WORSHIP IN PSALM 150 AND ITS RELEVANCE TO CHRISTIANITY IN OYO TOWN
DR. J.A. OJO
DR. ROPO AWONIYI
DR. P.A. OGUNTOYE
DR. E.A. BAMIGBOYE
AN INTERDEPARTMENTAL COLLOQUIUM IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THEOLOGY
FACULTY OF THEOLOGICAL STUDIES
THE NIGERIAN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, OGBOMOSO
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COLLOQUIUM
CHRISTIAN WORSHIP IN THE AFRICAN WORLD (RED 712)
OLALEKAN OLUSEGUN BAMIDELE
PH.D 1 (OT/NT)
MATRIC NO: 13/0301
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. GENERAL OVERVIEW OF WORSHIP
III. OVERVIEW OF CHRISTIANITY IN OYO TOWN
IV. WORSHIP IN PSALM 150
V. RELEVANCE OF WORSHIP IN PSALM 150 TO CHRISTIANITY IN OYO TOWN
I. INTRODUCTION: Worship is a phenomenon which cuts across race, language, colour, and nationality. It is defined as human response to the perceived presence of the divine, a presence which transcends normal human activity and is holy (Tate 114).
God created man ultimately for the purpose of worshipping Him and this serves to establish worship as a universal priority and the number one responsibility of every believer (White 1).
This fact was visibly prominent in A. W Tozer’s statement, ‘we are here to be worshipers first and workers second’ (151).
As a universal phenomenon, worship is also practiced in Africa and by Christians. However, there has been clamouring over the years on the need to contextualise worship, and other elements of Christianity, into the culture of the recipients. In other words, Christianity should no longer be a religion of the missionaries, practiced the way of the missionaries; rather it should be acculturated into the life and ways of its recipients. The purpose of this paper therefore, is to define worship, identify the concept of worship in the context of Psalm 150, their significance and how these can be used to contextualise worship in contemporary African Christianity, particularly within the context of Oyo town.
In act one when the stage manager pulls Mr. Webb out of the play to talk with him on page 528, the lady in the box asks 'Oh Mr. Webb? Mr. Webb is there any culture or love of beauty in Grover's Corners?'. Mr. Webb her, there isn't much culture the way she might think, but '...we've got a lot of pleasures of a kind here: We like the sun comin' up over the mountain in the morning, and we all notice ...
However, to avoid fallacious interpretation of some terms, this paper defines the following terms as used in the paper: Worship and Oyo town.
Worship: Evelyn Underhill defines worship as “the total adoring response of man to the one Eternal God self-revealed in time” (61).
This implies that worship reflects man’s response in totality to the person and activities of God. In this paper, the term worship is viewed from the perspective of man’s attitudinal and dynamic response to all of what God is and does without necessarily anticipating anything in return.
Oyo Town: Oyo town is one of the ancient towns of the entire Yoruba race. The present Oyo is situated 32miles north of Ibadan, Oyo state in the South-west of Nigeria. It was declared the It is bounded to the north by Ogbomoso, to the east by Awe, to the south by Ilora and to the west by Iseyin. It is a major town which still upholds many of the ancient Yoruba culture and is governed by a paramount ruler which goes by the title Alaafin (Owner of the Palace).
The economy of modern Oyo is based chiefly on agriculture and handicrafts. Products include tobacco (for the cigarette factory at Ibadan), teak, and cotton. The town is a traditional centre of cotton spinning, weaving, and dyeing (with locally grown indigo).
It is also famous for carved calabashes (gourds), leatherwork, wood carving, and mat making. Local trade is primarily in yams, corn (maize), sorghum, cassava (manioc), poultry, okra, and beans (www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/437047/Oyo)
II. GENERAL OVERVIEW OF WORSHIP
As noted earlier, worship is a phenomenon general to all people. Defining worship, Harbison remarks that it is “a sacred spiritual exercise that links man with God through the expression of an adoring heart” (525).
When John Milton decided to write, he knew from the start he wanted his creation to be that of an epic. Paradise Lost is just that. It is Milton’s own take on the biblical story of Satan’s fall from grace as well as man’s fall. Milton was not only armed with an extensive knowledge on the Bible, but in everything a man of his time could learn. With his wisdom he emersed himself ...
Wiersbe asserts that the English word worship means worth – ship and went on to say that what a person worships is a good indication of what is really valuable to him (21).
This implies that the values of a man or a people can be determined by what such people worship. MacArthur defines worship as honour paid to a superior being (8).
In the same vein, Mahoney asserts that worship is an expression of love and adoration to God which can be expressed only with the giving of one’s whole heart and lifetime to him (33).
In a more technical sense, Conner views the word worship as meaning “to bow down, to stoop very low, or to prostrate oneself” (106).
The bible uses a number of words to convey the idea of worship. In the Old Testament, the common word used for worship is shachah which literally means “to bow down, to do homage” (Vine 105).
The word shachah is mostly used of man in relation to God as can be established in Joshua 5:14 when “Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped.” Shachah is often used to convey the sense of a lesser being paying homage and obeisance to a greater being such as in the case of man to God or a god, a vassal to a conquering king and subjects to the king. The action of Elkanah’s family in 1 Samuel 1:19 “Then they rose early in the morning and worshipped before the LORD…” as well as Sennacherib’s action in the temple of Nisroch in 2 Kings 19:37 both illustrate the use of shcachah in a human-deity relationship. Similarly, Joab’s action in 2 Samuel 14:22 reflect the usage of shachah in subject-king situation.
Another word used in the Old Testament to convey the idea of worship is abodah which literally means “to serve or minister” (Vine 174).
Abodah is from the verb ‘abad which means “he served, he ministered” and it connotes the idea of a lesser rendering service, often in the spiritual and sacred sense, to the greater. This sense was portrayed in Exodus 23:25 and Judges 2:7 where the word serve has to do with Israel keeping in line with God.
There is also a number of New Testament words used to convey the idea of worship. The most common of these New Testament terms is proskuneo and it literally means “to kiss toward.” This conveys the idea of showing reverence and paying obeisance to someone. Another New Testament word used to imply worship is latreuo which basically means “to serve, minister.” The Greek word ‘latreuo’ translated ‘serve’ is a form of the word worship and is used in the New Testament in the contexts of service and worship. Other New Testament words used to portray worship include ‘sebazomai’, meaning to render religious honour (Romans 1:25), and ‘sebomai’ meaning to revere or adore (Acts 16:14).
Murder in the Bible The act of murder is rampant in the Bible. In much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night. In addition to these crazy and immoral laws, there are plenty of examples of God's irrationality by his ...
This implies that worship in the New Testament connotes both an attitude of reverence and adoration to God as well as actions of service to him.
The above terms imply that worship in the Biblical perspective involves both attitudes (awe, reverence, respect) and actions (bowing, praising, and serving).
From this background, Wiersbe citing Underhill defines worship as “the total adoring response of man to the one Eternal God self-revealed in time” (Wiersbe 21).
From the biblical perspective, worship is both a subjective and objective activity which involves the intelligent coordination of the mind, emotion and will. It is motivated by love, reaches deep within and must lead to obedient actions that glorify God (21).
Biblical worship is connected to godliness as exemplified in the Puritan perspective which states that:
Worship comprehends all that respect which man oweth and giveth to his Maker… It is the tribute which we pay to the King of kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him… All that inward reverence and respect, and all that outward obedience and service to God, which the word [viz. ‘godliness’] enjoineth, is included in this one word worship (Carson 13).
Likening worship to the fragrance of the incense in Exodus 30:34-38, MacArthur states that “worship is to be a unique, separated, sanctified, holy act that rises out of a person’s heart to the very nostrils of God” (9).
Worship therefore can be said to be the expression, in attitude and action, of man’s gratitude and appreciation to God; a means to acknowledge his authority as creator of the universe and saviour of all mankind.
III. OVERVIEW OF CHRISTIANITY IN OYO TOWN
The history of Christianity in Oyo town can be traced to 1858 when Rev. & Mrs T.A. Reid left Ogbomoso for Oyo to start the Baptist Mission work (Korieh and Iwokeji 96).
Greek Mythology Mythology was an integral part of the lives of all ancient peoples. The myths of Ancient Greece are the most familiar to us, for they are deeply entrenched in the consciousness of Western civilization. The myths were accounts of the lives of the deities whom the Greeks worshipped. The Greeks had many deities, including 12 principal ones, who lived on Mt. Olympus. The myths are all ...
He arrived at Oke Isokun present site of the Baptist College of Theology and the First Baptist Church, Oyo. From 1858 to 1864, Reid laboured tirelessly and had tremendous result for his labours. However, he had to return to the United States of America in 1864 because of the American Civil War. By 1875 when a new missionary in person of W.J. David arrived Oyo, only a handful of converts remained (Collins 15).
Four years later, a missionary couple in person of Peyton and Laura Eubank arrived in Oyo to continue the work but met very few converts who were already disinterested in the gospel (15).
However, by the 1860s a Yoruba Mission (Anglican) was established in Oyo, which is now the site of St. Andrew’s College (founded 1897), one of the oldest teacher-training institutes in Nigeria. Subsequent missionaries from other denominations like the Catholic and Methodist arrived toward the close of the 19th century and made their marks. Although faced with stiff oppositions especially from the adherents of indigenous religions, Christianity eventually found root. As at the time of this writing, there are several denominations ranging from Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic, Neo-Pentecostals, AICs to Charismatic movements in Oyo town. The Baptist Denomination alone has about 120 churches congregating under the umbrella of Oyo Baptist Conference (Olorode 17).
However, in spite of the imposing presence of Christianity in Oyo town, there are certain impunities ravaging the structure of the religion in Oyo town and affecting the potency of its message. One of the issues of note among Christians in Oyo town is the deification of men. Oyo has been known to produce renowned men of valour in the past either as king or as warriors. Some of these people were deified and made gods upon their demise. A notable example in this category is the late Alaafin Sango who became deified as the mythical god of thunder in Yoruba land. This element of deification has crept into the Christianity of Oyo town as some Christians have basically deified their pastors and prophets. There are churches where the church goes on vacation once the pastor is not around. Oyo Christians seem to attach a significance to their pastor or prophet which sometimes far outweighs the reverence they have for God. This is a major bane of Christianity in Oyo town. Coupled with this is the fact that the paramount ruler of Oyo is worshipped virtually as a tin god. He holds sway over all matters of commerce, religion and politics; in fact it is not an overstatement to say that the fear of the Alaafin is the beginning of wisdom for Oyo people. In the same vein, Oyo Christians who trade in consumables and farm produce see nothing wrong in abandoning church worship for the market if such market days fall on a Sunday.
Describe how Christians might worship God at home. Private worship helps Christians to develop their own, personal relationship with God, where they can focus on things that are important in their own lives. A Christian's life is based on a relationship with God. They believe that prayer is an essential part of life. Just as daily food is needed build a strong and healthy body so Christians ...
Another bane of Christianity in Oyo town is the veneration of sacred places like hills, rivers, Prayer Mountains, Mercy lands etc. Christians in Oyo have a special belief in and veneration for sacred places as places where their prayers will receive quick answers. As a result, it is not strange to have people flock such sites as well as crusade grounds for prayers even when similar programmes take place in their church. Christians in Oyo are often found to tell one another about the efficacy and presence of God’s power in a particular prayer mountain or Mercy Land. The other extreme of this is that some stay away completely from public corporate worship under the guise that worship is personal, hence; they can approach God anywhere, even at home, and he will answer them. This has made churches in Oyo town suffer the dwindling attendance syndrome.
Quarshie notes that music is a general feature that attests to the Africanness of Christian worship in Africa. He reiterates that African musical instruments (e.g. drums, flutes) are today very important for Christian worship and are employed with considerable impact and meaning. As a result, the composition and use of African songs and rhythms in the worship of God in the Christian context has been encouraged (12).
However, Christians in Oyo are beginning to jettison the use of African musical instruments for the foreign ones. It has been observed that due to the pagan origin of these instruments, their use in contemporary Christian worship is sometimes attached to paganism and idolatry hence Christians shy away from using them. Locally made instruments like the Bata, Akuba, Dundun, Sekere, Akuba etc. have been done away with in most churches in Oyo and the few churches that still have them relegate their use to the children church or ‘unimportant’ services alone.
What are people doing when they say they are worshipping? Worship is the praise of God and one's beliefs. Worship is a set of actions that are set forth to proclaim how a person feels regarding God or any thing a person looks highly upon. There are many parts to worship. Some of these parts consist of rituals, symbolism and personal actions as well When a person worships they must first decide ...
IV. WORSHIP IN PSALM 150
One of the books of the Bible which reflects the true spirit of Jewish worship is the book of Psalms. The title of the book in the Hebrew Bible is תְּהִלִּים Tehillim, which means “praise songs.” The translators of the Septuagint use the word ψαλμοι Psalmoi meaning “songs to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument” as title for the Book. This Greek word translates the Hebrew word mizmor that occurs in the titles of 57 of the psalms. In time the Greek word psalmoi came to mean “songs of praise” without reference to stringed accompaniment. The Septuagint also calls the book by the Psalterium meaning “A Collection of Songs” and this forms the basis for the term Psalter. Also, the Latin Vulgate titles the Book Liber Psalmorum meaning Book of Psalms. The English translators transliterated the Greek title resulting in the title “Psalms” in English Bibles (Constable 1).
Written over a very long period of time, the book of Psalms is a compendium of individual and communal responses to God’s dealings with his creation, the nations of the world, Israel and all of his believing people. Wiersbe remarks that “The book of Psalms has been and still is the irreplaceable devotional guide, prayer book, and hymnal of the people of God” (7).
The Psalms were not all written by one person; but various individuals and groups contribute pieces to the whole. Some of the authors as indicated in the titles of the individual Psalms include King David, Solomon, Moses the man of God, Asaph, the sons of Korah, Heman and Ethan; while about 41 Psalms remain anonymous. Some of the types of psalms in the Book include Psalms of praise, lament, penitence, wisdom, imprecation, and royal and messianic psalms (Toombs 118).
Perhaps an overall summary of the Book of Psalms can be deduced from Taylor’s assertion that:
Nowhere in the Scriptures is the Hebrew mind better exposed than in the Psalms. This unique collection of poetry appeals to the most genteel and cultured tastes of humankind because of the intrinsic beauty that underlies each psalm. Inspired by God, the Psalms are often considered to be an utterance of the inexpressible and have been the source of much comfort to those whose lives they have touched. Because their writers were keenly aware of the presence of God and the ever watchful eye of Jehovah, their Lord, the qualities of positivism and trust justly seem to leap from the pages of this book (1).
This implies that the Book of Psalms reflects many different reactions to life and the Israelite worshipper had a ready-made prayer for all of life’s vicissitudes (Longman and Dillard 244).
The Book of Psalms is sub-divided into five books with each division answering to each of the five books of the Torah (Oladejo np); and each of the five books ending in a doxology. Psalm 150 has been dubbed as the grand doxology of the entire book of Psalms. Buttressing this position, Wiersbe states that “Each of the previous four Books of Psalms ends with a benediction (41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48), but the final Book ends with a whole psalm devoted to praise” (224).
Psalm 150 introduces the reader to a summary of some essentials of true worship. Although the author Psalm 150 is nowhere indicated neither is there any inkling to the date of its writing, this psalm is located in the immediate context of Psalms that are known as the Halleluyah Psalms, that is, Psalms 146 – 150. They are basically focused on expressing praise to Yahweh not only for what he has done but primarily for who he is. The essentials of worship as encapsulated by Psalm 150 include:
The Focus of Worship (1a, 6b): The Psalmist here encourages his reader (or hearers) to “Praise the LORD.” The first essential of worship is that the worshipper must understand the object of worship and according to this Psalm that object is God. MacArthur asserts that “there is no true worship apart from true understanding of God. Any group that does not understand truth about God does not worship God – cannot worship God – for he must be worshipped in spirit and according to truth” (98).
No one else is worthy to receive the worship of humans, not any god, any person or any institution, apart from God. Lending weight to this assertion, Wiersbe reiterates, “Worship is not about the worshipper and his or her needs; it is about God and his power and glory” (224).
The Place of Worship: Heaven and Earth (1b): The Psalmist next identifies the place where the object of worship should be worshipped – the sanctuary and the firmament of his power. The Hebrew word translated sanctuary has its root in the verb qadas which means ‘to be holy.’ It signifies first that God is holy hence he should be worshipped in holy atmosphere devoid of sin and filth. Similarly, the Hebrew word translated firmament is raqiah and it means “a large expanse without limit.” In pre-monarchical Israel, the centre of worship was the sanctuary at Shiloh. This later shifted to the central shrine in Jerusalem by the time of David and later to Solomon’s temple. However, the experience of the exile showed the people that God could be worshipped anywhere as long as it is within the bounds of the firmament. This is a pointer to the fact that the holy worship of the holy God is not limited to the confines of a building; God could be worshipped anywhere because worship is primarily a thing of the heart.
The Themes of Worship (2): Psalm 150 also reflects the themes of worship which are the acts and attributes of God. The mighty acts and excellent greatness of God form sufficient reason for men to worship him. As noted by John Stott, “All Christian worship, public and private, should be an intelligent response to God’s self-revelation in his words and works recorded in scripture” (32).
The Means of Worship (3-6): Next the Psalmist enumerates the means through which worship should be carried out. Here the psalmist outlines a number of musical instruments well known to his readers (or hearers) to be used in worshipping God. Emphasising the import of musical instruments and the arts generally, Wiersbe comments “Our worship ought to make the best use of all the wonderful materials He has given us – truth, people, material objects, sounds, smells, foods, and skilful arts. All things can and should be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer and made suitable for the Master’s use” (142).
He also remarks in another work that while not undermining the importance of man-made musical instruments, the human voice remains the most perfect musical instrument in the world when correctly used by God’s grace and for God’s glory (225).
This implies that God is to be worshipped both with the natural parts he gave to man as well as with instruments made through the use of these natural body parts.
V. RELEVANCE OF WORSHIP IN PSALM 150 TO CHRISTIANITY IN OYO TOWN
White asserts that “just as God had revealed how humans were to act in other spheres of life such as the ethical, God also prescribed rules for worship” (81).
It should, however, be noted that the order of Christian worship all around the world has never been static but dynamic, and over the years it has been subjected to influences and circumstances of the times. African Christian worship is not spared this influences and dynamism as the different forms of worship have undergone changes on more than one occasion. Similarly, Quarshie remarks that there has been great diversity in forms of worship services since the dawn of Christianity in Africa (8).
It is against this background that this paper applies the inferences from Psalm 150 to the forms and deeds of Christian worship in Oyo town.
First, the psalmist identifies God as the focus of worship. This is a theme which reverberates through the entire Old Testament scripture and in fact the entire Bible. God alone should be worshipped. The first of the Ten Commandments as well as the second echo this very strongly. Oyo Christians have the tendency to deify anyone who appears to be extraordinary. The emphasis of this psalm and its import for Christians in Oyo town is that no matter how extraordinary or gifted a pastor, prophet or evangelist is such should not be deified; such should not be allowed to take the place of God in their hearts. Although, the African context is one in which worship is seen as an engagement with the supernatural world of spiritual beings and ancestors (Asamoah-Gyadu 20), Christians should not import this into church worship to the extent of making tin gods out of the servants of God.
Further, Psalm 150 establishes that the worship of God is not limited to the sanctuary or any sacred place for that matter. While sanctuary worship was encouraged, worship outside geographical and structural limits was also emphasised. Oyo Christians should not attach too much importance to sacred places like Prayer Mountains, Mercy Lands and other such demarcated, consecrated places. The fact that worship is not limited to the confines of church auditoriums however does not imply that Christians should stay away from corporate worship it is only a reminder of the fact that God is personal to all and can be accessed by all regardless of location. While it is indisputable that worship in the African traditional religious context is built around an ardent desire for communicating with, and experiencing, the felt presence of the supernatural (22), Christians in Oyo ought to realise that God can be experienced in all of his greatness and might in one’s local church, or even bathroom so long as the believer seeks him intently and wholeheartedly. It doesn’t have to be on the mountain, it could as well be in the church vestry, in the baptistery or any other place. The emphasis should not be on the place but on God himself as the focus of worship.
Likewise the Psalmist stressed the use of musical instruments in worship. Oyo town is known to be home to a number of traditional musical instruments such as Sekere, Gangan, Omele, Bata, Iya Ilu, Agogo, Kakaki and Saworo among others. All of these traditional musical instruments can have a place in contemporary Christian worship among Christians in Oyo. This paper agrees with Wiersbe’s assertion that “Our worship ought to make the best use of all the wonderful materials He has given us – truth, people, material objects, sounds, smells, foods, and skilful arts. All things can and should be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer and made suitable for the Master’s use” (142).
None of these instruments is demonic in itself; it is the use to which they are put that determines what purpose they will serve. Hence; these and other traditional instruments should be purchased, sanctified and put to use in the church. The relegation of these instruments to the background in favour of western musical instruments should be discouraged. While this paper is not against western instrument, it is the opinion of this writer that African instruments have a way of linking African worshippers to their roots in worship.
Similarly, the psalmist encourages the active participation of the worshipper and encourages him or her to worship God in dancing. This establishes that worship is not devoid of the physical expression of emotion. Dancing is one of the ways a person can display his joy and elatedness. If the presence of God harbours fullness of joy and his right hand stocks pleasures evermore, then it is no sin for the worshipper to express his elatedness in the presence of God through dancing and other forms of sensible emotional displays such as clapping, singing loudly and jumping. Christian worship in Africa today is characterised by a great deal of participation in virtually all aspects of the worship service (Quarshie 11) and this involves the full use of all healthy body parts.
VI. CONCLUSION: Worship in the entire psalms is an amalgam of a biblical/theological worldview and expresses the deepest desires of the human heart that has been touched by God and delights in Him. As a primus inter pares, Psalm 150 reflects in-depth essentials of theology in worship. The Psalm reveals that strong desires toward God are a vital part of the worship of God. It also shows that God, the object and focus of worship can and should be worshipped in holiness anywhere within the bounds of the firmament; and with all forms of man-made musical instruments. Worship according to Psalm 150 is an honouring of God and expressing His worth with a clear mental picture of his personality and deed through His word accompanied with the appropriate emotions. Worship as a corporate activity involves relating to others in the fellowship of the church (Quarshie 15) True worship involves a delighting in God which expresses itself in a longing for Him. For Christians in Oyo town, God should be seen and believed for who he is: the Supreme Being beyond whom there is no other; not the king, not a highly revered pastor or prophet nor an alfa or ifa priest. In the light of the above discussion, this paper concludes that Christian worship may be defined as any singular activity or series of activities in which Christians, as the people of God recognize the authority of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ through their appearance, words, songs and deeds that reflect this recognition. This may be on the individual level as well as the corporate and may take many different forms. However the focus of worship according to Psalm 150 should be God, the theme, his person and acts and the means, all within the reach of man.
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_________________, Real Worship Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1986.
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