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Section 7... Living The Faith/ The Christian and God

 

   003white Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian     >       Index to The Knowledge, Fear, and Worship of God

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Worshipping God

Carol Brooks

Also See Section on The Attributes of  God

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and joy are in His place. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him; Worship the Lord in holy array. Tremble before Him, all the earth; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; And let them say among the nations, "The Lord reigns." [1 Chronicles 16:8-12. 16:23-31 NASB]
 

ON THIS PAGE

Why Worship?

What Is "Worship"?

The Meaning of "Worship" As Defined by Bible
The Hebrew Words Translated "Worship"
The Greek Words Translated "Worship"

What Does it Mean to 'Serve' the Lord?
Wrongly Separating The "Spiritual" and The Secular
How the Prophet Daniel Served The Lord.
Serving God by Serving Others.

A Warning... God Can and Does Reject Worship

In Spirit and Truth

Conclusion

 


Why Worship?
Two of the Biblical authors had overwhelming, even terrifying, visions of the Ancient of Days. Isaiah wrote

    In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. [Isaiah 6:1-4 NASB]

Several centuries later, the apostle John penned these words

    And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; [Revelation 4:3-5 NASB]

As A.W. Tozer, an outspoken minister and author of more than 40 books, once said

    "In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. [1]

While as Ray Stedman once said... “Prayer is our occupation with our human needs and problems. We come to God with our needs and ask him for his supply”, and “Praise is the occupation of our minds with his blessings. We are thinking of all that God has done for us and give thanks for how he has blessed us”. Worship is our occupation with God himself, with the greatness of his being.  [2]

The primary element of true worship expresses wonder, awe, and humility, at the grandeur, infinite power, and sheer majesty of the transcendent God and, obviously, it should be a significant part of every believer's life. But perhaps we need a better understanding of how the Bible defines worship.


What Is "Worship"?
Many modern Christians seem to believe that worship is restricted to Sunday mornings... the word "worship" itself seems to conjure up images of a group of believers, singing, praying, and praising God, or corporate worship.  In fact, it is quite common for Christians to refer to the Sunday morning church meeting as a "worship service", when in fact, "worship" was never the primary reason Christians are supposed to meet? [See The Church Then and Now]

People express preferences for traditional or contemporary worship. Some lean towards more formal worship which involves certain rituals. Others approach worship in a free and unceremonious fashion, often looking for "worship" that is alive, authentic and/or inspiring. Many of this type of person seems to believe that the more they can work themselves into a state of fervor, the more intense their emotions get, the more they can let themselves go to the music and lyrics of the song, the more real and relevant their "worship" is.

Since all too many seem to have confused tradition with true worship, the question that has to be answered is what exactly is "worship"

It is true that hymns and songs of praise were not unknown in the New Testament...

    After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. [Matthew 26:30 NASB]

    But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; [Acts 16:25 NASB]

    speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; [Ephesians 5:19 NASB]

    Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. [Colossians 3:16 NASB] not

However, while the singing of hymns can be incorporated into genuine worship, The Biblical meaning of worship is far more than songs of praise.

Like so many other words in the Christian vocabulary, "worship" can become a meaningless cliché if we do not take the time to consider what exactly the Bible means by worship.


The English Word

The problem is that most attempts to define the term or elaborate on the subject, center around the English word "worship" which is the translation of several Hebrew and Greek words used in the Scriptures.

Most dictionaries give a similar definition of "worship". For example Merriam-Webster says it is the reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power. [3]. It has also been defined as the act of expressing such reverence (ceremonies, prayers etc.) The word "worship" is also commonly used as reverence and adoration of other objects. (Ex. He worships the almighty dollar).

Incidentally, "Worship" is derived from the Old English weordhscipe, which means the "condition of being worthy". The original sense is preserved in the title "worshipful" [4], inasmuch as someone with the title of 'worshipful' is considered worthy of honor and respect etc.

The Hebrew And Greek Terms
While there is no question that God, above all others, is worthy of honor and respect, there is a little more to the Hebrew and Greek terms translated "worship" that just someone who is "worthy". It takes some study of these terms to come to a more complete understanding of what the Bible means when it says "worship".

Although a critical study, it is not a very complicated one.


The Meaning of "Worship" As Defined by Bible

The Hebrew Words Translated "Worship"
Almost every time you read the word "worship" in the English Old Testament, it is a translation of one of two Hebrew words

1) shâchâh,  is used some 220 times in the Old Testament. It means to prostrate, bow down, or fall flat, regardless of whom one is bowing down to. It has been translated "worship", "bow down", "prostrate", or "homage. However, Several verses make it very clear that shâchâh was some form of physical prostration, while the book of Proverbs uses it as an expression of heaviness or weight (all emphasis added)

    Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed (shâchâh) down with his face to the ground. Genesis 19:1 NASB]

    But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down (shâchâh) to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. [Genesis 33:3 NASB]

    "The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing (shâchâh) to you, And all those who despised you will bow (shâchâh) themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. [Isaiah 60:14 NASB]

    Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down (shâchâh) , But a good word makes it glad. [Proverbs 12:25 NASB]

Every time shâchâh occurs in the Old Testament, it was translated according to the context.

Bearing in mind that we almost always use the word "worship" as reverence offered a divine being, shâchâh could not be translated "worship" in Genesis 23:7, when Abraham asked for, and was granted, a burial plot for Sarah from the sons of Heth. Abraham certainly did not "worship" these people. Heth was Canaan's son [Genesis 10:15] and his tribe became the Hittites, who the Lord said He would utterly destroy, along with the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Jebusites etc. See Exodus 23:23. Abraham bowing to them was a form of respect in the Middle East, as was the sons of Heth calling Abraham "my lord.”

    Then Abraham rose from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of Heth, saying, "I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight." The sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, "Hear us, my lord, you are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our graves; none of us will refuse you his grave for burying your dead. So Abraham rose and bowed (shâchâh) to the people of the land, the sons of Heth. " [Genesis 23:3-7 NASB]

Similarly, Jacob did not "worship" Esau, nor did Moses "worship" his father in law. It was purely a physical act of respect, different forms of which are seen in many middle eastern countries, and in India, to this day.

    But he himself (Jacob) passed on ahead of them and bowed (shâchâh) down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. [Genesis 33:3 NASB]

    Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent. [Exodus 18:7 NASB]

Because one can bow down to another without "worshipping" them (as we understand the term), the NASB added the words "in worship" to Genesis 47:31 (below), so that it is understood that Jacob was bowing down to God.

    He said, "Swear to me." So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed (shâchâh) in worship at the head of the bed. [Genesis 47:31 NASB] (The italics means that the words were not in the original Hebrew, but were added for clarification)


2) âbad, literally means to work (in any sense), even working or tilling the land to grow crops.

    You shall work (âbad) six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest. [Exodus 34:21 NASB]

    Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone that we may serve (âbad) the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve (âbad) the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." [Exodus 14:12 NASB]

    "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve (âbad) for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. [Exodus 21:2 NASB]

    Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate (âbad) the ground from which he was taken. [Genesis 3:23 NASB]

âbad was commonly used in connection with the work done in the temple. For instance...

    "Only the Levites shall perform (âbad) the service (abôdâh) of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the sons of Israel they shall have no inheritance. [Numbers 18:23 NASB]

Although âbad has only been translated into the English "worship" less than 15 times out of the 300, or so, times it appears in the Old Testament, one has to wonder why it was ever done so. Even in chapters that are very close together, the word has been translated as both serve and worship, for no apparent reason. For example

    "Therefore, our livestock too shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the LORD our God. And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve (âbad) the LORD." [Exodus 10:26 NASB]

    Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, "Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship (âbad) the LORD, as you have said. [Exodus 12:31 NASB]

Note: There are several instance in the Old Testament where both words, âbad and shâchâh, are used together in some sentences. The people being often warned not to serve, or bow down before, other gods/graven images.

    "You shall not worship (shâchâh) them or serve (âbad) them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, [Exodus 20:5 NASB]

    "And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship (shâchâh) them and serve (âbad) them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. [Deuteronomy 4:19 NASB]

    "But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve (âbad) other gods and worship (shâchâh) them, [1 Kings 9:6 NASB]

    Let all those be ashamed who serve (âbad) graven images, Who boast themselves of idols; Worship (shâchâh) Him, all you gods. [Psalms 97:7 NASB]

    and do not go after other gods to serve (âbad) them and to worship (shâchâh) them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands, and I will do you no harm.' [Jeremiah 25:6 NASB

(Pl. note that graven images are simply the physical representation of spiritual beings  See Idol Worship... The Spirits Behind The Idols


The Greek Words Translated "Worship"

proskuneo
In the New Testament, the word "worship" has been overwhelmingly translated from the Greek proskuneo, which is derived from pros ("towards"), and kuneo ("to kiss"). In other words, proskuneo means to to do homage, make obeisance, kneel or prostrate oneself, in order to in order to express respect or to make supplication. The physical posture reflecting an attitude of respect and even humility... A high view of the person being bowed to, an a lower view of oneself. As said by the web site biblestudytools.com, proskuneo was...

    "Used to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before a person and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc.; the Persians did this in the presence of their deified king, and the Greeks before a divinity.” [15]

Yet, it is only in a handful of cases that proskuneo has been translated into the English "bow down" or "prostrate". For example..

    And a leper came to Him and bowed down (proskuneo) before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." [Matthew 8:2 NASB]

    But she came and began to bow down (proskuneo) before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" [Matthew 15:25 NASB]

    So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated (proskuneo) himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' [Matthew 18:26 NASB] Note: the fact that the phrase "to the ground" was put into italics in the NASB, means that it did not exist in the original text, but was added for clarity.

    Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down (proskuneo) and making a request of Him. [Matthew 20:20 NASB]

    They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing (proskuneo) before Him. [Mark 15:19 NASB]

Because the general idea of worship that we hold today is so far removed from the literal meaning of the Greek word proskuneo, using "worship" in certain verses could be very bewildering. For example, the KJV version of Mark 15:19 says the soldiers spat on Jesus, and "bowing their knees worshipped him" which, to the average English reader, would be a contradiction in terms. You don't spit on something you worship.

The NASB, seeking to clarify this, says the soldiers were mocking Jesus as "King of the Jews" ... by kneeling and bowing to Him. All of which could have been averted if proskuneo, had always been translated "bow down" or prostrate, which is what the word means.

latreia
However, there are two other Greek words, both used rather sparingly in the New Testament. Latreia, used 8 times, is a verb that means "service", and reflects the concept of the Hebrew âbad, as demonstrated by the following verse. The priests were physically performing the acts of worship which God had appointed - burning incense, etc. Luke 1:9.

    Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship (latreia). [Hebrews 9:6 NASB]

Latreia was also used in two other well known verses, both of which show physical action

    Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (latreia). [Romans 12:1 NASB]. Note: The KJV translates the second part of the verse "which is your reasonable service"

    "They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service (latreia) to God. [John 16:2 NASB]

Just as  âbad and shâchâh, were used together in some sentences in the Old Testament... "You shall not worship (shâchâh) them or serve (âbad) them [Exodus 20:5] (Them being other gods/graven images), Jesus used both proskuneo and latreuo in the same sentence (latreia is derived from latreuo)

    Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'you shall worship (proskuneo) the Lord your God, and serve (latreuo) Him only.'" [Matthew 4:10 NASB]

Obviously although serve and worship are two sides of one coin, they mean different things.

sebomai
The Greek words sebomai, used ten times in the New Testament, means to venerate or revere. In the NASB it has been translated worship [Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7, Acts 18:13, 19:27], worshiper [Acts 16:14, 18:7], devout [Acts 13:50], or God-fearing  [Acts 13:43, 17:4, 7:17].  A derivative, sebazomai is used once.. in Romans 1:15 where it is translated "worshiped"


In Summary...
The English word "worship" has largely been translated from the Hebrew

    âbad, which means to work (in any sense); by implication to serve,
    shâchâh
    , which means to prostrate, or bow down, or fall flat,

and the Greek

    proskuneo which means to to do homage, or make obeisance...to kneel or prostrate oneself,
    latreia which means to serve, and
    sebomai, which means to venerate or revere.

Thus, Biblically, to worship God is to "work" for or "serve" Him with an attitude of deference, humility and reverence. A mental prostration, if you will. Joshua warned the people...

    "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve (âbad) Him with all your heart and with all your soul." [Joshua 22:5 NASB]

Serving Him with all your heart and soul cannot be limited to a couple of hours on a Sunday morning,


What Does it Mean to 'Serve' the Lord?

Wrongly Separating The "Spiritual" and The Secular
Many consider serving the Lord as doing something related to religion and church...  attendance at weekly church services, the giving of tithes and offerings and generally being nice people who haven't actually murdered anyone. However, we cannot compartmentalize our lives, but have to serve the Lord wherever we are, and what ever we happen to be doing.

    Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. [1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB]

    Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. [Colossians 3:23-24 NASB]

Additionally, we should look at some very illuminating examples of what the Bible describes as service to the Lord.


How the Prophet Daniel Served The Lord.
Remember king Nebuchadnezzar's words to Daniel before he was forced to throw him into the den of lions. He said

    Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions' den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you." [Daniel 6:16 NASB]

And, as we all know, God did protect Daniel from the lions, but what did Daniel do that was counted as serving God? The book tells us of several things...

    Daniel and his three friends refused to eat of meat forbidden by Mosaic law, although their daily ration was from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank Chapter 1).

    They refused to serve the Babylonian gods, not fall down and worship the huge golden image that the king had made although they were commanded to by the king himself who threatened them that they would be burned alive if they did not do so. (Chapter 3)

    They refused to obey the injunction that, for thirty days, anyone who made a petition to any god or man besides the king, would be cast into a lions' den. Even though Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. (Chapter 6).

Daniel and his friends put the Lord and His word well ahead of any other considerations including their own lives. Everything they did was in simple obedience to the Lord's commands... to follow His law and not to serve any other Gods. In other words... obedience.

Jesus also reminded us

    "No servant can serve (douleuo) two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve (douleuo) God and wealth." [Luke 16:13 NASB]

In this respect "serve" means, literally or figuratively, to be a slave to. Either God controls what you say and do and the decisions you make,
or money does. It cannot be both ways.

Serving God by Serving Others.
Jesus told His disciples that

    "... the Son of Man did not come to be served (diakoneo), but to serve (diakoneo), and to give His life a ransom for many." [Mark 10:45 NASB]

Incidentally, the Greek word diakoneo, translated "serve" means to be a servant, an attendant, or to wait upon, as in the wedding in Cana at which Mary instructed the servants (diakoneo) to follow Jesus' instructions  [John 2:5,9], and Acts 6 in which certain people were assigned to wait (diakoneo) on tables [Acts 6:2]. However, many examples of diakoneo in the New Testament demonstrated a labor of love. It is also where our English "Deacon" comes from. [DETAILS]

But the love that Jesus showed "... in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" [Romans 5:8], was never meant to be something that we hold to ourselves, but pas along to others. As Jesus reminded us

    you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "this is the great and foremost commandment. "the second is like it, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." [Matthew 22:37-40 NASB]

God did not intend for us to sit around expectantly looking up to the Heavens, awaiting his return with folded hands and a pious expression on our faces, but to serve Him by serving others

    We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? [1 John 3:16-17 NASB]

    Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. [John 15:13 NASB]

    This I command you, that you love one another. [John 15:17 NASB]

    with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, [Ephesians 4:2 NASB]

    and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; [1 Thessalonians 3:12 NASB]

    and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, [Hebrews 10:24 NASB]


A Warning... God Can and Does Reject Worship
We live in an age where everything is either designed to appeal to our emotions, amuse us, and/or ensure we are having fun...  a superficial mindset that has tragically spilled over into the modern church. What often passes for corporate worship today, is little more than another form of entertainment for the spectators, who respond with applause to show their appreciation of the show. An "emotional high" is, all too often, passed off as genuine worship. As Tozer so well expressed it...

    "....  carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for retarded saints. It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. [5]

We seem not to be able to care any less whether or not God is pleased with what passes for worship on Sunday mornings. The entertainment is for the crowd to feel-good about themselves and what they think they have accomplished, much of it conducted by performers who are not quite good enough to make it on stage, but as Tozer also said, would be better occupied laying bricks. When 1 Corinthians 11:27 warns that anyone who

    "... eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy (irreverent) manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. [NASB]

.... why should we imagine that it is possible to come before God for corporate worship in a irreverent manner?

Contrary to what we seem to believe, God will not accept anything we happen to offer... even if we happen to think it is fitting and good.

Be warned that music, verbal praise, and the many "amens" and "Hallelujahs", all of which may appear as very successful worship to us, may not even be considered worship by the Lord, simply because because He looks much deeper than what might be surface expressions. He made it very clear, on more than one occasion, that the offerings, the feasts and festivals, solemn assemblies, music, and even prayer had become a burden to Him. In fact, He may consider some of our worship meaningless and even despicable.

    "What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. "When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? "Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. "I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. "So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. [Isaiah 1:11-17 NASB]

    "I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. "But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. [Amos 5:21-24 NASB]

Think about that for a moment. Is it possible that you return from church on Sunday morning happy at how much you sang His praises and how good the 'worship' was, blissfully unaware that the Lord turned His face away from you and did not accept your worship. Worse, He asked why you dared to tread His courts with your hollow and worthless offerings, and music He did not even want to listen to?


Psalm 50... Godliness Not Mere Outward Rituals
Take a close look at what the Lord said in Psalm 50, a "courtroom scene" in which God comes, amidst fire and tempests, to judge His people ... those that made a covenant with Him by sacrifice. Note that fire is often associated with cleansing and judgment (See for instance Leviticus 10:2, Numbers 16:35, 31:23)

    [5] "Gather My godly ones to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." [6] And the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is judge. Selah.  [7] "Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God.  [8] "I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, And your burnt offerings are continually before Me.  [9] "I shall take no young bull out of your house Nor male goats out of your folds. [10] "For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. [11] "I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.  [12] "If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains.  [13]  "Shall I eat the flesh of bulls Or drink the blood of male goats? [14] "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High;  [15] Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me." [Psalms 50:5-15 NASB]

In other words He does not need our sacrifices because everything belongs to Him anyway [Also See Acts 17:25]. However, He would not reprove them for their sacrifices and burnt offerings [Vs. 8], but He required more than mere rituals, He required offerings that came from the heart and expressed their gratitude and praise. In verses 14 and 15, God goes on to tell His people to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, pay their vows to the Most High, and call upon Him in the day of trouble.

The Lord then turns around and addresses the "wicked" [All Emphasis Added]

    But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth? [17] "For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you.  [18] "When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers.  [19] "You let your mouth loose in evil and your tongue frames deceit.  [20] "You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother's son.  [21] "These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. [Psalms 50:16-22 NASB]

They spoke of, but ignored His covenant, casting His words behind them, and associated with those who practiced evil, However, perhaps the biggest mistake they made was to mistake the Lord's patience for approval of their conduct... that just because God was silent for a while, He was just like them. They fondly imagined they were secure, but God goes on to remind them that they are from it... judgment is coming and, unless they wish to be torn in pieces, they had better reconsider their actions. The Psalm end with words that should give us much pause for thought

    "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God." [Psalms 50:23 NASB]

In short, acceptance and approval cannot be found by mere outward forms. He doesn't need our religious ceremonies and, unless they are accompanied by godliness, they are worthless to Him.

So, what does it take to ensure that our worship is not rejected and the Lord takes pleasure in it? The answer is perfectly summed up in the 15th chapter of 1 Samuel


The Example of Saul
In the book of I Samuel the Lord told king Saul to strike the Amalekites and utterly destroy man and beast [Vs.3] because of how they treated the nation of Israel as they were on their way out of Egypt [Vs.2]. However, Saul did not obey and "spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good" [Vs 9], with the excuse that the people had taken "some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal". This is when the prophet Samuel told king Saul

    "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king." [1 Samuel 15:22-23 NASB]

Note that the people supposedly took the best of the sheep and oxen to offer in sacrifice to the Lord, which they obviously considered the right thing to do. However, the bottom line is that they, with the tacit approval of their king, disobeyed the Lord... something He did not take lightly. He did not overlook their disobedience because they intended to sacrifice the sheep to Him but, since they were a nation under a king, held Saul responsible.

This is a lesson that all Christians need to take to heart. Simply professing Christ as Lord, attending church, reading the latest "Christian" book, or attending the never ending "Christian" conferences (whatever those are), or drinking your coffee from a mug marked with a Bible verse, will do nothing for you. We can come to church and sing our hearts out. We can praise Him to the high heavens and our "Amens" and "Hallelujahs"can shake the rafters. But, unless we are obedient to his commandments, all we have done is waste our time... and His. To quote Sandy Simpson once again...

    "The next time you go to church, raise your hands, and shout out to the Lord in "worship" keep in mind that He also expects you to live that worship out in real life.  Don't bring your excuses with you as Saul did thinking that your mere act of worship will be pleasing to God and will absolve you of your sin". [6l]

To obey is all important, and takes precedence over everything else. If we do not do so,


Nadab and Abihu

Another example is found in Leviticus 10:3

    Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'" So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. [Leviticus 10:1-3 NASB]

Although these two men were the high priest, Aaron's sons, they did not do what commanded them to do in His service. as pointed out by Al Maxey, they,

    "in a flagrant act of irreverence, presented an offering before God that only the High Priest was allowed to make, in a location where they were clearly forbidden to be, using coals of fire taken from a source other than the one clearly commanded by the Lord God.

    Saxe & Jensen (Studies In Leviticus) cite this as "no light offense," but rather constituting "flagrant disobedience and presumption." Whether they thought one source of fire was as good as another, or whether they just didn't care, the reality is that these two brothers were in direct violation of a specific command of God. He had specified the source of the coals of fire; they had chosen another. That is NOT a transgression of silence, it is a transgression of specificity. God would not tolerate such visible and blatant disobedience, especially not from a pair of men as influential as Nadab and Abihu. It would set a precedent before the people that could not be allowed". (Note that a closer reading of the incident in question reveals this was only part of their sin before God. [See DETAILS]

To summarize...

Worship is not something we do, such as praying, singing, kneeling, at certain select times, but consists of who we are, and what our attitude is towards God at all times. True worship remains with us all through the day, and colors every aspect of our daily lives. Unless accompanied by godliness, our religious ceremonies are worthless to Him.

If not, regardless of how much we sing and dance every Sunday, we will hear the same words that Saul did..."The Lord has rejected you". [1 Samuel 15: 23 and 26]


In Spirit And In Truth
But there is another aspect of worship which Jesus Himself told us through the woman He spoke to at the well of Samaria. But first a little background...

The Samaritans were descendants of the intermarriages between the Hebrews who were not deported after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC, and the heathen from other lands who were brought in to replaced the dispersed Israelites (2 Kings 17:23-24). The Jews of the Southern Kingdom of Judah therefore considered them half-breeds. It is believed that the Samaritans were among those who offered to help rebuild the temple after the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 4:2-3), but were rebuffed.

The Samaritans differed from the Jews in several key ways. For example, they believed their line of priests were legitimate, and accepted only the Pentateuch as authoritative (the Prophets and Writings were not considered divinely inspired). The relationship between the two nations was definitely strained, and eventually the Samaritans constructed their own temple on Mount Gerizim.

When the Samaritan woman, who perceived Jesus to be a prophet, asked Him to solve a long standing disagreement between the Samaritans and the Jews, as to whether Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim was the right place for the temple, Jesus' reply was

    "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. [John 4:19-23 NASB]

Jesus said there are "true worshipers" which, by implication, means there are false worshipers. Men cannot worship God any way they choose. True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.

In Spirit: The hour was coming when the place would not matter... men no longer had to go to the right place to find God's presence, but would have to go to the right person... Jesus Christ. External worship in the form of rites and ceremonies mean nothing. Only the human spirit, that has been transformed by being born again, can worship in a way that pleases God. As Paul told the Romans... only those that have the Spirit of God can please Him.

    and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. [Romans 8:8-9 NASB]

In Truth: The second phrase Jesus used was that the Father had to be worshipped "in truth", which is particularly significant in this day and age of great apostasy. Men can only worship God in truth... which means the God we worship must be the true God, and we have to worship Him in accordance with what He has divinely revealed in His Word. Worship that is not scripturally accurate, but consistently deviates from the Word of God, is meaningless.

However, in order to “worship in truth” we have to know what the truth is.

It is not enough to be merely religious. It is not enough to be sincere and zealous. It is not enough to have our 'hearts in the right place'. ... We have to be right in what we are religious, sincere, and zealous about.

Unfortunately, our entertainment oriented, anti-intellectual, often lazy and superficial culture, that wants everything, including religion, in pre-digested, convenient little packages, is giving less and less heed to in-depth Biblical study and understanding, which leads to right doctrine (The word "doctrine" comes from from the Latin doctrina, which simply means instruction or teaching). In the effort to reach this postmodern generation, the brain has been bypassed in favor of sensory-perceptual experiences. Jesus' take on this was slightly different. He said the greatest of the two most important commandments in the Law (upon which all the others hung) was that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.' [Matthew 22:36-37. Emphasis Added]. [See Theology and Doctrine]

The Father is not seeking worshipers, but a particular kind of worshiper... one who meets these two criteria.


Authentic worship
has to begin with a vision of the authentic God, not the superficial lightweight that presides over too many of our modern churches.

If our vision of God is that of Him "high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple". If we constantly hear the voices of the seraphim proclaiming that "the whole earth is full of His glory". If we never lose sight of the warning given us by the author of Hebrews who said, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." [10:31]. If we follow in the footsteps of the prophet Daniel, who served and worshipped the Lord by putting Him first, and obeying His commandments...

The chances are good that our worship is authentic and pleasing to Him.

If not, regardless of how much we sing and dance every Sunday, we will hear the same words that Saul did - "The Lord has rejected you". [1 Samuel 15: 23 and 26]


End Notes
[1] A.W. Tozer, Keys to the Deeper Life (Grand Rapids, Mich.:Zondervan, 1957), 87-88.

[2] Ray C. Stedman. Why Worship? http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/11500/0711.html

[3] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/worship

[4] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=worshipful&searchmode=none

[5] A. W. Tozer. Man - The Dwelling Place of God. Chapter 29...Religious Boredom. http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/tozer/5j00.0010/5j00.0010.30.htm

[6] Sandy Simpson, The Biblical Definition Of Worship. http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/biblicalworship.html

 

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