The word “worship” has a variety of meanings. It can mean to bow before, to kiss toward and to prostrate oneself before someone. It can mean to show the worth of another in the sense of “Worth-ship”. At least one of the words translated ‘worship” in the New Testament means to offer service to. This word is often translated by the word “service” and is on one occasion is translated by the word “religion”.
What do you think of when someone mentions the subject of worship? My guess is that most of us think of a worship service when we all come together for a time of singing, prayer, preaching and study of the Bible. Those times certainly ought to be times of worship to God that build us up in the faith and please the Lord in what has happened.
My concern is that we often think of actions done in worship as worship in its entirety. The five avenues of worship mentioned in the New Testament are great means of worship but they are avenues through which we worship God and not worship in and of themselves.
In John 4:23-24 Jesus answered the question of the Samaritan woman who asked him if the right place to worship was in Jerusalem or there at Mount Gerazim. He told her the hour was coming and was already there when it wouldn’t matter where one worshiped. “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Jesus went on to tell her that God was searching for true worshipers who worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”
Notice that worship isn’t generic in that just as long as we worship something in some way it is all right. Worship is personal. It is to the Father and He is the one whom we must please. If I worship God and feel really good about what has happened it is no assurance that God is thrilled with it. In worship the one I’m trying to please is the Father.
One of the most common phrases used in the gospel accounts with regard to Jesus was “and they worshiped him.” This is one of the highest proofs that Jesus wasn’t just another man. When people tried to worship some man or even an angel they were stopped and told to worship only God. When Peter went to the home of Cornelius and his family in Acts 10 Cornelius fell before him to worship him and Peter said, “Don’t do that. I’m just a man like you are. Worship God.”
When John the apostle on two occasions in the book of Revelation fell before an angel who had brought a message from God the angel said, “See that you do not do that. Worship God.”
Think of each avenue of worship and see how it is to be focused on Him. When we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs we are certainly to be built up by it. But it is to sing praise to God. It is to please him in the singing.
When we pray it is to God and to offer ourselves to him. When we preach it is his word that must be preached or it isn’t worth the time and effort. When we commune in taking of the Lord’s Supper it is with him that we commune as well as with each other. It is a time of fellowship with both God and other Christians. When we give it is to the Lord that we are giving. It may be used to serve all kinds of needs. But the gift is to God and the one that must be pleased. In Malachi 3 God accused the Israelites of stealing from him by not giving their tithes and offerings as they were supposed to do.
Worship to God is to please him and to help us draw closer to him. He longs for a close and personal relationship with us. He isn’t looking for a ritual but a time of personal offering of ourselves to him as a living sacrifice.
I don’t know of a way we can better draw near to God and him draw near to us than genuine worship to him in accord with his will.