship. Jesus calls us to worship in Spirit and truth and we hope this aids in the keeping of this command.
The Call to Worship
The Call to Worship has its roots in the Garden of Eden and yet stretches clear through to eternity.
The first man Adam daily (regularly) communed with God in a relationship untainted by sin. This regular personal connection to God was broken by sin yet God was still found calling Adam to Himself. (Gen 3:8, 9) Because of the presence of sin in the world the grace of God is needed in a special way to both equip and enable us to respond to God’s call to worship Him. The Psalmist David understood the role of the shepherd of God’s people in calling them to worship. In Psalm 34:11 he calls out to God’s people saying:
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
We must note that this call is for God’s elect (34:9) as David makes clear later in the same Psalm when he states:
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
As with any of the parts of our corporate worship, the call is connected to the regular ongoing aspect of our relationship with God. In fact, as we saw above, it assumes there is a relationship in the first place. If there is a relationship with God, worship is the primary focus and ongoing activity of our lives. The call to worship then is not a call to start worshipping in that moment but more of a call to prepare for corporate worship. The uniqueness of the saints gathering to worship is addressed in many passages of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
The Song of Ascents (Degrees) in the Book of Psalms are a series of Psalms written to call the saints to worship. Psalm 120-134 were sung by worshippers as they made their way ‘up’ to Jerusalem to attend the 3 great feasts commanded in the Bible. The final (and shortest) Psalm of Ascent, 134, is a specific call to specific servants in the temple:
A Song of Ascents. Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD! Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD! May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!
We must not think the call to worship is never evangelistic. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus appears to be calling all who are weary saying:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
The rest here is the rest of worsip which is inseparable with service as is clear in one of the most well known calls to worship, Romans 12:1, 2:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This is the heart of the call to worship rightfully broadened to include all aspects of our activity and behavior in our relationship to God. We must never think the call to worship is limited to the 1.5 hours we are together on Sunday mornings. This consideration will not be difficult if we continually look forward to and are reminded of the eternal aspect of our worship as proclaimed in Revelation 22:17-21:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.