Voice Over The Waters

Athabasca Falls
I stood on the landing outside of the sanctuary of my church yesterday. There was a lull in the traffic and no one for me to greet. I glanced at the space over the entrance and read the words from Psalm 29:2 written on a banner that has been hanging there since the 1960s.

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”

This morning my reading was from Psalm 29. I was reminded of the banner but I was also reminded of something else as I read the psalm. Last week I traveled with friends to Alberta, Canada. We spent a wonderful week exploring the beauties of the parks of Jasper and Banff. One of the places we stopped was Athabasca Falls. Psalm 29:3-5 reminded me of those mighty waters, their breathtaking power and beauty.

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.”

The psalm goes on to describe the voice of the LORD as fire (29:7) and earthquake (29:8), two more powerful images. But it was the image of the thundering fall of water, and the photo I had taken of the tree bent and broken that rested across the gorge through which the water surged, that came to mind. Many times during our trip we had reason to wonder how anyone could see the beauty and power of the created world and not believe in the Creator. Paul, thinking much the same thing, wrote: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

But thinking about the power and majesty of the creation, and the even greater voice of the Lord as it speaks through that creation, took me back to the banner over the entrance to the sanctuary. Who God is in His power and majesty, demands a response. He deserves worship, but not worship of the perfunctory kind. Worship is not only something we do by singing or praying though these are part of the package. The psalmist says that worship is how we live.

The Scriptures speak of this as being “clothed” in holiness. In the Old Testament the reference point was the priest. Those who stood before the Lord had special garments that they wore. These vestments were holy (Exodus 28:2). New Testament believers, described as a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) are instructed, not about wearing sacred robes on the outside, but about wearing holy “garments” on the inside. We are to worship the Lord via the godly character qualities that reflect Him to the world.

We are to "put on" Christ. Romans 13:14 says: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.”

Ephesians 4:24 is tucked into the middle of an amazing description of what not “gratifying” the flesh and putting on Christ looks like (4:17-5:21). Paul tells his readers to, “…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3 begins by reminding us that if we claim Christ our focus has to change. We have to “get our minds out of the gutter” as it were (3:2) and “put to death therefore what is earthly” in us (3:5). Here again, Paul goes into the detailed description of what that kind of clothing looks like—both negatives and positives. He writes “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (10, 12, 14).

The interesting thing here is that we can’t “put on” until we “take off.” I can’t put on truth if I delight in lying. I can’t put on purity if I am in an adulterous relationship. I can’t put on humility if I am proud and self-seeking.

This is the worship of which the verse on the banner is speaking when it says to worship in the splendor of holiness. It is the worship that the God, whose voice thunders over the waters, wants. My singing and praying is not enough. It is holiness that the Lord of the flood, the fire, and the earthquake is looking for.  His majesty demands no less.

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