The Problem of Praiseless Praise and Joyless Joy!
Most Christians are used to passion in their gathered church meetings. It would be strange, in a perfectly logical sense, to encounter strict formality, dull routine and lacklustre praise (how can you praise someone blandly, with praiseless praise, joyless joy?)
The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to praise God with joy filled hearts and even with shouts of joy!
The Sound Psalmists
David says, ‘I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart’ (Ps 9:1) and the sons of Korah cry repeatedly, ‘Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.’ (Ps 47:6)
You have to admit, you don’t need to go far in the Book of Psalms to realise these guys are exhorting the gathered community of God’s people to exuberant expressions of joy!
Again, Psalm 66:17 says ‘I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.’ And there’s even a Biblical exhortation to clap our hands and shout – during a time of worship!! (see Psalm 47:1)
Anyhow, for the great Evangelistic preachers of the 18th Century, the noise didn’t usually come from meetings of believers.
Noise, sometimes overriding everything else, came from the mobs and crowds that were hired to disrupt their meetings, and who blew trumpets, banged on drums and threw copious amounts of dirt and stones.
The meetings were also disturbed by the loud cries and shrieks of those who were suddenly aware of their desperate need of God’s forgiveness, or who were being delivered from some form of bondage.
Non-Christians behaving, Christians raving!
However, when Wesley visited Gwennap in Cornwall (England) in 1747 he was surprised by a welcome reversal.
A very large crowd gathered to listen attentively to his preaching. Wesley writes, ‘About half an hour after five I began at Gwennap. I was afraid my voice would not suffice for such an immense multitude.
‘But my fear was groundless; as the evening was quite calm, and the people all attention.
‘It was more difficult to be heard in meeting the society, amidst the cries of those, on the one hand, who were pierced through as with a sword, and of those, on the other, who were filled with joy unspeakable.’
(from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 2, p.62, Baker Edition)
May God give us such ‘revival’ scenes once more, with multitudes gathering to hear the good news of the grace of God in Christ, and church meetings filled with foretastes of heavenly glory.
More next time…
© 2010 Lex Loizides