Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What Is Worship?

A local church is anticipating the arrival of a new pastor and with that pastor, several changes in the way their worship service is conducted. While Glen and I discussed this, our discussion lead to the true meaning of worship.

Many will immediately think of music and song, and yes, it is possible to worship the Lord in music and song. But that is not primarily the definition of worship. Others may think of prayer, and it is certainly possible to worship the Lord in prayer. But that is not the essence of worship either. In fact, it is entirely possible to pray and to sing praises to the Lord and to never enter into worship in any form whatsoever.

How is that possible, you may ask? We must look to the very first mention of worship in Scripture for our answer.

"And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." (Genesis 22:5)

Abraham was taking Isaac up to the mountain. There he intended to obey the Lord as He had commanded him:

"And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. " (Genesis 22:2)

Abraham did not intend to go up to the mountain to pray with Isaac, although I am sure his heart was full of prayer with each step. He did not intend to go up to the mountain to sing praises to the Lord, in fact, I would surmise his heart felt so heavy he could find no song to sing. But he could find obedience, and that was what was considered worship. The first time worship is mentioned in the Bible is regarding an act of obedience. The Hebrew word means to "bow down", to "prostrate oneself".

How different is that definition than what we see today so often defined as "worship"? There is often an abject lack of humility, a lack of obeisance. On the contrary, we may see faces flashed brightly on huge screens, amplified versions of voices and names plastered in text to clearly make known who is doing the "worshiping". But it seems we might have forgotten the "Who" that is being worshiped.

If our actions of singing, musical performance, prayer --whatever we think worship should be-- is not in obedience to what the Lord wants us to do at that moment, it cannot be considered worship. Worship cannot exist without obedience.

Perhaps on this particular occasion, the Lord does not want us to stand in front of the spotlights, in front of the audience. Perhaps today He wants us to sit by a frail, elderly church member, to help her steady herself in her seat. Perhaps no one will notice our efforts on her behalf. Perhaps He wants us to help some dear one out to their car, or hold a crying inconsolable baby in the nursery. No one may know of what we have done.

Ah, but the Lord will know. And if we have done these in obedience to Him, it will be far more worship than if we had sung ten thousand songs in the spotlight.

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
(Matthew 25:40)

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