Worship has become a popular term in recent years. The Christian Church has experienced a renewal in, what is also known, “praise and worship”. Unfortunately a lot of people within the Church believe that worship alludes to slow songs the congregation sings week-in and week-out as part of the Sunday morning liturgy. In some cases some have gone all the way as to restrict it to simply obedience and alliance to God. Worship does include all of these aspects. It is dynamic, alive and vibrant. Somehow our 21st century perspective has relegated worship to simply yet another music style Christians like to produce and listen to. It is not.

When we dig into Scripture we are able to discover that worship is just more than songs, it is more than a particular music style, it is more than the songs you do at Church every Sunday morning. We need to understand and treasure worship as an offering. The Bible is crystal clear in giving us worship’s best definition: obedience.

 “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrificesAs in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.[1]
1 Samuel 15:22 NASB

            The Old Testament is filled with vivid imagery as of what worship looked like among the people of Israel in ancient times. God finds great delight in the worship of His people, which is something we must definitely highlight. The Israelites were required to, constantly, present burnt offering before the presence of God Almighty. In the book of Numbers we are able to read what God expected of His people as they went before Him to present their offering; there we find an amazing declaration: ‘You shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to the Lord[2]. We need to remember that through worship we are homering God. Worship has nothing to do with making us feel good and/or soothing our anxieties, we do not worship in order to get something out of God. Yet all of these things are the result of worshipping God. When we worship our anxieties are taken away, when we worship a pleasant feeling fills our hearts, and that is because we are entering into the very tangible presence of God. Getting something in return shall never have to be the main reason for us to worship God.

Worship is an action. Through that action we are declaring who God is. We need to eradicate the false concept that worship is restricted to signing about God, worship is singing to God. There is a big difference between saying something to someone and declaring to someone what he or she means to us. I am not saying that singing slow songs at Church is not part of worshipping God. It certainly involves singing. What I am trying to stress out here is that worship is not limited to slow songs. Worship includes adoration and it also covers activities such as thanksgiving, prayers, and making vows. Worship is more than a Sunday morning playlist. It is a lifestyle.

The book of Malachi presents us a picture of what worship is not. The name Malachi means “my messenger” or “messenger of the Lord.”[3] So the message the prophet brings forth is to be taken seriously. Malachi presents us a picture of a depraved nation who had contaminated every aspect of their religious life; worship included. They no longer honored God. According to Malachi, the people of Israel had no respect for the Lord. God confronts his people by saying: If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! [4].

If we were to run an examination on how our worship is, I wonder if we would approve. I believe that, so often, in our daily walk with the Lord, we tend to “contempt” His name. Contempt usually disguises itself in the subtle form of greed. All that it takes to fall into spiritual contempt is to neglect our relationship with God. It is so easy to believe that we already have figured out how worship works, as a result of this false notion we have transformed worship into a daily routine instead of making it a daily search and pursue of the Lord, so that we may hear His voice even more clearly. When we neglect our relationship with God, we are disregarding His Word, His presence, and His voice. The people of Israel were doing exactly this when God rose up Malachi in order to hand them a prophetic call to repentance.

In the book of Leviticus we read how the Israelites were instructed to do worship. How they were supposed to present their offerings before the presence of God. The instructions contained in Leviticus are quite specific and the whole book reflects a strong emphasis on how the people were supposed to act in every sphere of life; worship included. With this in mind, we are able to better understand the reason of God’s discontent and wrath toward the Israelites. God is no subtle when bringing forth his accusation: “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my altar. [5]” The law given by Moses required perfect and clean animals for sacrifice.

If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd he must present it as a flawless male; he must present it at the entrance of the Meeting Tent for its acceptance before the Lord[6] Lev. 1:3 NET

             They were to offer flawless animals. That was what the law required. Yet through the years something happened. The Israelites began to offer defiled sacrifices. Their offering was improper before God’s eyes, it wasn’t what He had required, by doing this the people of Israel had “redefined” the concept of worship to best suit their interests. God rebuke them directly by saying: When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased?[7] Today we are not required to sacrifice an animal in order to offer worship. We are free to enter God’s presence due to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. And we can do it whenever we want. There are no restrictions. We do not need to wait a whole year to worship God.

Sometimes our worship is crippled and diseased. Our worship can be crippled and diseased when pride and greed show up. When we take pride on how it is that we do worship; we can easily fall in the temptation of declaring that the way in which we worship is the only, exclusive and accurate way of worship that God approves. We do not know for certain how worship is done in heaven [we do not know the styles and rhythms used there]. What we do know, for certain, is that worship is something that is done up there. The Bible does not give us the specifics of which are the God-approved instruments, nor the tempo God likes, nor the style God prefers. Therefore, how dare we to set forth a list of instruments, styles, and tempo and declare that it is the “official” list approved by God?

Greed is like cancer. Our worship gets contaminated with it when we want to be the one Church who has the best musicians, the best voices, when we want our Church to be known for how its worship sounds. I am not saying that it is bad to have professional musicians and singers at Church; problem is when our heart is not focused on pleasing God but in pleasing men. When that is the desire of our heart, we are not worshipping God at all; what we are doing is putting together a marvelous and exquisite act that will cause others to envy us. That’s not worship; that’s performance. God didn’t call us to perform; He calls us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth.

The worship that the people of Israel were offering was contaminated by greed and pride. They thought they had figured out how to do worship. Few have changed over time; that is the big problem with us today as well. We believe we have discovered the exclusive and unique God-approved way of doing worship. How fools are we. This was what the Israelites thought and their actions proved it. Their worship was so crippled and diseased that God desired the temple to be closed so that the unholy smell of a corrupted worship will no longer continued to be offered on to Him. God said:

 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.[8] Mal. 1:10 NLT

When our heart is not engaged and in tune with the Holy Spirit, along with what God requires from us, the worship we produce is worthless. When our heart and soul are in tune with God, we offer proper sacrifices. Proper worship flows out of a right heart and out of the right motive. We need to learn to do the right thing for the right purpose. We are not to worship God simply because that is what is done every Sunday morning, we are not to worship God simply because it is the newest trend in Christianity, we are not to worship God to impress someone else, we are to worship God because we love Him, because we are aware of His goodness, because we recognize His authority over our lives, we worship God because He is worthy to receive praise and worship. We worship Him because of who He is: Almighty God.

We worship God privately when we obey him. We worship God when we bring justice into unjust situations, we worship when we extend grace to the fallen, we worship when we show mercy towards the broken, we worship when we put Him first in our lives. It is also true that worship can be done in the silence of our heart. We are able to worship on our own alone at night when no one can interrupt us. Private worship is extraordinary. Yet there is power when we come together with others and worship in a corporate way. Corporate worship is powerful. I believe that hell and all of its demons trembles when we, the Church, come together and worship in unity. Broken hearts are healed through worship. Through worship we get to experience the manifest presence of God. When our praises go up blessings come down and his presence is made known in our midst.

Worship is a communal activity. We were made to do life in community, Christian life is meant to be experienced in community, and worship is also expected to be done in a communal way. Corporate worship is the formal expression of spiritual activities such as Bible reading and prayer. At some point we forgot that worship is an interaction between God and his people. This interaction can be done privately and corporately. The private aspect of this extraordinary interaction between heaven and earth finds its expression through our personal devotion life; some people call it: “quiet hour”, “prayer closet”, “soaking”, “resting before God”. The way you call it isn’t that important; what matters is that you find yourself doing it. The corporate aspect of this divine interaction finds its expression when we, as the body of Christ, come together to exalt God’s name. The Bible teach us that: And thou art holy, thou that dwellest amid the praises of Israel[9] (Ps. 22:3 DBY). When we read Psalm 22:3 in different translations we are able to get a broader picture of what occurs when we worship corporately. When we come together and in unity to worship God, He gets enthroned. Communal worship does nothing more than affirming the fact that He is the One, the true everlasting King of all.

The Hebrew word commonly used for worship is histạha[10], which means to prostrate[11]. The Greek work used for worship is proskyneō[12], which means to bow down[13]. Therefore worship can best be described as the act in which we bow in reverence before God. Worship is human response to a gracious God, and it needs to be placed in this context if it is to be properly understood[14]. Through worship what we are doing is simply bowing down before God’s presence, it is the way in which we come before His presence to declare that He is the only one worthy to receive all the glory (Rev.4:11).

We need to understand that worship has to do with listening to God’s voice, taking Him seriously, and honoring Him. Worship is just more than songs and a particular style within the Christian music industry. Worship is about treating God with importance, it is about honoring Him; it is about bowing ourselves before His majesty, it is about giving Him the place He deserves in our lives.


Footnotes:

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Sa 15:22.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Nu 29:2.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1380.

[4] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mal 1:6.

[5] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mal 1:7.

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Le 1:3.

[7] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mal 1:8.

[8] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mal 1:10.

[9] John Nelson Darby, The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation from the Original Languages (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1996), Ps 22:3.

[10] Marshall, I. H. “Worship.” Edited by D. R. W. Wood, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

[11] Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

[12] McCaulley, Esau. “Worship.” Edited by Douglas Mangum, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, and Rebekah Hurst. Lexham Theological Wordbook. Lexham Bible Reference Series. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

[13] IBID.

[14] Marshall, I. H. “Worship.” Edited by D. R. W. Wood, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.