With Understanding

What place does intellect have in worship?
“Why do you want to marry me?” the young woman asked. “Because I love you,” her fiancé instantly replied. That was a good answer. But she pressed further: “Why do love me?” At this point, a young suitor does well to carefully consider his response. To say, “Because I have to” or “Because of the way I feel right now” aren’t reasons upon which to enter into matrimony. A person needs to have strong and reasonable motives before saying “I do.”
Praising God is a wonderful activity. The Bible often calls upon us all to give God the glory and honor due his name. But why praise God? To say that it’s our duty or that I happen to be feeling good at this moment isn’t good enough. God wants praise from a heart that has contemplated deeply the relationship between the Creator and his creatures.
Psalm 47:7 states the principle clearly: “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding” (NKJV). If we attempt to sing praises without understanding, do we please the Lord?
There are many reasons to praise God. Earlier verses in that psalm state some of them: “For the Lord Most High is awesome; he is a great King over all the earth. He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet. He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom he loves” (Psalm 47:2-4). Added to these are hundreds of other reasons to exalt the name of God.
Paul affirmed the importance of understanding in our worship to God. He wrote to correct some abuses of miraculous gifts by Christians at Corinth. Some were gleefully parading their ability to speak in other languages, though no one in the assembly spoke that tongue. Paul’s rebuke was to the point: “Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19).
Worship, according to these passages, must involve our understanding, that rational part of our nature. To base our praise on emotions alone is not enough. God wants us to know why we worship him and to be able to teach others those reasons, too.
Worship is not meant to be cold and sterile. We were created with emotions, and these should also be involved in our praise to him. But what drives our worship? Religion that minimizes the understanding does not find its roots in the Bible.

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