Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Remember Liturgical Confession

How the Psalm begins:
“Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the LORD,
Or can show forth all His praise?
How blessed are those who keep justice,
Who practice righteousness at all times!
Remember me, O LORD, in Your favor toward Your people;
Visit me with Your salvation,
That I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,
That I may glory with Your inheritance” (Psalm 106:1-5).

How the Psalm ends:
“Save us, O LORD our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name
And glory in Your praise.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.
And let all the people say, ‘Amen.’
Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 106:47-48).

Everything in between is a liturgical confession of the sin of covenant people through the long ages of God’s dealing with them (106:6-46). Remembering that we, though His people, are sinful, is an important part of worship. They don’t just talk about their hardships, their sorrows, the difficulties they’re going through, or their brokenness. Sometimes modern worship gives the impression that God only exists to save us from our personal difficulties. There is even a subtle hint that our worldly suffering actually earns us some sort of special attention from God. Psalm 106 reminds us that the focus isn’t always to be on the God Who helps in hard times, but praise needs to be made to the God Who saves unworthy sinners in His mercy and grace (Luke 18:13-14). The worshipful appeal to God, in other words, is not based upon the people’s merit or worth. It is based on His goodness and lovingkindness. Its goal is thanksgiving and glory to God. This element of worship exalts the Gospel rather than the self.

Let all the people say, “Amen.”

“Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine,
And bathed in its own blood,
While all exposed to wrath divine,
The glorious Sufferer stood!

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
’Tis all that I can do” (Isaac Watts, 1709).

In 1885, Ralph Hudson added this refrain to Watts’ verses:
“At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!”

There are probably many more recent examples, but one that comes to mind is Robin Mark’s “Lord, Have Mercy” (2000):
“Jesus, I've forgotten the words that You have spoken;
Promises that burned within my heart have now grown dim.
With a doubting heart I follow the paths of earthly wisdom.
Forgive me for my unbelief,
Renew the fire again.

Lord, have mercy,
Christ, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy on me.

I have built an altar where I worship things of men;
I have taken journeys that have drawn me far from You.
Now I am returning to Your mercies ever flowing.
Pardon my transgressions,
Help me love You again.

I have longed to know You and Your tender mercies;
Like a river of forgiveness ever flowing without end.
I bow my heart before You in the goodness of Your presence,
Your grace forever shining,
Like a beacon in the night.”