Can you believe what some folks call worship these days? Or better yet, can you believe what folks won't consider worship these days? I guess it depends on which side of the tracks you're from, or what side of today's Christianity. There are your conservative types, who quietly and reverently worship and are quite happy the way they are, thank you. And there are your charismatic evangelical types, who have to raise hands, yell halelluia's and dance in their seats to really feel like their worshipping. Of course you have the moderates that comfortably fit in the middle, and see both sides as extreme. So who's right? Well, scripturally, they all are.
We all have our pre-conceived ideas of what worship is and what it is not. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your view, the bible really does not give us a right and wrong way to worship. It tells us who we must and must not worship, but the way in which we do it is left up to our own relationship with God, and a very few scriptures.
Can you imagine someone dancing around half naked and shouting before the ark of the Lord? What if this seemingly madman was also King and one to be looked up to? And what if he did this in front of all the people for all to see? We would think this was rather odd to say the least, but David did it and not only dancing, but 2 Samuel 6:14-23 tells us he was dancing with all his might. What a display, what disrespect for the creator, what audacity? Yet when Saul's daughter criticized him for this very act, David rebuked her and we are told in verse 23 that she was punished with being childless all of her life. What David did may seem strange to us, but it was his extreme joy, of the returning of God's ark that exploded within him, and caused him to react this way.
What exactly are we told about worship in scripture?
John 4:20-24 Jesus encounters the woman at the well and defines for her what worship will be like in the coming years. He says that a time is coming when it will not matter where people worship, but what is important is that they do it in "spirit and in truth". Worship must come from inside, it is not an external thing but must come from our souls. It must also be honest. Not that you worship because of your spouse or parents, but it must be something you truly feel from your heart.
1 Chronicles 16:29 commands that worship be done. "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His Name; bring an offering, and come before Him, worship the Lord in Holy array". Remember the prayer Christ taught the disciples? He said pray this way "Our father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name". The word "worship" comes from an old English word "worthship" and has the meaning of placing worth on a certain thing or person and then elevating them accordingly to a place of honor. God's name or name's more accurately is "worthy" of all Glory and praise. This verse also lets us know that we are not to come before God empty handed. Worship is always accompanied by offering in scripture and so, this is one thing we can be sure of as far as our worship is concerned. Scripture after scripture show the people of God coming to the temple with a sacrifice or offering as a way or form of worship. The priests were not allowed to enter the holy place without an offering. The high priest could not enter the Holy of holies without blood. Simply put, worship is never without offering. Proper attire (I'll never get to preach in shorts and a T-shirt) is also stated. Again the priests had to wear fine white cotton garments and the high priest his priestly garments. However, the original text gives the impression that this is not only clothes but our countenance as well. We are to shine in our worship; this is not a time for mourning but of a celebration of sorts.
Revelation 5:9-14 gives us a peak into the throne room of God. Here we see the four living creatures and the twenty four elders falling down (prostrate) before the lamb and we hear a special prayer to the Lord. This prayer (read it) is a perfect model of worship due a great and mighty Savior. Something we do not see today is this act of falling down prostrate before the Lord. We are not worthy to stand before the Lord. Our fathers knew this and more importantly they felt this and the natural response was to fall down in reverence.
Some interesting Greek words for worship: Proskuneo = to prostrate ones self Shachah = to prostrate in homage Doxa = glory or brilliance Latreuo = to minister to God, to do the service of, used of a hired menial Sebomai = to revere, i.e. to adore
All of these words convey the act of falling down in reverence or to the act of adoration. The word "latreuo" is interesting in that it conveys the thought that we are ministering to God. Why would God need us to minister to Him? He is the creator and we are but the creation. But thatís just the point. We were created to serve, to worship and to love Him. It is not something we should do if we can find the time; it is what our time was created for.
So what's up with this raising hands when certain songs are sung or prayers offered? That is really a sign of a charismatic, right? Well, not really. The hands in bible times and in eastern cultures today are very symbolic. What is the first thing you do when you meet someone for the first time? You extend your right hand, and they do the same and you shake hands. This is a sign of friendship and acceptance. When one wishes to surrender, it is customary to raise ones hands as a sign that no more hostility will follow and peace is asked for along with mercy. It is an acknowledgment of the other persons superiority or victory over the defeated.
Luke 24:50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them. It was the custom of the Jews to address God, bestow blessings and pray with hands raised. The scene here is typical rather than unusual. Jesus raised His hands and then blessed the disciples.
The Hebrew word for hand is "Yad" and in Strong's Hebrew dictionary depicts a great many meanings. First it denotes an open hand rather than closed and conveys power, means and direction. A word taken from this root is "Yeda" and means, "to praise". Likewise "Yadad" means to handle correctly". The Hebrews incorporated this word into titles of worship or praise times. "Yadiduwth" = affection for a dear object "Yadown" = thankful "Yadduwa" = I know the name of "Yadayah" = praised "Yadiyael = knowing God "Yada" = instruction, acknowledge, acquaintance, advise, answer, familiar friend, kinsman,
You get the idea. From the simple act of raising the hand in prayer or worship the Hebrews acknowledged that it was God they were extending the hand of fellowship, friendship and yes surrender. Hands play an important part of worship. Paul instructed his readers to lift Holy hands to God. They would have understood this as worship. Why do we look at those who do this as unusual? Actually it is quite natural and right. So do we all have to do it? No, but do not look down on those who do. When one is moved to recognize the Almighty, or is confronted with his own smallness do not be surprised if you suddenly see their hands, ever so slowly, raise up in total surrender. Actually it is a beautiful thing when it is genuine. Yes, there are those who do it for effect or because everyone else is doing it. But in genuineness, God reaches back and touches the very soul of the worshiper.
And what about the worshipper? These Greek words are interesting as well. Theosebes = pious, devout or God fearing Neokoros = temple servant
Can you see the picture painted here by these two words? A devout and God fearing temple servant. One who is living his or her life in a way pleasing to our Lord and also one who is involved in "daily" service. Now I emphasized the word daily here for a very good reason. The duties in the temple were daily not just on the Sabbath. We are the New Testament priests according to the book of Hebrews and our service is to be daily.
Music, music, music. Believe it or not, music is the number one reason churches split and people leave the church today. Not baptism, not a women's role in the church, not the minister or some strange doctrine, but music. People take their music very personally and rightly so. Songs were a large part of the early churches and of Gods people since the beginning. Again lets look at some words that may help. This time from the Hebrew:
Ron = a shout of deliverance Rinnah = a shout of joy or grief, triumph or proclamation Ranan = to shout aloud for joy, to rejoice
So looking at the above three Hebrew words for songs, what is your first impression as to how they are to be sung? LOUD and JOYFULLY. It saddens me when we sing something like "Onward Christian Soldier's" and some are singing as though they have already surrendered. Or a joyful song like "Trees of the Field" and it sounds like a durge. Singing should convey victory, joy, freedom and Salvation, not defeat. Sing with your heart and let all that can hear that you really feel it. Hey, these are going up to God. Let Him know how happy you are to be His. Shout the victory. Do you know why some of the Negro spirituals are so loud and lively? Most of this type were written after the Emancipation Proclamation or right after they had gained their freedom. It was something they really felt deep down. Their slower more solemn songs were written while they were still slaves. So which are you? Are you still enslaved or have you been set free? Let everyone know it!
A Christian missionary from China visiting the United States and speaking very little English asked the minister, why people in this country worship their chairs and the floor? Well the minister was taken back and really did not know what the man meant. Upon questioning the man it was learned that he was formally a Buddhist. The Buddhists lift their eyes up to Buddha while in prayer and he was wondering why so many Christians in this country look down or at the chair in front of them.
The Church seems to be a "down" assembly these days. We keep our hands down. We sing low, if at all. And our eyes are always facing down. Why not "up" to the loving God we serve? Lift up your hands, lift up your voices and lift up your eyes. And while we are at it, let's lift up each other.
You go to a party for a particular celebration. Be it a birthday or anniversary party or maybe even a retirement party. Everyone is having a great time, there's laughing, singing and all attention is on the guest of honor. But wait, who's that on the other side of the room? Just sitting there with a sour puss and saying nothing. What a drag on the party. Who does this person think they are? They're bringing every one else down. They're ruining this party. They should leave if they don't want to participate.
Kind of a grim picture of someone who is obviously quite miserable? But all too often, this is how some of us today come to God's celebration in worship. When we should be singing and being overjoyed at our salvation and sonship, there in the middle of the assembly is the glum faced sourpuss. And maybe he or she is not alone, in fact maybe they are the majority, and the happy ones who really want to celebrate, feel so self-conscience, they simply don't bother anymore. How sad!
In Max Lucado's book "The Great House of God" he approaches the Lords prayer from the point of it being a house. A great House, the great house of God, and we are invited to live there. Not for a weekend retreat, or a summerhouse, or a retirement villa, but our permanent residence. We are taken from room to room, until we feel so at home, we settle right in. For good!
Well worship is very much the same way. It is not just something we do on the weekend or on special occasions. It is a life style, a relationship. No not everyone has to raise his or her hands. And no, not everyone is going to fall on his or her face, prostrate before an Almighty God. And believe me, not all of you can sing like David to the Lord. But worship is personal. Most relationships are. They need to be nurtured in special ways until they become mature.
If the spirit is present and you truly feel it sing out. If you have been moved to the depth of your heart, lift those hands. When you pray at home or in your prayer closet and you are in awe of God's presence, fall on your face and know He is God. Lift those eyes towards heaven and look at the God who created and saved you. I have personally felt, or have been made to feel, I am not sure, that when I raise my hands I am somehow breaking some unwritten rule. No one should be made to feel that the way he or she worships is ever wrong, is indeed it comes from spirit and in truth.
David was so overjoyed that the ark was returning to Jerusalem "he danced with all his might" and naked to boot. God did not take offense, why would we? When Peter confessed that Jesus was "the Christ, the son of the living God" we are told Jesus was filled with Joy. God caused him to confess that and made this fact known to Peter. This was not a time for solemn downcast faces. It was a time for joyful smiles and maybe even a laugh. Someone once said that worship is flat in most churches because they really do not comprehend the gift that has been given.
Sinner had just graduated High School, and with straight "D's". His Father loved the boy so much that he bought him a brand new red convertible. The boy was overjoyed and even named the car "salvation". He could not have dreamed for such a gift, he certainly didn't deserve it. Bright red exterior, pure white interior and the coolest mag wheels. The boy looked so good in the new salvation car, he decided to change his name from sinner to saved. After a few days the boy's new friend "Helper" was walking down the road and saw the boy pushing the shiny new salvation down the highway. What are you doing, helper asked? Enjoying my new car said saved. But your pushing it said helper. Yeah, I know. It really hurt my hands at first, but my old friend secular told me how to attach these rubber pads under the bumper and now it doesn't hurt so much. Get in and sit down, helper told him. Saved got into the car and settled back. It was the first rest he had gotten since getting the car. Helper went around and got in the other side and started the car up. It purrrrrrrrrred like a kitten, and soon they were cruising down the highway at 60 mph. Wow this is much better saved told helper. You bet, said helper, and it comes with a lot more like a CD player, air conditioning and movable heated seats. How can I really find out what this baby will do asked saved? Read the book! It will tell you everything about salvation you need to know. Well, saved was really happy for his Father's gift before, but after reading the book, he was moved beyond anything he had ever felt before.
Worship is a lot like saved and his new car "salvation". We all have salvation, and it's a great gift. Some of us though, are pushing it around and not really getting all we should out of it. But by simply reading "The Book", it will open our eyes to what a really special gift "salvation" really is. And then, worship for the one who gave this special gift will seem so easy. It will take on a whole new life, as will we. Singing, lifting hands, shouting the victory and looking at the father will not seem like enough. We will look for more, and He will show it to us. Because you see, Worship is that special, and that personal. See you Sunday!