- On Bended Knee
- Matthew 2:10-11; Psalm 95:6-7
- Lyndol Loyd July 16, 2017
Good morning church. Today we are taking on part two of our series, “The Heart of Worship.” Last week we looked at where the Bible talks about lifting up holy hands to God as a way to express ourselves in worship. Today, I want to talk about another possible posture of worship – bowing or kneeling before God in the act of surrender and worship.
Just like last week, I’m going to ask you once again to hit the rewind button on the remote control of your mind and go back to December and the Christmas story. In Matthew 2:10-11 we find the story of what happened when the Wise Men actually experienced meeting the Christ child.
The story goes like this: When the wise men saw the star, they were overjoyed. Now why were they overjoyed? Because, for literally centuries upon centuries, they were hoping, praying, believing that one day God would send a Messiah, the Savior of the world, and the Wise Men believed that this was that moment when Jesus was born.
- 11, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”
Now, what’s interesting is, most of the time when we picture this what we visualize is the Wise Men kneeling down to the baby Jesus, a tiny infant. Why do we do that? Because every Christmas card you get has the Wise Men bowing down to a little baby. But in reality, and many of you may not know this, scholars believe that Jesus was very likely around two years of age when the Wise Men got there. Remember they traveled 900 or so miles.
Now, to me that changes the dynamics of the whole story. Think about it. Just for fun, how many of you have a two year old or a two year old grandchild? How many of you have been around a two year old?
Before Joni and I had children of our own, we would go out to eat somewhere and inevitably there would be someone with a two year old at the restaurant. We would look over and the two year old would be completely done with any high chair time they were willing to put in, but the parents would have just received their food. So the two year old starts banging on the table or pushing their sippy cup off the table or waving their hands across the table in protest. Then you would see the parents try to talk sweetly to the two year old saying things like, “Now don’t do that,” when in reality it was like an unsuccessful hostage negotiation taking place.
I would think to myself, “When I’m a parent, I’m going to do so much better than that.” So I read the books, I watched the videos. I knew what to do.
But when I had my own two year old, everything changed. For a long time we’d stand strong, we’d do the rules, we’d discipline, we’d say no, and then they wear you down until finally, you can’t do any more and you cave in and become like those other parents; “I’ll do whatever you want, I’ll give you anything, just be quiet.” All of this to say, when the Wise Men were bowing down, they were bowing down to a two year old.
Now, I want to talk today about kneeling in the presence of God. Let’s call it what it is. In our culture most of you aren’t going to say, “Oh, that’s easy, I’m kneeling right now.”
It’s like lifting your hands. A lot of us did that for the very first time as an act of worship, and it pushes us out of our comfort zone. To the men in the room, let’s call it like it is. You may kneel two times in your life. First, when you are proposing, and there’s a payday on the other side of that kneel. Second, when you’re getting your football picture taken, right, you have your helmet and the ball and you’re kneeling down. That’s the only time you’re doing it. Ladies, I tried to think of an example and I don’t know if you ever kneel. Culturally speaking, most of us don’t go around kneeling.
Yet, when we look at God’s word, we see over and over again opportunities to kneel down in humble submission and awe to the goodness of God.
In fact, Psalm 95:6-7 reads, “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, 7for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.”
There’s an interesting Hebrew word that’s actually translated as worship. It’s the word “shachah”. Not to be confused with Chaka Khan, for those of you who were children of the 80s. Everybody else just let it go right on by you, don’t look it up, don’t waste your time. Shachah is used 170 times in the Bible. It means to bow down low, to kneel in worship. It doesn’t mean just worship, but inside this word is the posture of kneeling in worship.
One of the reasons why I believe culturally we don’t kneel more often is because, fundamentally, we do not understand and comprehend the holiness of God. You see, if we understood just how holy God is then we would want to be low before Him in worship. You see, so holy is God that mortal man cannot look upon Him in His essential being and live.
In fact, in the Old Testament, no one was allowed to go into the Holy of Holies except for the high priest, and only once a year, because it was believed you could not go into the place they believed where God would dwell, or you would not live. When the high priest would go in they would actually tie a rope to his leg, and if they heard a thump they were to pull him out, because they weren’t even sure if he could live in the presence of God.
Suddenly, when you start to comprehend that God, the One who spoke and created everything, suddenly kneeling down before Him seems like the right thing to do.
In fact, what’s incredibly interesting to me is, I cannot find a single place in the Bible where God tells us to bow down to Him. God does not tell us to bow down to Him. It’s almost as if He just assumes we will, because He knows who He is and what He’s done for us.
Think about it, God doesn’t tell us to bow down. The only thing he says about it is don’t bow down to someone else. God says don’t bow down to any false idols, don’t put any other gods before Me. Because God literally almost assumes that when we know who He is we’ll want to kneel before Him in worship. Come, let us bow down in worship before our God. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
In preaching this series, I want to inspire us to be like the Wise Men, to live as people who come to worship Jesus and not just on Sunday mornings for one hour, but to let our lives be full of worship to God. My prayer would be that we would feel the freedom to be able to worship God however we feel led; whether it is lifting up our hands, bowing down before God, or however else the Holy Spirit might move us to do. There is no secret formula for what our worship has to look like, but let me say that I do believe God might be calling some of us to expand our current comfort zones.
I want to help us identify three different reasons why we might want to bow.
The first one, if you’re taking notes, is this: Some of you might want to kneel in pursuit. In fact in Mark 10 there’s a really interesting story about a very rich guy. He had everything that everybody would think that he needed, and yet he was missing something and he knew it.
Here’s how the story goes, v. 17 “As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”
As many times as I’ve read this story I always focused on the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I never recognized that this guy literally fell on his knees. He was so desperate. Knowing he had everything that everybody else wants, but he was missing what everybody needs, and in pursuit of the answer to that question he feel on his knees before God.
Some of you right now may be at a place similar that in your life, you’re not a committed God follower and you know it. You’re not a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Some of you may not even know what you believe. You’re questioning, “Is there a God? Could there be a God?” This is a great place to investigate that.
I want to encourage you, if that’s where you are, here’s what you might do. You might decide this is pretty important. “I don’t want to miss this so therefore I’m going to kneel. I don’t even know if I’m kneeling to a God I believe in. I don’t know who He is, but I’m going to kneel just in case and ask some questions.” You might kneel in pursuit and pray something along these lines, “God, if you’re really there, show me. If it’s really you, reveal yourself to me.”
I just want to warn you, when you pray something like that, get ready. Because when you draw near to him, God draws near to you. There may be some of you at some point you say, “You know what, this is a pretty serious thing. I’m going to kneel in pursuit just like this rich young ruler did.”
There are others of you who are followers of Jesus and you don’t necessarily need to kneel in pursuit, but you may need to kneel in repentance. You see, every now and then, or sometimes often, we do things that really break the heart of God and hurt our lives or hurt other people.
There’s a powerful example of kneeling in repentance in Luke 5. Peter was a fisherman, he was fishing all day long, and he didn’t catch anything. Jesus comes up and he says, “Hey, why don’t you throw the net on the other side of the boat?”
Now, put yourself in Peter’s place. The boat’s a narrow little thing. I’m thinking if I’m Peter, “You’re a carpenter. You go build me a table and I’ll put fish on it. Don’t give me advice.” That’s what I’m thinking.
You imagine, think of it, you just threw the net on one side, no fish. Why? Because there’s some smart fish on the other side saying, “Over here guys, quick, quick, quick,” and they’re all over on the other side. Then, if the net comes over here they’re all going to swim under there quickly, “Oh, oh, oh, missed us, ah hah, we’re ready for you.” This is stupid advice. This is never going to work.
So Peter is thinking, “Well, because you say so, I’ll give it a try.” He throws his net on the other side and there are so many fish the net starts to break. Suddenly, he looks up and says, “Oh, I didn’t realize who you were.”
Watch his response in V. 8, “When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, ‘Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.’”
Here’s the beautiful thing, Jesus never turns away a sinner with a repentant heart. He never does. There’s some of you right now, you’re even surprised you’re in church. You were thinking, “If I go in church the roof might fall on me. People are going to look at me and know what I did” and you get this really uncomfortable feeling like you don’t belong.
Listen to me, it doesn’t matter how bad you are, with a repentant heart you belong in the presence of God. Here’s the good news, Scripture teaches us that when we confess our sins, our God is faithful and just to forgive all of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
You might fall to your knees and say, “God, I’ve done something wrong, will You forgive me?” In that moment, you will experience the grace of God, and you may want to stay on your knees for a little while to worship the One who freely forgives you.
Some of you are going to want to kneel in pursuit. Some of you are going to want to kneel in repentance. There are others of you who are going to want to kneel in submission. Maybe for the first time in your life, or maybe in a particular area where you won’t let go because you want to control it, you’re going to kneel in submission.
When I was a little boy, I used to wrestle with my dad in the middle of our living room floor. Except, having a strong West Texas accent, it sounded like rastln’. I would try to get my dad, but invariably, because he was bigger and stronger than me, he could pin me down and tickle me until I would give in and say, “Calf Rope.” Don’t ask me why that was what I had to say. It just was. Essentially, what it meant was, “I give up.” I would hold out as long as possible and do almost anything so that I didn’t have to say “Calf Rope” and give in.
There are some of you who are like that with God, aren’t you? There’s some area of your life and you won’t give in, “I want it this way.” Some of you, God has been reaching out to you for years and you won’t give in. You won’t surrender to His plan for you, which is far better than your own plan. Some of you need to give in and kneel and surrender.
What’s crazy for me to think about is that Jesus bowed in surrender to God. Jesus, being God in the flesh, knew that the cross was ahead of Him. He never sinned against God and yet He knew the agony that He would face becoming sin. Everything we’ve ever done wrong, that’s what He became, so much so that God turned away from Him, and He faced the terror of dying on the cross without the presence of His Father who had sustained Him through everything.
Jesus understood this was coming and this is what He did in that moment, Luke 22:41-42, “He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42’Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’”
Some of you, that’s what you need to pray today. “Not my will, but Your will be done. I surrender.”
Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. You ready for this? You can kneel now, or you can kneel later, but you’re going to kneel to Him. You can kneel now in pursuit, repentance, in submission and worship; or one day, when it isn’t your choice, you’ll kneel.
Philippians 2:8-11: “He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Our God never asked us to bow before Him because, He knew that when we know who He is, sometimes our only reasonable response would be to bow down and worship Him. He is that good.
As you take a moment to pray, some of you are going to recognize in your life that it’s time to kneel down in pursuit, repentance or submission. We are going to take some time now for an extended time of prayer, worship and praise.
Let me say this, if you have a bum knee or you just aren’t physically able to kneel without being in pain or it is a struggle – simply kneel in your heart, bow before God with your attitude. No need to put yourself in a bad place physically.
Church, I encourage you to draw near to God this morning knowing that if you do, He will draw near to you. I’m going to pray and then we are going to sing. You might even want to take the opportunity to come down to the altar so that you can bow before God as we humble ourselves before Him now. Please feel free to come and go from the altar. Let’s pray.