March 30, 2009
by Pastor George Van Alstine
A couple of weeks ago, I was “opinionizing” to Pastor Connie about a theme that bothers me in some of our praise songs. When we sing to God “You are worthy,” I always cringe a little. Who are we to say that God is worthy? What right do we have to evaluate him? And does our giving him the thumbs-up make him any more worthy? I thought I had come to a very profound insight and that the song writers were clearly on a lower spiritual plane than I.
Pastor Connie listened indulgently, without much comment. But about a half-hour later she sent me an e-mail in which she simply listed Scripture verses, which included,
2 Samuel 22:4 & Psalm 18:3 – “I call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised.”
Revelation 4:11 – “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.”
Revelation 5:12 – “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
Of course, she was right (though I never gave her the satisfaction of hearing me say so). The passages she quoted were just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a strong Biblical theme about God’s worthiness of our praise.
In fact, the word “worship” comes from an Old English term “worthship” (actually, “weorthscipe”), so worship can be defined as telling God how worthy he is. How totally wrong could I have been?
Yet, after all this rational thinking, I still found myself bothered when I would sing to God “You are worthy.” Where was my discomfort coming from, and why was I having so much trouble letting it go?
Finally, this insight came to me. When I sing “You are worthy,” I’m not saying something profound about God, I’m confessing to something important about myself. I have changed. In my natural, sinful self, I have not acknowledged God’s worth. I have valued all sorts of things above and before him—my own plans and desires, the lusts of the flesh, material possessions, people whose acceptance I want, some favorite habit, pastime, fad or philosophical idea. In short, I have, in my lifetime, considered all sorts of things worth my time, attention and commitment, rather than God.
The truth is that God has always been worth infinitely more than all these things put together, but I have not acknowledged his worth by the way I lead my life. When in worshiping I sing “You are worthy,” I am saying that, at least for this moment, I have my values straight. I am treating God how he deserves to be treated. I am also expressing my desire to bring my life more into conformity with these true values: God first, everything else far below.
Maybe the reason why I still have trouble singing these words is that I’m never quite whole-hearted in my desire to live my life in a way that fully values him.