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A Few Thoughts on Worship Through the Scripture

 Worship

Worship is one of the wonders of the Christian life creating awe, an opportunity of expression and a sense of overwhelming joy that is unsurpassed.  This joy is fully known because of Jesus Christ, the One and only Son of the living God who created all that exists for His glory.  Jesus, in His glorious and triumphant life, death and resurrection, has secured the eternal forgiveness and life for all who believe.  Because of this great work, God is revealed to the lost sheep that they might be saved.  From the beginning of time, God has established Himself as the object of great worth, praise, adoration and reverence.

Though our current attitude toward worship changes from season to season and generation-to-generation, the scriptures teach us all that is needed in order to understand worship, participate in worship and celebrate Christ who is the object of our worship.  Worship, in a nutshell, is praising something because of its worth.  As the church, we understand that the only one who is worth anything in this universe is the one who created it all, the Lord God Almighty who has made Himself known through His Son, Jesus the Holy Anointed One of God.  These lessons will engage the mind and the heart in the action of worship and allow the learner to look deep into the cavern of their soul and discern what is the greatest joy and affection found.  They will be able to see clearly God’s plan for worship through His creation, His holiness, His worthiness, His character, His justice, His mercy and His love toward His children.

Paul says in the book of Romans chapter 8 that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[1]  Therefore, we must now take time, to view scripture through two lenses:  a lens of theological truths, and a lens of consequences of worship.  Then we will understand the great God worthy of great worship!

Old Testament Principles for Worship

 

In the Old Testament the worship of Yahweh is a magnificent and glorious collection of types, shadows, rituals and liturgy.  Though often mysterious, it can clearly be understood in light of how the new covenant in Christ transforms the essence of worship and fulfills the totality of how God desires worship through Him.  From Adam to Malachi, we can see a perfect and beautiful display of God’s worth and His desire to be worshipped by His people.

Creation and the Garden for the Coming of the Lamb

Beginning in the Garden of Eden, we see Adam and Eve, the first humans, created righteous and upright before God walking with Him in intimate fellowship.  This walking with God is indeed worship and illustrates a reality that one day will become true for all who believe.  This intimacy and perfect worship of God was destroyed because of willful sin in the lives of the first people and thus, all humanity is now under the curse of sin that leads to death; both physically and spiritually.  People are no longer allowed to walk with God and God illustrated the gospel by providing the skins of an animal through the shedding of its blood in order to “cover” the sinfulness of man.  God must make a way for man to be in His presence, or else we could never be in His sight again, except for damnation.

Of course the creation account alone is a declaration of worship, as the Psalmist declares that the Heavens declare the world of His hands.  Though creation demands the glory and worship of God, the first people are removed and shut out from God’s perfect place, His “holiness” is hidden from them as they are now dead, having only God’s mercy to hold on to except they be eternally condemned.  It could be said that the first believers were also Adam and Eve in that God prepared a shadow for Jesus Christ there in Genesis chapter three with the death of the animal, preparing the atonement and declaring to Adam and Even that He would indeed send the seed of the woman, Jesus, to crush the head of the serpent and redeem His people so they might worship Him again.[2]

Offerings and Gifts

Even before the Law was given and before the Jews were made, God prescribed that man should worship Him by giving of the labor of His hands a sacrifice to the Lord.  Such is evident in the early days of the first siblings, Cain and Able, whom both worshipped God as commanded and gave the first fruits of their labors.  Cain, his grain offering and Abel the prize of the livestock – sadly, Cain hated Abel because Abel was righteous[3] and thus Cain hated God because God would not accept his offering due to the hardness of his heart.  Cain gave false worship while Abel’s was genuine.[4]

The Patriarchs & Posture & Place

Throughout the Old Testament, the birth of Israel is seen and in her, the worship of God, after all, that is the reason for her creation in the first place.  Starting with Abraham all the way to Jacob, when God delivers or disciplines, the result is worship.  Eventually the Jews, through famine and captivity, are on the verge of redemption through God’s ordination and plan through Moses.[5]  It is through Moses that we learn the proper posture of worship when God says, “remove your shoes, for you are on holy ground.”[6]  The presence of God is holiness, pure and consuming, as we’ve seen from the garden, we are unfit to produce affection toward God and we should approach Him in no way except by humility, repentance and fear.

Through Moses, God gives the law, which establishes the concrete visible teacher that will govern the entire world for eternity.  The Law of God is God’s revealed worth, His mandate and His rule or measure of the universe.  God is worshipped in fear at Mt. Sinai and all the people trembled and begged to hear no more of the word of God and shrunk back from Moses when he appeared.  Though they heard the voice, saw the fire and clouds and had seen God do miraculous things for them, the Israelites fell to the whims of their flesh and worshipped other gods.  Because of this, God destroyed many of them and as they continued to grumble, God delayed His promise and killed generations of unbelieving and restless souls with a forty-year burden of wandering.

It was through this wandering period that God began to bring the hearts of the people back to Him and it was then where He established the worship in the Tabernacle, preparing the way for the Temple in Jerusalem.  God established a great order of worship.  He required blood, awe and reverence.  God remanded the people away from Him and only allowed the priests to mediate after coming to Him with blood for their own sins.  This worship primarily dealt with His great holiness and an impending fear of judgment against all things unclean.  This is seen clearly when Uzzah touches the Arc of the Covenant to prevent it from hitting the ground to realize that God saw the ground as clean, but the hands and hearts of man as vile.  Therefore Uzzah died as an example of when sin confronts God.  This worship all pointed to God’s worth, His justice and His grace.

Even in the temple, God declared mercy toward men when in the holy of holies; the priest would meet God at the mercy seat with blood.  This very picture is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the true mercy seat, where God meets man with blood, His own.  It seemed as though all God was looking for was sacrifice and to the Old Testament believer, they understood the essence of God’s character and knew that death was the penalty for wrongly approaching Him.  They also looked forward to the day of rest and redemption through Messiah, when God would be with man, Emmanuel!

Though there is thousands of ways to trace worship in the Old Testament, we can see the reality of God’s worship through the sin and repentance of the kings, the oversight of the judges and the proclamation of the prophets.  In the end, the entirety of worship always came back to God’s perfect and eternal word.  His voice among mankind to remind them of who He was and what He expected.  This was more than humanity could bare and no living man could ever truly worship God in truth, for no living man would be able to stand justly before God as sinless.  All humanity continually worshipped God through the lens of radical corruption from sin.  All mankind worshipped God in action through repentance, sacrifice and covenant, but they worshipped God in fear, still very apart from Him.

 

New Testament Principles for Worship

 

In the beginning moments of the New Testament, there is life brewing over in an abundant way, reaching through the centuries to bring to reality what God has promised from the beginning.  Matthew records a time where the Old Testament days are long and lonely, where Israel is removed from her glory and the worship of God has been tainted with the effects of Hellenization and in some sense, there might have been a mundane ritual to worship.

Never the less, the people of God are still praying, singing, sacrificing and hoping to be heard.  God is worshipped through the prayers of His people, through their continued Old Covenant faith and longing to be delivered.  Now, that deliverance has come.  The entire writing of the New Testament exclaims the glory of God in the flesh is here, Jesus is coming and has arrived for the world to see and behold and in believe!  Walking through every book of the bible would be an impossible task, but for our lessons here, we will engage in several ways in which the saints of old worshipped and then the reality of the church’s birth and how that changed worship forever.

The Gospel Era

In the gospels we can see worship in many ways.  First, the people are praying.  They are praying for their own needs and desires, such as Elizabeth and Zachariah, but they are also praying for God to bring freedom to them.  Israel’s physical captivity was very akin to their spiritual depravity.  Scripture shows us that Gabriel confronts Zachariah and the child that he has been praying for is going to be born.  Out of disbelief, God strikes him mute and deaf and then visiting Elizabeth, she believes God.  The miracle of John’s birth causes Jerusalem to worship God and also to follow suit from their former way, to fear Him as seen in Luke chapter 2.

All the people have their minds and hearts turned to what God might do with the life of John the Baptist and yet they miss the reality of who he was born to proclaim, the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.  Jesus birth into this world shows a change in worship.  First, it brings envy and idolatry and bitterness from His people and brings laud from pagans from the East.  This paradigm shift greatly influences tension between Jesus and the Jews.  This tension will play out until the resurrection and is continuing today.  Jesus is worshipped by those who did not know Him before, were not expecting Him and were not “like” Him by birth and when Jesus begins His earthly ministry, He answers the prophetic prelude by miracle after miracle and teaching the word of God with power and truth.

Jesus’ ministry baffles the Jews and in their heart, they grow colder toward Him and in His own words, they grow colder toward God.  Jesus proclaims Himself as God and the fullness of God in the flesh among them.  Jesus declares that He is the end of all prophecy and the culmination of history.  Jesus preaches repentance and forgives others of their sins as He continually proves Himself divine by healing and brings Lazarus back from the dead.  Jesus says that He is the temple, He is the bread of life and He is the living water.  He continually gives grace to the humble and accepts worship from the uncircumcised of the region who proclaim in worship and testimony, “I have met a man who has told me everything I have ever done!”  Jesus brings the temple to reality and the blood to life by being the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of not just Jews, but the world.  This changes everything when He purposefully lays down His life for His sheep because He is the Good Shepherd and not a thief or wolf.  He loves the sheep and the Father loves Him.

Jesus Life & Death

Jesus life fulfilled the Old Covenant perfectly, the Law and the Prophets bore witness to Him and now He was there, with His people who turned Him away and put His sheep out of the temple when they worshipped Him.  As the Jews had worshipped God in the festivals of the Old Testament, Jesus arrives as the Passover Feast to declare Himself the Passover Lamb.  Jesus brings worship from afar and places it on Himself declaring that all worship indeed belongs to Him for He is worthy but yet Jesus does not take the glory, but gives it to the Father and reveals that worshipping Him is worshipping God.

In John chapter four, as Christ saves the women from Sychar, she learns that it is not the worship in buildings and with sacrifices that matters, but that all of that pointed toward Him and He was Messiah!  No longer would anyone have to worship in a place, but they would worship in spirit and in truth.  Jesus not only redefined worship, He displayed proper worship by attending synagogue, praying and practicing righteousness perfectly as He was intended to do by the will of the Father.  Jesus worshipped ultimately by showing His love for His sheep and layed His life down for the glory of the Father.  Jesus life and death displayed the righteousness of God so that the world might know God and worship Him.

Righteousness of God

Jesus life displayed the righteousness of God as a daily act of worship through Holy living.  Jesus was not apart from temptation, but He was perfectly sinless and thus the holy command of God was fulfilled in His perfect life as a fully human man that was also fully God.  The God-man, Jesus Christ, empowered God’s pleasure toward a man, giving an example of God’s holiness as a life of true worship.  Jesus’ death on the cross also displayed God’s righteousness, as He, the perfect God-man, became the perfect Lamb that satisfied God’s wrath against mankind.  God then could justly forgive us who had no means or options for forgiveness without Christ.  This changed the face of worship forever, for by faith we receive God’s declaration of righteousness because He who knew no sin became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.  This worship in the New Testament radically moved in the hearts and lives of all who were being saved and their affections for this world began to die and be replaced with affection for Christ, His word and His people.

In the end, all of creation will worship God in one way or another.  For the saints, we will marvel forever in the presence of Jesus who is our eternal lamb, high priest and brother.  We will stand in awe as God puts forth His judgment on wickedness and all those who spurned Christ.  We will celebrate with Joy as the Christ serves us at His marriage supper.  What a God we have that we sin against Him and He serves us by becoming like us, being tempted, remaining holy, dying and facing judgment and serving us as we worship Him.

 

Application of Worship To Daily Living

 

Though much can truly be said about how to worship, more often people get caught up on the ins and outs of liturgy and the practice of worship.  We find Jesus ending the ways of Judaism and establishing a New Covenant, one of true worship where no one would ever be bound to traditions, precepts, legal demands and the like, but a new a right mindset of worship that recalls God’s unmerited favor and produces spontaneous, supernatural affection.  This worship is alive and active in the hearts, minds and souls of believers and thus our lives will reflect the power of the Gospel of which we are not ashamed.

Belief

One of the primary ways our daily lives are living examples of worship is by our faith.  Without faith it is impossible to please God, therefore, we must continually exercise our faith in Christ’s work and God’s promises in every area of our lives.  The fact that we have courage in Christ will be an act of worship.  This includes all the good and bad times of every season of life.  Personally, as we preach to ourselves, and relationally as we share with others, we are to continue steadfast in our faith and hold fast to the confession of our hope, which is in Christ alone.  Our faith goes beyond just everyday situations, but the depths of the worldviews and how the attack the very nature of the gospel.  When we stand for truth, we are standing for God’s name and He receives worship.

Prayer

Prayer is not only a good discipline, but also an act of worship.  It’s worship first because it is relational intimacy with God and secondly, it shows our dependency upon Him.  Without prayer, it is difficult to truly say one is exercising faith.  Just recently I was reminded that when we do not pray to God about the smallest of things, it means that we think we don’t need Him with those things.  What a statement!  Jesus prayed, so should we.

Study

Most of the battle of sin is fought in the mind.  The mind that is transformed is the mind that is focused on and meditates on the word of God.  This mind is one that considers God and His ways, and then plans his day.  Scripture teaches that the righteous live by faith, but how does a righteous man walk by faith if he doesn’t study to show himself approved.  Workmen must work in the word; they must continually set the word in front of them.  In our church we have a challenge that is ongoing:  Bathe in the Word – this is the place where we should always be, bathing and soaking the scriptures and allowing them to sink deep into our souls.  Battle with the Word – This is the challenge that many people try to avoid.  But if the word is alive as Hebrews 4:12 says, then it will cut us a little, it will mold us a little and it will cause us some pain.  But where the word cuts, the word also heals.  We must do war and the word, in both hands, is our sword.  Finally, we challenge our people to Breath Out the Word – this requires bathing and battling, because if we don’t have the word in us and are not being changed by God’s power, then we surely cannot breathe it out into the lives of those around us.  Scripture is the means through which God gives grace to His children.  The saint that is not a student of the word, is a student of the world.  Better yet, he is a product of the world.

Service 

As we exercise our faith through study and prayer, we will see our daily lives worship through service to others.  Jesus teaches that the world will know that we are His when they see our love for each other.  Do we really love each other?  Do we have a calling to assist those in need?  If not, then something is wrong with our worship.  A true worshipper looks after the needs and interests of others above his own, especially for the needs of his siblings in Christ

All Things For His Glory

In the end, we are to do all things for the glory of God.  The Westminster Catechism begins by answering the question, “What is the chief end of man?” with “giving glory to God and enjoying Him forever.  As scripture surely teaches this throughout, then are we doing all that we do with gratitude, thanksgiving and worship because He is the reason for it all?  Do we work for His glory, sing for His glory and long to reveal His glory to others?  As the church we are to display His glory to all the cosmos (Eph 3:10) and do so to the praise of His glory.

 

Principles of Worship

 

Worship is a never ending learning and leaning toward God and His greatness and glory.  It is an opportunity to have the greatest joy that the world could ever know and have such joy that it become impossible to explain or express.  The fullness of worshipping God is peeling back the eternal layers of His worth without knowing what you will find but being surprised that you have seen this before, just not this deeply.  Worship is first and foremost a gift, a part of God’s gracious favor that He places in a new heart in place of a dead one so that His children can sure see Him in His splendor and those who see surely adore.

Worship comes in many waves and forms.  Worship comes from knowing you belong to God, knowing that He loves you, knowing that He could destroy you and realizing that He doesn’t.  Worship comes from having peace to know that He won’t.  Worship is realized in intimacy with His Word, intimacy in prayer and intimacy with His people.  The church worships privately and corporately but will always be one body, united in the Gospel of Jesus.  Worship devours selfishness and pride and brings down the biggest of egos while bringing the fullness of joy to the deepest of depressed.

Worship is never ending and for the children of God, this is a reason to worship even more.  It’s more than music and more than services, it’s life eternal, it’s knowing God and having satisfaction in Him through Christ.  Worship is not seeking after God, but knowing He has sought you.  Worship delivers us to the throne of God while we are minutes away from rebellion, worship steers the ships of our hearts and safely brings us to the shores of the Almighty.  God is worship and He alone is supremely worthy of affection.  Worship can be stale and lose hope if its object is not eternal and living.



[1] Romans 8:38-39

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[2] Genesis 3:15

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

[3] 1 John 3:12

12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

[4] Genesis 4:8

8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

[5] Genesis 12:1-3

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

[6] Exodus 3:5

5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

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