What is worship?
(Scriptural quotes are from the New King James Version (NKJV) Bible.)
One way to answer the question, “What is worship?” is to view how it is done at the throne of God. It goes without saying that the angels, elders and living beings that stand before God’s throne would not worship God in a way that displeased the Father. Their acts will show us how worship SHOULD be done.
Worship at God’s Throne in Heaven
We get a glimpse of that worship in several Scriptures in the book of Revelation:
In chapter four, John (the writer of Revelation) attempts to describe something that is impossible for a human to describe – the throne of God. Beyond the lightnings, thunderings, voices, lamps of fire, and a sea of glass, near the throne, John saw four living creatures who gave “glory and honor and thanks” (v.9) to God who was sitting on His throne. John watched as the 24 elders (who represent the redeemed saints from both the Old and New Testament eras) place their crowns, which had been given them, before God’s thrown saying, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power” (v.11).
In chapter five, after the Father gave the seven sealed scroll to the Lamb of God (Jesus), the 4 living beings and the 24 elders “sang a new song” (v.9) giving God the glory for man’s redemption. Then the innumerable angels joined them, “saying with a loud voice; Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and blessing!” (v.12) After that, every creature on earth, under the earth, and under the see said, “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!” (v.13)
Chapter six describes events (on the earth) at the opening of the first six seals of the scroll. But, in chapter seven, John continued his description of the scene of events before the throne of God. After the appearance of the innumerable host of redeemed souls, the multitudes of angels, the 4 living beings and the 24 elders joined together and WORSHIPED God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
Components of Worship
Several words seem to be significant in these Scriptures; a) Blessing, b) Glory, c) wisdom, d) Thanksgiving, e) Honor, f) Power, and g) Might. From these words, we can surmise the real nature of worship.
It is a simple thing to understand how the word “Blessing” is involved in the act of worship. The New International Version (NIV) uses the word “praise” in its place. When we heap our BLESSINGS upon our God, we give Him praise. It is the same with “Glory” and “Thanksgiving” and “Honor.” We offer to God all the glory for any productive acts that we may have done; we give Him thanks for allowing us to be counted as sons and daughters, and honor Him above all others – for who He is and for what He has done.
But the other terms are not so easy to comprehend. How can a mere human give WISDOM to God? Or POWER, or MIGHT? We cannot.
What we can do is to ascribe to God all Wisdom, Power, and Might. We can regard that each of those qualities belong – exclusively – to our Father, God.
Contemporary Worship – Application
Mirriam-Webster defines worship as: “to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power; or, to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” to such a being. That agrees with the words that John used to describe the actions that happen around the Throne of God.
One word that is absent – but assumed – in these Scriptures: Love. Reverence is related but it is significant that our relationship with God is one based (both ways) on love rather than any sense of fear or obligation.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.…” (1 John 4:7-9 NIV)
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 NIV)
Here is an example of how we could express these ideals: “Oh God, You alone are worthy to receive all my praise; all the glory that I have been given; to You – I offer all of my thanks; and I love and honor You above any and all others – in heaven and on the earth. I am comforted by the fact that you possess all wisdom, power, and might.”
But worship is not confined to just our words. Worship includes our actions, whether in a church setting or in the public arena. At home or at work. At school or a burger joint. At a recital or at the lake. Where ever we are, our action speak loudly.
Likewise, worship is not entirely in our words or actions. It originates in each person’s heart and is expressed in our outward speech and actions.
Summation of Worship
There is no magic in any set of words, as if they could be memorized and repeated in order to please God. There is no intrinsic value in just speaking a particular set of words or phrases.
Instead, the miraculous part occurs in our hearts and minds as we recognize the awesomeness of our God and His amazing grace that was poured out on us so that we can approach Him as our Father – rather than our Judge. In that state of heart and mind, and with the love that God has poured into our hearts, practically anything that we might do, would will be recognized as worship. (Being led by God’s Spirit, it would not occur to us to do anything inappropriate.)
Questions about Worship
- What is the most significant effect when you are truly in a state of worship?
- How would another person recognize that you (or anyone else) were worshiping God?
- How do you know whether God is pleased with your worship?