A song of ascents. Of David.
My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.
It’s a song of ascents, a song to be sung while on pilgrimage to worship in Jerusalem. It’s labeled “of David” though that can mean either that it was written by David or was written for David. While there could be even some other meaning for that designation, I’ll assume it was written by David. It’s a song to prepare for the worship experience. It’s a song that anticipates joining with the community of faith in honoring and praising God.
As I reflect on this psalm I think of preparing my heart for worship. To prepare for worship I almost always go to bed very early on Saturday nights and get up very early on Sunday mornings. I probably should clarify that I do this to prepare for worship, not to prepare my sermon. Throughout the week I have prepared the sermon by allowing God to work on my heart by chewing on the text, networking with people, and wrestling with God in prayer. Sermon preparation is over. Now it’s time to prepare for worship.
Music and prayer have always been at the center of my preparing my heart for worship. And if my “time of preaching is a time of worship” as I always pray, then that means that as I prepare to worship I also prepare to lead in worship. That’s why this psalm of ascent means so much to me.
As we prepare for worship, David and I sing this song to remember worship is about God, not us. Leading worship should not be driven by pride. Only when we give up trying to promote ourselves are we prepared to worship or lead worship. If we are trying to draw attention to ourselves or fill our emotional emptiness with attention we receive in leading worship, we need to sing this song again. If we are having trouble remembering that God is the focus of our life and worship, we may need to sing this song again. If we are allowing ourselves to become so wrapped up in things awesome and great to the point where we start thinking we are in control, we may need to sing this song again.
As David and I prepare for worship we do so by saying: God, help us be humble. Forgive us when we start thinking we are in charge and we try to wrest control from You. Forgive us when we meddle in business that should be Yours and Yours alone. As we prepare for worship, cultivate within us a quiet heart. We want to come before You with stillness and inner peace.
As David and I prepare for worship we want to be like a weaned child, a young child as opposed to an infant. A baby is always demanding milk from her mother. A weaned child is different. A young child who has been weaned is not with her mother simply because of screaming for food. A weaned child is content to just be with her mother, perhaps walking beside her or curling up in her lap.
This is a beautiful image. As we are preparing our hearts for worship on this occasion, we want to cultivate a quiet, still heart where we can enjoy being in the presence of God not because of what God is going to give us to satisfy our screaming, but because we just want to be with God. Blessed is the worshiper who is content just to be with God. Blessed is the worship leader who is content just to be with God, just to be in His holy presence.
And so now we have our eyes on God rather than self. We remember God is God and we trust Him with the plans we have made. Our hearts are stilled and quiet. We are content to just be with God. And then it happens — we are ready to worship. We are prepared to lead worship.
And so David can say, “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord.” And I can say, “O church, put your hope in the Lord.” We have been prepared to say these words to the worship community by finding our hope in the Lord. As a worship leader I cannot lead people where I haven’t gone. Before I can tell the church to put their hope in God, “both now and forevermore,” I better have found a peace with God myself.
I have to stop writing now. I have some singing to do.