He bows his head in solemn obeisance as the slow tempo-ed music begins to fill the auditorium from the skillful hands of the 6-man band.
He raises his hands in submission to the heavy presence of “something greater” than himself as he sways unconsciously to the gentle unobtrusive rhythm of the almost hypnotic drum beat.
He opens his mouth and sings along…
His closed eyes gazing upon the unseen, he worships…
But What is ‘Worship’?
This act that we have come to take as a routine item on the “Order of Service” might not be what we have made it out to be. As easy as it appears it is to experience, it is difficult to accurately explain, define or teach…not because it is difficult in itself but primarily because of what it actually is versus waht we have made it to be
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship….I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it…” (From the song “Heart of Worship” by Michael W. Smith).
This piece is not intended as an exhaustive definitive treatise on the subject of worship. It would be better appreciated as a few thoughts on worship from one God-seeker to another.
The primary Hebrew word for ‘worship’ is the word ‘Shachah’ which means:
“to depress, to prostrate(especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God):- bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship” (Strong’s Concordance: Strong’s number h7812)
The word conveys a picture of complete submission to another and that is the condensed version of what worship is. In life in general or during the ‘worship’ segment of a church event, it implies that our will is brought in complete subjection to God’s will. Nothing for us. All for God. We sometimes instinctively symbolize this by the lifting of our hands in surrender. Our preoccupation, in this light, must be on His wants and desires alone. Not house rent being due, or a problem child, or a difficulty at work, of the trials and temptations we are currently facing and so on. This is the heart of and, unfortunately, also the primary difficulty in our worship of God.
Abraham’s Experience: Genesis 22:1-14
In an attempt to get back to the roots of worship, it was also important for me to go back to one of humanity’s first recorded mentions of the term “worship” in scripture.
“…I and the lad will go yonder and worship….” (Genesis 22:5)
It is important to consider that Abraham had a previous history of interaction with God spanning many years before this particular experience. Our interactions with God, including developing a lifestyle of worship are predicated on a relationship with God. Without this foundation, our attempts to worship God, in instances and with our lives, would be as ludicrous as the Athenian’s in Act 17:22 – 30 where they erected an altar to ‘The Unknown God’.
To avoid confusion, it also important to define that. Knowing God is a reference to the salvation of man.
“Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are not gods. But not, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God…” (Galations 4:8 – 9)
In other words, our unsaved state translates theologically, to an ignorance of God. When we become saved however, not only does scripture say we know God, but it also assures us that God knows us.
Furthermore, in discussing the issue of living by faith, Paul opens up his discourse in Hebrews 11 with 3 characters to whom he attributes their significant achievements to a lifestyle of faith; Abel, Enoch and Noah. By faith Abel worshiped God….by faith Enoch walked with God….by faith Noah worked for God. By observation, a pattern in the believer’s life process emerged from this. I would appear that a believer must submit control of His life to God in worship before he can effectively walk with God and it is when these 2 processes are in place (i.e. worship and walking) that the believer can effectively work for God. In other words:
“You cannot work for a God you have not walked with and you cannot walk with a God, you have not worshiped….” (T.D. Jakes)
Requirements for Worship
Abraham took four items with him specifically in order to “…go yonder and worship….”. Each of those items was essential to what he planned to do otherwise he would have left the unnecessary item behind with the servants and even that act, was in itself instructive. In order to truly worship, you must leave the unnecessary behind.
Back to the four items. Each item’s significance is summarized below.
1. The Wood of the burnt Offering:
a. In Bible symbolism, wood is typically a reference to man’s flesh. The wood of the burnt offering were cut and dried planks which are therefore dead. The lesson is that in God’s presence, anything of the flesh must die. “1 Corinthians 1:29: That no flesh shall glory in His presence”
b. Unlike many offerings in scripture, the burnt offering was an individual affair; personal and not for the masses. True worship, even in a corporate gathering, is personal and individual.
c. Again, unlike other offerings in scripture, the burnt offering was what is called a “whole offering” meaning that it was burnt to completely to ashes. With other types of offerings, the sacrificial animal was basically barbecued ceremonially and both the priest and the people making the sacrifice would eat of the cooked meat. This was not the case with the burnt offering. It belonged entirely to God meaning that in the place of worship, our mindset must be that we give our all to God expecting nothing in return back in return. (See Leviticus 1:1-17; 6:6-13)
2. The Fire: Symbolically, fire refers to the presence of God and the Holy Spirit. In the place of worship, the fire’s purpose is to consume the wood and the sacrifice and thereby purify both. Fire’s role as a purifier is referred to in many places in scripture (Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:1-18, 1st Peter1:7 ). The same way the fire consumes the sacrifice and the wood is the same way the Spirit of the Lord should be allowed consumes us in the place of worship. Sadly, often times we give in to distraction and yet claim to be worshipping in spirit and in truth.
3. A Knife:
In the bible passage, Abraham takes a knife along and is ultimately about to plunge it into his only son’s chest when God stops him. The knife speaks of a complete willingness to obey and submit to God, no matter what.
4. The Sacrifice (Isaac): For Abraham, this was no joke. He waited in faith for Isaac’s birth for years and had gotten him by a miracle. Now God was asking for his most prized possession. God asked him to do the unthinkable. There was no way for him to even explain it to anyone. No one would understand. Nevertheless he resolutely obeyed. Only a parent can fully understand the horror of the idea tying up your only son, looking him in the eye as you raise the knife….
Abraham fully intended to obey God and bring that knife down into Isaac’s heart.
However, before we conclude that Abraham was a sociopath, a look at his words to his servants reveals his faith in fully believing that he would sacrifice Isaac but God would as a matter of covenant bring Isaac back to life:
“…I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” (Genesis 22:5).
He fully believed that since God sworn that his descendants would come through Isaac, if God wanted him to kill Isaac, God intended to resurrect him (Hebrews 11:17-19)
The attitude of true worship demands for a believer to hold nothing more precious than God. No child, spouse, job, talent, looks. Nothing.
The test of that level of devotion is when God demands your most prized possession from you.
Will you give it?
To Be Continued…..
Next Chapter: A Worship Perspective (part 2): Lessons at the Well
by Akinwande Tolulope Puddicombe