Over the course of the last few days, we have seen much about worship. Yesterday we read about the worship of Solomon and the Israelites who worshiped at the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem. We read earlier about David worshiping at Gibeon. Elijah worshiped on top of Mount Carmel with the 450 prophets of Baal, proving once again that Yahweh is the only one true living God. We will spend the month of June reading the Book of Psalms, often referred to as the worship book of the Bible. There we will discover many scriptures that speak of worship. But worship isn’t found just in the Psalms. In the Book of Isaiah, we read “Sing to the Lord for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.” Isaiah 12:5. And the writer of Hebrews reminds us “Through Jesus Christ, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” Hebrews 13:15. And we cannot leave the apostle Paul out of this discussion, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord. This is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1. Jesus commanded us “It is written: worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Luke 4:8.
When we think of worship, we usually think of gathering in a church somewhere with other Christians. There is usually music, instrumental and/or vocal. The Word is spoken and preached. Communion is offered as a reminder to us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. And we have a chance to worship the Lord with a gift of our treasure. God has chosen us to give. Imagine, the creator of the universe has chosen us to be able to give to Him a portion of the treasure He has blessed us with! When we look at scripture, we have seen various forms of worship. Paul and Silas sang when they were in prison. This was not official worship, and it was not a Christian music concert. These two men had been beaten for their faith but were thankful to be chosen to suffer in Jesus’ name. There was a woman who was an outcast, used and abused. Something about Jesus caused her to bring her most valuable possession…an alabaster jar full of ointment. She brought it to where Jesus was and knelt down before Him and poured the ointment on Jesus, anointing Him. It was a stunning act of reverence and worship. Giving an offering isn’t a big deal for many folks and there were many rich men in Jesus’ day who made a ginormous show of the offerings they brought to the temple. But there was a widow that came to the temple and gave only two small, insignificant coins in offering to the Lord. Yet Jesus praised her over those who gave so much more. Why? Because she gave everything she had to the Lord. How many of us could or would do such a thing? In an act that still makes the hair stand up on many people’s necks, Abraham was willing, out of obedience and trust, to offer up his only son Isaac. There was no singing. No light shows or any big production. Just a father and his only son, trudging up a mountain, wood and fire in hand. The son had no idea he was to be the sacrifice and the father had no idea what the Lord would do. Abraham worshiped out of his obedience to the Lord. But there is one more act of obedience/worship I would like to mention. It happened on a Thursday night, in a garden just outside of Jerusalem. The hour was at hand and the time had come. Jesus had celebrated the Passover meal with his closest friends and now they were in the garden. Jesus was praying. The weight of the world was crushing Him. And the salvation of the world hung in the balance. Jesus prayed for a different option if possible, one other than a cross. But then came one of the most powerful worship statements ever…not my will but yours. It was complete and total surrender on Jesus’ part.
We can look at worship as the song the choir sings. We can talk about stewardship. We can ask for volunteers to serve in various capacities. And those are acts of or expressions of worship. And they are good and right things to do. But true worship is defined by the priority we place on WHO God is in our lives and WHERE God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of our hearts expressed through the way we live our lives. We are people who bear the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If our lives do not reflect that designation, then we are not worshiping the Lord as best as we can. We worship God because He is God. He is Creator, Sovereign, Redeemer, Sustainer. Our love and submission to Him comes from the truth that He loved us first. Maybe the question to be asked is, “Why.” Why do we worship? Because if we worship only when we receive blessings that isn’t really worship. Think about Job. He was prosperous, influential, respected. He had 10 children and a wife. And then he lost everything but his wife. His wife encouraged him to curse God and die. Job’s response? “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” That is true worship. We can sing with gusto. We can give much money. We can enter into the sanctuary every single Sunday. But all of that is worthless if our hearts are not right with God. This is not new news. The prophet Isaiah spoke of hollow worship 600 years before Jesus was born. Jesus called the religious authorities in Jerusalem white-washed tombs because they looked good on the outside. They did all the right things but inside they were decayed and dying on the inside. Inside they were rotten. God doesn’t care what we look like on the outside. He looks at our hearts.
Worship is not intended to happen in a vacuum either. We have had an interesting year with all the COVID challenges. Church attendance as a whole continues to decrease across the country. We have become comfortable sitting at home in front of our devices. But we are called to worship together. We read in Hebrews 10:24-25 these words, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” We are called to gather together. Why is this so important? We cannot serve from our sofas, recliners or easy chairs. It is difficult to have community of faith from our living rooms. We cannot experience the power and strength of a room full of believers worshiping together on our couch. We are not consumers as Christians. Worship is not something that is done unto us. We are called to be contributors. We take in the love and grace, mercy and peace of Jesus Christ and we then go out to serve, love, and show God’s grace to others. Worship is not passive. It is active. When we serve, give, sacrifice, engage with others and encourage people we are worshiping the way the Lord intended for us to. We as believers do life together, face to face, even if we are wearing masks right now. It is who we are. There is great power in a gathering of believers. When we all lift our voices up in prayer, amazing things happen. King David wrote in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” Individual worship is not wrong and for some, that is all they have access to. But if we are able, we are called to worship the Lord together.
As we continue to read through the Bible, we will see more worship. Some is grand and glorious. Some isn’t. As long as it is sincere, that is what counts.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W