Monday, March 30, 2015

Worship, Part One – What is Worship?


          One of my wife's favorite movies is The Princess Bride. I confess to enjoying it myself. It has such tremendous number of often applicable lines. One of those lines came to mind as I thought about the subject of this new blog series. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." The word I mean is "worship".

          American Christianity has probably never spent more time and emphasis on worship with so little equivalent understanding. People go to church to worship. When they get there they walk into a scheduled worship service. During this service they sing praise and worship. These song sets are directed by a worship leader. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.
          For the next six weeks we are going to delve into the subject of worship. We are going to define worship. We are going to examine a number of things that are often found in conjunction with worship. We are going to talk about the shift in worship between Israel and the Church. We are going to explain why the church service is not a worship service. Finally, we are going to show you the compounding errors that come to a church when it wrongly aims its service at worship.
          Are you mad at me yet? Hang on, it is probably going to get worse before it's over…
          Some form of the word "worship" is used one hundred ninety times in the King James Version. In the Old Testament the vast majority of those (99) come from the Hebrew word "shachah" which literally means to bow down. This original language word is also translated in the KJV Old Testament as bow, bow down, obeisance, reverence, fall down, stoop, and crouch. Additionally, Daniel, which is not written in Hebrew but in Aramaic uses "worship" twelve times. The Aramaic word Daniel used, "segeed" means to prostrate oneself.
          In the New Testament the vast majority of the usages (60) come from the Greek word "proskuneo" which means kneeling or prostration. The root word underlying it implies a dog kissing his master's hand. There are a few other usages translated as "worship" but they are much rarer. We will look at some of them in the context of what worship includes rather than as what worship is defined as.
          What I gather out of my examination of these definitions and out of the predominance of the word usages is that worship is bowing myself before God when I enter into His presence. Worship strongly implies a whole heart and body attitude of an inferior humbly notifying his superior that he understands and believes in the validity of their arrangement. For instance, in the context of a promised answer to prayer in battle II Chronicles 20.18 records And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord. Satan exhibited a similar understanding in the New Testament when he said to Christ during the temptations All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (Matthew 4.9)
          With that as a basic understanding of the word itself let us look at some examples in Scripture of this kind of behavior.

Exodus 34.6-8 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

Joshua 5.14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

the people at Solomon's Temple dedication
II Chronicles 7:3  And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

the Wise Men
Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

the women after the Resurrection
Matthew 28:9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

the 24 elders in heaven (repeated two more times in Revelation 11.16 and 19.4)
Revelation 5:14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

the angels in heaven
Revelation 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

          In each of the nine cases I have cited so far we see specific instances of people meeting God and responding in deep humility by physically bowing down and worshipping. After noticing this pattern as I studied the word "worship" in the Bible I decided to examine every case I could find of a human being seeing God. I wanted to determine if I could find the same reaction. In other words I wanted to see if humans prostrate themselves in God's presence whether or not the Scripture actually uses the word "worship." Not surprisingly this is exactly what I found. Here are some illustrations of what I believe to be worship even though the word is never used:

Genesis 17.1-3 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

Moses and Aaron
Numbers 20:6 And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.

The priests at Solomon's Temple dedication (repeated II Chronicles 5.14)
1Kings 8:11 So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.

the crowd at Elijah's battle with the prophets of Baal
1Kings 18:39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.

Ezekiel (repeated six times in Ezekiel)
Ezekiel 1:28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.

Peter, after Jesus filled the net with fish
Luke 5.8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

the Apostles at the Transfiguration
Matthew 17:6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Paul's conversion
Acts 9.3-4 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

John the Revelator
Revelation 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

          To me the definition of worship is relatively simple: worship is our response when we see God. It is what happens in our heart and soul when we enter into His presence, in awe of His greatness, conscious of His holiness and our own sinfulness, when in humility and amazement we fall at His feet and esteem Him rightfully in every way our superior.
          Jehoshaphat did it. Moses did it. Joshua did it. The people and the priests at Solomon's Temple's dedication did it. Abraham did it. Aaron did it. The crowd at Elijah's battle with the prophets of Baal did it. Ezekiel did it. The Wise Men did it. The women who met Jesus after His Resurrection did it. Peter did it. The Apostles at the Transfiguration did it. Paul did it. John did it. The twenty four elders will do it in Heaven. The angels do it.

          Do you do it? Do you worship God? Do you ever meet with Him? Did you meet with Him this morning? When you did, did you worship Him? Did you, in your heart, throw yourself at His feet and proclaim Him in every way your superior? Did you worship Him today?
          It is not too late. The day is not over. If you have not done it yet today steal away from your screen, find a quiet place, throw yourself at His feet, and worship Him, beloved. He is most deserving.

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