What is Worship?
Worship can best be described as the feeling or expression of reverence (deep respect for something or someone) and adoration (deep love and respect) for a deity. The English word "worship" comes from two Old English words: weorth, which means "worth," and scipe or "ship", which means something like shape or "quality." We can see the Old English word -ship in modern words like friendship and sportsmanship – that’s the quality of being a friend, or the quality of being a good sport.
So worth-ship is the quality of having worth or of being worthy. When we worship, we are saying that God has worth, that he is worthy. Worship means to declare worth, to attribute worth. Or to put it in biblical terms, we praise God. We speak, or sing, about how good and powerful God is.
This is a purpose for which we are called: "But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." (1 Peter 2:9-10, MSG)
We were called for the purpose of praising God, worshiping God. That is one of the job descriptions of a Christian. We should declare that God is worthy, worth more than everything else put together.
Response to Worship
Another introductory point is that worship is a response to God. We can’t know God’s worth; much less declare it, unless God reveals himself to us. So God initiates worship by revealing himself to us. Then we respond, nd the proper response is worship. The more we grasp his greatness, his power, his love, his character, the more we understand his worthiness, the better we can declare his worth; the better we can worship.
Our worship is a response to what God has revealed Himself to be, not only in who he is, but also in what he has done and is doing and will do in the future. Worship includes all our responses to God, including a response with our mind, such as our belief in God’s worthiness, our emotions, such as love and trust, and our actions and our words. Our heart expresses itself in words and songs; our mind is active when we want to learn what God wants us to do, and our bodies and strength are involved when we obey and when we serve.
One way we see this response was from King David in the Old Testament. His response to the Lord was through his calling of the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.
The Ark of the Covenant
"The Ark of the Covenant was also a place of refuge and shelter from the judgment of God. But it was much more than this. For the Ark of the Covenant is essentially a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. "The Ark of the Covenant was the place of deep, spiritual, intimate communion and fellowship with God; a place of victory. The place where God manifested His Power, Presence, and Glory." (Truscott: 33)
David was not interested in re-creating Moses’ Tabernacle. It is now a New Day and God is giving David insight into His ‘eternal purposes’ concerning worship. As David was preparing a new place for the Ark of God, "David said, none should carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever. And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it." (1 Chronicles 15:2-3, AMP)
Many know that David initiated the building of the Temple, a perpetual place for worship. But David’s other contribution has lasted even longer than the Temple did. That is in the area of music. David had a background in music. As a shepherd, he played the lyre, a simple stringed instrument. He composed music and sang about God. He worshiped God while he took care of his sheep; it was worship on the job. David’s songs are called psalms. Psalms is a book of songs for stringed instruments. We can worship God with songs and musical instruments.
David didn’t write all the psalms. Some were written centuries later. But David got the psalm-book started, and he organized the way that music is used in worship. He assigned some of the Levites to be worship musicians. "And he gathered together all the leaders of Israel, with the priests and the Levites. Now the Levites were numbered from the age of thirty years and above; and the number of individual males was thirty-eight thousand. Of these, twenty-four thousand were to look after the work of the house of the Lord, six thousand were officers and judges, four thousand were gatekeepers, and four thousand praised the Lord with musical instruments, “Which I made,” said David, “for giving praise.” (1 Chronicles 23:2-5, NKJV) Music became a permanent part of worship.
Psalm 150 points out a variety of worship methods: "Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; Praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness; Praise with a blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings; Praise him with castanets and dance, praise him with banjo and flute; Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum, praise him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise GOD!" (MSG)
We might find some of these worship methods uncommon today, but all these creative jargons are tolerable when they are done to the glory of God. The main principle of worship is that we worship only God, and that we really mean it. This is done through spontaneity, humility, and praise.
Worship in Jesus
What did Jesus do in worship, and what did he say about worship? Jesus went to Jerusalem for annual festivals, but most of his worship was done away from the temple. We are told that he went to the synagogue, where he would read and explain Scripture. He prayed, in private and in public, and he sang songs.
He taught in the temple and chased moneychangers out of it because he wanted the place to be a dwelling of worship, a place of prayer. "And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves." (Mt 21:12, NKJV)
The Gospels’ most direct teaching about worship is in John 4. "The woman said to Him, Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship. Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father." (v.20-21, NKJV). In other words, location will not be important. Worship will not be associated with any particular spot.
Jesus added, "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (v.22-24, NKJV)
God seeks people who will worship him. Worship is something he wants. He knows it is good for us to worship him. In speaking of "spirit and truth," Jesus is echoing the prophets, worship must be sincere. External things don’t matter if the heart isn’t right. It doesn’t do us any good to worship at the right place or with the right rituals if our attitude isn’t right. We can sing the right songs and hold our hands in the right way, but if our heart isn’t in it, it isn’t really worship. We become like what we worship and willing or not, we all worship in one facet or another.
Everyone is growing up toward some measure of fullness, whether of righteousness or of evil. No one is exempt and no one can wish to be. We are, every one of us, unceasing worshipers and will remain so forever, for eternity is an infinite extrapolation of one of two conditions: surrender to the sinfulness of sin unto infinite loss or the commitment of personal righteousness unto infinite gain. This is the central fact of our existence, and it drives every other fact. (Best: 17-18)
Why We Should Worship
It is shown throughout both Old and New Testament writings how worship and praise help bring clarity, it is a spiritual weapon, it cleanses, and helps us to gain victory. We must continue to seek the Lord and the best way to do this is through true worship. We must seek restoration before revival.
Thousands of sincere Christians throughout the world are earnestly praying for revival today. All of us praise God for the moving’s of His Spirit which has been witnessed in various places from time to time. But the revival for which we pray – the revival we so desperately need – will be nothing short of a world-wide outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This outpouring, when the fullness of the Spirit of God, the fullness of the Power of His presence, will dwell in the Church, shall herald a far greater revival than has ever been experienced in history. (Truscott: 325-326)
Our worship should reflect a healthy balance, sometimes we should be reflective and serious, and sometimes we should show enthusiasm and jubilation. (NKJV Commentary: 692) Regardless of what you need, it is shown that praise and worship gives quick answers to prayer, sets us free from slavery and bondage, ordains you for a testimony, gives you protection, persuasion and provision.
Truscott, Graham. The Power of His Presence. San Diego: Truscott Missions PMB GI. 1969
Best, Harold M. Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. 2003
New King James Version Commentary. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers. 1996