Worship is a term thrown around within our evangelical world but the word’s exact meaning can be somewhat vague and hard to nail down. The entire service might be designated as worship as in the question, “Where do you worship?” Worship may be considered something only done at a building, often being referred to as a “house of worship.” But for many people, the word worship is an event. A point in time of our church services featuring music. This can be most any type of music. However, the music will vary between each body of believers as to what music is acceptable and considered worship and what is not. The idea of worship is forced into a narrow funnel of being music which a group of people like. This limited understanding of worship, is unfortunate. I maintain, most church attenders have little understanding of worship and therefore rarely experience it as it is described within Scripture.
In our English Bibles, the first time the word “worship” occurs is in Genesis 22. This is where God has commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. He is told to take him to the area of Moriah and “offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2b ESV).
Abraham, Isaac and his two servants launch their journey the next morning. One their third day of travel, Abraham sees the place a distance way. He tells his servants to wait there with the donkeys while he “and the boy will go over there and worship and will come back again to you” (Genesis 22:5).
When we study this passage we most often focus on the last phrase as it displays Abraham’s confidence in God’s plan. Even with sacrificing his son, Abraham fully trusted God’s promise of his descendants coming through Isaac. But I am interested in his comment to the servants. “(we) will go over there and worship.” Music isn’t mentioned in this passage and this event doesn’t happen in a church. Yet worship was said to occur.
The first appearance of the word “worship” in the New Testament is found in the opening pages of Matthew. Starting in verse 1 of Chapter 2, the wise men or magoi, from the East enter Jerusalem. They consider the city to be their final destination on their quest to find a new born Jewish king. They state, “Where is He who has been born ‘King of the Jews’ for we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” Matthew 2:2 NKJV).
Upon the realization the child’s birth was prophesied to occur in the small town south of the city, they made their way to Bethlehem. Guided once again by the star they are directed to the exact house of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. No longer an infant, He is referred to as a child or what we might describe as a toddler. The wise men, upon entering the house, “fell down and worshiped Him.” Once again, there is no indication of music being part of their activities.
These are just two Biblical examples of worship where the presence of music is not indicated. But there are other times when music is mentioned. The dedication of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles 5 and the account of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 as they were confined within the Philippian prison come to mind.
Worship is so important it is the topic of a conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. The story is found in John 4 where they speak of where one is to worship. She says the Samaritan leaders teach they were to worship on Mount Gerizim, yet Jewish leaders indicated they were to worship in Jerusalem. The response of Jesus is quite telling as He said,
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. – John 4:23
This passage reveals how vital worship is for one to have relationship with God. Jesus said the Father is seeking such people to worship Him, those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. I am not completely sure what worship is as defined by Jesus but I maintain worship is more just a segment of our Sunday services lasting 20 minutes as we stand and sing a few songs.
If we look to the Scriptures for some guidance I think we can begin to clear away the clutter of buildings, stages and music tastes. The Psalms are an excellent place to invest some time into understanding more about worship. While there are many Psalms you can study on this subject, I have found Psalm 145 to be an excellent source for worship.
Over the next few days, I will be examining Psalm 145 and exploring the lessons taught by King David about worship.