A Distorted View of Worship

worship_beachCountless times I've been in a worship service and been scolded. I, along with others in the congregation, are instructed to lift hands, stand, shout, or show more emotion in our expression of worship. When this happens, it does exactly the opposite of what the leader intends, at least for me. It tends to dampen whatever was going on that was positive. Have you had this experience?

Can worship be evaluated by how my hands are raised, what posture I take, or how loud I sing? Is it dependent on a certain style or how well the worship band plays?

Who is a worshipper?

Who do you think of as a worshipper of God? Who comes to mind of all the people in the Bible?

King David was known for his worship of God and the many psalms (songs) he wrote. He's also known for dancing before God as the ark was returned to the city of God.

What about Solomon at the dedication of the temple? Or, Moses at the burning bush in the wilderness, and hidden in the cleft of a mountain while God passed by?

Our current perception of worship

All of these and more are examples of worshippers in the Bible. But it seems to me the idea of worship is distorted nowadays. For many Christians in America, worship is about music. Yet, this is a very narrow view, even a distorted view.

What does it mean to worship God, for you? How would you describe it?

As a pastor, I've often heard people evaluate a church and its worship service on the basis of the praise and worship band. I have to admit, I've fallen prey to the same culturally fixated assessment. I understand. I've led worship for many years.

But is the stereotypical perception of worship accurate or biblical? No, though it may be all that some people know.

What is worship?

Worship cannot be defined by how it is expressed or demonstrated. True worship is directed towards God from the heart. Worship can take place internally without any physical demonstration, it isn't limited to certain expressions.

We serve an eternal God who is not limited, so our worship of Him should not be limited.

This is what I imagine it was like for Moses when he saw the burning bush (Exo 3:1-6), or when he pleaded with God to reveal His glory (Exo 33:18-23).

So, how can we describe worship?

A simple definition of worship is reverence and adoration for God.

Acknowledging who God is an expression of both our heart and life. It may come out in words, music, postures, service to others, or in some other manner. How it's expressed isn't the most important thing. What is important is that it exists or is present within us.

Freedom of worship

How do you define freedom of worship. Chances are it describes certain ways of expressing worship. That's fine. I think there should be real freedom of expression in worship, even within the same group of people.

But what about the freedom that comes from worship? For me, that's what I enjoy most. In fact, I don't realize true freedom of worship until I forget myself, let alone any consciousness of how I'm expressing worship.

What the Bible says about worship

I did a quick study of the Scriptures to see what is said about worship. I intentionally ignored those related to expression through music. I figure most of us are familiar with many of those.

Give it a look over and add your own. In fact, let me know of other places in the Bible you find worship beyond its connection to music. I'd love to see what you dig up.

Here's the verses I've found in the sequence they are in the Bible—

  • Abraham with Isaac– Genesis 22:5
  • Moses in Exodus– 3:1-6; 34:8, 14, 18-23
  • David sacrificing and dancing– 2 Samuel 6:12-21
  • Solomon at the dedication of the temple– 1 Kings 81-11
  • Psalms– 5:7; 29:2; 34:9; 66:4; 95:6; 96:9; 97:7; 99:5; 132:7
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. (Psa 29:2)
  • The heart of the issue– Isaiah 29:13-16 
The Lord says, “These people worship me with their mouths and honor me with their lips. But their hearts are far from me, and their worship of me is [based on] rules made by humans. (GW)
  • Matthew 2:2; Luke 4:8 (Exo 20:3); John 4:21-24; 9:38
  • Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 3:3
  • Hebrews 1:6; 12:28; 13:15
  • Revelation 4:10-11; 5:9; 7:11; 14:7; 15:4; 22:3, 9

Here are a couple of links on worship—

I offer these as a start, but don't see these as authoritative. If you're looking for something more authoritative, read God's Word and do your own study on the subject.