Day 195

How to Worship God

Wisdom Psalm 84:8-12
New Testament Romans 1:18-32
Old Testament 2 Kings 24:8-25:30


In his book, The Vision and The Vow, Pete Greig tells of how a distinguished art critic was studying an exquisite painting by the Italian Renaissance master Filippino Lippi. He stood in London’s National Gallery gazing at the fifteenth-century depiction of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her lap, with saints Dominic and Jerome kneeling nearby. But the painting troubled him. There could be no doubting Lippi’s skill, his use of colour or composition. But the proportions of the picture seemed slightly wrong. The hills in the background seemed exaggerated, as if they might topple out of the frame at any minute onto the gallery’s polished floor. The two kneeling saints looked awkward and uncomfortable.

Art critic Robert Cumming was not the first to criticise Lippi’s work for its poor perspective, but he may well be the last to do so, because at that moment he had a revelation. It suddenly occurred to him that the problem might be his. The painting had never been intended to come anywhere near a gallery. Lippi’s painting had been commissioned to hang in a place of prayer.

The dignified critic dropped to his knees in the public gallery before the painting. He suddenly saw what generations of art critics had missed. From his new vantage point, Robert Cumming found himself gazing up at a perfectly proportioned piece. The foreground had moved naturally to the background, while the saints seemed settled – their awkwardness, like the painting itself, having turned to grace. Mary now looked intently and kindly directly at him as he knelt at her feet between saints Dominic and Jerome.

It was not the perspective of the painting that had been wrong all these years, it was the perspective of the people looking at it. Robert Cumming, on bended knee, found a beauty that Robert Cumming the proud art critic could not. The painting only came alive to those on their knees in prayer. The right perspective is the position of worship.


Psalm 84:8-12

8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
   listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
   look with favour on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
   than a thousand elsewhere;
  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
   the Lord bestows favour and honour;
  no good thing does he withhold
   from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
   blessed is the one who trusts in you.


Discover the blessings of worship

There is nothing in this world that compares to worshipping God, walking in a close relationship with him and enjoying his favour. This is what the psalmist prays: ‘Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty... look with favour on your anointed one’ (vv.8–9).

This psalm is all about the blessings of worshipping God in his dwelling place (during this period, it was the Jerusalem temple). Those who dwell in God’s house are blessed and they ‘are ever praising you’ (v.4).

The psalmist says he would rather spend one day in the presence of God than a thousand elsewhere: ‘One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches. I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honoured as a guest in the palace of sin’ (v.10, MSG).

To worship God is to experience him as ‘sunshine’ (v.11, MSG), bathing us in his light and warmth, and a ‘shield’, defending us from evil (v.11).

He prays for this because he knows how wonderful it is: ‘The Lord bestows favour and honour; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord Almighty, blessed are those who trust in you’ (vv.11–12).


Lord, I worship you today. One day in your presence is better than a thousand elsewhere. Help me to keep trusting in you and worshipping you.

New Testament

Romans 1:18-32

God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.


Worship only God

You become like what you worship. If we worship worthless idols, our lives become worthless. If we worship God, eventually we will become like him.

The apostle Paul begins, in this passage, to unfold what has gone wrong in the world. The heart of the problem is that humankind has ‘worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator’ (v.25).

God has specifically revealed himself in the Scriptures and ultimately in Jesus Christ, who is his ‘exact representation’ (Hebrews 1:3). But what about those who had never heard the good news? Paul’s argument here is that we are all ‘without excuse’ (Romans 1:20).

God has revealed himself in his creation: ‘But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse’ (vv.19–20, MSG).

This knowledge of God is only partial and limited. But, as the psalmist puts it, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ (Psalm 19:1).

We only have to look at the created world to know that there must be a God. The problem with the world is that, in spite of this revelation of God, ‘they refused to worship him’ (Romans 1:21, MSG). ‘They neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him’ (v.21). Instead, they ‘worshipped and served created things’ (v.25).

Therefore, the apostle Paul writes, ‘God gave them over’ (vv.24, 26,28). God allowed us to go our own way in order that we might at last learn from the terrible consequences that follow. Life turned away from the worship of God is ultimately futile. As The Message puts it, it is ‘godless and loveless’ (v.27, MSG).

‘Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose’ (v.28, MSG).

As the worship of God declines, so the morality of a society declines, following in its wake. We should not be surprised that as the worship of God has declined in our nation, so many of the things described in this passage have followed in its wake.

If you want to keep the right perspective, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and keep worshipping and serving your creator.


Lord, I pray there may be a turning away in our society from the worship of created things and a restoration of worship of you, our Creator.

Old Testament

2 Kings 24:8-25:30

Jehoiachin King of Judah

8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. 9 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done.

10 At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, 11 and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him.

In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. 14 He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.

15 Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king’s mother, his wives, his officials and the prominent people of the land. 16 The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans. 17 He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Zedekiah King of Judah

18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. 19 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as Jehoiakim had done. 20 It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.

The Fall of Jerusalem

Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

25 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 2 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

3 By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. 4 Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, 5 but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, 6 and he was captured.

He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. 7 They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

8 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

13 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the Lord and they carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. 15 The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls—all that were made of pure gold or silver.

16 The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the Lord, was more than could be weighed. 17 Each pillar was eighteen cubits high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was three cubits high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar.

18 The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.

22 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be over the people he had left behind in Judah. 23 When all the army officers and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maakathite, and their men. 24 Gedaliah took an oath to reassure them and their men. “Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials,” he said. “Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.”

25 In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood, came with ten men and assassinated Gedaliah and also the men of Judah and the Babylonians who were with him at Mizpah. 26 At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.

Jehoiachin Released

27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. 28 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honour higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. 30 Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.


Pray for a restoration of worship

As we look around at our society it can sometimes seem as if we are in a kind of exile. It can seem that the church is breaking down.

In this passage, we see that the people of God have been through desperate times in the past. But, we also see hope for the future.

As the book of Kings closes, we read of the terrible consequences of a nation that has done exactly what the apostle Paul describes in our New Testament passage for today. They had turned away from worshipping God to worshipping idols (created things).

As a result, we see the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, and the people going into exile.

During the reign of Jehoiachin (597 BC), ‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it’ (24:10). The leaders of the people were carried off into exile (v.14).

The next king was appointed by the king of Babylon. Zedekiah (597–587 BC) was no better and things went from bad to worse, as Nebuchadnezzar once again laid siege to Jerusalem (chapter 25). This time the outcome was even more devastating. Nebuchadnezzar ‘set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down’ (25:9). The people were ‘carried into exile’ (v.11), ‘Judah went into exile, orphaned from her land’ (v.21, MSG).

We are told, ‘it was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence’ (24:20).

All of this needs to be read alongside the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel – two prophets who were prophesying at this time. (See especially, Jeremiah 13:18, Jeremiah 39 and 52, Ezekiel 12 and 24.) The greatest loss for the people of God was the destruction of the temple. This was the place where they worshipped God and experienced his presence. Now they were ‘thrust’ from his presence (2 Kings 24:20). This was the worst impact of the exile.

Yet, the book of Kings ends with a small ray of hope. In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, he is released from prison (25:27). He is invited to eat regularly at the king’s table (v.29). The exile is not going to last for ever. Here is a note of anticipation of better things to come. The people of God will return from exile and rebuild the temple and begin to enjoy the presence of God and the worship of God once more.


Lord, I cry out to you for restoration and revival. Would you restore your church in this country. Revive us again. May our nation turn back to you, begin to worship you again, enjoy your presence and, on our knees before you, see things from the right perspective.

Pippa adds

In Psalm 84:11b it says,

‘No good thing does \[the Lord\] withhold from those whose walk is blameless.’

I have been pondering this. It is a wonderful thing that ‘no good thing is withheld by the Lord’. But I've often wished that it said ‘for those who are not doing too badly’ because ‘blameless’ is rather a high standard. That’s why we need the cross because we can’t do it on our own.



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Pete Greig, The Vision and the Vow, (Kingsway Publications, 2005) pp.17–18.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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