Back to Basics: 4 Fundamentals of Worship

back to basics: 4 fundamentals of worship

aaron lee     |     october 2, 2019     |    3 MIN READ

Is it possible to be too comfortable with God? Is it possible for zookeepers to be too comfortable around the lions? Sometimes I find myself being too nonchalant and too careless with how I treat God’s presence in my life. Let’s look at Isaiah 6 to help us see with fresh eyes what it means to have a healthy fear of the Lord.

The Biblical Reality

First, let’s look at the context around Isaiah 6. King Uzziah was a good king, and Judah prospered during his 52-year reign. But even a fine king has his faults. As a result of disrespecting God’s holiness in the temple, Uzziah had contracted leprosy. And when King Uzziah died, all hope seemed for the kingdom because it had lost its leader. Then, Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3)

Isaiah is suddenly face to face with God’s holiness, and we see his fourfold response to his encounter with the Lord.

1. Humility

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:4–5)

Isaiah’s first response is of utter humility. Compared to God, he knows he is unclean. Not only does he see his own sin, but he sees the sins of his people. At just the very sight of God, he is filled with great sorrow and fear because he knows he is “lost.” There is no way he can stand before the Lord of Hosts.

The prophet’s response is indicative of how we should see ourselves. Isaiah can’t help but compare himself to God. And no matter the angle, we always fall short of God’s glory.

2. Holiness

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6–7)

Isaiah’s response of humility is not unfounded, as the seraph acknowledges Isaiah’s confession. But grace is extended to Isaiah in the form of burning coal so that he can be in God’s presence. This symbolic and sanctifying gesture enables the prophet to stay and see God.

Notice that Isaiah does not try to claim or achieve his own holiness. Something or someone must help him. There is also a cost to holiness, as the hot coal most likely burned Isaiah’s lips. But now, Isaiah can stand in God’s presence, and he can serve him as well by using the lips that have just been purified to prophesy for the Lord.

3. Happiness

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Perhaps happiness seems like a perky word. But I believe Isaiah was honestly happy in the sense that he was willing to do whatever God asked for and that he was satisfied in who he saw God to truly be.

God asks for a servant, and Isaiah is urged to respond in happiness and willingness. When Isaiah exclaims, “Here I am!” they are not reluctant words. There is no hesitation. He is ready to go and joyful to work for the Lord.

Isaiah’s commission is from the King. Therefore his charge is not taken halfheartedly. It is not done out of jealousy, envy, rivalry, or deceit. His pure-hearted motivation stems from what he has seen. He has seen a sovereign God in control of all things. And in his joy, he is empowered to give everything he has for the work of the Lord.

4. Hope

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’

Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;

lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,

and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,

whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:9–13)

God gives Isaiah a daunting task: He is to preach to people who will not receive him. God is asking Isaiah to walk into disaster, especially with this message of death and destruction. The Bible does not record Isaiah’s emotional response to this command. But it does record Isaiah doing what God tells him to do.

Yet there is still hope for Isaiah and the people of God in the message. Despite the hardships that they will go through, there will be a “holy seed” that remains. For us on this side of the New Testament, we understand what God is saying. When God says that there will be a remnant, he is saying that he will not totally abandon his people and that some will be saved.

And when God says there will be a holy seed as the stump, he is pointing to a new root that will take hold not only for Israel but for all the nations. And to be a remaining believer is to give glory to God’s sovereign grace.

The Right Response

Whether we worship in our Sunday services or in our times of personal meditation, we must respond to who God is in light of who we are. We come with great humility before an awesome, holy God. We respond to his grace and mercy with happiness and a willingness to serve, all while looking to the hope of being in future glory with Him.

There is hope in Jesus when all seems lost. He is the final remnant who is completely faithful. There is hope in Jesus when we feel alone and abandoned. He is the spotless King who lives forever and ever. This is the right way to respond to God in worship: Praise and serve him in humility, holiness, happiness, and with hope.

Aaron Lee serves as the Social Media Officer of First Chinese Baptist Church of Walnut and is the assistant digital marketer at the SOLA Network. He is a Sunday School teacher and music leader. He works as a Registered Nurse Clinical Analyst. He and his wife, Jess, have one son, Linus, who is adopted. They live in California’s San Gabriel Valley, home to the largest concentration of Asian American communities in the United States. Aaron’s music, videos, podcasts, and articles about worship and art are on his website.