Biblical Worship Applied

Biblical Worship Involves 2 Essential Elements

Worship must be done with reverence. This is a reverence-based approach toward God. Worship is inward, God-directed expressions of the heart. When God encounters people, the first human worship response one sees Scripture reveal is that people bow in reverence in some way. This type of deep, inward God-directed expressions of the heart worship is demonstrated:

  1. By Joshua before the Angel of the Lord (Josh. 5:13ff).

  2. With Gideon as he encounters the Angel of the Lord (Judges 6:20-23).

  3. As David sings love to the Lord (e.g., Psalm 27:4).

  4. When Isaiah bows in God’s Throne Room (Isaiah. 6:1-8).

  5. As Ezekiel stands before the Heavenly Being (Ezekiel. 1:28).

  6. With the Disciples after Peter walked on the water (Mt. 14:25-33).

  7. When the woman washes the feet of Jesus at Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:44-48).

As one encounters God, their worship translates into their own daily actions, activities, and life experiences. This is encounter-motivated-actions for God. When God initiates real encounters with humans, they get up and obey. They not only acknowledge God, but they then move into some sort of responsive action or actions.

Four biblical examples of this reality are:

  1. Zacchaeus, who after his encounter with Christ, immediately began to make restitution to people he had cheated (Lk 19:8-9).

  2. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet at Simon the Pharisee’s home (Lk. 7:44-48). Having apparently met Jesus early and experienced his healing worship, she worshipped Jesus from the depths of her heart, and through outward, God-motivated action.

  3. The Apostle Paul declaring his desire that “Christ be exalted (worshiped) in (through the actions of) my body,” Phil. 1:20.

  4. Paul’s declaration that God is glorified in all the “actions we do,” 1 Cor. 10:31. This “doing all for the glory of God” is in fact outward God-motivated actions of worship—not something separate from worship.

These two fundamental dynamics of worship seem always manifested when people do worship. And these dynamics are repeatedly and consistently expressed by two key worship terms. These Old Testament terms are Shachah and Sharat (or Sharet).

Shachah means to bow low, to bend at the waist, to fall to the ground, or to express a deep reverence from the heart that involves honoring the object of one’s worship. As believers grow more deeply in their worship life with God, this reverence seems to draw the maturing believers toward a “delighted desire” to approach God. As they approach God, they grow in their reverence, awe, and gratitude for God’s benevolence and care toward them.

Sharat or Sharet implies ministry, service, and obedience. In the Old Testament, it is historically the administrations of the gathered religious activities of the worshiping community. It especially applies to the people designated to carry out worship responsibilities in public.

Deuteronomy 10:8 uses this term when it states that the Levites were appointed, “. . . to stand before Yahweh and minister to and serve Him. “

In the New Testament the Greek translation of Shachah and Sharat are Proskuneo and Latreuo. Proskuneo literally means “to kiss toward.” It holds the picture of bowing at the waist expressing honor to another. Proskuneo keeps the same meaning held by shachah; one of bowing low, kneeling, or falling to the ground out of deep homage for another.

Latreuo literally means “service to or for another.” This service is motivated by deep worship, reverence, love, and gratitude for the one being served. It is frequently rendered “serve” or “minister” and it holds the sense that the service or ministry for or in response to the one served is motivated by that worship, reverence, love and thanks for the one served.

By the time latreuo is being used in the New Testament, the meaning of the term had widened to mean a worship-way-of-living. The Apostle Paul uses the term in Romans 12:1 when he urges believers to “. . . present their bodies as living sacrifices”—note the allusion to the Levites serving at the Jerusalem Temple, “. . . which is their only logical (understandable—logikon in Greek) worship-way-of-living.”

First, the Greek term proskuneo and the Hebrew term shachah both mean the same thing—adoration, bow, honor, or reverence. And the Greek term latreuo and the Hebrew term sharat mean the same–service, sacrifice unto the Lord. The point here is that in both the Old and New Testaments, true worship manifests both responses—a heart connection with God and lived-out actions in obedience to God.

Second, wherever one sees true worship in the Bible these expressions are wrapped together into one “integrated worship response.” A classic New Testament passage illustrating this point is Jesus confronting the devil at the beginning of His public ministry (e.g., Mt. 4:10) where He invokes the double worship dynamic when He uses both terms by telling the devil, “’Worship (proskuneéseis) the Lord your God and serve (latreúseis) him only.”

Jesus expresses the essence of worship as he articulates His greatest command: “Hear, O Israel, Yahweh is God, Yahweh alone. Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31, author’s rendering).

Worship is a two-in-one response to God. This two-in-one response pattern can be expressed many ways: approach-and-availability; adoration-and-action; love-and-obedience; surrender-and-service; and, awe-and-availability. But the “two” kinds of responses still make up the “one” worship transaction. The two-in-one worship response is important because it is always observable.

First, people bow, or cower, or are deeply moved (often frightened), and they “revere” the presence of God in one way or another. Examples of this principle are seen by the Bethlehem shepherds at Christ’s birth (Lk 2:8-9); the men with Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-8); Isaiah when called into the Heavenly Throne Room (Is. 6:1-8); and Moses and the Israelis at Mt. Horeb (Ex 3:1-6).

All those who sensed God’s encounter demonstrated some sort of reverence. However, not all of them technically worshiped. The only ones who worshiped in the biblical sense were those who responded in some sort of God-motivated action. Some might say, “they all worshiped to some degree because they all reverenced the reality of the God-encounter.” Not so. Those who did not “respond” to the encounter with some sort of God-motivated action, simply did not manifest “true” worship.

Second, this two-in-one response pattern is “one” worship transaction, not two kinds of worship. Religious practice without a heart-connection to God is not worship. Throughout the Bible one repeatedly sees people identifying religious rituals and learning as worship. Sometimes they substitute moral and ethical consistency for worship. But God does not always recognize them as true worshipers.

Consider the following Old and New Testament examples:

1. Cain with his inadequate offering (Genesis 4:3-7).

2. The delinquent priestly sons of Eli (1 Samuel 4:22ff).

3. The disobedient worship activities of Saul (1 Samuel 13:9ff).

4. Those Israelis the prophet Isaiah indicted for heartless worship (e.g., Is 29:13).

5. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day that he confronted for their false worship (John 8).

The Bible requires both responses—an inner Godward expression of the heart (John 4:23-24) and an outward action of worship (James 4:8).

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial