Doug Wilson shares some valuable insights about worship as warfare. He relates it to the Maori ritual “Haka,” a ceremony which involves taunting the enemy before battle.
Wilson prophetically points out that we are quick to enjoy the benefits of worship without realizing that we are simultaneously called to war. “You enjoy the blood rush, and no blood shed.” I am reminded of the fact that when Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness, his primary objective was to redirect the worship of God to himself. The enemy has a job description, and task #1 is to rob God of the worship He so deserves. He does it in so many ways, and we (especially those of us who are worship leaders) need to be vigilant in prayer and exhortation, reminding ourselves, our fellow musicians, liturgists, and worship leaders, and the whole flock, that the enemy is on the prowl.
I can’t tell you how many times, just before a Sunday, I will experience “odd problems”–a fight with my spouse, something weird going on with one of my kids, a friend in trouble, etc. The musicians and other pastors I work with often experience the same thing. Our flock in Colorado is lured away to the mountains for hiking and camping in the summer, and skiing in the winter. Sometimes these excursions are even spoken of as a different way of worshiping God, but the fact is that they are absent from the gathering of the local expression of the body of Christ. Families have often noted to me how hard it is to get out the door on Sunday mornings. “Coincidentally,” a series of little incidences stack up to a wall that is hard to maneuver around–something spills here, someone tantrums there, a forgotten item. Young couples or singles end up working late or partying late and find themselves exhausted, and they “just need a rest.” It’s true that they need a rest, but it’s also true that the enemy rubs his hands together in victory…one less voice to taunt him on Sunday.
Worship as warfare is not a new concept to me, but worship as taunting the enemy is. Over the next several weeks and months, I will experiment and employ this notion into the way I gear up my heart and lead the people each Sunday morning.
To the enemy:
I am a weak, feeble soul. I acknowledge full well that you are more powerful than I. But that does not concern me, because I serve the Most High God, who is obviously infinitely more powerful than you. Each Sunday, I will choose to fall behind my General, Jesus Christ, in fighting against you. I will encourage the people to taunt you by giving themselves in increasing measure to the mighty duty and blessed joy of worshiping God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Christ stands victoriously over you, with His mighty foot pressed hard on your scrawny neck, and I await with eager expectation the day when He will deal the final death-blow and rid us of your atrocious work.
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
Your days are numbered.
Do not think of your flock leaving in the different seasons of the Colorado Beauty. I’m a very active outdoors men, and I’ve found that when I reach the top of a mountain, or I over come and obstacle, or even wake up to some of the most beatiful sites of god creatation, I always look back to know that he was there with me. I’m a scout and the last point of our law is to be Reverent. Wherever we go, in any season, any activity(even a 90 mile backpacking trip) we’ve ALWAYS followed the father and add that extra 5 pounds of Bible and prayers and sermons to our packs. Think as it as and extra etension of arms wide open.
Thanks for your good words. I have no doubt that people experience God and are able to worship God in nature. I myself have had many such experiences, especially on the top of 14ers!
I would like to challenge you, though, to realize that there is a difference between personal, individual worship of God and the sacred, unique time when God’s people gather. Hebrews 10:25 convinces me that one is not a substitute for the other: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching." In Greek, this phrase "meeting together" is from the same word used for "church"–the "assembly." "Give up" is actually stronger in Greek than in English. It is the same word Christ used on the cross, when He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I believe God is making a profound statement about the sacredness of God’s people gathered. I’m convinced it is unique and cannot be replicated and substituted in individual ways.
I remember in college once I chose to stay home Sunday morning, sing along to a praise album and listen to a recorded sermon. It was a moving time, for sure. Still, Hebrews 10 and other passages of Scripture convince me that the gathering of the people of God is something much more profound. Personally, I needed to repent of some idolatry that had crept into my heart from culture. Culture shaped my heart to believe the lie that my faith only involved me and God. I gave into the individualistic notion that all that mattered was my personal relationship with Him. I had forgotten that God, when He called me from death to life, called me to be part of a community. I was baptized into a community, and I received the preaching of the Word and the sacraments in community. As a Christian, I was de facto a part of the Church.
This is my conviction. I can bet that the majority of those among us who don’t end up joining us on Sunday mornings don’t do so out of a drive to worship nature. I can even believe that their intention and heart is to glorify God and marvel at His unsurpassed creativity and goodness. This is not the issue. The issue we all need to wrestle with is whether or not the gathering of God’s people for worship is replace-able by individual experiences with God in other places or situations.
You may not land where I land, but I’d challenge you to probe deeper into Scripture to see if there’s something there you might be missing.
Grace and peace,
Great observations, Zac! It has always struck me as significant that the Levite clan which was originally tasked with doing the heavy lifting of moving the Tabernacle furnishings, the Ark and other symbols of God’s special presence, was the clan which under the Davidic reforms was tasked with lifting up the Name of the Lord in musical praise in the Temple.
You might enjoy some other reflections on worship as warfare here: http://mother-lode.blogspot.com/2005/10/worship-and-conquest.html