Isaiah tells the story of a national crisis. Weak leaders have sold the country out. Enemies have invaded the land. The capital and its beloved Temple are reduced to a sand pile. The best citizens are taken hostage while those left behind—somewhat tellingly called “the Remnant”— long for the day when they can make their country great again, forgetting its collapse was brought on by greed and xenophobia, all under a veneer of false piety.
After the equivalent of 18 American Presidential terms, the captives come home. The dream of a return to “normal”—complete with rebooted economy, a restoration of old systems of power and a revived sense of ethnic supremacy—doesn’t jibe with God’s thinking. “Again” isn’t on God’s mind. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old,” God says to Israel. “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Is. 43:18-19)
Why isn’t God so gung-ho about a “great again” plan? Restoring earlier glory doesn’t take much. Just some money and elbow grease. Yet God is abundantly clear this new thing has one purpose. God is doing something new for “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise” (v21).
God wants our praise. In fact, we are made for praise. And that means we are made to expect more from God and ourselves than reviving a fabled past that never really existed. I’m about to do a new thing, God says. Don’t you get it?
Both testaments make it abundantly clear that when we praise things get shaken up. In Joshua, we see the Israelites raise such raucous praise walls crumble. In Acts, Paul and Silas go into such a high praise their prison cell can’t hold them; they literally sing and shout the jail doors off their hinges! The God of new things desires praise and when we praise, God does every more revolutionary things.
But praise is hard because praise seems silly to us—all this telling God how wonderful God is, all this noise and singing and clapping and shouting “Hallelujah!” (which, by the way, literally means to praise God exuberantly). In other words, praise is uncomfortable. And for that reason, a lot of us would rather dream of the past than step outside our comfort zones to see what kind of new ideas God’s got in mind. We’ve lost the praise that pushes us into a new reality.
“I’m up to something new—something only I can do—something that will inspire and command high praise. DON’T YOU GET IT?”
We are made for praise. God is always giving us new reasons for praise. When we live in a state of praise, we see beyond stale ideas and golden oldie days. Not “again.” Never “again.” Always new. Can we step out of our tightly drawn comfort zones to give God the praise God deserves? It depends on how well we believe God when God says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
Don’t miss this Sunday’s YouTube worship experience, “Praise & Protest” that links praise with demanding more than a weak-spirited “great again” philosophy of life. This will be an uplifting time together. You can access the service at 5pm CDT (on October 25) via our YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCldChQ-w8vS1vkbSDyyxLOQ. See you then!
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.