The following article is the transcript of a talk given by Merla Watson at the De Bron Conference Centre in Holland during the Feast of Tabernacles celebration, and seminars on our Jewish heritage as Christians, in 1995. Merla and Merv Watson are professional musicians who live in Israel and also have, their ministry base (King’s Court Ministries) in Canada. Through their ministry they seek to establish true worship among believers, particularly relating this to the Jewish roots of the Christian Faith. Among their compositions are “Jehovah Jireh”, ‘Awake, O Israel” and “Then Shall the Virgin Rejoice in the Dance”.
I speak to you about something which is very close to the heart of God and, therefore, because I am His child, it is very close to my heart – worship. You have probably heard hundreds of seminars on worship, but I am asking you to open your heart to something a little new, because I believe that God is “house-cleaning”. He is house-cleaning our theology, He is house-cleaning our behaviour, He is house-cleaning our worship, and He is also house-cleaning what we celebrate. In our theology, there has been a deliberate destruction of our Jewish roots that has its origins in about the 4th Century. God wants to correct that. In our behaviour, God is speaking to the spiritual abusers. He is cleaning our vessels and He is reinstating the fear of the Living God into our bones. In our worship His desire is to rid it of pretence, from pollution, from ungodly music right in the sanctuary.
This is not a popular topic and it is not something that everyone will say “Amen” to, but perhaps it is because you have not allowed God to show you the way that we should tremble before His presence. You might say, “But I am free”, but your freedom is not your permission to do anything you like, especially in the House of God. Sometimes our so-called freedom is really a rebellion that has not been dealt with. We don’t want order, and therefore we succumb to the author of chaos. We insult the Holy Spirit of God because we say, “Oh the Holy Spirit will take over.” Then we say that we will just be free to let the Holy Spirit cover up all the mistakes and so we shirk our responsibility.
Some time ago, I wrote a group of poems about the dilemma in Church Worship, dealing with all the principal praise expressions, because my husband and I have been well acquainted with every mainstream form of worship. They are all needing a house-cleaning. We have both been raised in fundamentalist homes and the problem is that there is very little freedom of the Holy Spirit. For many years we were part of a High Church where we learned that unless the Lord ignites by His Holy Spirit, the repetitions we go through become vain, and coldness enters in. Don’t think, however, that we, within the charismatic renewal have “arrived”, because we haven’t! To look at ourselves in the mirror and see us as God sees us is sometimes not a very pretty sight. I will read the poem that I wrote about the charismatics:
Extended -Oft pretended –
What imitative sentiment!
What gross flippancy!
What exalted trivia!
To herald our King.
This is the end
Of our hot pursuit??
So near to the truth
And far from intended.
Gird go the loins!
Face the foe
And smack him one
He deserves our thunder
Yell at him
(You’re used to that
Because that’s how
You ask favours
On with it!
Pull his hair
And knock his teeth right out
Send him reeling
Sprawling on the floor
There – it’s done.
With one word
Of quiet authority
You, my Lord
Stilled the waves,
Called out demons
Yea! Even spun out the universe
And I don’t see any record
That You pushed Tabitha
Out of bed
Or shamed Mary Magdalene
What big ears you have!
They’re itchy too!
And why the greedy hand?
Is His grace not sufficient?
What new thing have we got here?
Loud and clear!
O to revel in the mellowed wine
Of praise from humbled hearts.
A fresh glimpse, please
At wondrous mercy
Silencing us to tears.
As we merit not one sideglance
Forgive us Lord
We’ve fought Your battles
Sometimes You’ve humoured our
But most often You stepped aside
Watching our bunglings
And we felt such sting!
(Copyright Catacombs Productions Ltd. Abbots Ford, B. C. Canada)
Now because there seems to be a lack of understanding in the praise and worship leaders as to the holiness and order of their office, and because of the conflict there seems to be between praise leaders and Christian performers, who are more commercial in their approach, and those who aren’t, I believe that God has given me some insight into the character of both.
As I have studied the Inner and the Outer Court of the Second Temple, the Lord has given me a clue. I can remember a few years ago at one of the Christian artists’ seminars, there was a big conflict between the Rock Musicians and the Classical Musicians. They argued about who had the music from God and who didn’t. I believe the Lord has shown me that He can use all types of music. He can use Jazz, He can use Rock, He can use Country Style, He can use Folk Music, He can also use Classical Music and He can use New and Contemporary Music, but we must examine where they are supposed to be. There is a place for each – a definite place – but the trouble is that we have mixed them up.
Let’s look at the Inner Court as to what it was. The Outer Court was the largest area or the Plaza of the Second Temple Structure. It was the place of commerce – the place of popularity. It was crowded. There was confusion there, but it is where the sacrifices were boiled.
What was the Inner Court? It was the smallest of areas. Ezekiel 10, verses 3-5 tells us that the Cherubims dwelt there. There was not the same sense of popularity and commerce there. There was a sense of Heaven. It was not open, it was enclosed. It was private. It was holy and the blood was on the door-posts. Now the Outer Court looked North and the Inner Court looked East and it is interesting that outside the Inner Court there was a chamber of singers at the North side, facing the Altar of Sacrifice (a profound study in itself!). When did the Outer Court function? It was open all the time. It is like the Scripture verse, “Whosoever will come”, or, “Behold I set before you an open door”. The Inner Court was only open at special times. The gate was shut all week, except at the Sabbath and the New Moons on the Feast Days. The Outer Court, who was there? The Gentile proselytes to Judaism. It was the Court of the Gentiles. The sense of the world was here. Horizontal relationships formed between people. It was the most popular place. Everybody could see what was going on. Here you had the outcasts and the eunuchs. Here you even had Cornelius, who was the first convert to Christianity. Now notice who was in the Inner Court; the prepared Priests. There was no access to the public – it was private. They wore Holy linen because there should not be any sweat from their garments and they were not wine drinkers. Here we see a vertical relationship with the living God. The Cherubim dwelt there.
Why was there an Outer Court? Because this was an outreach to the Gentiles. It was the prophetic inclusion of us now. It was open -a wonderful place to be – but contrasted with that, the Inner Court was a very mysterious place; there you had the Ark of the Covenant and the Seven Branch Candlestick, the Menorah. What was the Outer Court like? The atmosphere was one of busy-ness and popularity and reaching out. It was a whole different climate from the Inner Court, because there it was filled with the Glory of the living God. God spoke there and there was order.
Now we get to worship. The Outer Court, as I see it, is where we perform music that identifies with the masses. If I am going to go down and minister in the “red light” district, I understand that I am not going to sing a hymn or use classical music, because they would not understand that. You use different bait for different fish. What are they familiar with? Jazz, Rock, Country Style, and that is where it belongs. It is where the evangelism is and it is nothing to look down on – God calls people to be evangelists and to use their music in that way. The tunes have to be catchy, the taste is from the world. It can be very entertaining and it can be casual – it has a world vision to it. We use songs that say, “Jesus is the Lord” – we put it in the third person. We show people that we are acquainted with Jesus. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the whole world believed in Him? Order is not very important there. We praise the Lord in that area, saying God is my Healer, God is my Deliverer, He’s my Friend, He’s my Guide, He’s my Saviour, bringing good news to people who have not heard these things. Jesus always knew how to touch that sore spot when He was evangelising. He did not come in to evangelise with a kind of High Priest attitude. He came down with the people – He became as one with them. Now one has to be careful if one is called to the ministry of worship in the Outer Court for there are alien spirits which can influence the situation there and also suck you in to its lifestyle. You need to be careful to take intercessors with you.
Now in Inner Court worship, I don’t believe that Jazz belongs, I do not believe that Rock belongs, or Country Style. What belongs? Classical and Folk Style feel comfortable here interspersed throughout the service. We ask God for a NEW song too. It is not supposed to be like anything else. You might argue that Rock music can have Christian words, but unfortunately you can very seldom hear the words. People hear the music and the beat before they hear the words. It has its place, a wonderful place, but we profane the Sanctuary if we bring it into our worship in the Holy Place. Profanity really means to make common like everything else. This does not mean that worship in the Inner Court cannot be lively. It will be lively sometimes, and sometimes solemn, but it will also be consecrated, and dedicated unto the Lord. Now God has “winked” at these styles because there have been a lot of people with very pure hearts who love the Lord very much, but who have not had this revelation. Their place is as evangelists. When it comes to the Sanctuary (I cannot emphasise this enough) the music MUST NOT SOUND LIKE THE WORLD.
I would say that 98% of all Christian music that is listened to on tapes is Outer Court music. The Inner Court music is meant to bless God and to edify and build up His people. It is a very special solitary place. In the Outer Court we sing songs about “He is Lord”, “He is the healer”, in the third person, but in the Inner Court we sing “YOU are Lord”, “YOU are my healer”, it is direct and that is the difference. We must not take our cue from the world in the Inner Court. In fact if we play or sing something like the world then we will know that we are in the Outer Court. Perhaps we are stepping on toes here, and there will be people who will say, “I just don’t agree with that” or they will say, “But I don’t like the other music”. But I want to tell you, that it does not depend on your taste. Worship to the living God may not be your choice at first, but you can come to appreciate it by practice, and you will come to appreciate its order and its beauty. It stands by itself, and it is not afraid to be lonely! It might even have more ritual to it. Don’t be afraid of liturgy or ritual – it is all through Scripture.
Sometimes charismatics have become so free as to dump out the baby with the bathwater. If anything, we should be more poetic than we have ever been. Why is it that the world has the best art? It shouldn’t. Why does it have the best poetry? It shouldn’t. We are supposed to be in touch with the Holy Spirit and He is the most creative force in the Godhead.
Now where does the Outer Court worship occur? Not in the Church, except for youth meetings, or adult gatherings which are not on worship days. It is for outdoor and indoor rallies, for schools, for theatres, public places. But the Inner Court worship is for Bible Studies, in the privacy of your own devotional room, in any worship area where we are coming into the presence of the living God – it is a church sanctuary. The very word “sanctuary” denotes a place of refuge from the noise of the world. A Holy Place for a Holy purpose and not for outreach to the world. Outer Court worship can happen any time; it is for whosoever, whensoever, wheresoever. But Inner Court worship is for an appointed time. When you enter God’s House, you don’t come just any way. If Jesus were there in all His Royal Splendour, you would not rush up in a pair of shorts or blue jeans, chewing gum, and say, “Hi!”. What kind of mental picture do we have of the Lord? He is the King of Kings and when He is in our midst we show respect. We have lost some of that respect in the charismatic renewal. We can say anything, and we can look like anything – it does not seem to matter any more. But as I read Scripture, I see that the Glory of the Latter House shall be greater than the Glory of the Former House. If you look at the Former, it had a tremendous amount of ritual! I mean, every little detail was spelled out. We are going to see this now more so. Now the Lord has set us free – now it is time to “trim those bushes”. When a child has a new toy he experiments with it for a while until his parents give him directions on what to do with it.
It is wonderful to be free in the Holy Spirit, but we must not be afraid of order and beauty. Try singing some of those grand hymns of the earlier centuries, good music, good poetry, good theology. Use one or two in each worship session. Put new life into them. In the Inner Court the worship becomes the most precious to the Lord and to us. Often it is through our trials and testings that this worship come. There are times when you can’t tell another living person, but you can pour it out to the Lord in worship. Have you had times of sweet fellowship like that? He understands and He knows. Out of that might come a new song to the Lord, when we share all sorts of victories because of Him.
In the Outer Court the person ministering in music must be suited to evangelism. It is not enough to just have the ability to play a guitar and sing a few songs which is fine for, say, a Bible Study. Different people are equipped for different ministries and we must be sensitive to where they go. We need people for the Outer Court, but we also need people who are properly trained and sensitively prepared for the Inner Court. In the Inner Court itself there are different ministries. There are those who are suited to small intimate situations with a dozen or so people, and others who are suited to larger gatherings. Different people can minister in different ways and will be out of place in areas for which they are not intended to minister. A person who has a big vision and who can lead a large celebration in worship may not be sensitive to the situation in a small cell group, for example. Conversely, a worship leader in a cell group will not have the flamboyance needed for a mammoth setting. Besides this, those who lead in ministry in one way need to be led by others in other circumstances. Leaders of large celebrations need others to lead them in worship in cell groups to which they also belong, and vice versa.
I believe that God wants gifted and trained anointed leaders for the Inner Court. We start from where we are, but the Lord’s highest is for those who are anointed also to be trained, otherwise sooner or later they run out of ideas on a technical level. Sometimes people ask me, “When did the Holy Spirit teach you to play the violin?” I don’t want to be upspiritual, but I have been learning to play since I was four years old and I have had a lot of lessons and have been a professional since mid-teens, but the Holy Spirit also helps me with anointing, sensitivity and creativity. I have the craft and the techniques, so that I can apply them to give variety and richness, instead of being limited. If I am a singer and I am going to lead people in worship, then I should humble myself and take a few lessons. You have to know how to breathe, for example, and you have to know how to pronounce words, otherwise, sooner or later, you will get hoarse and unable to sing. Even professional singers get laryngitis sometimes, but if we were not trained then we would get it all the time. If you are a dancer (and there are a lot of people who want to dance before the Lord) you must be trained if you are to minister in public and out of the privacy of your own room, otherwise you will be limited to about three basic moves which will look rather silly when repeated over and over. A dancer – a real dancer – is a dancer from the scalp right down to the shoes, and every inflexion of even the fingers means something. If I had to choose between someone who is anointed and someone who is trained, I would choose the anointed person, but for God’s highest we should be both anointed and trained. David said, “Play skilfully”. You can’t play skilfully unless you have had lessons.
Very often we discover musicians whom we are supposed to work with who are unprepared. Recently I turned to a bass player in a group who was to play with us. He said, “I can’t read music, so there’s no use putting music on my stand.” I turned to the piano player who said, “I only play by ear. ” The guitarist said, “I can’t read music – just hum the song and we’ll get it.” Of course, as usual, there were no solo instruments. I didn’t know whether I should faint or go into a rage, because I believe that God has His trained people out there. It is the same with the preacher and teacher – we don’t want to listen to unprepared spontaneous waffle.
There is a characteristic of people who lead in the Inner Court. Often, they are both lonely and broken people. My husband and I are getting to the place where, unless there is broken-ness in worship and in teaching then we “switch off”. However much we love God’s signs and wonders, we don’t look for them; we look for the presence of the living God. We are not looking for triumphalism, or for the evangelist who gets thousands of people to come forward because of the exciting things that he says. We are fed by the “little people”, the people that God speaks to. That is our meat and drink.
In the Outer Court there is a wonderful chance to meet the unchurched – they will not come to Church, so we must go out to where they are and we must identify with them. That is why we try to find a common denominator. Usually we find those people with a tremendous love for mankind and for God’s Word. God has two basic commands – “Go” and “Come”. “Go out into all the world”, but what does it mean to “Come”? It means to come into His presence to bless Him, to be obedient to Him, to bring a sacrifice of praise, to be one with the Lord, to invite the Holy Spirit to cleanse and permeate our lives. You know, the strangest things happen, the closer we get to Him -He reveals how dirty we are compared with His radiance, to His holiness. But. He picks us up, He loves us and waits for our obedience – the highest form of worship!
Now we should consider the difference between the Greek kind of worship and the Jewish kind of worship. What do we mean by Greek worship? I think that the charismatic movement is entertaining this. It is style conscious. Observe this in praise leaders as they adopt various poses, mannerisms and formulae. Use that outside, but if royalty came into your presence, you would be flat on your face before Him, you would be singing the most beautiful song that you could possibly think of. All the beautiful things that He means to you would be sung. You would honour Him and would not blush.
Surely He is considering most of our worship and, though He sees our hearts, He would say, “I don’t like that, you can do better and it does not honour me.” We are made in God’s image – He is not made in our image. There is a difference. What is your mental picture of the Lord Jesus? He is not just your buddy: He is King of Kings! No unclean thing can dwell in His presence, including worship which is handled improperly. Whereas the Greek is style conscious, the Jewish way is not afraid to be different. It is not afraid to just ask the Lord for the song. I have made it a top priority not to listen to Gospel music, not because I think I am such a “hot shot” (I am still trying to learn from the Lord) but I could imitate very fast and I don’t want to do that. I want Jesus to give me something new and I don’t care if nobody sings it and I don’t care if nobody likes it. I am singing it just for Him and I want Him to love it because He has given it to me. When I do this, others also are moved, but this is not my motivation to please anyone but God!
Greek is often intellectual. The Hebraic is intellectual also, but in a natural way. Sometimes I think we could use a much better form of language than we do in our worship. One time I was leafing through one of those song books that corresponds with the praise tapes. The first one said “Thou art worthy”, the second said,”You are worthy”, the third said, “Worthy, worthy”, the fourth said, “Worthy art Thou”. What has happened to our language? Why can’t we say something a little more creative? Do you know, I was told by one of those big companies, “We don’t want your music. First of all it has more than one verse. Second, it has language more difficult than that of a grade school young boy, and we don’t want that. Thirdly, we don’t want any poetry.” His parting words were, “When it comes down to the fine point, what sells, goes!” So we shook hands and left. I don’t want to be part of that mentality, because when the Lord does something with you He also anoints your mind making you far more expressive. So many times someone rushes up to me and says, “Look at this song God gave me.” Every time I get excited because I think perhaps this time I will have a nice surprise. I say, “Well, where is it?” “It’s in my head.” “Well can you write it up?””No, I don’t know how “OK, then I’ll write it out for you.” And I listen to it and there is nothing new! “Jesus died upon the tree. Twiddle dee, twiddle dee.” Nothing new! But He said “Sing a new song”!
The Hebraic also appeals to the soul. Do you know why so many Christians get into trouble one way or another? It is because the soul is starved. There are so few of us who do anything else except beat a path from the house to the Church door. We don’t do any sports. We don’t go to a good concert or to an art gallery. If we go to a place where there are not Christians we sit in a little corner and talk just to Christians, or we sit quietly and pray that the Lord will open up the conversation so that we can witness. We have nothing to say to them. We don’t read the paper. We don’t know what is going on. I don’t think that is fair. We should be informed people, who do have a “say” on many matters!
The Greek has form but it is a worship of the formula, for example, “These are the four spiritual laws”, “This is the way you accept the Lord”, “This is the way you worship”. We say in the charismatic renewal that we don’t have form – Oh yes we do! We do have rituals. You try not “singing in the spirit” once! You try being quiet for three minutes without a prophecy! We have our own little hidden rituals. But with the Biblical/Hebraic we are to worship the Lord with a fervent honest spirit. There is no pretence, while in the Greek you often find religious spirits. This is in the charismatic renewal. You will see this in prophesying and singing – an emotionalism which is related to some other spirit which is not God’s Spirit – music that is sentimental fluff. Religious spirits love worship. They worship the worship! It feels good to be in a Church like this. I have found, for example, that with homosexuals, they love the charismatic renewal because it makes them feel good. It cloaks the sin. How many people raise their arms to praise the Lord while underneath there is not a Godly life? Nobody knows the difference from what we see them doing, but the Lord wants honesty. He doesn’t mind repetition, but when it becomes ineffectual, it is not of Him. Sometimes when we get up to worship the Lord spontaneously we go into vain repetitions and no more, repeating, “Halleluljah”, “We worship you Lord”, or, Jesus” – we say no more. Where is the creativity to say something beautiful to the Lord? And why do we stay on one note? Everybody has got at least eight and there is no such thing as being tone deaf! That is something you heard when you were a child and believed it and accepted it. So it would be wonderful if we could hear a rich musical praise to God for the things He has done for us. I am sure He would say, “Isn’t that wonderful? – they’re singing something new and my heart is so delighted”. It will take a new fresh initiative. Often our worship is rootless. We say, “We belong to the New Testament Church”. Who on earth wants to belong to the New Testament Church with all its problems? I belong to the whole faith, going back to Abraham and Isaac! I’ve swallowed the whole pill.
The Greek is sometimes very gullible. We believe everything that we see or hear. In fact someone might come and teach one thing one week, and then someone else may teach the opposite the next week and we believe them both! The Greek is also very seductive. There is a move within the charismatic renewal that has its own music, which other musicians agree with me that there is something seductive in it. There is constant repetition and a mood that is created which seems beautiful but is not good – almost a hypnosis. This is another spirit at work, which is not God’s Spirit. We need to be able to discern this and to know our Scriptures to find out what is right and what is wrong. The hard bit is the grey area somewhere in the middle, but we must reject this too. The Lord is saying that there is a definite line between what is pure and what is impure. There is a wooing of the Holy Spirit – the greatest romance that there has ever been in history – but it is nothing to do with seduction!
On the Greek side we want to please man – “I wonder how ‘he’ liked the music tonight. Did you watch how he got into it?” We should not be asking that. We should say, “Lord, is that what You wanted tonight? Did that please You? Was there anything that I did which was the wrong thing? Too much or too little or not sensitive? Please show me because I am doing this for You.” That is when you please God, and when you please Him you are not always going to please everyone else. We have made a lot of enemies because of this, but we have also made some discerning friends!
The music on the one side is Outer Court, of the Greek, and popular. It must be popular. For the Inner Court I have to say, ‘Lord, I don’t want that. I want something fresh that you give.” I love it when somebody says, “It doesn’t sound like anything I know.” Praise the Lord! You don’t want it to sound like anything you know. You want it to be from God’s heart. We must assess the music that we are using and test if it is Outer or Inner Court. A pastor recently telephoned me to say that he was convinced that, in his congregation, they had nothing but Outer Court worship! When we discover this, then we must change. We must be doers of the Word as well as hearers. If you have a mixture of both Outer and Inner Court worship, it is almost as bad as having all Outer Court. We must pray that the Lord will raise up anointed, talented and trained vessels to take their place in the Body of Christ for Inner Court ministry.
This past Summer I saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. We were in Germany and were invited to a retreat of professional symphony players, all born again and baptised in the Holy Spirit. I expected to see about a dozen people, but there were seventy of them, all with a tremendous love for Israel. The first meeting coincided with the time when there was a terrible bus explosion in Israel. They stood up and suddenly all began to play prayer – all of them -Cello, French Horn, Flute, Oboe, everything. I thought I was in Heaven! It was the most beautiful thing, and they all ministered to one another – they ministered with their instruments. A lot of the ministry was on account of the rejection that they have felt in their Churches, because they have been told that they must not play with the praise group, who are using electronic keyboards and other electronic instruments. It seems very vogue to just press the “flute” button on the synthesizer rather than use the real flute player in the congregation. It is claimed that God is requesting this kind of music now, whereas these gifted musicians who have played their instruments from childhood cannot use them in the Churches. While there is a place for electronic instruments, it is not right that they replace the true instruments when talented and anointed musicians are available. It does not make sense that the synthetic is the most Godly thing. Classical music is considered “too high-brow”.
Maybe in your Church you just have Inner Court. I would like to visit that Church, because I have not found one yet, not with pure Inner court – and we have travelled to 50 countries for almost 30 years and ministered in thousands of different churches. That is our challenge, to allow this teaching to come out in expression so it becomes honest, so it is not rootless, it is founded, it is pure, that it is serious, that it is good, that it is righteous, that it is gifted, that it is every good thing. This is what God is jealous for.
In closing, permit me to say how thrilled I am as not only a Christian professional musician but as a music minister that I have been given this opportunity to express my findings on this topic. But more than this, I am exhilarated with the fact that this thinking coincides perfectly with the final precious move of God – the restoration of our Jewish roots as believers.
(Reprinted from Tishrei Vol 4 No 2, Son of Man/Son of God, Spring 1996)