Worship is an internal individual action of the spirit with a deep sense of respect for God from deep within the heart as an act of thanking and engaging with Him for what He is.
“Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets”. King David and all his countrymen were overjoyed at having the Ark of the Lord brought back in their midst and this feeling of delight was expressed in unusual ways. When David returned home after the Ark had been set in its place inside the tabernacle, his wife Michal, daughter of king Saul said “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would?”. David’s reply is illustrative of his devotion to his God and willingness to go to any length to please Him, “It was before the Lord, who chose me……I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes” (2 Samuel 6:14-15, 17, 20-22). And God stamped David with His Own special mark “a man after My own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
What is worship? – Is worship music and dance with good lights and great lyrics only? An understanding of the Hebrew and Greek words used for worship will essentially provide us a real perspective about worship. The seven Hebrew words used to represent worship have music and singing as a component in only two. Joshua met the Lord, “Commander of the heavenly host” and fell face down before Him and the word used is ‘way-yis-ta-hu’ and the same word is used in Genesis 24:26 and various other places. The Hebrew words have been used as verb at places to imply ‘work, labor, worship, toil, serve’ thus comparing worship to toiling/working to serve thus including more acts to worship. In Psalms the words used for worship are:
- Shachah– translated as, ‘to prostrate/bow down, fall down/ humbly seek/ obeisance/ reverence or worship God’ as used in Psalms 29:2, 66:4 and 95:6.
- Halal– ‘to rave about/ make a show/ to praise/to adore as used in Psalms 22:23, 44:48 and 63:5.
- Barak– ‘to kneel down/ reverence/adoration/being conscious of His sovereign presence’ and examples of usage are Psalms 34:11 ‘to bless the Lord’, 95:6 as ‘kneel down before the Lord’.
- Tehillah– ‘to sing a new song of spontaneous praise to glorify His Divine name through a song’ and it refers to spontaneous worship as referred to in Psalms 34:1 for continuous praise, 40:3 a new song in my mouth- praise to our God. This would be with a Special Spiritual anointing and close and personal bonding with the Lord. Mary’s song –‘The Magnificat’ (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah’s prophetic utterances – ‘The Benedictus’ (Luke 1:67-79) and in the same manner Simeon’s prophesy- The ‘Nunc Dimittis’ meaning ‘now you dismiss’ (Luke 2:29-32) are songs of worship and prophesies/ their fulfillment on “being filled with the Holy Spirit”.
- Yadah– ‘to worship with thanksgiving with extended hands in surrender, to hold out the hands as in Psalms 18:49 and 61:8.
- Todah– ‘sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, confession and adoration’ as in Psalm 50:14 and 100:4.
- Zamar- ‘to sing praises with musical instruments, music with celebration and singing’ as in Psalm 66:2 to sing out the honor of His name and 71:22.
In the New Testament Greek worship has been linked to reverence and surrender and music is not specifically mentioned in this to be a major part. The three words used are:
- Proskuneo- ‘to fall down or prostrate before God, to kiss or fawn and adore, among Orientals to fall down upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of deep reverence’. Originally it was an act of the subjects falling down before their king to kiss his feet or the ground in front. It is used more than 50 times and probably one of the best is about the Magi visit “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother; and they knelt down and paid homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). The same word is also used by Satan and by the lord in reply in Matthew 4:9-10 and Luke 4:7-8.
- Sebomai-‘to revere, to worship, to hold in awe’ and is used ten times in the New Testament as in Matthew 15:9 “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”.
- Latreuo- ‘to serve or minister to (gods or men by slaves), to offer religious service/sacred services in accordance with established rites of worship’ and has been used 21 times in the Bible. It is used “And she was a widow about four score and four years old years, which departed not from the temple , but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37).
Worship defined- From all this it is apparent that “Worship is an internal individual action of the spirit with a deep sense of respect for God from deep within the heart as an act of thanking and engaging with Him for what He is”. When the Lord commands to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, He essentially lays down the rules for worship. This involves complete submission to God, filling our consciousness and mind with Divine knowledge and truth thus bringing our intuition, desires and emotions in tune with His nature and surrendering ourselves with “thy will not mine” attitude of humility before His sovereignty. It is therefore a way of life and not limited to some particular place and time or situation only (John 4:21).
Worship- a threefold process- Worship, being an internal spiritual connect with God, becomes a threefold act for the worshipper in which the Holy Spirit and the spirit of man play the crucial part. The first is the revelation of God, His Divine will and purpose “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). The Holy Spirit dwells in us as an initiator and leader for our worship by guiding us as per the will and purpose of God by revealing God Himself and ‘the deep things of God’ hidden from man.
The second aspect is development of an intimate relationship with God as a corollary to the knowledge of Him provided by the Holy Spirit. This is only possible through the Son, our Savior and Lord, and again this is the ministry of the same Spirit of God to lead us in all our conversations with Him. First He leads us to the truth and after getting us freedom from all shackles of Satan through the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and prays with us for ‘abundant life’ for us (Romans 8:26-27).
The third part is our response to all that the Holy Spirit has revealed to us about the Triune God, His will and desire for us. This is what has both external and internal elements, the music, singing, joyful adoration, humble submission and surrender to His leading. This again is at the urging and leading of the Holy Spirit and the cumulative effect of these three steps produces the fruits of the Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.
Worship without ceasing- Apostle Paul exhorts us to worship the Lord our God continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How can a person worship without ceasing throughout the day and night, especially in the competitive world of today? For the fruits of the Holy Spirit to be evident in our lives, our life style has to be adapted to the leading of the same Spirit. The Lord Jesus repeatedly warned the listeners “He who has ears to hear, him hear” (Mark 4:9), obviously referring to the fact that many would disregard the Word. This hearing cannot be subject to certain time schedules, places and seasons but a continuous process. Worship in itself is a relationship with God and this has to imply always being ready to ‘hear’ what He wants us to hear. After hearing we are urged to “be the doers of the Word” (James 1:22).
Worship on the one hand is praising, thanking and adoring God but also a process of change in the worshipper, for without that it will be irrelevant. “Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). The first command is to hear and then to get transformed with the third part being to prove the Divine will for each of us. Hearing is continuous, transformation has to be continuous and cannot be in fits and starts and so is the last aspect. One will therefore be always tuned to the voice of God to listen and obey and this instantaneous obedience will cause transformation which will then help us in fulfilling the perfect will of God for us. Therefore the command, “worship without ceasing”.
Worship- individual or collective- When mankind decided to “make a name for themselves” through the building of the tower of Babel. God saw the work of the people and said, “If as one people, speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:3-6). In the same manner “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1) ‘and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’. The Scriptures emphasize the two facts- in one place and with one accord. Lord Jesus also commanded the same fact of agreement in prayer “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father” (Matthew 18:19). The emphasis is on agreement and being together with one accord.
Worship per se is an individual act of communicating with the Lord God and even if one is in a gathering it still remains a personal relationship only. However, being together in worship has an impact on each other as well in answered prayers. In the Old Testament the Tabernacle used to be filled with the ‘shekinah glory of God’ and none could go in. Now that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, the same glory is in us and in collective worship this gets manifested, though not in a visible form. Scientifically, all thoughts and spoken words release energy into the atmosphere and this energy pattern is mapped for diagnostic purposes by physicians through an Electro Encephalogram (EEG). The collective act of worship releases this energy in the place and positively impacts all who wish to and are tuned in with ‘ears to hear’ attitude.
Worship, thus, though an individual act of expression of joy, adoration and thanksgiving to God yet is as beneficial in corporate prayer and worship setting. “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify his name with thanksgiving” (Psalms 69:30). Worship is an act initiated by the Holy Spirit with the spirit of man and has to involve the five senses of the body also for all the three parts of man- body, soul and spirit to praise God the Creator and Provider. The Old Testament worship had the beauty and symbolism of the Tabernacle and the Temple to look at; music of various instruments as mentioned in the Psalms to listen to; touching the head of the animal to be sacrificed as a ritual for transference of sins; the aroma of the burnt sacrifice and feasts with much symbolic food.
In the New Testament the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us in establishing that deep and internal relationship with God to ‘worship in the Spirit’ making much of the external stimulants for worship redundant. A specific posture, sitting or standing, spoken or quiet worship are all unimportant and the essence is on involvement of soul and spirit and minds to love Him with the heart, soul, mind and strength- in word and deeds.
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In every situation rejoice for the Lord Jesus prayed for shifting of the cup from Him but surrendered to the Father “Not My will but Your will” for “He had to be made perfect through suffering” (Hebrew 2:10). Accepting His will and acting on the same always and every time is true worship and true relationship with God!