What is worship?
The first time Biblical worship is found in the Bible is in Genesis 22:5. Abraham thinking to sacrifice his only son Isaac, Abraham takes all he has and lays it down on the altar before God in an act of worship. His worship of His God required the sacrifice of all he had, his son. He lays all he has out before God as an offering in an act of worship. He was giving up what was nearest and dearest to his heart.
The interesting note of this passage is that 6 times the key phrase “burnt offering” appears in Genesis 22 and in context with Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in his worship of God. The word “worship” only appears once in the book of Genesis found in Genesis 22:5. (It’s also interesting to note that worship is connected with the number 5, which is consistently used in Biblical numerology as 5 being the number usually connected with death and grace.)
In other words, worship involves death. Abraham had to die to himself in order to offer up what was nearest and dearest to his heart in an act of worship to God and Isaac had to die to self so that he could allow himself to physically die in his act of worship to God. It isn’t difficult to see that true worship involves dying to self.
However, the English translation for the phrase “burnt offering” found 6 times in this passage in the context of worship is translated from the Hebrew which means usually a holocaust (as going up in smoke): – ascent, burnt offering (sacrifice).
Though the word sacrifice is not seen in this passage, the first time worship is seen in the Bible is in context with a holocaust, burnt offering, a sacrifice. The first time worship is seen in Biblical scripture, it involves the greatest sacrifice a man could ever give. Not only by Abraham in his willingness to offer up his only son Isaac on the altar, which was everything he had, but also Isaac’s willingness to offer up everything he could give, his life, both in an act of worship to God. Both acts of worship involved a sacrifice of a holocaust, a burnt offering.
As even the most novice of Bible students understand this to be a picture of God the Father offering up His Son Jesus Christ on Calvary thousands of years later as the ultimate sacrifice for sin on the cross, what is often overlooked is the fact that this sets the precedent for what Biblical worship is.
Biblical worship involves death, offering and sacrifice. Even pagan idolatry involved death, offering and sacrifice in worshipping their gods. When Israel went into idolatry and worshipped the pagan gods of the peoples around them, you see them sacrificing their children to Molech along with the pagan people around them. They even offered cakes to the queen of Heaven and made drink offerings to their pagan gods.
However, true spiritual worship is a far contrast to the worship of not only the idolatry of ancient peoples but even a far contrast from the idolatrous worship of the world today. Pagan idolatry may differ from culture to culture and the offerings and sacrifices may be different among different peoples, places and times.
In whatever culture or time, the bottom line is that pagan idolatry always involves the death, offerings and sacrifice of others while living to self regardless if there is physical sacrifice or death involved or not. In a third world country, children may be sacrificed in death rites. In America, children are sacrificed to the religious rites of the TV just so mom or dad can do what they want instead of dying to self and sacrificing what self wants to do. Instead of taking time to nurture and build the inheritance they have been given, the children are sacrificed to be discipled to the gods of the airwaves. The sad thing is most don’t even realize it!
As the bride of Christ, we must realize that in order to truly worship Jesus Christ and to truly proclaim that Jesus Is Lord through our lives, we must come to the end of self, putting all on the altar and coming away changed just like Abraham and even Isaac. True Biblical worship involves dying to self. Biblical Christianity teaches us that only when we die to self can true Biblical worship take place. How can you be lord of your life and Jesus be Lord at the same time?
Strong’s Concordance tells us that worship is to depress, that is, prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God): – bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
Worship is to attribute value and worth in giving divine praise and service. Our English word means worthship, denoting the worthiness of an individual to receive special honor in accordance with that worth.
The Hebrew and Greek terms found in the Bible “emphasize the act of prostration, the doing of obeisance.
Warren Wiersbe offers a broad definition based upon these concepts. He writes,
“Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is: mind, emotions, will, and body, to all that God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience, and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed truth. It is a loving response that is balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.” Once we understand this, I believe worship ministries inside the church would get barriers that keep people from truly experiencing God in a praise and worship.
A more narrow definition may sound like this: “Worship is pure adoration, the lifting up of the redeemed spirit toward God in contemplation of His holy perfection.”
The Disciples of Christ, Preparing for Spiritual Warfare by the National Baptist Laymen’s Movement 9-14-02 gives the following statements on worship:
“Worship is the way we acknowledge God’s worth in our lives. God wants us to live a life of love, respect and obedience towards Him; and a life of love and mercy to those around us. True worship transcends to the streets by loving, socializing with, caring for, and meeting the needs of those around us so they might see Jesus more clearly. Worshipping God culminates and unifies the breadth of our experience, bringing coherence to our lives. Worship of the living God is what ultimately binds the various inclinations of the heart and gives them focus. A worshipping community binds the diversity of our cultures, education and backgrounds, and brings us together into a corporate expression of thanksgiving.”
Arch Bishop William Temple put it this way: ”
Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of the will to His purpose. And all this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of human expressions of which we are capable.”
Worship binds the emotional and the imaginative, the mental and the moral, and the individual and the community together. Worship that is true and spiritual binds all the diverse aspirations and propensities creating a tapestry of beauty and a life that is in harmony with the goodness and the holiness of God.”
Every day millions if not billions of people bow down to the idols of this world. Whether man or material, many worship the music star, the current movie actor or actress, sports figures, king, queen, ruler or any other person held in high esteem. Every day many worship the god of money, entertainment, drugs or any thing else that is deemed to give some type of benefit to ones life.
Whatever it is, to worship any creature, person or thing, you must be willingly made low (whether recognized or not) and submit to it’s power and control in your life.
God’s requirement is for man to cast away His idols and to prostrate oneself in homage or royalty to God, or to bow down, make obeisance, do reverence, to worship Him in all that we are for all who He is. This is Biblical worship.