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Who We Worship (Isaiah 40)

Isaiah 40 gives an awesome picture of Who God is – attributes that I don’t think we focus on enough in worship.

The first 11 verses are referred to often, because they include prophecies foretelling John the Baptist (v3) and the coming of Jesus (v5, 9-10). These verses characterize God in ways we appreciate: comfort (v1), speaking tenderly (v2), His enduring Word (v8), a powerful ruler with rewards for those who follow Him (v10), and a gentle, caring shepherd (v11).

However, the middle verses of this chapter point out other attributes of God that we would be wise to remember, meditate on, and worship Him for. Many of these verses remind me of how God answered Job (in the book of Job) when he was bold enough to question God for allowing him to suffer.

In Isaiah 40:12-14 and 25-26, God presents several rhetorical questions, making the point that only God has the power and breadth of knowledge to create and control the universe. God then contrasts His greatness and eternal nature with mankind. No matter how great any given nation may become, it is still quite temporary and insignificant compared to God (v15, 17). How much smaller, then, are individuals compared to the greatness of God (v22-24). Clearly, no one compares to God (v25). When we consider the greatness of God, and our insignificance in comparison, it can understandably lead us to wonder if God even cares about us, collectively or individually (27).

The end of the chapter (v28-31) not only gives hope, but I think it shows why it’s important to keep in mind how much greater God is than we are. It is because of God’s greatness, because He is everlasting and does not grow tired, that when we struggle, when we grow tired, when we humble ourselves and look to God for help, we can be confident He willing and more than capable to help us. This is the God we worship!


Confession in Worship

One aspect of worship that is often overlooked in many contemporary churches, especially churches that are not tied to any historical, or denominational, church, is confession. The Bible encourages confession of sin, both privately and corporately. The most common examples of confessions are instances in which someone is confessing their own sins or the sins of a group, or even of an entire nation. But there are also examples of corporate confession of sin, including Nehemiah 9:1-3 and a call to corporate confession in James 5:13-16.

I’m not sure why some churches don’t include confession in worship. Are they worried that people may become offended and attendance will decline? Do they think it’s not important, and in the desire to keep the worship service from being ‘too long’ they leave it out? Having a time of confession necessarily requires talking about sin, and that in itself can be a very sensitive subject, so maybe it’s just safer to not talk about it.

I think a common misconception that creates the sensitivity around this topic is that, if we confess sin, we’re admitting that we’re “bad” people. When we come to church, we don’t want to be told we’re bad. In fact, just by coming to church, doesn’t that show that I’m a good person? The problem is, we tend to think of sin as only real bad things: murder, theft and the like. But anything that falls short of God’s perfect law is sin. Moreover, every person is born with a sinful nature, and no one is able to lead a sinless life (Psalm 53:3, Romans 3:23). I love what Joel Hunter wrote in his devotional book Inner State 80: “We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.”

The best thing about corporate confession in worship is that, after taking time to be honest with God about our sin, we can be encouraged by the reminder that God forgives us, and even receive forgiveness from God right then and there.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for corporate worship to confess. Confession is a vital part of personal prayer and worship. Not only confessing our own sins, but the sins of our family, of the church-wide body of Christ, or of the nation. God encourages us to do this, and He has given us examples of confessional prayers in the Bible, that with a very little effort can be adapted and used today to cover these areas of confession. Some include Ezra 9:6-15, Nehemiah 1:5-11, and Daniel 9:4-19.

Confession in worship helps remind us that none of us is perfect, that we need God’s forgiveness, and that we are not alone – everyone else needs forgiveness too. By participating in corporate confession in worship, it can help us to be more open to private confession in our personal time with God. Perhaps, God is waiting to intervene in troubling situations – in our personal lives and even in our nation – until we get honest and serious about confession, and turn away from the things we confess (2 Chronicles 7:14).

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