Unfettered Worship

Read Psalm 98

Featured Verse: Psalm 98:4-5

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing.”

I was recently in the western region of Ethiopia, and I was called upon to preach in one of the thriving churches that are springing up every year there by the hundreds. This is a backwards part of the world, to say the least, but it also seems to be ground zero for a modern day Holy Spirit revival. One of the things I love most about being there is the unfettered worship these people lift to God when they gather for church.

Right before I was to preach, the choir sang—two songs. Back-to-back songs. Songs that were twelve minutes each! I know; I timed them. And not knowing the language, I sat for twenty-four minutes listening to singers I didn’t know lifting love songs I didn’t know to the God who has rescued them from utter darkness and brought them into the kingdom of his Son. And I’ve got to tell you: I was moved.

In the front row sat a man who began to get “blessed” by the choir. He began to shake, then he began to shout, and then he began to dance back and forth across the front of the sanctuary with dance moves that that I suspect would be physically impossible for any American to duplicate. Not a practiced routine, mind you, you could tell this was totally spontaneous. After a bit, this fellow finally danced back to his seat, only to get “re-blessed” within a few seconds, whereupon he begin his shaking-shouting-dancing routine all over again—for twenty-four minutes.

My first thought was, “wow, this would never happen where I’m from. This man is calling attention to himself, and I’d have to set him straight about propriety in worship.” But then I begin to notice that this simple believer was lost in the wonder of worship. He wasn’t calling attention to himself; he was expressing unfettered praise to God in a way that I had never, ever come close to experiencing. So was everyone else in the place that day.

And then I was a bit jealous!

Wouldn’t it be great to be that in love with Jesus and that overwhelmed by his saving grace and that grateful for the most dramatic search and rescue that ever took place when he saved you from utter darkness and eternal damnation that you just lost yourself for a season in unfettered worship? Of course there are cultural differences that will shape our expressions of worship—I get that—but wouldn’t you agree that we need to loosen up a bit in how we express our love and gratitude to God in worship from time to time?

Certainly the psalmist thinks so.

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”
~C. S. Lewis

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