What in the World is Worship?
By Harold Markham
Introducing Biblical Worship
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance.5 And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you." Genesis 22:1-5
If you had to define worship, could you do it? There are many ideas of what worship is. Some view it as an emotional time produced by upbeat music and repetitious songs. Others view worship as formal traditions preformed in the sterile environment of grand and glorious edifices. The dictionary defines worship in the following manner:
"Reverence toward a divine being or supernatural power; the expression of such reverence; extravagant respect or admiration or devotion."
Does this capture biblical worship?
While we may see aspects of worship prior to Genesis 22:5-- the actual word "worship" appears here first. Many times this story is used to present the sacrificial lamb supplied by God-- and that is pictured here, but the dominant issue here is obedience, and as we will see worship.
Usage of this Hebrew word translated worship...
- to bow down, prostrate oneself
- before superior in homage
- before God in worship
- before false gods
- before angel
We must begin to understand Biblical worship!
How do we understand it? Well, in this text we will see 7 concepts associated with true worship.
I. True worship is based upon Divine revelation.
Who said? God did. God is the one who determines our worship! Our worship is unto Him-- He alone determines the standards. It is nor for us to set the terms regarding our worship. We should be concerned with God. Is it acceptable in His sight? God said. It was the word of God that prompted Abraham to act the way he did-- to go and worship God. Faith and obedience to God’s revelation.
Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
One author has rightly observed that if you take away faith based on divine revelation from Abraham’s intent, the act becomes murderous! We need to be so very careful that we come not only in spirit, but in truth. It is not man’s tradition that determines our worship. It is not ancient wisdom, or modern pragmatism. It is the mandate of a Thrice Holy God.
II. True worship is conditioned by faith.
What did Abraham do?
Abraham believed God and acted accordingly! He arose early and set about to fulfill the Lord’s dictate. The Lord’s imperative was his focus. Why? Hebrews tells us:
Hebrews 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;
You see Abraham did something in response to God’s revelation. This rings true in light of:
James 1:22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
But this costs.. Right!
III. True worship involves costly presentation to God.
What was the cost? In Abraham’s case it meant the offering of his only son! The son of promise. God made no small deal of this. Look at how He reminded Abraham of the cost in verse 2.
Genesis 22:2 And He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."
Worship is not a cheap thing. It is not to be engaged in a thoughtless fashion. There is a cost involved. Christ reminded His followers of the cost to follow. Faith will cost.
David realized this in:
2 Samuel 24:24 However, the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
True worship is sacrificial-- Hebrews 13:5 calls it a "sacrifice of praise." Our worship may be as costly as an expensive box of perfume, or as in the case of the martyrs the price may be our blood. Nevertheless, worship should be our way of life!
Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
Proper worship will involve a cost of time and effort. It will result in a loss of income, position, and prestige.
IV. True worship necessitates a deliberate separation unto God.
What must we put aside to worship God?
Have you ever wondered why Abraham in verse 5 told the two men to stay here-- while he and Isaac would go yonder? Have you ever considered what would have happened if the two men came along? How would they have reacted to Abraham’s obedience to God’s command? I realize that I risk conjecture here, but Abraham did separate himself away from these men to worship God.Ironically one can’t seem to pull himself away from his job, his situation, his plans, his leisure, or even fleshly desires. To worship God we must deny ourselves the luxury of fancy,liberty of flesh, love for world, and the pride of life.
Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
It is incumbent upon us to draw near-- sincerely-- clean and pure. The Gospel opens that door wide for us! Christ shed His blood so we could be reconciled to God. It would seem more and more that this aspect of worship is disregarded. We have begun to pattern our worship after the world’s popular definition. The die hard fundamental pew sitter who can’t focus on the Scripture and It’s Author because they are thinking about what food they will ea or how much needs to be done on Monday, or how tired they are from a full week’s labor-- are not distanced for the things that draw them away form God.
V. True worship involves self denial.
Philippians 3:3 says: for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,
As believers we come to God in Christ, through Christ, and even with Christ. In this aspect we are able to worship. If we come in the haughtiness of flesh or pride we are guilty of approaching God as did Cain-- on our own terms. In biblical worship there is no room for the vain sinfulness of the flesh. You see we must not only separate from outside agents, but we must pursue the holiness that God calls us to by separating ourselves from the old sinful man.
2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
As we worship God, we should decrease and let Christ increased. Be magnified, O Lord. Be magnified, O Lord. Let the Beloved Son please us in focus and thought.
Psalm 34:3 O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.
This defines worship for us!
VI. True worship glorifies God.
Psalm 50:23 "He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;..."
The focus here is is that all that encompass worship is presented before God! It is not the person beside us. It is not for self edification-- although blessing follows. Our worship is presented before God.
Ephesians 5:8-10 ... walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Let me ask you a question-- why do you worship like you do? Do we worship God in the way we have been conditioned-- not knowing the reason why? Is it acceptable in the sight of God? Can we be guilty as was Ephesus of leaving our first love?
VII. True worship results in personal blessing.
Look at how God responded to the true worshiping heart of Abraham.
Genesis 22:16-18 and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
Abraham got his son back. He had a deeper relationship with his son-- because Isaac obeyed.
At first you may not see the parallel nature of the blessings here, but look deeper. To the true worshiper we see the Only Beloved Son in all His divine splendor. We hold deeper the willing obedience He demonstrated to His Father. He becomes more precious to us. Not only that but His obedience is credited to each believer. Like Isaac, Christ can pursue His Bride and we the church can love Him who we have not seen with a deeper, more meaningful love.
Worship is our submissive response to God’s love. It is obedience to His revelation in the Scripture. It is Faith in His Person and respect for His Word. It is active. It is sincere. It is unto God. It is a blessing and our responsibility. we need to take it seriously. Abraham did. How will we worship God today?