The Company of the Upright

“Don’t it always seem to go . . . that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Those words from Joni Mitchell’s 70’s song comes to mind as I hover over the opening verse of Psalm 111. The ancient songwriter’s song has nothing to do with paving paradise, putting trees in a tree museum, or spraying apples with DDT to keep them blemish free. But it does extol the God of paradise. It does declare the mighty works of the One who created the trees. And, it reminds the reader of a unique privilege owned by the people of God, the apple of His eye (Deut. 32:9-10, Zech. 2:8). But don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart . . .

(Psalm 111:1a ESV)

Praise. Give thanks. Both things that anyone can do. All it requires is to focus on the right subject, engaging both the mind and the heart, to produce fruit from the lips (Heb. 13:5).

And only I can offer praise to the LORD. Only I can give thanks to my God. No one can do that for me. No once can force true worship from another. And no one can tender the thanksgiving due God on behalf of another. At it’s core, praise and thanksgiving are the willful, mindful, heartfelt acts of the individual.

But there’s a lot in Scripture that indicates that while the worship of God is sourced in the heart of the individual, it is best expressed in the company of others.

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.

(Psalm 111:1 ESV)

I miss congregational worship. I miss engaging in praise and thanksgiving with the company of those made upright through the saving work of Jesus. You don’t what you’ve got til it’s gone.

We were made to worship and, I think, called to worship together. I know that’s what it’ll be like when faith gives way to sight.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

(Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)

Though we were saved as individuals, we were saved to be part of a body. Though we all have our individual stories, together we share the same story of redemption. Though different in countless ways, we extol the same God who is unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever. We’re unique yet we are called to unity. And that unity is expressed through the common song we sing, the song of the redeemed. And that song is best sung when we’re together.

Been awhile since we’ve been together. Miss singing with the saints. Miss making a joyful noise unto the Lord with my brothers and sisters. Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone?

Content to care for my community through quarantine, but so looking forward to the pandemic subsiding and the people of God again assembling. And then, hear us praise the LORD! Listen to us give thanks to our God! And we will again worship in the company of the upright.

By His grace. For His glory.

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