Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Worship in the Bible

At first glance the Bible doesn’t really seem to say a lot about what we call worship. There is the book of Psalms that records the songs of the Hebrew nation, there are few descriptions of people who sing and even dance before the Lord, but there is really very little to tell us about how music was used as worship.

There is no set number of songs, there is no description what the songs were to sound like, and there is no prescribed method that we are to employ when use for proper worship. Now it could just be me, but I don’t believe that I have ever heard anyone acknowledge this little bit of information. We tend to get rather adamant about worship, the proper form, sound, and words are matters of great debate for many Christians. It is something that has led to hurt feelings, heated arguments, even church splits.

What is talked about a lot in the Bible is worship. It just doesn’t look like the way we do worship. There was no four song program, one fast, two slow, and leave them on high note with a closing fast song. The Bible rarely talks about worship in simply terms of music. Music is an aspect of worship, but worship is always presented as something more.

The New Testament makes even fewer references to music than the Old Testament, and those references are vague. So what does the Bible have to say about worship? How does it define worship? And how do we follow the example it gives?

In the Old Testament worship is more than a song. Worship is the real and right response to God. Worship is exemplified through the lives of the men and women who responded to God in an intimate way. Usually their worship is characterized by a life that is devoted to following the word of God. Abraham offering Isaac is an act of worship, Joshua leading his men in war is an act of worship, and Hannah pouring out first her sorrow and then her praise is an act of worship. Music was just a component, worship goes deeper than just a song.

We often find the word worship associated with the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Okay, fine, but we don’t offer sacrifices any more. Jesus was our sacrifice, and besides the Temple is gone. So even if we wanted we could not offer a sacrifice to God to worship him this way. The question becomes how do we worship God today?

The answer is found in the Bible but to see it we may need to realign what we believe worship to be. We may need to rethink our definition. We would not be the first ones to do this. When the Temple was destroyed, just as Jesus prophesied, the Jewish people had to totally rethink their definition of worship. The Rabbis gathered in place called Yavneh and decided that worship, even the sacrificial kind could be observed through giving. They believed that doing acts of Tzedekah or loving kindness fulfilled the intent of the mosaic covenant. It is a custom observed to this day.
Music is a part of the Jewish holidays, but worship is the doing the acts God would have us do. Music is a joyful response to his presence and provision. Worship was the proper and right response to God in any given situation in whatever means the situation dictated.

It may just be me, but I have a feeling that God is waiting to experience true worship yet again. I think he is wondering when it will cease to be just a four song event once a week and become a way of life for his people. We have portioned it off like it is an isolated event when it was never meant to be just one more thing on a check list. True worship never ceases, it flows throughout lives, dictating and demanding that we move concert with Him. It is the voice of our awe over a wonderous God who loves us and compels us to acknowledge him with our every move. It is something that flows from intimate knowledge of one who created the universe and wraps his arms around us.

The Bible doesn’t seem to say a lot about worship because the whole book is about worship. The message is overwhelming and we need to stop trying to distill it into sound bites or clichés. It just doesn’t work and we miss the forest for the trees. So if you want to know about real worship, study his word, get to know him, and worship will become an irresistible expression of faith.


Miranda A. said...

Wow... Well put and with great conviction. Powerful stuff..

Emily said...

Thanks, girl. It's an important issue. How we worship informs our faith and our faith dictates our level of worship. We have to get this right if we are google to move in deeper relationship with Him and demonstrate He is worthy of worship to a dying world.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100 percent. Worship is about everything that we do, especially getting to know who He is. Thanks for reminding us Emily!

erica said...

Ooooooooooooooo I would love to hear that from the pulpit... As the music guy stomps out angry and the chior is apauled! Hehe :p how has it become a carrier ended to tell the TRUTH? isn't that what were here for? If we dnt tell the truth who will? Does anyone recall "the truth will set u free"?? We need to be set free! Free of the chains of political terany in the church, fear of hurt feelings, and personal agendas....

Emily said...

Erica we all love your passion!