A Biblical Definition of Worship – Pastor Steve Damron
A Biblical Definition of Worship - Pastor Steve Damron
- Sacrifice is a part of worship
- Separation is necessary for worship
- Sacredness is necessary for worship
- Submission is necessary for worship
Genesis chapter 22. We’re going to be looking at this passage a little bit differently than most times that we consider it. Verse 5, “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.” We’re looking at the phrase, “…Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship…” That phrase, “…will go yonder and worship, and come again to you…” We’re going to be looking at, “A Biblical Definition of Worship.”
There’s a funny story about worship. There’s a little boy who went to church on a Sunday morning. That evening he and his dad, as normal, got down and they prayed. His dad prayed and the dad finished. The boy prayed, “Dear God, we had a great time at church today but I wish You had been there.” Now our desire is that God meets us at church and we are able to worship Him. But most people have no idea or concept of what the word “worship” means. We’re going to look at a Biblical definition of “worship.” We’re going to see in the Old Testament one of the original praise and worship services. In Genesis chapter 22 we see that.
In our song book, many times, people associate singing with worship. That’s part of it. And you’re going to see in the Bible this morning that there is some that is involved. But, actually, as we came to the offering, the offering is worship. You’ll see that. Offering is worship. I’m praying that we can help people as we come into our services. There’s an aspect of private worship and there’s an aspect of public worship. I want to try to help people in understanding what are some things you might be able to put in place in your private worship? What are some things you should include in your private worship because there should be some private worship, in our lives, to the Lord. The Bible has some things to say.
In our hymnbook there’s a song, “A Higher Ground.” It says, “I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day, still praying as I’m onward bound, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.” I think that is one of the desires as we come into an aspect of public worship. As we come into a service we should be praying, “God I’m coming apart.” You’re going to see this in this passage in Genesis 22. “I’m coming apart but Lord I want to move to higher ground today. I don’t want to just stay normal and I want God to meet with me.” That is one of the aspects of worship. And as we come to church it should be that God meets with us. That is our desire. That is our prayer. There are some preparations that have to be done. You’ll see that tonight in the example that we use of the old fashioned worship service. They prepare themselves. It should be as we come to a public time of worship that there has been some time this morning that you prepared yourself. If you didn’t prepare much then probably you’re not going to meet God. Because I believe God, “comes.” I believe He’s meeting with us now. If you don’t prepare your heart, He’ll meet with the person next to you but not you. God expects a clean and pure vessel to meet with. That song says, “I want to live above the world, though Satan’s darts at me are hurled, for faith has caught the joyful song of saints on higher ground. Lord lift me up and let me stand, by faith on heaven’s tableland, a higher plain than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.”
We can sing that song today, but there is some idea of worship out there that we’ve got to have something new. We’ve got to have something exciting. And we’ve got to have something that draws everybody in. Actually, you don’t find that in scripture. You do find praise, you find lifting up of hands, you find clapping, you’ll find instruments. I love listening to sermons and there are some guys that promote the idea of no instruments in the service. And I went through the Bible with them and I was saying, “You’re wrong.” I don’t agree with them. They think that there should be no instruments. As I go through scripture, I find instruments. But they’re instruments dedicated to God. They’re instruments that are used to bring honor and glory to God. That’s the idea of worship.
So pray with me as we come to worship and as we try to study it this morning, that we get a better understanding of coming to church and what it means to really worship. We worship at the beginning when we pray. We worship as we sing. We worship as we give a tithe and offering’s. That’s a form of worship to the Lord. As we come now to open up scriptures. That’s a form of worship. Presenting the Bible is a form of worship. Because when we go to scripture we’re trying to make ourselves better through the scripture but we’re, also, trying to point to God. That’s why some Bible preaching is not worship. Because if through the Bible preaching we do not see God better, we do not experience God better, if we are not coming to a higher ground, then guess what? We didn’t worship really well. That’s why we bow before God even as we begin our message and say, “God, this is all about You. As we worship, please come and meet with us and change us.”
Let’s do a quick study of worship. We’re there in Genesis. I think it is important that we look at some of the listings of the word “worship” in the Bible. As you look at some of those words, it will help you understand what God’s meaning of “worship’’ is in the Bible. The word “worship” is used over a hundred times in the Bible, Old and New Testaments.
Look at Exodus 24, the next book, verse 1, “And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.” In Exodus 34 verse 14, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” It’s very important that we understand what worship is because we’re not supposed to worship anything else but God as a Christian. Deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 19 is an instruction to the children of Israel from Moses. “And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.” Are there people that worship the sun? You can go back to the Egyptian society. That was the Egyptian society. What is God’s instruction through Moses? He’s saying, there are nations around you that don’t understand me as God. The things that I make they lift up above God. We see that being done today. Some people lift up man. Today, that’s called “humanism.” Humanism is, basically, the worship of man instead of God Who made man. So we see, in the Bible, there are a number of things that say this as far as worship.
One book of the Bible that many of us would understand and know, as far as worship, is found in Psalms. Let’s look at a number of passages in the book of Psalms. I think this will help us in understanding this concept of worship. Psalm 29, verse 2, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name;” Notice there’s a tie between glory and what’s the next thing? “…worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 45, verse 11, “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.” Psalm 66, verse 4. “All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee, they shall sing to thy name.” Psalm 81, kind of reiterates the idea of not worshipping anything else. Psalm 81, verse 9, “There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.” Psalm 86, verse 9, “All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O, Lord; and shall glorify thy name.” Psalm 95, verse 6, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.”
That introduces another idea. The idea of bowing and kneeling. I love reading books and studying and there’s an author that’s kind of a proponent of bowing in services. As I’ve studied it, I don’t agree with him all the way. Even in his church services they have a time they bow. I see it a little bit different. I think, in the New Testament, we don’t necessarily have to bow and get a big horn chanting out and some guy could do the call to prayer. So, that’s in the New Testament. The Greek word for worship is “bow.” There’s an idea that it means, as a dog licks your hand. What is a dog doing when he’s doing that? One, you could have a whole bunch of meat on there. But, normally, it’s that that dog understands that he’s subservient to you. That’s the attitude of worship that comes. That’s why I have a hard time coming in with black lights, and rock and roll, and thumping music. I have a hard time accepting that as worship. That doesn’t seem very humble. Now, is there an idea of worship in the Bible where we can sing and praise God? Yes! It’s in scripture. We’re going to see a service where there is singing and the instruments are brought out and they are praising God. But I don’t find a party atmosphere! I find an atmosphere of bowing and kneeling. And that’s why we have an invitation.
In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8 is a service that Ezra preached. It’s the only time that the word “pulpit,” is used in scripture. But, Ezra preached on a pulpit of wood. After the end of his preaching, they made a decision. That is worship, too. Worship is coming and bowing and saying, “God…” That’s why we have an invitation. An invitation is coming and worshipping the Lord and saying, “Lord, you moved on my heart. I’m going to make a decision. You are mighty. You are Holy. Your Word has spoken to me. And, I kneel now. I am saying to you that I will make the change.” That’s worship even in an invitation. I think our service is aligned to the idea of worship.
We saw in Psalm 95 verse 6, “O, come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” Psalm 96 verse 9, “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.” Psalm 97 verse 7, “Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods.” I love that phrase. God is above all gods. He stands way above all other gods and they bow before Him. That is the might of our God. That is the awesomeness of our God. All other gods bow before Him. “…worship him, all ye gods.” In Psalm 99 verse 9, “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy.” Psalm 138 verse 2, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving kindness and for thy truth; for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” I like that because it helps me out. Notice what it says, “I will worship toward thy holy temple…” So, that’s the idea of worship. Then it says, “…and praise thy name…” So, we’re coming together, we’re worshipping, we’re praising God. And then it says, “…for thy truth; for thou hast magnified thy word above thy name.” God’s name is precious. But what is above His name? His Word. Think how we treat this sometimes. Some of us get so offended when somebody takes the name of the Lord our God in vain and rightly so. I get offended when we take this Word in vain because according to this passage, God has magnified it above His Name. How hypocritical of us to get offended when God’s name is taken in vain in your life and in your actions. When we’re supposed to worship this Word. This Word is honorable. It’s worthy of our worship. It’s worthy to bow to and kneel to this. And yet, many of us, in our verbiage we say we worship the Lord. But God says this Word should be part of our worship. This Book. Worship the Lord.
In the New Testament, are there some passages? Yes, there are. I just want to do a couple of them. In Matthew chapter 4, you will recognize this is the temptation; the temptation of Christ. Remember Christ was taken by Satan and he was tempted. In Matthew 4, one of the temptations was in verses 9 and 10, “And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” You will find that worship, in the Bible, always has an idea of humility tied to it; bowing down, falling down, and worshipping. Satan said. “Hey, you know what? It’s no big deal. Just fall down and worship me. I’ll give you all this. I’ll give you this whole world. Everything you see!” “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
There’s another passage that is well known in the area of worship and that is John
chapter 4. This is when Jesus was talking to the woman at the well; the Samaritan. He ended up leading her to the Lord. But in John chapter 4, there is a big discussion and worship comes into play. And this you’ll hear often in John chapter 4, verses 20-24, it says, “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. But 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.”
The last book of the Bible is Revelation. Is the word “worship” used in Revelation? Yes, it is. It says this in Revelation 13 verse 8, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” So what does the Bible say in Revelation 13? All of those down through history that have said, “There is no God,” and they mock those even today that come to Christ and they go to church and they bow before Christ and they say, “That’s silliness.” The Bible says that even the unsaved one day will bow before God. It says here in Revelation 13, even those that are not written in the Book of Life they will bow and worship Him. In Revelation 22, this is the last time that the word worship is used in the Bible. It’s the last Book of the Bible, the last chapter in the Bible, it’s the second to last verse. Revelation 22 verse 8, “And I John saw these things and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.” Notice what the angel, this is just an angel, the angel then said, “…See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” Notice what the angel says the last time it’s used, “…worship God.” Worship God. There’s an idea of bowing, idea of humility.
We come to Genesis chapter 22 and you say, “Why in the world are we here in Genesis 22, verse 5? Remember what I said? “…and I and the lad will go yonder and worship…” In Bible study they call it, the law of first mentions. Some people adhere to it, some people don’t. But they say that a lot of times when a word in the Bible is mentioned, the first time, it gives a lot of context of how it should be used. So that’s why they call it in Bible study, the law of first mention. This is the first time, in the Bible, that the word “worship” is used. I’d like to take this and look at it and draw some application for you and I as far as worship because here Abraham says my son and I are going to go and worship. So what does it involve? I found four things that, I think, will help us in here.
Look at what he does in verse 5. “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here…” What was he doing? Go back earlier in verses 1, 2 and 3. “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham…” That word means, “test.” And we know that God didn’t tempt him to sin because James, chapter 1, says God can’t tempt any man to sin. So Abraham, this is a test. “… 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… And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him…” And they take and they head on their journey.
What is a lesson for you and I when it comes to a Biblical definition or a Biblical concept of worship? Number 1, sacrifice is almost always part of worship. Sacrifice. And in the Bible you will see sacrifice used over and over when it comes to worship. Now, what do we mean by sacrifice? Notice that Isaac is called, his only son. It’s also indicated that it’s a burnt offering. I’m not going to try to bore you with a whole bunch of talk about the Old Testament law but a burnt offering was a specific offering. All of it was consumed. None of it remained. A lot of offerings the priest partook of or the bringer partook of. The burnt offering was a very different offering. All of it was consumed completely. Meaning that when God got done with His part there was nothing left. It indicates to you and I something important with worship. When it comes to worship, before God, there is nothing that should be a part of our flesh. It is all to Him. It’s all His. Worship is not to man. Worship is not to a church. It’s his only son and it’s a burnt offering. This is something that I am wholeheartedly bringing before God that is all to Him.
There’s so much what you would call, sacrilege that is done in the name of Christianity and worship today. All across America people get up and they’re jiving, and they’re just God is good, and they’re doing all kinds of different things, all kinds of nuttiness. And they’re all sitting there, “Oh, I feel it.” No you didn’t. You’re feeling your flesh. I don’t know what they’re feeling but they’re not feeling the awesomeness of God. They’re not feeling that I am humbled before Him. That God is so mighty and so powerful and it fills me with wonder. Now, there is some aspect of it that as I feel that that there is some feeling to worship. Somebody that says, “You know what? There should be no feeling.” I’m sorry, I have feelings, not very many of them, just so you know. But I do have a little bit every once in awhile. And there is some feeling. We can come together sometimes in our services, most of us, and the singing is lifting up and it should carry us to a place where I’m not thinking about the person next to me. I’m not thinking about the song, necessarily, I’m thinking about the words and how it expresses my desires about God. That’s worship. So there is some aspect of worship that we come together and the singing is lifting up and it’s in praise to God. That is part of worship. But it never should be that I come into church and all that I think about is a man. That’s not the purpose of worship. It’s not thinking about the facilities. It’s not thinking about, “Oh, wow, look at that over there.” No. I come in and as we gather and we worship God, through the scripture and through the praise of His name, and through prayer, and through sacrifice, all of it is pointing to God. That is the idea of worship. And one of the ideas that Abraham gives us is sacrifice is involved in worship. What does sacrifice mean? It’s his only son and it’s a son whom thou lovest. You’re not going to experience true worship coming into our service when you are just like, “humph.” No. You know that idea, I’m willing to lay down my reservations. I’m willing to lay down before God and say, “God, you come and I want to experience God here today.” How am I going to experience God? When I come and that which I love is laid out before Him. Sacrifice is necessary and almost always part of worship when you look at it in the Bible.
Secondly, notice what it says here in verse 3. “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddles his ass, and took two of his young men with him…” Notice what is says in verse 4, “Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. Look at what he says in verse 5, “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here…” Sacrifice is almost always part of worship. So secondly, separation is necessary for worship. What is separation? That’s why I don’t believe in house church. Why don’t I believe in house church? The Bible instructs us in coming together as a group of believers. You can’t read the New Testament and the book of Acts, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians, Hebrews and He’s saying not to forsake the assembling. You can’t read in the New Testament that the church is not very important. This morning we’re talking some about public worship. So public worship, I’m sacrificing. That’s why we do an offering. It’s very popular now on church websites to say, “Hey, you’re a first time visitor.” We’re even working on some of that. What should we expect and all of that. And right in the middle of the thing, “We take an offering but you don’t have to put in anything. You don’t have to do nothing. You just come, stay as you are, and you’ll go far.” Wait a minute. I don’t even understand what that means. But there is this whole idea of casualness. And they never will worship God. You know why? Because when I come that’s the sacrifice. I’m not really worshipping God if I’m like, “You’re asking for money again.” Money isn’t to this place, it’s to God. My offering is to Him. That’s who I’m giving to, I’m giving to God. And, yes, it’s through a local church. But, also, I’m coming into a place, I’m separating from the world. I’m not going out into some mall and saying, “Hey, you no what, I’m just going to go to church today.” And, I’m going shopping? No. I come apart from the world. And I come to a place that is going to make me focus on God. And you notice what is Abraham doing? Abraham, it had to be a little inconvenient. And so much today in the area of worship is convenience! It’s convenience! Don’t ask your people to work a little bit for God. Don’t ask them. I mean we’ve got to have an early service and a Saturday service now because people don’t like getting up on Sunday to come to church. Too bad! We worship God. And sometimes it’s inconvenient. And why is it inconvenient? Because God wants us to sacrifice and to separate. It’s not going to be out in the world. And that’s why many of us never experience God’s presence. Because we’re not willing to sacrifice. And we’re not willing to separate.
You’ll notice, also, here in verses 7-10. “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father, and he said, Here am I, my son, And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? Abraham said, My son, God will provide…” They come to a place which God had told them and laid in order. Brought Isaac his son. You know what I see in verses 7-10, we see sacrifice and separation but I see a “sacredness. “ Where do I see a sacredness? I see it in their conversation and in their demeanor. And that’s what’s missing in much of our worship today. Sacredness. I’m not saying that everybody has to dress up. But, I’m sorry, I get tired of the casualness. I’m tired of a preacher coming out and he’s in his jeans and they took away the pulpit and they got a little stool there and he’s got his bottle of water. I’m sorry, this ain’t a comedy club. It ain’t a comedy club. And it’s not supposed to be a comedy club. It’s very sacred as we come in. And there should be some sacredness. It should be very special. Why? Because I’m coming to meet God! And when I come to meet God it should be special. This is God I’m coming to see! I’m not coming casual. I’m not coming just the way you are! This is a Holy God! Remember the passages we read about worshipping Him? Worship Him in the beauty of holiness for He is Holy! Worship Him in the Holy temple; in the Holy Hill. It’s sacred. And what do you see with Abraham and Isaac? Their speech is even about the offering. We need to be careful in our worship. “Hey, Joe, you see da Bulls? What about them Socks?” I’m not saying that we can’t have some casual conversation. But we come to church to worship God. And our thoughts should be toward Him. Our thoughts should be toward scripture. We come in bowing before Him. We come in thinking a little bit about what God has for me. Oh, God, we’re coming today and may the worship honor You. And I believe worship honors Him when it’s sacred. There’s a sacredness that we see here.
The last thing is in verses 11-17. Verse 11, “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.” And guess what happens? The angel of the Lord comes and meets the need. They were going up to worship. And that included some sacrifice. It included some separation. And it included some sacredness. But it included, “submission.” You know where I see that? What was Abraham doing? Offering Isaac. Do you know what submission involves? Obedience. And this is for our young all the way to the old. Do you know why many of us never experience true worship? Because you never bow in obedience to what God has told you to do. And you’ll never experience His presence. What happened once he took the plunge? And did you notice there’s phraseology in the Bible. And remember every word is important. Remember when he was coming up and one of the sacredness that came out was everything was set in order. It wasn’t chaos. That’s why I believe in an orderly service. I believe that it should be planned and it should be prepared because God in that planning and preparing can meet with us. But then you notice that there is some submission and what is that? That he’s going up because God told him many days before to do it. So this is very determined, isn’t it? God was able to see his obedience. And many of us never experience God’s presence because when God talks to you, when you bow, you’re saying, “Well, if He tells me then I ain’t doing that.” And that’s why you don’t hear God. My prayer is as a church, when we come for public worship, is that God meets with us. He’s here in our presence. Do we believe it? We should. As we sing, as we give our tithes and offerings it should be that we experience God. And it doesn’t have to be a spooky thing. It’s a very special thing to be in a service and to feel God. God wants us to experience Him.
Here in Genesis 22 we see some simple things. Sacrifice, separation, sacredness, submission. All of it indicating an attitude of Abraham and that’s why guess what happened? The angel stopped him. Oh, that God could come and see our hearts in such a way as we sacrifice to Him. As we try to get away from the world. As we submit to Him. As we try to keep it sacred, all of a sudden, God’s presence is here. That’s our desire. Why? Because, I don’t want to come to church and not see God. And that’s my prayer. My prayer is that that transfers to every person here. Why come to church if I can’t see God? I want Him to deal with me. I want Him to talk with me. I’m going to do some Communion services pretty close together in March and April. And do you know why? Because, Communion is worship. Of all times to come into the presence of God. And guess what? There’s nothing I can do to deserve this. I know the passage in Corinthians. I understand that I need to examine myself. But you know that even examining myself I can’t get good enough! And yet God still loves me. And to sit and think about how He died and how He was crucified and how He arose again. And He did all that for me. That is worship! And that’s what we need to experience. The experience of worship is lost today. Yes, there should be some feeling there. There should be. I should have known that it was at church and I was in the presence of God. That’s our prayer and that’s our desire.
There’s a book that was written many years ago. I don’t know much of it. It was called, “The Heart of Worship.” He talks about a photograph in a USA Today. The astronomers that took this photograph said it was a perfect spiral galaxy. It was taken with a new telescope. This was written in the USA Today, I think it was around 2002 or 2003, they brought a new telescope to the big island of Hawaii and they mounted it. And it was a breathtaking photo of a new galaxy that was discovered. And they called it NGC628. It just grabs you. NGC628. They said that this picture that was taken was slightly smaller than the Milky Way. Now what does it mean? Well it only had about 100 billion stars. And it was 30 million light years away. But the whole point of the USA Today article was the amazing capabilities of the telescope! It wasn’t that here it was in 2003 that man finally caught up to something that God spoke into existence. Man is overwhelmed that, “Wow, look what we made!” Look what God did! That is the idea of worship. Worship is coming in and understanding, man, the awe inspiring greatness of our God! And He’s willing in worship to meet us.