Liturgy: Votum

After the Call to Worship comes the Votum. Votum is a Latin term meaning ‘vow’ or ‘prayer’. Its use in worship is a kind of confession or statement of truth, even a response to God’s command to worship Him. Some examples from scripture include:

Psalm 121:1-2 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 124:8 “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

What we see in both of these passages is a willingness on the part of the Psalmist to confess his dependence upon God. We do not come to worship boasting of our strength, power and wisdom. We come recognizing our weakness, frailty and foolishness. (1 Corinthians 1:26ff.)

So much of the worship that follows indicates the ‘needy’ attitude and posture we ought to practice in our public praise and adoration of God. We might bow our heads during the salutation (blessing) to indicate our submission to Him, as we do in our prayers. (Psalm 95:6) We read God’s law so that we might be humbled to confess our sins, and see our need for Christ. (Romans 3:21ff.) The word is preached to us that we might be fed in accord with our hungry and thirsty souls. (Psalm 81:10; Psalm 84).  The sacraments (baptism and Lord’s Supper) are administered as a form of gracious condescension by God to “our weakness and infirmities” as those who need physical signs and seals of His grace. (Belgic Confession, Article 33).

We must therefore ask: does our worship show this dependence upon God, in the songs that are sung, in the sermons that are preached, in the hearts and minds of those who have assembled? If an unbeliever were to come into our sanctuaries would they conclude that we need God or that God needs us?  So much of worship today, whether ‘clothed’ in conservative or liberal garb reflects the thought that God wants to hear from us more than we need to hear from Him.[1] For example our songs and worship teams go on and on so that the poor pastor is only given 10-20 minutes to preach his sermon. [2]

But whose voice would we rather hear? Who will feed us better: man or God? Don’t I need to hear the voice of my Shepherd (John 10:4,16), follow Him and be led unto the green pastures and still waters He has prepared for the restoration of my soul? (Psalm 23:1-3)  [3] Indeed scripture tells us He made us and not we ourselves, created by and for Him (Psalm 100:3). He needs nothing from us (Psalm 50:12-13; Acts 17:25) but we live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28).

Let our worship then become and be, in spirit and in form, like David’s prayer to God:

Psalm 86:1 “Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me; for I am poor and needy.”

___________

[1] I am indebted to Dr. Darryl Hart, co-author of With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, for this insight. On a side note, I highly recommend the book he has written for a more in-depth discussion of many of the issues that these posts are intended to cover.
[2] N.B. We are not against the singing of psalms and hymns for God has commanded that we do so. (Colossians 3:16) We are against what we believe to be the overabundance of singing that goes on in the modern church, especially to the undermining or even exclusion of the preached word.
[3] This argument depends on whether or not God has intended to speak to His people through the preached word. I believe Romans 10:15-17 & 2 Peter 1:16-19 are sufficient to prove that this is the case. (cf. 1 Timothy 4:6; 2 Timothy 4:1-4;  Titus 1:9, 2:1ff.)

Next post – Liturgy: Saluation & Benediction

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