There are only three rules about real estate – location, location, location. You may have two houses exactly alike and yet they may have radically different values based entirely on the neighborhood that surrounds them. In other words, how we view something is often determined not just by what it instrinsically is but also by what is often found around it.
In a sense worship is this way. When we examine it in the context of its surroundings in the Word of God we often find things that inform how we view worship itself. While these things are not necessarily worship in the strictest sense of the word they do help us to understand worship because they are often seen in its company. They are part and parcel of worship. They are the package that often surrounds it.
In today's blog post I am going to discuss three of these and I will follow that up with another three next week.
The first of these is serving. The original language words so often translated as some form of the word 'servant' in the King James Bible (253 times) is also translated nine times as 'worship' or 'worshipper.' In fact, in one particular usage in the New Testament the English word 'worshipper' actually comes from a word that means 'one who sweeps and cleans the temple.'
There is a direct connection between your sense of worship and whom or what you choose to serve. In practical terms that means if you claim to worship Jehovah and yet you do not serve Him I highly doubt whether you actually do worship Him. By the same token, if you serve yourself or money or any one of a number of false idols often found in current American life it cannot be reconciled with a claim to worship God.
Jeremiah believed in this deep connection between worship and service. Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them. (Jeremiah 22.9) In the same generation Daniel's three friends saw the same thing. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3.18) Five centuries later Paul grasped the same truth. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. (Romans 1.25) Jesus Himself, quoting no less an authority than Moses, established this emphatically as truth when He said to Satan, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4.10)
I am writing this on Easter Sunday afternoon. All across America this morning millions of people gathered in churches to worship God, at least as they see it. Yet a large number of those people made no effort in the last week to serve Him. They gave no cup of cold water in His name to one that was thirsty. They fed no hungry man in His name. They clothed no naked person in His name. They completely ignored the spiritual, physical, emotional, and financial needs of their neighbors. For one hundred sixty seven hours this week they pursued a selfish course yet because they sat in a worship service and sang worship choruses this morning they think they worship God. They could not possibly be more mistaken. If you worship you serve.
The second connection point we often find with worship is praise. Last week I defined worship as our response when we see God. As I enter His presence I am deeply convinced of my own unworthiness and His transcendent supremacy. I place Him in my heart and mind into the proper sphere He ought to hold and I place myself appropriately as well. Consequently, I bow before Him. I worship Him.
Such a view of God almost inevitably leads me to praise Him. The sweet psalmist of Israel, who full well knew worship and praise both, saw this connection. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. (Psalm 86.9) Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy. (Psalm 99.5) I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth. (Psalm 138.2)
Overall I take a rather dim view of contemporary Christian America's praise and worship music but I have the greatest respect for the sincerity of the motives behind it. Praise and worship do go hand in hand and ought to go hand in hand in the life of God's people. 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. (II Chronicles 7.3) The one thing that such churches and such people get right more than any other is a deep desire to praise the God we all worship. I love them for it.
The third connection point Scripture implicitly and explicitly pairs with worship is humility. We saw last week that humility is central to the whole idea of what worship is. This is borne out repeatedly in Scripture. I will not bore you with a long list of quotations. I will allow myself just one. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. (Psalm 95.6)
Humility is necessary for the proper exercise of every spiritual grace but none more so than worship. If I am to bow in my heart it must be because I see myself as completely unworthy of Him. Pride is anathema to all that God would build in us. At the same time it is mother's milk to all that is wrong and wicked in this world. The older I get the more shocked I am to find famous preachers and ministries that seem to embrace pride so thoughtlessly. Do they not understand? Can they not see? If they really are as close to God as they represent themselves to be the result would be the opposite of great pride – it would be a profound humility.
Yet it is exactly here that I must pause. I must pull back my indignantly outthrust arm and retract my accusatory finger. I must cease peering around the corners of the beam in my own eye. I must drag the clandestine cavities of my own heart into the full orbed light of God's day and see the filth contained therein. While I want to throw everyone else at God's feet in my self-righteous judgment I must instead throw myself there. I must humble myself under the mighty hand of God and let Him worry about humbling everyone else.
Worship is not service but if it does not include service it is not worship. Worship is not praise but it will naturally produce praise. Worship is not humility alone but without humility worship cannot exist. Humility is the air in which worship breathes.
Beloved, do you serve Him this week. Do you praise Him this week. Do you humble yourself before Him. In these ways, then, let us worship the Lord our God.