[Guest post by current elder candidate Dan Dillon]
I’d like to share a bit of how God has convicted and is encouraging me in hopes that it encourages you.
Psalms 120-134 are some of my favorite Psalms. They are labeled as “Songs of Ascents” and seem to be written for the worshiper who is traveling to the temple in Jerusalem, perhaps for one of the annual feasts. They follow a general pattern as the worshipper approaches Jerusalem, starting with distress and despair and ending with petitions, rejoicing, and praise. A few weeks ago, I read Psalm 134, the last (and shortest!) of the set:
Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!
So, after the long journey to Jerusalem, what are we to do in the temple? What does it all boil down to? Two things: bless the Lord and lift up your hands.
No, no, no! I can bless the Lord, but “lift up your hands”? Couldn’t the Psalmist have picked something else for the second one? Maybe “praise him”? I can do that. Couldn’t the Psalmist have made the list longer, say five or ten items, so that I could conveniently ignore “lift up your hands” as I worked on the other items on the list?
Oh, how the Spirit exposes and convicts! I was convicted that I needed to lift up my hands in worship: it’s commanded, not suggested, as one of the two things to do when you arrive at worship. In fact, “lifting up hands” shows up in Psalms 28, 63, 119, and 141, and several other places in the Bible (Lev. 9:22; Neh. 8:6; Lam. 2:19, 3:41; Hab. 3:10; 1 Tim. 2:8).
How often should we lift up our hands? I don't know. I don’t think we need to do it every second of singing and praying. But given that five of the 150 Psalms mention it, somehow “I lifted up my hands once, a few years ago, when the worship leader asked all of us to do it” doesn’t quite seem like a claim to full obedience.
And, of course, “lifting hands” can turn into a rote act of obedience or a way of showing off. So, let’s counteract those trends by considering what “lifting hands” symbolizes:
- We lift up our hands when we want to call attention to something: “Look up there!”
- We lift up our hands when we, as a child, give something up: “Father, please take this.”
- We lift up our hands when we, as a child, need something or someone: “Please, Father, can you help me?”
- We lift up our hands when we, as a child, want someone’s attention: “Please, Father, love me.”
“Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (Lamentations 3:41).