Continually Offer a Sacrifice of Praise
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“Worship was great this morning!” Do you ever hear these words Sunday afternoon at the lunch table or see them on Facebook? As a former worship pastor, our church parishioners would enthusiastically share with me a steady stream of accolades surrounding our church’s “worship.” However, I have never been too comfortable with our modern perception of this understanding of worship. Too many times people associate worship with the first twenty minutes of a church service. During this part of the “program” musicians take the stage, the lights are lowered, and the congregation sings three or four songs. If the band played well, the people sang passionately, and we feel goose bumps, we respond by saying, “Worship was awesome!” However, if there is no band, and the singers are below average, we intuitively conclude, “the worship of this church needs help.” This limited view of worship I have just described is more about satisfying ourselves and our desires for what we want in “worship” rather than pleasing God. In this situation, everything has to be just right for us to make our worship “experience” good.
I contend that the word “worship” has been hijacked to mean something far less than what the Scripture intended it to mean. Although lifting our collective voices as a church congregation certainly constitutes one element of worship, “Sunday worship” represents only one small piece of a life that should embody glorifying God in everything it does. Biblical worship was never intended to be exclusively connected with the music programs in our churches. Consequently, many have the wrong impression of what worship should entail.
The word “worship” comes from the old English term “worth-ship”, which meant, “to attribute great worth and value to someone who merits it.” However, even this definition is incomplete based upon the Biblical examples of how God wants us to respond to Him. When we apply the above definition to God, we simply affirm that He is of worth. It doesn’t inherently suggest actions, only a state of mind – the belief that “God is of great worth.” Unfortunately, in this limited definition there is no interaction with God or a personal response to Him. However, upon examination of the Scriptures there are a myriad of examples used to describe the act of ascribing value to God:
- Building an altar (Gen. 33:20, Gen 26:25)
- Sacrificing (Leviticus 1-7)
- Singing (Psalm 104: 33)
- Praying (Psalm 5:3)
- Vows and oath taking (Psalm 66:13-19)
- Reading/Teaching God’s Law (Duet. 31:9-17)
- Observing the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11)
- Seasonal festivals (Lev. 23)
- Penitential rites (Leviticus 16:2)
- Pilgrimage festivals (Exodus 23:14-17)
- Incense offerings/libations (Exodus 30:7-9)
- Purification rites (Leviticus 12:1-8)
- Tithing (Leviticus 27:30-32)
- Playing music (2 Chronicles 5:11-14)
- Dance (2 Samuel 6:14, Psalm 149:3)
- Clap your hands (Psalm 41:7)
- Shouting (Psalm 98:4)
- Doing Good (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Worship had a physical, very active meaning that encompassed every category of life. In order to fulfill our responsibility to worship God, the Scripture didn’t just call us to metaphysical thoughts of, “God is of great worth” – we are told to worship in the ebb and flow of life, through our labor, our relationships with others, the use of our bodies, our finances, our time. Worship should fill and motivate our actions and pursuits. When God’s people forgot this principle, He reprimanded them saying, “I don’t just want your religious sacrifices – you need worship me by ‘acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God!’” (see Micah 6:7-8)
Adequate worship represents a way of life, not just a singular event. That is why Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1 that only through giving our entire bodies back to God will we achieve proper worship of Him. The Book of Hebrews tells us that we are to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” as evidenced through the fruit of our lips, our obedience, and concern for others (Hebrews 13:15-16). God created us to be creatures of continual worship. When you see a guitar you naturally assume it was formed by its maker to make music. Likewise, when you see a human body, you need to remember that it was created for the purpose of worshipping God. We often forget that our mouths, eyes, hands, feet, torso, head, and every fiber of our created flesh were formed as part of a great instrument of worship to be played continually.
The well-regarded Puritan pastor, George Swinnock once penned, “…Worship comprehends all that respect which man oweth and giveth to his Maker…..it is the tribute which we pay to the King of Kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him……All that inward reverence and respect, all that outward obedience and service to God… is included in this one word worship.” If we truly desire to worship God our lives will reflect “all the inward reverence” and “all the outward obedience” that Swinnock describes, not just by describing our “worship” to God with a twenty-minute time-slot on Sunday mornings. Worship is not an event – it is our chief purpose for which we were created. Worship is a way of life and should be exhibited in everything we do.