7 – Worship vs. Obedience

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Biblical Worship includes Obedience.

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Perhaps our hearts are not always pure, but what about worship? Do we not show our love for God through our worship? Doesn’t God want our worship more than our obedience?  Good question, but let’s start by asking what it means to “worship.”

If you were a non-Christian foreigner visiting a typical American church, you would surmise that “worship” is signing, and if you went to a non-affiliated mega-church or a more “contemporary” church, you might also conclude that in addition to singing, worship includes: dancing, art, bell ringing, speaking in tongues, and dramatically staged one-act plays. The question is whether this “worship” is the equivalent to worship as described in Scripture.

The word worship occurs approximately 188 times in the King James Bible. In Old Testament the underlying Hebrew word for the English word worship is most frequently shachah, which means: “to make low, bow, prostrate, fall down, reverence, and worship.” As an example, in Psalm 95:6 the call is made: To come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.

In the New Testament the underlying Greek word for the English word worship is almost always proskuneo, which means: “to kiss, fawn, crouch, prostrate, bow, reverence, and honor.” As an example, in Matthew 28:9, And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. The actual act of worship described in both the Old and New Testaments sounds an awful lot like what a slave or servant does before his master, all this bowing, prostrating, and making low. 

The act of worship in Psalm 95 includes acknowledging or honoring God as the source of our salvation and as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings supreme over all creation.  Such worship includes humbly submitting to God and acknowledging our helplessness and unworthiness before him.  And finally, worship includes putting our faith in God and trusting His Word.   

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul says: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Wow! Paul is telling us that spiritual worship involves presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice.  What does it mean to offer your body as a living sacrifice? At some level, it means that it is not your body anymore. You are slave to that which you have given yourself over to. 

Consistent with the teaching of Romans, the Old Testament concept of worship is clearly tied the concept of service. Moses warned the Hebrew people not to go after other gods by serving them and worshipping them. Deu 8:19, 11:16, 30:17.

The Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, after the Temple was built, and promised to establish Solomon’s line on the Throne of David forever if Solomon would follow the Lord, but warned Solomon of the consequences if Solomon or his children turned aside from following the Lord by not keeping the Lord’s statutes and commandments, and instead by going off to serve other gods and to worship them. 1 Kings 9:4-7; 2 Chron. 7:17-20.

King Amon is criticized for serving and worshipping the idols of his father, Manasseh. 2 King 21:21

We are called to be Slaves-of-Christ. Although love for God involves our whole being, yet we are evaluated (judged) as to our love for God by whether we obey his commandments, which sounds a whole lot like being a slave or a servant. God wants our worship, and the worship described in Scripture includes: honoring God for our salvation; honoring God for who He is; humbly submitting to God as our Lord and Master; believing by faith in God’s Word; and, serving God.

Clearly Biblical worship is centered on honoring God and serving him, in other words, obedience.

I spent 26 years on the West Coast where church attire for most people was flip-flops and a clean Hawaiian shirt. These folks meant no disrespect, they just felt that God loved them as they were and would accept them with flip-flops, bare feet, or whatever, dude. I am sure God did accept them as they were, but whether they were worshipping God is uncertain.

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Discussion Questions:

1. What is worship? Who is the focus of the worship?

2. If the focus of worship is God, then how does God want to be worshipped?

3. How does the Apostle Paul describe worship in Romans 12:1-2?

4. What does it mean to offer our bodies as living sacrifices?

5. Does worship include: kneeling, bowing, and making low?

6. What part does obeying the commands of Jesus have in worshipping him?

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