Psalm 65: How Happy Are You to Go to Church?

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Psalm 65

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
    O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
    and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
    being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
    the roaring of their waves,
    the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it;
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

Two or Three Sisters | Tomball, TX | February 2023

As a kid I thought, “I don’t want to be a pastor because you have to go to church every Sunday, and you have to stand up there and yell at people.” Somehow, though, it must have been in the cards. I once set up a makeshift pulpit and preached to my sister in our living room. I don’t think I yelled, but I did mimic a quasi administration of the Lord’s Supper. Alas, what I thought on all counts, was wrong. I consider it a joy to go to church. I try never to yell – though sometimes the issue is so important that it does call for an emphatic vocal emphasis (is that yelling?!?).

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple! – v. 4

That seems to capture the idea very well: we are blessed when God brings us into his household of faith. Once there we delight in worshiping God. As we worship God we are truly dwelling in his courts and experiencing a holiness of his dwelling place.

David speaks of “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever” in Psalm 23. That is a delight to him. In Psalm 122 he says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” This Psalm is not attributed to David, but certainly echoes his attitude toward being in God’s house. Jesus himself spoke about it too: “Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). 

We know that God is omnipresent. We cannot hide from him. He is with us always. But he is with us in a very special way when we gather with others in Jesus’ name. Those gatherings in Jesus’ name transform a place into holy space. The presence of Jesus is what being in church is all about. The temple (and before that the Tabernacle) was the place of God’s holy presence. So whether we gather with others in a space and place dedicated specifically to the worship and presence of God, or in a home, or park, or at a hospital bedside, there God is. There joy is. There is the dwelling place of God: with those who mark themselves with Jesus’ name and gather with others in his name.

That means worship is not truly just a between-me-and-God thing. Worship is corporate. Gathering in the house of God is not about the building, it’s about the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). We are also the spiritual building of living stones, being “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). We are not to be alone. We were designed for community. Yes! It is a blessing to be brought near to God because we are also being brought together.

It seems to me, also, that there is no yelling here. In fact James reminds us that “the anger of man does not produce the righteous things God desires” (James 1:20). I’ve experienced this on both sides. Once I was lectured by a colleague – a kind of emphatic vocal emphasis that did little to bring me closer to God. Another time I spent an entire sermon in emphatic vocal emphasis mode only to see short-term gains without long-term change.

On the other hand, one of the best sermons I’ve every heard was delivered by a very quiet and non-dynamic pastor. There was no emphatic vocal emphasis in his delivery. But there was power. He preached on Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious and honored in my sight and I love you,” God says. That’s where I want to be. That’s how I want to preach. That is the place of God’s presence, and it’s a great blessing to be there.

  1. Barbara Rogers said:

    The best sermons have no yelling!!

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