What Is the Source of the Worship Impulse in the Human Heart?
Psalm 16:11 NKJV
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
The Way of Pleasure and Pain
Originally the Path of Life did not feature pain; there was only pleasure. You and I weren’t really there but our ancestors, Adam and Eve were. Genesis chapter three tells the story. The Path of Life God showed them was a Garden of peace, of delight, of pleasure, and of constant, thrilling discovery. In the cool of the day, they walked with God, enjoying the fellowship for which they were created. In this forest of fun, only one tree was forbidden to them. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil bore the only forbidden fruit to be found in this paradise of pleasure.
In the shivering shadows of Eden a snake with legs slithered and slid around. Having no knowledge of evil, Eve conversed with the snake, believed him, and tasted the one fruit denied her. As her mouth flooded with delight, she shared with her husband and the knowledge of good and evil, of pleasure and pain, entered the collective mind of mankind. A wall of separation descended between this first couple and their Maker. The cool of that day found God and His creation separated from each other, Adam and Eve cowering in fear as God called for them.
Some innocent animal, abiding in the serene safety of the Garden of Eden, met with sudden, simple death as for the first time blood was spilled on the earth. God took the skin of the animal to make coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve. The serpent lost his legs and the rest of us gained pain.
- We would have to earn a living now by the sweat of our collective brow;
- We would enter this world through pain and danger as each mother approached the gates of death to bring a new life into the world; and
- We lost Eden, our fellowship with God.
A mighty angel with a flaming sword drove them from paradise and posted guard at the gate, sealing them off from their intended environment.
But the memory of Eden remained.
As the first family grew, this hunger for the presence of God transferred from one generation to the next and along with it, strife over how to respond to God in worship. The first worship war produced one casualty and one killer.
The memory of Eden was so powerful, it drove people to all kinds of altars and approaches to the Maker they sought. Pleasure and pain were the result;
- their own pleasure was taken as a sign of God’s pleasure and
- their pain was seen as a sign of God’s displeasure.
I see this search for Eden as the deep worship impulse in the heart of man; we long to return to a walk with God.
David’s words in Psalm 16 ring with such hope—the Lord is calling for us! There is a Path of Life He wants to make known to us. Foreshadowed in the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and King David, the Path of Life is completed and revealed to us in the Jesus Covenant, the New Covenant, the final covenant of God with man.
- Jesus, his heel bruised by the serpent at the cross, crushed the serpent’s head at the empty tomb.
- The barrier that fell in one ancient garden, was lifted in another.
- Through Jesus we have been reconciled with God. His blood cleanses us from the penalty and power of sin.
- His Spirit seals us and fills us with power and knowledge of Good and Evil, the spiritual things we long for and their counterfeit in the world.
He shows us the Path of life and we renew our walk with him, interrupted in floral Eden and resumed in the predawn darkness of a cemetery.
As we walk the path, each step we take restores the green of Eden. Our walk with God blesses the earth. The lamp for our feet and the light for our path dislodges the grip of darkness, flooding our way with His light. We find others on the path and together, with brothers and sisters and the Lord Jesus at our side, we stride in the cool of each day, a pleasure walk indeed.
And still, there is pain. The ongoing harvest of a fallen system continues in our lives:
- Some prayers are not answered and some requests are denied;
- We have flat tires and find faithless people;
- We experience broken washing machines and broken promises;
- There are injuries done to us and those we do to others, and
- We endure annoying allergies and dangerous diseases.
Though we are restored, we still live in a fallen universe. Pain persists.
How did King David leave this out of his prayer in Psalm 16? Don’t worry, you’ll find it in the rest of the Psalms in abundance.
The pleasure helps us deal with the pain. Jesus promised us a joy that would help us forget the pain, just as the joy of birth of a healthy child eases the memory of the pain of delivery for the mother.
Jesus said to them,
John 16:19-24 NIV
Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
Add it All Up
The Psalmist knew about pain, yet he rejoiced over the pleasure of the Lord’s nearness. When the final tally is in, on the Path of Life, pleasure outweighs, outlasts, and outdoes pain.
When we come to our altar of private worship, when we gather with the people of God for public worship, we are all seeking the cool of the day when we may walk once again with our Maker. Memories of Eden propel us and testimonies of Zion, where the Lord Jesus dwells and rules, are our reward.