Is worship just a state of mind? Is it a special feeling that lets you know you are properly connected to God? Is it a great swelling in your chest or a fire in your bones?
Let’s consider how the Bible talks about worship.
Some Pictures of Worship in the Old Testament
Genesis 24.26, 48, and 47.31 reference the action of bowing low in worship, and that wording is found all over the Old Testament.
Service and worship are often paired concepts (i.e., Deut. 29.26; 30.17).
When Nehemiah brought true worship back to Israel, we read the following:
On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were bleaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. (Neh. 12.44-46)
It is said “they performed the worship,” which again couples the concepts of worship and service, specifically temple service, in this case.
Psalm 66.4 parallels worship with singing, indicating that God is worshiped through songs of praises:
“All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
This does not mean we should dress our best, for some who would impress their brothers and sisters by outward dress are certainly not dressed in holiness! This has to do with the heart’s attire, it’s attitude of holiness before YHWH.
Some Pictures of Worship in the New Testament
The New Testament also shows that worship often involves some physical posturing or activity of service.
The wise men “fell to the ground and worshiped” the Holy Child (Matt. 2.11). Satan demanded Jesus “fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4.9). Jesus pairs worship with service in His answer to Satan: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matt. 4.10). Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples “took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Matt. 28.9). Before he understood better, Cornelius “fell at [Peter’s] feet and worshiped him” (Acts 10.25)–of course, Peter quickly corrected him!
In the early church, Paul writes of an unbeliever who “will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor. 14.25), and in the Apocalypse “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne…” (Rev. 4.10).
How Do We Worship?
Does our worship look like the Old Testament Jew’s worship? Does it look like the New Testament disciple’s worship? When was the last time you fell on your face in worship? When was the last time you knelt in worship?
I might quickly interject: “but it’s not really about the posture, it’s about the heart.”
It certainly IS about the heart…but the heart should drive us to DO something, take some sort of action, perform some sort of service to the Lord. Although the word worship is never directly associated with singing, praying, or preaching in the New Testament, we understand all of those activities to be spiritual services of worship. But surely those are not the only ways to worship God! In fact, you might fall prostrate before Him and remain in that posture for a while, just reflecting on how GREAT He is in all His glory and magnificence. You might just kneel with your head bowed for a while, dwelling on God’s majesty and holiness.
Worship is not just a state of mind; it’s actively and intentionally diminishing oneself and magnifying God.
Worship is not just a good mood we get when we hear “Christian music”! So much of the so-called Christian world today thinks music ministry when they think of worship. For them worship is the time when the people on stage play music and get the crowd all worked up. When they cry, laugh, or feel a great swelling in their chests, they feel they have worshiped. But it’s not about the feeling at all. Those feelings may (should) result from true worship, but it’s the God-praising, God-glorifying, God-magnifying activities we do which are the actual worship.
What might we add to our worship? Perhaps we need to change some things? The best thing we can do is look in God’s word to see how He desires to be worshiped. Then do those things with all our might!
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143.10)
YHWH be praised!