Search me O God and know my heart…and see if there is any wicked way in me- For opening up the heart before Him is true worship..
Khalil Gibran, the great philosopher narrated the story of a person going for the mid day worship and was feeling uncomfortable because of the heat. Suddenly another person passed by him, riding a horse, causing this man to complain to God for being unfair. Just short of the Temple, he found another person, with no legs, crawling on his hands singing praises to God. To the other’s question, this man replied, “I thank God that He is there to talk to, for the place of worship and the tongue to praise Him. What more can I ask?” What is our attitude during worship of our God- always comparing ourselves with what others have or thanking Him for what He has already given us?
Worship has to match with the attitude of the Deity being worshipped and since we worship God in and through Lord Jesus, we must first know Him. Andrew Murray describes Him thus “Christ is a living person. He can be known and enjoyed only in a living personal intercourse. Christ is my Leader; I must cling to Him, I must follow Him, in His leading. Christ is my High Priest; I must let Him lift me into God’s presence. Christ is the living Son of God, our life; I must live Him. I am His house; I can only know Him as Son in His house as I yield myself to His indwelling. But, all and only through faith, we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. Begin each day, meet each difficulty, with the renewal of confidence you reposed in Jesus, when you first came to Him”.
What is the attitude of Jesus? Our Lord humbled Himself before the Father to complete obedience, even to the command of becoming a man to suffer utter humiliation at the hands of the same Chief Priest who were appointed to worship Him and then the final humiliation to die as a criminal and as “the worst sinner ever born” despite being sinless. That is His attitude and the same is expected of us. Joshua meets the Lord after having led the Israelites across the flooded Jordan river and is told that He is there as “Commander of the Lord’s army” and fighting for neither side. Joshua falls face down before Him and is told to “take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Joshua 5:13-15). In the Old Testament after finalization of the sale of a property the seller removed his shoe and left it there confirming surrender of all rights. Joshua’s reverence like his predecessor Moses becomes unacceptable without this absolute surrender and thereafter he is provided the battle plans for conquering Jericho. The first is abject submission to stand under His banner and accepting His sovereignty over us.
Lord dines with Simon the Pharisee– Our Lord Himself defines the type of relationship that He desires from all who want to know and worship Him. On the one hand is Zacchaeus, who being short in height, climbs a tree to see Him and obeys Him to welcome the Lord to his house. In obedience to the law, he then declares to give ‘half of his goods to the poor, and to restore fourfold to anyone deceived by him’ causing the Lord to bless him “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:1-10). The Lord had invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house and still received such welcome while on the other end Simon the Pharisee ‘asked Him to eat with him’. The background of this invitation is illustrative since the Lord had raised the widow’s son from the dead, preached to the multitudes after healing them and “when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God….but the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves” (Luke 7:29-30).
The invitation of Simon the Pharisee was probably ‘to show the Lord their supremacy and put Him in His place’. The Lord still joined them and Simon should have been ecstatic to be honored to host the King of Kings, the Messiah at his house. He, however, did not see anything extraordinary about Him and saw in Him only the carpenter’s son and not the promised Messiah of the Scriptures. The basic curtsies to welcome the guest, provide water for washing of feet to shed dust and cooling, anointing of the head with perfumed oil, providing the best seat and joining the guest for a pleasant event, were all discarded, though Simon could not have been unaware of the same. The Lord was not perturbed by this obvious insulting behavior.
And then comes a woman ‘who is a sinner’, “stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (Luke 7:38). The Pharisee in the meanwhile was busy assessing the capabilities of the Lord in his heart. The woman did not utter a word from her mouth yet was blessed “her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much…..Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:47, 50). On the other hand Simon the Pharisee earned rebuke from the Master despite having taken the trouble of inviting Him to his house.
Without humility of heart and submission to the Lord, any act of worship will provide no benefit, rather it may earn a curse or rebuke from God. The Lord desires to “eat with us” since He knocks at the door while standing outside, expecting us to welcome Him into our hearts. That is worship and that is the right attitude.
Thanksgiving and testimony- “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, be thankful to him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4). The psalmist in one sentence has spelt out the four pillars of worship- thanksgiving, praise, being thankful and blessing God. Thanksgiving pertains to what has already been done by God while giving thanks is for what is in the present and in the pipeline for the future. We praise God through our words and actions through obedience and blessing His holy name is by witnessing to others.
To encourage and guide us the Holy Spirit led the writers to record various testimonies and Hanna, Prophet Samuel’s mother stands out as one such worshipper. She was barren and suffered continuous humiliation at the hands of Peninnah, the second wife of her husband Elkanah and the family worshipped the Lord God every year during the designated festivals. Hannah “prayed out of great anguish and sorrow” to the Lord God and after worship “she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:16, 18). Our Lord while laying down the guidelines for prayer used the first words “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9), encouraging us to establish and accept our relationship with God before anything else. And after true worship one cannot remain sad and downcast for He is a God who plans for our future and gives us hope.
Hanna was blessed with the child Samuel and came to the Temple to fulfill her vow with thanksgiving and great rejoicing and left the child in the temple without any feeling of remorse or regrets to serve God. That is worship in a true sense and she expressed this “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation. No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:1-2). “And Jehovah visited Hannah, and she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters” (1 Samuel 2:21).
Opening of heart to God- Worship is that personal communication with God and there can be n o personal talk with anyone without opening of our hearts. Israelites had been warned time and again by the Lord to mend their ways but to no avail. Even then God spoke to them through various prophets to lead them back to Him. “Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:121-13). King David has been called by God as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ for he laid bare his feelings and emotions before God in every situation. In Psalms on the one hand he praises God for His righteousness and then seeks extreme punishment for his enemies from a loving God. Whatever he felt he expressed before God without any reservations or inhibitions.
David never felt ashamed of expressing his nakedness through baring his heart before God. To Prophet Gad, after his sin of census of Israelites, he preferred to go into God’s hands for punishment out of the three choices of “three years of famine in your land; three months of fleeing from your enemies or three days of plague in your land. David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great” (2 Samuel 24:13-14). Faith and belief in the merciful hands of God can only come through regular opening of the heart to God and thus gazing into His heart.
Oneness with God- Worship in the spirit under the leading and urging of the Holy Spirit provides an intimacy with God and this closeness then provides oneness with Him. Our Lord prayed for us “I in them and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:23). He dwells in us with the Holy Spirit and leads us to perfection through revealing Himself to us. That is the reason that God named Him as the ‘Spirit of truth’ for He reveals the truth to us and this sets us free from the lies of Satan. “God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10) and through these revelations our personal bonding with God is further strengthened.
It is this closeness that Mary sought with the Lord during His visits to their house at Bethany while her sister Martha was busy with serving Him. Our Lord Jesus said to her “Martha, Martha you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). Our Lord desires a relationship with us and in worship that comes through by hearing and meditating on His Word. Mary had grasped each and every word spoken to her by the Lord and adored Him by pouring out the ‘very costly oil of spikenard, anointing the feet of Jesus” (John 12:3). It is on the basis and bond of that same relationship that the Lord visited their house four days after their brother Lazarus’ death and raised him from the dead.
Worship not only reveals the ‘deep mysteries of God’ but also brings to fruition our prayers and supplications made before the Lord and the Archangel Gabriel came to Daniel to give understanding about the vision saying, “Daniel, I have come to give you insight and understanding” (Daniel 9:22).
Absolute surrender- True worship is to surrender before God and becoming totally dependent on Him rather than on self. Apostle Paul is the true worshipper of God and follows the pattern set by the Lord Jesus who always maintained “I can of Mine own do nothing” (John 5:30). Paul considered himself of no repute and despite having “fought a good fight” he still maintained “I am being poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:7; 6). In the Old Testament sacrifices a drink offering was an accompaniment to the main offering which was waved before the Lord or placed on the altar fire to create “a sweet aroma pleasing to God”. The drink and the grain offerings were received by the High Priest and later put into the store. Paul reached out everywhere as led by the Holy Spirit and preached the Gospel and was the “chosen vessel of Mine (Lord Jesus) to bear My name before gentiles………For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).
At Paul’s selection he was provided with the details of his sufferings for the Lord and the list was rather long, yet he readily accepted the tough assignment. How many of us would walk out in obedience after getting such a long list of sufferings beforehand? Despite this he considered himself of no repute and only ‘a drink offering’ with the Main Sacrificial Offering of the Lord at the cross. It is the same with Prophet Isaiah who witnessed the glory of God and volunteered to reach out to his people with the Word of God (Isaiah 6:8).
Worship is an act of adoration and reverence. “First God is seen in His creation- in its self sustainability, then He is experienced through His love expressed in the same creation, only then is He enjoyed through the fellowship, worship and adoration” (Andrew Murray). Worship being an internal aspect involving the human and the Holy Spirit is free from all external stimuli and is aimed at pleasing God. It requires bowing down in awe in the Spirit to be ‘acceptable and pleasing’ to the Lord God!