How does the votum include or exclude those gathered to worship?
The words of Psalm 124:8 are taken from one of the "Songs of Degrees" or "Songs of Ascent" (Psalms 120 -134). These were sung by the Israelites as they were ascending Mount Zion on their way to worship God in His temple.
How does this make the words of the votum even more appropriate?
Let us briefly examine each of the ten previous liturgical items:
1. The Votum - The word "votum" comes from the Latin word "voveo" which means "to vow" or "to pray to God." It is an expression of dependence upon God. The votum used to open the church worship service is, "Our help is in the Name of the LORD who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 124:8). The use of this text to open the church service was introduced by John Calvin. The Synod of Dordrecht (1574) approved this votum. Gradually, most Reformed churches adopted it.
The use of Psalm 124:8 as an opening votum is very fitting and important for the following reasons:
It sets the tone and atmosphere for the worship service. The church service is a solemn assembly in which the church meets with its God to worship Him. It is not a social or business gathering. We are gathered together "in the Name of the LORD."
It acknowledges the Lord's almighty, preserving hand which enables the church to gather together to worship. Certainly if the Lord did not uphold and preserve His church, if He had given His church over to her enemies to self, sin, world, or Satan -there would be no gathering for worship. After a week of trial and conflict, the church may gather in God's house and first exclaim, "Our help is in the LORD, who made heaven and earth!"
It expresses the unity of faith found in the church family. The language used in the opening votum expresses the church's corporate nature; it is congregational language, "Our help..."
It calls upon God as the great Creator - "Who made heaven and earth," but also as the ever-faithful, covenant-keeping Jehovah - "Our help is in the Name of the LORD."
It confesses the weakness and helplessness of itself and its efforts. The votum does not express that the church's help is to be found in its name, members, organization, or activities; rather, "Our help is in the Name of the LORD."