Here is a Bible study that we wrote for the worship academy during lockdown:
Psalm 96:9 says “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”.
Holiness is being set apart for God – it’s about a pure heart. Our holiness will reflect the image of God – He is holy, and separate from sin. Holiness is the opposite of sin.
So how do we worship in holiness? To look at this in more detail, the Lord led myself and Rachel to the story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Kings 23. I would like to encourage you to read these two chapters before continuing.
King Josiah was a young king of Judah (when the kingdom was split into two halves), who “was right in the eyes of the Lord” (22:2). However the people of Judah had not been following the ways of the Lord, nor had his father Amon or grandfather Manasseh, who were kings of Judah before him. They had erected altars to idols, set up idols that they had made, and burned incense to other gods.
He decided to renovate the temple, and in the process found the Book of the Law. Upon having the whole book of the Law read to him, he realised that Judah been sinning for generations. So he tore his clothes, responding the reality that Judah would suffer the judgment and anger of God for their sin.
After seeking the Lord, he received a prophetic word, that the Lord’s judgement would be delayed, “because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence” (22:19).
The Lord saw his humble and broken heart, that he had responded to the Lord’s word. The Lord is passionate about your heart above all things. David wrote in Psalm 51:17, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise”. God saw that he had repented – not only for his sin, but as the representative of the people of Judah, he’d repented of the sin of the people of Judah. And so he was spared from the consequence of their sin.
After that, King Josiah led the people in a renewal of the covenant with the Lord, an agreement to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and to keep all the words written in the Book of the Law. All the people likewise pledged themselves to the covenant, and from that point onwards the people of Judah purified themselves, by removing all those things of the idols around them, and the practices associated with them. Notice how thorough Josiah was – he went through the entire land of Judah, and even ground things to dust, so intent was he on honouring the Lord and cleansing Judah from their previous sinful ways.
When the Lord speaks, when we hear His word, what He is looking for is hearts that want to honour Him and turn toward him, and away from our sin, with all our hearts, soul and strength. Holiness comes in our broken and contrite response to Him, and acts of repentance that lead us to thoroughly get rid of, destroy and grind to dust those things that are getting between us and the Lord. God honours this kind of repentant response – look at how Josiah was spared by God’s grace and mercy from the consequence of Judah’s sin.
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” (2 Kings 23:25 )
Isn’t this worship? To turn to the Lord with all our heart and soul and strength, in accordance with His Word? When we worship our Saviour with a heart that seeks to turn continually to Him, there’s a beauty and a power in the holiness of our worship. It’s not an easy path, but it is one that honours and glorifies God greatly, and that is the kind of heart that He seeks from us. I can’t admit to being there yet, but I pray that my heart is a broken and contrite heart, and one that is eager to turn towards Him fully.