Worship Part 1: What's It All About
the worship of God may refer to the
highest privilege given to humans, the
actual word "worship" is subject
to the same weakness as any other word
-- the more we use it, the less it usually
means. We all think we know what others
mean when they speak of "worship,"
but the truth is we can't be quite sure.
"Worship" might be the word
someone chooses when trying to describe
a particular sound or style of music.
Depending on the speaker it can be anything
from guitar-driven pop songs to boomer-friendly
light rock to classic hymns. Many churches
call a Sunday morning service, or perhaps
a portion of that meeting, "worship."
Another way we use the word "worship"
is in describing someone who is unusually
expressive when singing praise to God.
We might say, "She's a real worshiper."
In that instance, "worship"
refers to degrees of bodily movement
or expressiveness. With the "worship
explosion" of the past decade,
marketers have realized that including
"worship" in the title of
a project is an effective marketing
tool that often boosts sales. Others
recoil at that thought, believing that
"worship" really means intimacy
Obviously, we need to take time to sort
through these very different views of
what worship really is. After all, worship
is God's idea. It's what He created
us to do. Theologian David Peterson
comments, "We have enough how-to-do-it
books and not enough reflection on worship
as a total biblical idea. Worship is
a subject that should dominate our lives
seven days a week. (Engaging with God
- A Biblical Theology of Worship, p.
In my study of Scripture, I've found
at least five distinct concepts that
Scripture attaches to worship: exaltation,
expression, encounter, event, and everyday.
Each one reflects a unique way in which
God intends for us to use and understand
the reality behind this word. While
not exhaustive, this list gives us a
basic foundation for how we should view
worship. Not every passage we'll look
at in this series includes the word
"worship," but that's simply
because the Bible employs a variety
of ways to refer to it.
Worship is first and foremost exaltation.
The Hebrew and Greek words in the Bible
that we translate as "worship"
most often communicate an attitude of
reverence, submission, and homage. In
the act of worship, we are by definition
acknowledging that someone or something
else is above us and worthy of our affection,
attention and adoration.
worship, then, involves exalting God
above all other objects. This can be
done directly, as in Exodus 15:2, where
the Israelites declared, "The LORD
is my strength and my song, and he has
become my salvation; this is my God,
and I will praise him, my father's God,
and I will exalt him" (ESV). We
see here, as in many other passages,
that worship is about proclaiming the
greatness of God's attributes, the splendor
of His works, and His absolute claim
on our lives.
Other times, our non-verbal actions
and responses exalt God and reflect
the essence of worship. We're told that
Job fell to the ground and worshiped
God when he heard that his home, possessions,
and family had been destroyed (Job 1:21)
By his actions he was exalting God's
sovereignty and wisdom above his own
understanding. When Mary anointed Jesus'
feet with costly perfume in John 12
she modeled worship by exalting her
love for the Savior above the world's
monetary value system.
At its heart, worship involves the exaltation
of all that God is and does. Next time
we'll explore worship as expression.