If God had a twitter account He would be flooded with tweets for blessing and if He provides a mobile phone number, many of us would only give Him a missed call, expecting Him to call back to heal, provide and guide/lead us. In this fast paced life our time with the Lord is also getting reduced to spending “quality time” with Him rather than being in His presence always. How then do we expect to change or be changed in to His image and likeness, to be filled with Divine glory and reflect His image to others? The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is all about being different from others; for the Lord repeatedly mentions “You have heard that it was said—–but I say to you”. We who follow the Lord are ‘children of the Most High God’, belonging to a ‘Royal Priesthood’ and our conduct in fellowship and while worshipping the God who has blessed us thus also has to be of the same stature.
What is worship? – The Greek word used in the New Testament is ‘proskuneo’ which literally means ‘kissing towards someone in reverence’ whereas when read in context with the oriental/ eastern style of worship it would imply ‘to bow down on one’s knees before someone to kiss his feet (If present) or the ground in reverence’. Worship in itself, thus, is a matter of acknowledgement in the heart of the one being worshipped to show adoration, worthiness, prominence and righteousness. It is not merely a physical act but submission and surrender before the one who deserves such deference and obedience.
The Hebrew word ‘avodah’ means both worship as well as works and thus connects the two and its study provides a rare glimpse in to the two major aspects of life. The root words ‘oved’ means a worker; ‘evid’ implies a slave and ’avdut’ is slavery and from these it can be deduced that worship in itself is an act of service and ‘Avodat El-Shaddai’ would be the service or worship of the Almighty God. In the same context then ‘Avodat Elilim’ is worship of false gods or idolatry or submission to the devil. A worker must devote his full attention to his work to get optimal results and avoid any adverse fallout- it is a matter of concentration and focus. Likewise, worship also demands ones’ full attention and effort to bear fruit.
“God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) was the teaching of our Lord to the Samaritan woman on the well. So what is worship in spirit and in truth? Truth would mean to worship the True and Living God only and not some false gods as the pagans do and to have a right frame of mind of adoration rather than an act or sham. The spirit is our identity and our core from where only we can fellowship with God to worship Him. The implication in this therefore is to have a right attitude and frame of mind to come before God’s throne’.
We shall first see the wrong attitude of worship. Lord Jesus had raised the widow’s son from the dead in Nain, healed many of infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits, clarified the doubts of John the Baptist’s servants and then is invited by Simon a Pharisee to his house for dinner. The Lord came to help the sinners and willingly went to the house and the reception that He received at the hands of Simon is illustrative of his real intent for the invitation “to put Him down- rather show Him His place”. There were certain mandatory acts to welcome a guest to the house and these were:
- Welcome at the entrance with a kiss of love and respect.
- Washing of the feet of the guest to assuage the ill effects of the heat. This would be the present day freshening up and washing of face etc after travelling in the heat.
- Anointing of the guest’s head with fragrance to provide a soothing and freshening effect to make the whole meal a very pleasant experience.
- Provide a seat of prominence and sit with Him to share pleasantries.
That none of this was provided for by Simon is evident from verses 44-46 for he not only did not show due respect and love but was rather busy setting a test for the Lord in his mind (verse 39). The Pharisee was so sure of his own righteousness that he did not consider it necessary to humble himself before someone who had proved His righteousness to all through His Deeds.
The right attitude of worship is visible in the same situation. During the course of the meal a “woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil. And 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 7:37-38). The acts of the woman, a sinner, but aren’t we all sinners; showed her deep sense of self denial to face humiliation in front of all ‘the dignitaries of the town’. She not only felt remorseful and repentant but chose to pour out her heart and soul through her tears at the feet of the Lord, for she had faith in the mercy and grace available from Him. The expensive perfume purchased with her sinful earnings was accepted by the Lord to tell her “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).
The wrong attitude in worship is evident in our lie through various acts of omission or commission:
- Worship in body only, by marking our presence on Sunday in the Church, especially during Holy Communion, neither expecting nor accepting any change in the personal lifestyle during the week. Following Christ is to carry ‘the yoke’ everyday at all times for it is a way of life since the Word says “The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip” (Psalm 37:31).
- Worship for personal glory- God searches the heart of man and knows our real motives of coming before Him. The key to answered prayer is “that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Worship is for the glory of the Holy Trinity and so is praying. Any act that contradicts this cannot be worship of YHWH but idolatry. The Lord Jesus performed those miracles not to attract crowds but as an act of mercy. Likewise as a result of true worship we may get “good health, prosperity in all things while the soul also prospers” (3 John 2); but this cannot be the aim of worship.
- Worship as an act of obligation- Before knowing the Word in His awesomeness, I was obliged to attend Church in the Army Unit I served for the requirement of joining the troops to be one with them to make a formidable team for war. Later I had to join my wife, she being a born Christian and daughter of a Pastor. Do we go for the sheer joy of joining others in worship or as a duty or obligation? Do the words mean anything to us “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord?”(Psalm 122:1).
- Worship for personal pleasure- Worship is not an event for entertainment but an act of adoration and we cannot go there to enjoy the music, to see some entertainment through some healing or miraculous testimony or to see those who have come there to worship- to find a mate. Any such act performed by a Church to attract others is irrational and if the focus of worship is not the Word of God, it cannot be called worship.
The house of Lazarus of Bethany, ‘the one whom he loved’ represents another example of the attitude of worship here both the sisters, Mary and Martha have it in their heart to serve the Lord. Mary chooses to sit at His feet to receive food for her soul while Martha gets busy preparing various dishes to present before the Lord. Both were right yet Lord Jesus commended Mary by telling the other “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” (John 10:41-42). Though both were right in their attitude to serve the Lord, yet He preferred spiritual service above the physical comforts/service.
Christ Jesus accepts humble submission above everything else since the command is categorical “to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). This single verse in the Scriptures lays down exact guidelines for worshipping the lord:
- Respect and reverence for His power of creation, regeneration and transformation through the sacrifice of His Son and the resultant indwelling of the Holy Spirit to lead us on the ‘narrow path’ travelled by the Lord to our salvation and redemption.
- Obedience- God the Father directed Peter James and John and through them all of us to “Hear Him” (Matthew 17:5). He was and is perfect in every way yet He was perfected by God, through His sufferings, for our sake, to ‘earn the crown of glory’ which was His from eternity to pave the lonely furrow for us to follow- BY HEARING HIM AND FOLLOWING HIM IN TOTAL OBEDIENCE.
- To love Him- The love for the Lord has to be from the very depths of our heart and not of a perfunctory nature, for it requires all our thoughts, desires, feelings and emotions to be brought to subjection to His Divine will and nature.
- With self examination- The Scriptures define God’s Holy nature thus “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, You cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13). It was for this reason that our Savior had to undergo the worst form of suffering of separation from the Father to cry out to Him “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?)” (Matthew 27:46). A God who could not look at His Own Son, who in any case was on the cross in total obedience to Him, when all our sins were poured out on Him; How will He tolerate any sin in our hearts or in our attitude towards Him? Paul advises self examination, repentance and seeking forgiveness before partaking of Holy Communion which is in ‘remembrance of His sacrifice for us’ and all worship is basically this only- Remembering His Sacrifice, Resurrection, ascension and enthronement at the Right hand of God the Father.
Worship of God, therefore, is turning to His throne with total submission, offering ourselves to Him “For whom and through whom everything exists” (Hebrews 2:10). When we realize that all we have is for Him and has come to us only through Him, it becomes our total focus to revere and worship Him with an attitude of complete surrender to His Divine Being. It then becomes easy to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The indwelling God can and will take charge of our ‘paths- to make them straight’ only when we seek Him and ask Him; for we have to “Be still, and know that I am God” (psalm 46:10).
Worship in the right way involves total surrender of self- our will, feelings, emotions and capabilities and then seeking His power to do His will thereby acknowledging His supremacy over everything we have or want. “He has shown you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
May God bless us and enable us through the Holy Spirit to worship Him in the right way!!