1 Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.
3 The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.
We bless God above, and at the same time we pray God’s blessing on one another.
Our hearts are filled to the brim with warm, grateful, and glorious consideration of God in our worship. This naturally moves into gracious, kind, and appreciative consideration of our brothers and sisters in Christ who worship with us in the same body.
In this last ascent psalm, it is as though we have finally ascended the hill and have arrived at the worship service itself. This little psalm nicely encapsulates the worship service in three verses. While the service must include both the vertical (worship of God), and horizontal (edification of the brothers and sisters), we must begin in the vertical. Loving God is the first commandment, and then we love our neighbor. We will never love our neighbor in the true sense of the word, if we cannot first love God. And, as John puts it, we love Him because He first loved us (1 John. 4:17). When we truly comprehend His love for us, we will love Him and then we will love others too. This is the basis for the worship service.
We begin the psalm by calling out to our brothers, fellow servants of Christ, to worship Him and bless Him. The Hebrew word used for bless (barak) combines sincere reverence with appreciatory words of praise. As was Moses at the burning bush, we are sensitive to the fact that we stand on holy ground. We are aware of the grand majesty, the white-hot holiness, the sovereign power, and piercing omniscience of the God whom we worship. This must affect our demeanor and posture in worship. But then, we want to express words of favorable sentiments and praise to our Lord. We have been the recipients of His grace and kindness. We have witnessed works of power, judgment, and overwhelming mercy. We have narrowly escaped the clutches of evil by His grace, and we cannot help but praise our Lord. In fact, the longer we live, the more we have to say of His truth, His salvation, and His sovereign rule.
Praise and worship is hardly an occasional activity for the believer. Modern Western Christians have grown unaccustomed to daily worship, but this is a common pattern in places where the Church is healthy and growing. Daily worship services, sometimes twice daily, sometimes exceeding an hour or two per service, were not unusual in the history of the Church. Christians stand up to worship God by night because they desire it. Better is a day in your courts, than a thousand elsewhere! (Ps. 84:10).
There are comparatively few specific directions given for our worship in Scripture, but here is one. Must we always leave our hands hanging down at our side. or stuck in our pockets when we worship, or folded in the expression of modern piety? When a church no longer engages robust worship, in the lifting up of hearts, voices, and hands, there must be some anemia setting in to that body. Both the Old and New Testament command the lifting up of the hands for praise and worship (ref. 1 Tim. 2:8). The New Testament injunction calls on men to lead in prayer (and the raising of the hands), but this does not restrict women from the practice.
John Calvin certifies that this was the practice of the church through the ages. He writes in his commentary on 1 Timothy 2, “This attitude has been generally used in worship during all ages; for it is a feeling which nature has implanted in us.” Of course, the frequency and specific method are not ordered here, and should be left to individuals and particular gatherings of the saints. Fervent men and women will use their hands in worship—that is the plain and simple truth of it. However, all singing, all kneeling, all praying, and all hand-raising can be faked. Worship is always a matter of the heart. If the heart and mind are not committed to the worship of God, all the rituals, confessions, and psalm-singing become empty externals. May God rid us of all hypocrisy and formalism in our worship, and give us hearts full of praise for our God.
While the first two verses speak of our praise to God, here the psalm moves towards the horizontal. This is the order of every one of our public worship services. First we bless God, and then we ask for God’s blessing on His people. We look around us and see our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we say, “God, please bless these people!”
Nobody has the capability or the goodness to bless us more than the Creator of heaven and earth. If He has already provided us with all of the resources in the universe, of course He can bless His people out of Zion. The blessings flow out of Zion, because the church is the object of His love. The Son of God gave His life for the church, and He is “head of all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). His blessings flow from His church.
We are the servants of God, and we owe Him our allegiance day by day. We are not our own, for we are bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Every day when we get out of bed, we must remember that we are here to do service for the Lord Jesus Christ. When we lift our hands to our God, we are telling Him that we are His servants and we offer our lives to His service.
Our worship service must be one continuous blessing. First and foremost, our worship is directed in the vertical as we praise God together. It is blessing God by telling God how blessed He is, and then declaring and petitioning God’s blessing upon His people.
1. What are the two blessings offered in this psalm?
2. What is a blessing, as described by the Hebrew word?
3. What are we saying when we lift our hands in worship?
1. Would you classify our worship services as warm, grateful, and glorious? Is this a regular or an occasional occurrence?
2. What are some of the reasons that we want to bless God?
3. Do we lift our voices, hearts, and hands in worship? Why or why not