This is what the Lord says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?
Could you build me such a resting place?
2 My hands have made both heaven and earth;
they and everything in them are mine.*
I, the Lord, have spoken!
“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts,
who tremble at my word.
(Is 66:1–2, New Living Translation)
Raymond Ortlund, Jr. does a great service to our church family gatherings as he meditates upon what it means for us to tremble at the Word of God as we worship together.
We shouldn’t think of our singing only as our worship, but the sermon is something else — a large-group Bible study. True worship is also listening to God’s Word with a longing to hear, a desire to believe, and intention to obey. Preaching a sermon is worship. Hearing a sermon is worship. The one to whom God looks with favor is not the one with the fanciest liturgy — or the plainest — but the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at his Word.
What complicates this is that God uses preachers to communicate his Word. And every preacher is imperfect. Every preacher gives the listener some reason not to listen. We preachers don’t mean to, but we do. Our responsibility is to minimize the complications. Your responsibility is to overlook the complications and listen to God. Paul commended the new believers in Thessalonica: “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When you can see in your Bible that the minister’s message is coming from that Bible, it changes everything. What you are hearing is not his brainstorm; you are hearing from the Word of God. And receiving it not as the word of a man but as the Word of God is the true worship of deeply reverent listening.
Beware of sitting back in church and rating the service, evaluating how it suits you. What’s happening is more significant than that. We are all before Christ, and he is evaluating us (Revelation 2 — 3). Don’t be a sermon connoisseur, taking as taste here, a sip there, according to your likes and dislikes. If you worship as God defines worship, you will receive his Word with trembling eagerness, whatever he says (James 1:21). And he will give you more than you could ask or imagine.
One mark of revival is a ravenous hunger for the truth of the good news of the kingdom of God. A minister of the Church of Scotland saw unmistakable evidences of God’s touch upon his people during the revivals of his time:
"It was a common thing, as soon as the Bible was opened, after the preliminary services, and just as the reader began” — here, you will observe, it was the simple reading to the Word without preaching; yet such was the power upon the minds of the people, that “it was a common thing, as soon as the Bible was opened, after the preliminary services, and just as the reader began, for great meltings to come upon the hearers. The deepest attention was paid to every word as the sacred verses were slowly and solemnly enunciated. Then the silent tear might be seen stealing down the rugged but expressive faces turned upon the reader…it was often a stirring sight to witness the multitudes assembling during the dark winter evenings — to trace their progress as they came in all directions across moors and mountains by the blazing torches which they carried to light their way to the places of meeting. The Word of the Lord was precious in those days; and personal inconvenience was little thought of when the hungering soul sought to be satisfied.”
The hungering soul seeking to be satisfied with a word from God — that’s what it means to be humble and contrite. That’s the worship God blesses. That will be the culture of the new heavens and the new earth. If you want to be a part of it then, you’ve got to become a part of it now.