Swept off your Feet
Part 1: A Precedent for Worship
Associations from Heaven and Earth―When do they Converge? Why is this Important?
The spiritual landscape is changing. It trembles with commotion because “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” has begun to cover the earth (Habakkuk 2:14). This knowledge redeems the past, transforms the present, and it will define the future.
Information floods our brain. From social updates to media downloads, we text and tweet in massive cyber clouds of data. Yet, after spending so much time engrossed in information, what do we know? Our answer is important because Jesus said, “we worship what we know” (John 4:22).
Words like worship require ongoing clarification because trends in culture affect social norms, which influence religious expression. Today worship means different things to different people.
Worship may be profound but it is not overly complicated. When God shows up people fall down; so do angels and demons. Converting worship into a complex theological doctrine with sophisticated nuances misses the point. While some ponder God as a concept or consider Him as a philosophy, He remains alive and active, worthy of highest praise and unanimous veneration.
Understanding the biblical record diminishes false assumptions associated with worship. It replaces cultural bias with accurate knowledge and our religious preference with an informed response.
The following data tables list worshipers from the Old and New Testaments. Four tables indicate how often and by what means individuals and groups worshiped. A fifth table specifies occasions that prompted a response of worship.
Occasionally in the same biblical narrative, references to worship coincide with other activities such as offerings, sacrifices, altars, and food. Additional chapters will discuss expressions of worship that coincide with speaking, singing, music, praise, and service. Though the Bible associates these activities with worshipers, it does not ascribe the label of worship to them directly. A few instances however, suggest speaking as an expression of worship.
Saint Jerome translated Psalms into Latin for the Vulgate Bible. The word vulgate refers to a common language spoken by ordinary, uneducated people. Jerome rendered a phrase in Psalm 116:9 as “Placebo Domino”, which means, “I shall please the Lord”. Translated from Hebrew however, this phrase literally means, “I will be in step with the Lord” or more conventionally, “I will walk before the Lord”. During evening Vespers, Psalm 116:1-9 became known as “The Placebo” with verse 9 serving as the antiphonal response for recitations. By the 8th Century, the Roman Catholic Church adopted this refrain for funerals and the Office of the Dead.
The Bible mentions worship fifteen times in the same context with someone speaking. Statements vary from asserting Jesus’ identity to ascribing a blessing, from offering thanks and praise to asking a question or confessing a sin, from prophetic proclamations to an exhortation to convey praise or worship.
Five biblical narratives describe praise converging with worship. The biblical record describes worshipers on earth bowing or falling facedown before God three times in the same context with singing and/or music, and two times in a context of spoken praise. In heaven, the biblical record mentions worshipers bowing or falling facedown before God two times in the same context with singing and/or music, and four times in a context of spoken praise (see “Worship and Praise Converge in Heaven”).
Worship in heaven coincides with praise eight times, three in the same context with singing and/or music and five in a context of spoken praise. When describing gestures of worship along with praise, heavenly narratives slightly out-number earthly ones six to five.
David’s fame as a worshiping superstar extends far and wide. Nonetheless, the biblical record only describes David worshiping God two times―both in reference to a child born to Bathsheba. Neither account implies any reference to singing praise or playing a musical instrument. David wrote 75 to 80 Psalms; yet less than 10 mention a Hebrew word for worship in reference to God.
The first description of David worshiping comes after he received news that his child, conceived in adultery and born to Bathsheba, had died.
So David arose from the ground [after the death of his first child with Bathsheba], washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped [shachah]. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. (2 Samuel 12:20)
Most biblical narratives describe worship without mentioning music, singing, or praise. This fact does not mean that these expressions did not occur during worship or that they are any less important. The Bible simply does not emphasize music, singing, or praise in connection with worship.
Somewhere in the modern culture we’ve become confused, thinking that worship and songs are one and the same. (Louie Giglio)
Each week, worship leaders enter houses of worship to perform worship music before a discriminating audience. Stage-presence affects attendance, which influences the offering, which pays bills and supports salaries. The economics associated with Christian ministry depend largely on audience satisfaction. When compensation hinges on approval ratings, the temptation to accommodate popular trends elevates. As elders, deacons, church boards, and pastors monitor performance, job security suddenly becomes an issue.
To flourish in this competitive environment, career praise artists must do more than practice their vocation. They must connect with the Holy Spirit to offer effusive praise and authentic worship.
The words worship and serve appear together in the same context 29 times in the NAS Bible: 26 times in the OT and 3 times in the NT. In 27 of these instances, the two words converge in reference to idols or false gods. For example, Moses warned Israel,
“Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve [`abad] other gods and worship [shachah] them”.
Temple service and worship are linked because some Bible translators intermittently render the Greek word latreia as worship. Based on this selective translation, priestly service along with atoning sacrifices and required offerings be-comes a form of worship. When translators render latreia as worship they are referring to activities performed by priests according to Old Testament regulations.
“Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship [latreia] and the earthly sanctuary.” (Hebrews 9:1 NAS)”.
Assorted religious models facilitate the body of Christ as she gathers to connect with God and with one another. Liturgical and some non-liturgical traditions offer a predictable format; they provide security through familiar repetition. Other models offer less structure, which accommodates creativity and spontaneity. Each model serves those in attendance by articulating the truth about God in an atmosphere that draws attention to His presence. Participants offer their response through praise and worship within parameters prescribed by their faith tradition.
Knowing the truth about God activates more than a response of worship; it sparks love. Our Heavenly Father did not send Jesus here to recruit worshipers. He came to connect us permanently with His passionate love. The first and greatest commandment involves loving God not worshiping Him.
Our Heavenly Father seeks informed worshipers because they make the best lovers. Love commands paramount importance in our response to God. He created us for an extravagant exchange of intimate affection. The more clearly we see the truth about God the more passionately we will love Him. As important as love may be, the Bible does not emphasize love as a prerequisite for worship.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9)
Adoration means different things to different people. Protestant Bible translators avoid associating worship with adoration. The English words adore, adores, adored, adoring, or adoration never appear in the NAS, KJV, or NKJ Bibles. The word adore appears once in the NIV as maidens express human affection for their beloved in the Song of Solomon. Some ESV Bibles add the following heading before Song of Solomon 2:8: “The Bride Adores Her Beloved”.
According to “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language”, when the noun adoration refers to an act of worship, it emphasizes “profound reverence” rather than affection. Based on this definition, adoration and worship appear to be synonymous. Some Bibles affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church reflect this view. In the “New American Bible”, the word adore appears 216 times and adoration four times, translated from shachah and proskuneo. Protestant translations render the same Hebrew and Greek words as worship or bow down. The “Douay-Rheims” version replaces the word worship throughout its text with renditions of adore. For example, it renders John 4:20-24 as:
Our fathers adored on this mountain: and you say that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore. Jesus saith to her: Woman, believe me that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father. You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know. For salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit: and they that adore him must adore him in spirit and in truth.