Worship is a complicated thing, and as I’ve been working on this series I’ve realized the immense depth of the subject. I’ve been doing a lot of research, but clearly can’t include all of the wonderful information I’ve unearthed in the process. I’ll include links to some of my favorite sites at the bottom of this post in case you are interested in doing some digging on your own.
Did you do some thinking yesterday about what you are worshiping? I have done a lot of thinking along those lines, and I hope that today we can refocus on what worship should be – as opposed to what we’ve made it.
As we’ve already explored, our nature — the way we were made as humans — is to worship something. Our hearts were created with the awareness that something is missing, and from the first breath we take until the last time we close our eyes, life is one long quest for that thing we lack. We look to anything and everything to try to fill that void, but too often our searching leaves us even emptier than we were when we began.
We were made to worship. That part is natural to us. What does not come naturally, though, is knowing where to focus that devotion and attention.
“Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve.”
― Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change
It is the human condition to live life searching, but only one thing will ever satisfy the searching heart. God created within us a longing that cannot be satisfied apart from Himself. Our searching and desperate thirsting will only come to an end once we step up to the fountain overflowing with living water and drink deeply that which our souls were designed to crave.
Nothing else will ever satisfy. Nothing else will ever stop the aching thirst. Nothing else will ever do. As the contemporary quip goes, we have a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts, and anything else will fit like a square peg in a round hole.
We were made to worship God, and He alone is worth the kind of worship we’re talking about here. Worship – that complete dedication of our hearts and minds and souls and beings – is misplaced unless it falls upon God.
“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” (Deuteronomy 6:13)
From the very beginning, God commanded us – His people – to worship Him, and to our finite human minds this is a hard thing to wrap our minds around. From a worldly standpoint, one who commands attention and devotion is needy – demanding – weak. It is hard to reconcile God’s insistence on our singular devotion to Himself with who we know God to be. He needs nothing from us. He allows us to choose of our own free will. He is the supreme Creator; He is neither weak nor wanting of anything.
So why does God command us to worship Him? A good start is to say that we must worship God because He deserves it, but that only scratches the surface. Why does God want our wholehearted worship? Why?
Scripturally, worship is primarily an action, rather than a noun or a feeling or a place. That alone may be enough to rock your world, since so much of today’s language indicates otherwise. Worshiping is something we do – more than something we feel or somewhere we go – and as with any action, knowing the reason for doing it can change everything. The cause for the action of worship can be found in examining the roots of the Hebrew and Greek words for “worship.” According to the New Bible Dictionary, both the “Hebrew aboda, and the Greek latreia originally signified the labor of slaves or hired servants” (p.1262). Worship, then, is any action done because of or in service to the one who is loved. Unlike in contemporary ideas of slavery or servanthood, though, the One who is worshiped does not necessarily gain anything from the other’s act of worship.
Our worship, then, is not something that God needs from us. Our worship does nothing to increase the esteem of God, and our neglect of worship does nothing to diminish who He is. It is something we do out of service to Him, because of our love for Him.
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” ~C. S. Lewis
In simply stepping into our lives, God initiated our worship of Him. He is who He is, and that alone is reason for us – His humble creation – to bow the knee to Him. Our worship is a reaction to Him – who He is and what He does. It does nothing to change Him, but by requiring a humility of heart and a subjection of spirit, it forever alters who we are.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at what the act of worship does within us. Yes, it changes us, but how? And why is that important to God?
I hope to see you then.