By Dr. Harold Sala
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. Psalm 95:6
“I can worship God much better,” say some, “outdoors where I see His handiwork than in a stuffy church.” And, I confess, I’ve thought the same thing on occasion. But the question is, “Do they worship at the beach, on a mountain trail, on the tennis courts, or driving on a freeway?” Or do folks simply use that as an excuse to avoid going to church?
What is worship, anyway? If I go to church, is that worship? If I sing the songs–whatever they may be–does that constitute worship? Or is it an internal connection with God which has little to do with the three song, announcement, and message routine that many churches have followed with a regularity that never varies?
When you read the Old Testament you quickly notice that worship wasn’t something which was taught; it was something which men and women did, often spontaneously but in humility and contrition. It was an immediate response to an encounter with God. In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah had an encounter with God. You read about it in the sixth chapter of the book that bears His name. He saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted. He heard two angelic beings in the heavens crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” He saw the doorposts of heaven tremble, and the temple was filled with smoke.
It is no wonder that he prostrated himself before God, crying, “Woe to me! I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!”
No doubt we would do the same thing, should we see the LORD Almighty.
Worship, as defined by the Bible, always embraces the recognition of God’s worthiness as opposed to our unworthiness. It involves recognizing Him as Creator, as Redeemer, as Sustainer, as Sovereign Lord, as well as the Giver of life and blessing.
Why do people who have an audience with royalty, bow or kneel? It’s the recognition of the difference in their stature and power. You shake hands with an equal but you bow before a king.
When King George V was entertaining friends at a hunting lodge, he walked into the dining room, and as he did so, the men rose to their feet. “Be seated,” the king said, quickly adding, “I am not your Lord.” One of the men thoughtfully replied, “We know, sire, because if you were our Lord we would prostrate ourselves before you!” That’s why worship involves embracing His worthiness as opposed to ours.
In time a tradition developed among Jews which evoked raising their hands in worship. Writing to Timothy, Paul decreed that it was his will that all men everywhere lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting.
Part of worship involves your physical posture but far more it concerns the posture of your heart, which comes as an act of your will. Perhaps you remember that Jesus said true worship involves worshiping in spirit and in truth. So how did the disciples understand that?
Probably no better than we do today. Worshiping in spirit means your innermost being cries out in worship, and worshiping in truth demands that you recognize who God is, what His son has done for you, and that what He has said about our lives and futures is true. The psalmist cried out, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). Don’t confine your worship to the cathedral. Worship every day, giving thanks and praise to the Almighty. Remember, you were born to worship.
Resource reading: Exodus 3:1-12