The Secret of Service
With this study, Mr. Jerry Clark of McMinnville, Tenn., concludes his series on Psalms 120-134. 1 am sure our readers join the editor in expressing sincere appreciation to Mr. Clark for his practical and edifying written ministry.
A song of the goings-up:
1. Behold, bless the LORD all you servants of the LORD,
who stand in the house of the LORD in the night.
2. Lift up your hands in the Holy Place, and bless the LORD.
3. The LORD shall bless you out of Zion,
The LORD who made the heavens and the earth!
The series of fifteen Psalms of Degrees culminates in a final brief but glorious burst of praise. We have traced various aspects of the life of the believer in these psalms: the security of the believer, God’s comfort in the midst of trials and tribulations, the importance of trusting the LORD in every situation and circumstance of life. It is significant that this final psalm of the series deals with service and praise, twin themes of vital importance in our daily walk. In explaining the connection between these two apparently diverse subjects, the psalmist reveals the secret of true and successful service.
1. Bless The Lord (134:1, 2)
The first two verses represent a call or exhortation to the servants of the LORD to bless the LORD. The reference is undoubtedly to those priests who ministered in the tabernacle or temple (Keil and Delitzsch point out that ‘amad — “stand” — is the customary word for the service of the priests and Levites: Deut. 10:8; 18:7; 1 Chr. 23:30; Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans), but there is an obvious application to all believers of the present era, for we constitute “an holy priesthood” to God (1 Pet. 2:5).
We see here, first of all, the goal of all true service. True service is that which serves the LORD and He is served when He is blessed or praised. Ideally, of course, this means that not only our lips but our lives as well sing forth His majesty, His righteousness, His love — that all others might hear of the greatness of our God.
It is a sobering but true thought that all that the world in general will know of our Lord is what they hear from our lips and see in our lives. Is our life, like Paul’s, a “constant pageant” of Christ’s victory, a paean of praise to the Lord of all, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? (v. 3; 2 Cor. 2:14, Moffatt).
There is also a revelation of the character of Christian service. We are often prone to equate work with service. It is true that service is “work,” but not all work is service. Service means to meet needs or desires as they exist and to place our will subservient to another’s in order to meet those needs or desires. For example, to wash someone’s feet is labor, but to wash the feet of an individual whose feet are already clean and who neither needs nor desires our help is certainly not service.
What type of actions constitute Christian service? James suggests (2:15, 16) that service means feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. John agrees with this idea (1 John 3:17). Both would agree, however, that if service means meeting genuine needs, then we must realize that the greatest need in the world is for a clear and simple proclamation of the true gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The gospel is not optional, something which simply adds “lift” to our life but which can be ommitted if desired. The gospel is what the world desperately needs — it is the only hope for man (Acts 4:12).
But in order for the gospel to be truly proclaimed there must be more than just the uttering of certain words. The “good news” must be seen. Just as it is seen in the life of Christ, it must be seen in Christ living His life through us (Gal. 2:20). This is why “Praising” God (vv. 1, 2) —not just words of praise but a life of praise — serves not only the Lord but the deepest need of mankind as well.
Equally important with the goal of service and the character of service is the attitude with which we serve. The secret of genuine service is not simply laboring for the Lord, but allowing the Lord to work through us. What we do for others must he genuine and must spring from a heart of love: love for God and love for others because God loves them. Paul’s motive of service was not simply to accumulate man-hours or punch a time-clock, but “the love of Christ” constrained or motivated him (2 Cor. 5:14).
The parable of the laborers in Matthew 20:1-16 is an illustration of the truth seen in the psalm. In answer to Peter’s question of 19:27, Christ explains that motive of service and the attitude with which we serve are more important than the amount of work accomplished. Many will lose their rewards not because they have not labored, but because they labored unwillingly or because they tainted their labors with complaints and murmurings.
The heart that loves Christ is a heart that is able to bless God, singing His praise to others, and a heart that cares for others enough to serve them. Can we attract others to our Lord if we give the impression that serving Him is a grievous burden (Mal. 1:13), that He is a “hard Master” of whom we are afraid (Matt. 25:24, 25)?
Truly, His “yoke is easy and His burden light” (Matt. 11:30). Let us knit our hearts to Him and “serve the Lord with gladness” (Psa. 100:2), blessing His Name during this “night” in which we are to shine forth as beacons (Phil. 2:15).
2. The Lord Bless You (134:3)
If we bless the Lord, the psalmist insists, the Lord will bless us. If we serve Him, not as though by constraint, but out of a heart overflowing with love for Him and gratitude for His daily and innumerable benefits, then our labor for Him will be blessed. If we serve the Lord with a perpetual sigh and frown, our work may be much but our accomplishments few. But if we serve simply and joyfully, souls will be won to Christ, lives will be changed and believers will be edified and strengthened.
Is this perhaps the “apex” of the pilgrim life described in these Psalms of Degrees: to serve the Lord joyfully — with a song of praise on our lips —through good times and bad all the days of our life? Let us praise God for all His goodness and mercy, for the abundant salvation which He has provided for us in Christ. And let us serve Him because we love Him.
“Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord!”