Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Worship, In Its Essence"

(Thanks to our dear friend and sister Peggy for inspiration on this one.)

Worship is often defined in contemporary terms as praise, thanksgiving, and song directed toward God. In Biblical terms, these devotional forms may be expressions of worship, but they are not worship in its essence.

"And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt (test) Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship" (Genesis 22:5; emphasis added).

First mentions of important subjects in Scripture often set the stage for interpretation of the matter in the rest of God's Word. This is true of worship, which is first referenced in Abraham's announcement that he and Isaac were journeying into Mount Moriah for this holy purpose. There is no indication that Abraham went into the mountain to praise, thank, or sing. He rather went into the mountain to kill Isaac, in faith and in obedience to God. This is worship in its primary definition, that is, to trust and obey God at whatever cost (and to some degree or another, there is always a cost).

The word worship means to bow down. While this references posture in one sense, the deeper meaning is deference to the glory and will of God. As a good friend recently said, "I seek to default to the Holy Spirit when faced with the issues of life." The Lord Jesus Christ declared this devotion in the garden of Gethsemane. "Not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42). Thus, the greatest Worshipper who ever lived showed us in more measure than Abraham what it means to sacrificially bow before the glory and will of the Father. This is worship in its essence, and the worshipping life of the Son of God now dwells within the heart of those who believe, making possible the same devotion. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6).

This truth opens the door to the everyday, every moment experience of God that our Savior made possible for those who trust Him. No longer is worship viewed in terms of time and place, but rather in terms of life. Any time we walk after the Spirit rather than the flesh, we are worshipping. Our sacrifice of human inclinations and impulses is the fruit of our determination to believe that "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). With the subsequent fruit of practical obedience, we worship God in the most fundamental meaning of the term whenever we trust and obey Him.

We have a special nozzle on our kitchen faucet that Frances purchased at a local store for $2.50. It diffuses the water in various ways, and is very effective. We love it, but recently, it has begun to come apart when we try to adjust it. It's still fixable, but hey, we may have to spend another $2.50! Just now, I went over to use the faucet, and there it goes again, coming apart. My initial reaction was to be very irritated, and I started to mutter my feelings. But then it occurred to me, "No, this is opportunity to trust the Lord, and to maintain my composure, giving thanks in this seemingly insignificant situation with a heart of peace instead of complaining." By the leading and enabling of the Holy Spirit, I therefore determined to trust and obey God rather than be irritated and verbally disobedient.

This is worship, in its essence. It's a tiny situation with seemingly little sacrifice, of course, but that's the beauty of worship as the Lord Jesus has made possible. Everything in our life is opportunity for self-sacrificially trusting and obeying God! Grace and truth in Christ offers a life of loving worship in all things, both large, small, and mundane. Certainly we may express worship in the contemporary meaning of the term. We may praise and thank, and we may even sing. However, these are fruits of true worship rather than its essence, because we have already worshipped Biblically if we have determined to trust and obey God. This is the sublime heart of worshipping God in Spirit and in truth, as introduced so long ago when a man journeyed into a mountain to sacrifice a son he dearly loved, in order to trust and obey the God whom he loved even more.

"The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth."
(John 4:19-24)

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