Sunday, April 22, 2018

Why We Raise Our Hands in Divine Praise

  Why do we raise our hands in worship (or even better, isn't it okay for me to just sit stoically and intellectually absorb the worship service?  Do I have to "get down" like a Baptist?  Oh puh-lease.....

I was stunned by a recent experience at a Chris Tomlin concert, in which Rev Darren Whitehead presented a very clear biblically-based explanation for why we praise the way we do.  Whitehead comes from a non-demonstrative tradition but was persuaded that that is not the best way to worship.  

My mistake is in thinking that worshipers are trying to cast a spell of sorts.  I figured, that by raising their hands, they think God is going to be specially impressed and give special blessings to the good little worshipers who do this.  "Bad" worshiper who just sit there are not going to get as much of a blessing.

Well, that's not it at all.  Whitehead goes back into the scriptures to learn how the ancient Israelites worshiped.  Psalm   Not that you should do everything that ancient Israelites did, but let's start there.   The Psalms tell us several times, that worship is to be musical. 

Psalm 98.5:    "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, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King."

It doesn't say to sit there stoically and intellectualize.  

Psalm 145:  
"Praise God with drum and dance!  Praise God with strings and pipe!  Praise God with loud cymbals! Praise God with clashing cymbals!  Let every living thing praise the Lord!"

More to the point, there are another bazillion passages that clearly indicate that the Israelites worships by raising their arms:

Psalm 134.2:  "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord."  
Psalm 63:4
"So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name."
Psalm 119:48
"And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love."
Psalm 28:2
"Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You for help, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary."
Psalm 141:2
"May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering."

You see, it's not just the Baptists.  The ancients had been doing this for thousands of years.  It's not about appeasing some whim of God's.  But it is about making a decision to follow in a tradition of worship that is thousands of years old.  And, if you are at a concert like I was, it's the time to remind your self, as well as your spouse and children that you have chosen to follow in the footsteps of this religious community.  For me it was an affirmation that this was not only the path of the ancients, but also my path, and that I am a member of the community represented in the concert arena.  
All this comes straight from Darren's message.  When it sunk into my thick skull, I looked around, a little tearfully.  And I raised both of my arms and sang as loud as I could.  


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