Jesus once told a Samaritan woman that God is looking for worshippers who will worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Worship, in other words, should be offered enthusiastically (“spirit”) and according to how God has revealed himself (“truth”).
It might sound strange to say that God must be worshipped in truth—that we must worship him as he has revealed himself to be. Unfortunately, this is a necessary exhortation, for, far too often, we worship a god of our own imagining. Idolatry presents itself in a few different ways. On the one hand, there is open, blatant idolatry: falling down to worship statues. More often, we tend to emphasise the idolatry of money or possessions (see Colossians 3:6), or possibly even the idolatry of persons. A more subtle form of idolatry, however, is a superficial view of the God of the Bible. This is the idolatry that John had in mind when he wrote 1 John. He was concerned that his readers were embracing a superficial view of Jesus Christ, while still claiming the name Christian, and he labelled that as idolatry (5:21).
One of the features of the psalms in the final hallel (Psalms 146–150) is that they call us to praise and worship by presenting us with truth about God. We see this in Psalm 148.
Psalm 148 is divided into two broad sections. The first half (vv. 1–6) calls the heavens to praise God, while the second half (vv. 7–14) calls the earth to praise God. In each instance, the call is made to praise God and then a reason is given that praise is appropriate (see vv. 5–6 and vv. 13–14). These reasons present important truth about God that warrant worship.
The heavens are called to worship God because “he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away” (vv. 5–6). This calls to attention truth about God’s creative power. Within Christianity, there is all sorts of debate about the correct interpretation of the creation account. Is the earth young (6,000–10,000 years) or is it millions of years old? Is the Genesis record historical narrative, which assumes that God created in six 24-hour days, or is there space in the genre of the literature for some form of evolutionary theory? These are interesting and worthwhile discussions, but they must not miss the overriding point of the creation narrative: that Godcreated the heavens and the earth and everything in them. The Genesis record counters other creation myths by assigning creative power to the God of the Bible. This is basic truth about God.
The earth is called to praise God because “his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him” (vv. 13–14). If vv. 5–6 highlight divine creatorship, vv. 13–14 emphasise divine kingship. The God who created the heaven and the earth is himself exalted above them. He cannot be touched by the forces of creation because he is the King who stands above his creation. This divine royalty, of course, sets Yahweh apart from other so-called gods. He alone is worthy of praise. Other gods—indeed, all of creation—must bow to him.
The point the psalmist drives home is that, as we praise God, we must praise him as he is. We do not get to fashion a god in our image and offer praise to it. Instead, we must consider the true God as he has revealed himself to be and praise him appropriately.
In what ways are you tempted to fashion God in your own image? In what ways are you tempted to ignore the biblical revelation of who he is and instead worship a god of your own imagination? Allow Psalm 148 to bring you to repentance as you recognise the need to worship God as he is, not as you would like him to be. Worship him in truth.