If someone forced me to say one subject that has changed my Christian life that I would like to share with other Christians, I would say, “Worship.” In my own life, up until the last several years, no topic had gone so perilously ignored, and, more positively, has come so powerfully to life. If I can, I’d like to share a little bit, but if we ever get a chance to meet face to face–let’s talk about this.
Some occurrences of the word “worship” don’t match up with a typical understanding of the word. One of those instances is in Exodus 33:7-8:
“Now Moses used to take the tent and to pitch it without the camp, afar off from the camp; and he called it, The tent of meeting. And it came to pass, that every one that sought Jehovah went out unto the tent of meeting, which was without the camp.
And it came to pass, when Moses went out unto the Tent, that all the people rose up, and stood, every man at his tent door, and looked after Moses, until he was gone into the Tent.
And it came to pass, when Moses entered into the Tent, the pillar of cloud descended, and stood at the door of the Tent: and Jehovah spake with Moses.
And all the people saw the pillar of cloud stand at the door of the Tent: and all the people rose up and worshiped, every man at his tent door.”
So, here we have Moses entering the Tabernacle (tent of meeting), a pillar of cloud covering the scene, and people worshipping. If we are studying “worship,” then what is it that these people were doing, exactly? I think the vagueness in the text is vitally important; we’re not sure what they did. We can guess: maybe they bowed, maybe some fell to the ground, maybe some prayed, maybe some sang, maybe some simply stood still in shock and in awe of what was before them.
The point is this: the reason we don’t know exactly what people did is because worship is not the action at all.
Worship is the reaction.
Here, worship is a reaction to witnessing a manifestation of the presence of God Himself. We cannot deny actions on the part of the people at the doors of their tents, but these were not worship in themselves. Rather, these actions sprang out of a reaction within them that we are familiar with (although at times we haven’t known what to call it): Worship.
They worshipped. What came next (bowing, praying, standing width jaws dropped) was subject to each person’s expression of that worship. Boom. Next paragraph heading.
Expressions of Worship
Worship, then, can be expressed in a variety of ways. Two broad categories that I would separate these expressions into would be Formal and Informal expressions of worship. I want to discuss those categories, but we must not lose what we have gained so far: if any of these expressions is to be valid, whether formal or informal, worship–an inward reaction to our God–must first be present.
Informal Expressions Of Worship
The example in Exodus that we examined is a great example of an informal expression of worship. People were receiving a massive amount of input directly from God Himself, and we’re reacting naturally. The same thing happens when people witness the power of Christ:
“So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”-Matthew 14:29-33
What happened here? A group of people worshipped–reacted to the power of Christ–and exhibited that worship by saying something. No one had organized a service, no script was available to dictate what they ought to say and when. Rather, they worshipped, and what sprang from that reaction was a statement: “Truly You are the Son of God.”
This type of expression ought to happen. When you are meditating on God’s Word, when you see His invisible attributes made visible in what He has created, when you encounter what it is that He has provided for you–when you see God–you will worship. You may pray, sing, cry, shout, or anything else as a natural expression of your worship–and you ought to.
Formal Expressions Of Worship
Many may take the previous argument and run with it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone take a stand against formal assemblies and expressions of worship because they can “worship God anywhere.”
I will emphasize this more later, but we must remember this: Worship is not for us. Worship is for God. Therefore, expressions of worship are not for us, but for God. Naturally, then, if God has ever told us His own preferences in our expression of Worship–how will we neglect it? On the contrary–we can use this very idea to define Formal Expressions of Worship: manifesting our reaction to God in ways that He has prescribed and preferred.
Formal, Organized Expression Of Worship
Perhaps my favorite place to look at an example of congregational expression of worship and the effort that can be put into it is the story of Hezekiah’s cleansing of the Temple and re-establishing of the worship service at the sin sacrifice. The entire story is found in 2 Chronicles 29, but the excerpt essential for us is in verse 28:
So all the assembly worshiped, the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded; all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.
The point makes itself, but here we find a group of people who worshiped. Based on that worship they performed specific acts of worship as instructed by God. What created this reaction? Several things, probably–the taking back of the temple, the reinstitution of faithful service to the LORD, the sacrifice for sin, His mercy in comparison with their guilt, etc. But in this case, how did they know what to do? God told them.
We now participate in acts that God has approved for us to express worship together–in our assemblies. The main idea must apply here: worship is required for the acts to be valid.
We Sing To Express Worship
Let me be clear: we ought to be singing to express our worship. While we are instructed in the book of Ephesians to encourage one another in song, I would place this secondary on our list of priorities. Just as those in Hezekiah’s time, we worship–and we sing to express it.
This is vital in how we conduct our formal services. Are we paying attention to what songs we are singing? I recall that when I first was introduced to the idea that our songs ought to be expressing worship to God, I happened to attend a congregation where we didn’t sing one word of Praise to our Father. We sang old favorites, which I have nothing against, such as “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” Many people love to sing this song, which is more than fine–but it does not express worship to God. True worship brings with it the desire to Praise God directly–such as those who proclaimed Christ the Son of God. Words are sought out which satisfy the craving to express our reaction to our heavenly Father: “Praise the Lord! Ye heavens adore Him! Praise Him, angels! Sun, and moon rejoice before Him! Hallelujah! Amen!”
We Pray To Express Worship
While prayer has many facets since it is our communication with the Father through Christ, in my Christian walk before understanding worship, I had no idea that prayer oust to be used forth express just that.
Notice Psalm 117:
Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!
Are we able to pray to the Lord in this way? The psalmist doesn’t say “Thank you for _____” or “Please do _______.” He praises God. Why? Because he worships God.
We Give To Express Our Worship
To be honest, this is the one that hit me the hardest. I thought we gave so that we could make sure the bills were paid for the building, that our widows and needy were taken care of–“To Further The Work Of The Church.”
None of that represents the right motivation behind giving out of our free will to God. We give our money (just as we blend our voices) to express our worship to our Creator and Savior. We don’t give to the church. We give to God.
A sentence we often use that negates this is “This is not a solicitation to our visitors, but an obligation of the members of this congregation.” Negative. It is a solicitation to NO ONE. Further, it is an obligation to NO ONE. This is an opportunity to express your worship to God in a greatly significant way.
Such were the children of Israel doing when the Lord instructed Moses to obtain the materials for the Tabernacle from them:
Exodus 35:20-21: And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses.
Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments.
Exodus 36:3- And they received from Moses all the offering which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of making the sanctuary. So they continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning.
Exodus 36:6-7:So Moses gave a commandment, and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done–indeed too much.
The nation was reacting to the possibility of God dwelling among them in His holy Tabernacle. They brought because their hearts were stirred and their spirits were willing. Out of their worship, combined with their free will, came too much- not some consideration of how much is enough. So ought our giving be a reaction to what our God has done for us.
We Eat The Lord’s Supper To Express Worship
Our instruction is that we “Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1Cor. 11:26) I never got this until I got worship. Nice grammar. By ingesting the symbols of Christ’s flesh and blood we actually actively take part in professing our belief in Christ, in His death, in His once-for-all sacrifice. You’ll recall Jesus Himself saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” That remembrance that we take with us to the feast produces worship. Worshipping, we take the Lord’s Supper together. Worshipping, we proclaim His death.
I have to wrap up.
I warned you about my love for this topic.
All of this comes with a caution. Everyone knows worship. Everyone naturally worships. That reaction of awe, admiration, excitement is not always directed toward God, is it? No matter whether people believe in God, we all worship something.
Reserve that reaction only for God, for only God is worthy of it.
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ “
But He IS worthy of it!! I hope that you have a family to express your worship with tomorrow. Make sure that that happens. Praise His name and satisfy the longing in each of us to express our worship to God.