"The Essence of Worship"
What is worship? For many, singing praises and thanksgivings has become increasingly identified with worship, particularly in church services. The Bible, however, teaches that while song can certainly be an expression of worship, it is not synonymous with it.
"I am thy fellow servant, of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book. Worship God" (Revelation 22:9).
Certainly a correlation can exist between worship and singing expressions of devotion to our Lord. "All the earth shall worship Thee, and shall sing unto Thee; they shall sing to Thy name" (Psalm 66:4). However, the fact remains that worship and music are not one and the same thing. Indeed, one can worship without singing, and one can sing without worshipping. This does not minimize the blessing of song, nor does it imply disregard to the command, "Sing unto the Lord, o ye saints of His" (Psalm 30:4). As one who leads the singing of thousands of hymns each year, I rejoice in the joy of musical expressions of affirmation to our Lord. What a gift to our hearts, and as I frequently mention, "Can you imagine a life without music?" Indeed, those who lose their hearing all attest that one of the greatest difficulties experienced in such loss involves the absence of hearing song and singing. Nevertheless, the truth remains that worship and music must not be viewed as synonymous.
Worship, in its essence, should rather be defined in accordance with its first mention in Scripture.
"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, and come again to you" (Genesis 22:5).
No Biblical record exists of Abraham and Isaac singing as they ventured to the mount of sacrifice. They rather journeyed for the purpose of trusting and obeying God. This is worship in its stark and holy essence, namely, to do the will of God regardless of any sacrifice that may be involved. Sometimes such devotion involves music. Often it does not. Abraham and Isaac worshipped not by singing praises, but by doing God's will at the highest cost. Abraham obeyed God, Isaac did not struggle, and Scripture, in its first reference to worship, provides one of its most beautiful foreshadowings of God sacrificing His Son, and of Christ being "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phillipians 2:8). Indeed, Calvary witnessed the greatest act of worship that has or will ever occur. "Not My will, but Thine be done" said our Savior to His Father before journeying into the mount of sacrifice (Luke 22:42). This is worship in its holy essence, which occurred with no record of song or singing.
I love music. I sing it. I play it. I compose it. But I do not mistake it for worship. Certainly we can worship by singing, even as battered Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God in their prison (Acts 16:25). However, we can sing the finest hymns with the most seemingly ardent feelings of devotion, but not approach the true altar of worship. As with Abraham and Isaac, worship involves God calling us to trust and obey Him at whatever cost by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we will sing as we worship, and sometimes we won't. Most importantly, let us never equate the essence of worship with anything other than God-enabled faith and faithfulness. As the Lord Jesus declared to Satan in the wilderness temptation, "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Luke 4:8; emphasis added). Yes, to serve God, as led and enabled by Him, at whatever cost. This is worship in its blessed and holy essence.
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before Him, all the earth."
Weekly Memory Verse
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
(II Peter 1:2)