What is Worship?
Let the meditation of my heart…
May 26th, 2019
Worship is something that has definitions as diverse as those who reference the term.
We can look to modern dictionaries to find what it states worship is, but that definition doesn’t convey the essence of the act of worship as God sees it.
While the dictionary definition of worship begins to outline what the scripture outlines as worship, this definition falls short of the depth and breadth of what worship should be for us.
What we are going to do, may see a little dry but it serves a purpose. In the paragraphs below is a word study of ‘worship’ throughout the Old and New Testament’s. Please follow through to the end because the dimensions of worship from the perspective of God’s Word is much more than the world’s definition.
Make Low – humble oneself
In Genesis 22:5 we find the first reference to worship. The Hebrew word šâḥâ from which worship is translated means to make oneself low before the presence of God.
This Hebrew word is used consistently in the early books of the Bible, šâḥâ is the most common reference to worship used in the Old Testament.
When we get to Joshua, we find a different word used for worship.
For the Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the Lord.’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the Lord.
Joshua 22:25 (ESV)
The word yârê here used, which reflects the same reference of šâḥâ but goes further to emphasize the ‘fear of the Lord’ and giving of ultimate respect and honor. Specifically, the definition for yârê is stated as: to fear; morally, to revere; caus. to frighten: — affright, be (make) afraid, dread(-ful), (put in) fear(-ful, -fully, -ing), (be had in) reverence.
This adds a depth of dimension to worship as we understand it.
Then in 2nd Solomon we find yet another Hebrew word defining worship, âḇaḏ.
For your servant vowed a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will offer worship to the Lord.’”
2 Samuel 15:8 (ESV)
Here the word âḇaḏ, brings a completely new aspect of worship we haven’t seen in prior references to worship. Now it envelopes service or work, as part of worship. Strong’s defines it as:
- to work, serve
- to labour, work, do work
- to work
Our concept of worship takes on an entirely different meaning as it spills over as an act of servitude.
It isn’t till we get into the book of Ezra that we find another word defining worship. This Hebrew word is ḏâraš and again we add another dimension to what worship means to God. This word extend worship as to resort to, seek, seek with care, enquire, require.
We find this in Ezra 4:2.
When we cross over into the New Testament at Matthew 2:2 we find the worship of the wise men seeking the new-born King. This Greek word proskyneō means to kiss the hand in reverence. This would make it a rough equivalence to the Hebrew šâḥâ found so prevalent in the Old Testament.
Then it isn’t till we get to Matthew 15:9 that we find a different word in Greek to represent worship, sebomai. Which is to revere, to worship. Again, reflecting the term used in the Hebrew for worship as well.
Acts 7:7 introduces another Greek word which the rough equivalence of the Hebrew definition of worship as is being service related, latreuō. And in 17:23 sebasma which is to act with reverence.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1 (ESV)
Once again, the Greek worship reference that invokes servitude.
I realize that this devotional has differed greatly from others I’ve provided for you here in Selah Musings. The ESV Bible lists 127 references to worship. We have just done a fly over of all of them. What we see about worship from the Word’s perspective is that worship is:
- Making oneself low / humbled before God
- To revere God
- Service to God to the extent than one become his servant.
- Seek God with all that is in us.
One of the pastors I enjoy listening to has expressed his summary of what worship is, he refers to it as ‘worth-ship’. Which is as it sounds, to convey the worth to God that he is deserving.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (ESV)
We prepare for worship in various ways. We participate in worship in different ways as well. But the Psalmist nails it. Let my words, and the very meditation of my heart be found acceptable in the sight of my rock, my redeemer, my Lord!
Worship does take place inside the walls of your church, but real worship isn’t restricted to the structure of a building and is demonstrated in the work we put forth in service of God for his glory and honor. It is in our seeking of him in our lives as the ultimate goal of our existence, as we humble ourselves and elevate God through the giving of worth to him for all that he is and we owe to his grace and mercy.
“What is Worship?” It’s giving God everything he asks of us, our love, our devotion, our honor, and our praise; along with anything else we can contribute to his glory. It’s Worth-ship!
In the Grace of Jesus!