We begin our worship with a solemn declaration. This declaration is made by the congregation. It is well that we constantly remind ourselves of the fact that divine worship is a meeting between God and his people. Every part of our church worship should be either a speaking of God to his children or a speaking of the congregation to God.
It is easily understood that it makes a great deal of difference just what idea one has of God. Even in ordinary life a great deal of difference in our attitude and choice of words depend upon what we think of the person to whom we speak. If we know whom we will meet and with whom we might speak we are quite likely to pay close attention to our appearance, to our dress. Of late we have read a great deal in certain church papers about the clothes we ought to wear when going to church. On the part of some there is a tendency to regard this as a matter of complete indifference. They say that the Lord does not look at the clothes we wear, but looks upon our heart. There can, of course, be no question about the relative importance of these two. Our God is a God who desires truth within. He is a God who condemns a mere formal worship. But we all know that the attitude of our heart does reflect itself in our outward appearance. It does make a real difference whether we just run in for a moment to chat with a neighbor or whether we are meeting an appointment with our doctor. In our divine worship we have an appointment to meet the God of heaven and earth. If we will only remember that we will pay attention even to our appearance!
A good question to ask is: what impression does the opening statement of divine worship make on us? Am I aware that I am speaking by way of the minister? Do I know what I am saying when I solemnly declare: “Our help is in the name of Jehovah. who made heaven and earth”?
Any one, who can truly say this has found the solution to life’s greatest problem. This declaration when made from the heart will cause us to taste the peace which passeth all understanding. Consider with me for a moment the biblical context in which this statement appears. Psalm 124 is a song of praise for rescue from enemies. The sweet singer of Israel declares: “If it had not been Jehovah who was on our side, let Israel no’w say, if it had not been Jehovah who was on our side, when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up alive. When their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our souls. Blessed be Jehovah, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out or the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of Jehovah, who made heaven and earth.”
How amiable are thy tabernacles, o Jehovah of hosts! Thus we remind ourselves of the grace and the faithfulness of our God. We think thoughts of peace concerning the redeemed congregation, elect from before the foundation of the world. Our votum speaks of the only true God, who in loving kindness has been mindful of us. This declaration at the beginning of our worship speaks of the way in which we sinners, have become the congregation of the Lord.
It is not to our honor that these things are not always uppermost in our minds. There is not a sufficient consciousness of the fact that by nature we are children of wrath, that we were in the power of the prince of darkness, that we were utterly helpless to set ourselves at liberty. When we say, and say it truthfully that our help is in the name of Jehovah, we speak of our salvation, which in all its parts is a work of the triune God. God is our help, not because we have chosen him; but because he has chosen us. He came to our rescue; and it is he who keeps us from moment to moment in the way of life.
The glory of this fact escapes us so often because we realize so little how sadly we are in need of this help of God. We do not understand the deadly power and purpose of our enemies, the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. We know that the Bible tells us that Satan goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; but how easily we forget that we are in danger every moment of the day. Altogether too much do we rely on our own goodness, our own wisdom. Often it is only in the moments of material need and physical dangers that we think of God and the help he is able to give us.
Jehovah, the God, who has made the heavens and the earth, who has but to speak and it is done. he is our help! In making this declaration, we do not only think of the fact that he has been on our side in the past; but that he is a shield round about us now and forever. How wonderful to know this! Life with its burdens, its problems need not bring anxiety and corroding care. I am reminded of the beautiful answer in our Heidelberg Catechism to its very first question, “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair will fall from my head; yet, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by his Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life. and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.”