What is Worship, Really?

One of the online groups I frequently visit recently posed this question. Being a worship leader, I have seen and heard this question so many times it’s hard to count them. So, once more, I sat and “thunked,” as the great prophet Winnie the Pooh would say.

I’ve always maintained the firm stand that worship goes much further than simply music. Music does not equal worship. Music equals music. That’s all.

Worship also goes much further than emotion. Emotion does not equal worship. Emotion equals nothing more than emotion.

Of course, these two things, music and emotion, are very good motivators to bring us to an attitude of worship, but, in and of themselves, they are not worship. (Sorry to all my “worship leader” friends – I know I’m possibly threatening our job security here!) So what exactly, then, IS worship?

Well, the “Sunday school” answer is  . . . “Worship is how we live our lives.” Yes, class, it is. But what on earth does that look like in shoe leather when we look at our everyday lives? In order to understand what worship means to the Lord – Who, incidentally, is the only One’s opinion that we should be concerned with – we must look to where He speaks, His Word.

The first place the word “worship” is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 22:5. If you’re familiar with my writing, you should know by now that I’m all about context, so you can find the entire Chapter of Genesis 22 here if you don’t have your own Bible handy. I will always recommend you look at it in your own Bible. The whole chapter is only 24 verses. Read it and get familiar with the context, then come back and finish. Go ahead, I’ll wait . . .

. . . Okay, now that you’ve read the whole chapter of Genesis 22, you saw that the first place the word “worship” is ever mentioned in all of Scripture was when Abraham was referring to taking his son Isaac up on the mountain that God showed him to sacrifice him. Pause for a moment and read that again. Abraham was told to offer his son as a burnt offering and he called it worship. WORSHIP. Do you get struck with awe when you read this passage like I do? Furthermore, Abraham was so confident in the promise that God had given him, he said “we will worship and return to you.” We will worship and return to you. There wasn’t a single doubt in Abraham’s mind that God would fulfill His promises to Abraham. Not one.

In addition to the word “worship” occurring in Scripture for the first time in Genesis Chapter 22 (have you read the whole chapter yet?), we see two other words mentioned for the first time. The words “love” and “obey.” This is no coincidence. God tells Abraham to take his only son “whom you love” (v. 2) to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering. Abraham does it, calling it worship, and the angel of the Lord stops him just as he raises his “knife to slay his son.” (v. 10) Finally, we see the Lord tell Abraham “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (v. 18). Do you see the progression here?

Love.

Worship.

Obedience.

First, we love the Lord (only because He first loved us!!)

Then, we are moved to worship the Lord out of our love and devotion to Him.

How do we worship? By obeying His voice.

Do a study of the life of Abraham and you will see he had a pattern of obedience with God. Over and over again, God gave him a command and he immediately obeyed. Without hesitation. You will see the words “so Abraham arose early in the morning” consistently throughout Genesis Chapters 12-25. God spoke. Abraham obeyed. Period.

So, how do we worship today? The exact same way. By obeying His voice. Where is His voice? In His Word! From Genesis to Revelation, it’s all God’s voice. He’s given us a sure Word and we only need to follow it, to obey it. That’s how we “worship in spirit and truth” as John Chapter 4 says. Real, life changing, salvation giving, eternal life securing truth is only found between the confines of Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21.

Are you looking for a fresh worship experience with the Lord? Get between the pages of His book and get to know Him. Respond to Him with the “obedience of faith” Paul spoke of when He was carried along by the Holy Spirit and penned the book of Romans. True worshippers are obedient ones. I can tell you from personal experience, an obedient life is a joyful one. Disobedience is misery. Disobedience produces an absence of worship. Won’t you worship Him with me?

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2 thoughts on “What is Worship, Really?

  1. Thank you for an interesting article. Worship also means more than just saying or singing: We praise you, God. If you notice, every last “praise” hymn in the Bible not only says, “We praise you, God.” It always says why. To worship God is to proclaim what he has done for us and others. I just wrote an article on worship myself on my blog: http://364daysofthanksgiving.com/isnt/
    If you have a chance, check it out. I would be curious to hear what you think. Thanks!

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