What is worship? Who can experience it? Do we only worship on Sunday mornings? Do only musicians worship? What does it feel like? How do I become a worshiper of God?
Some subjects are so broad that they defy definition. St. Augustine once lamented, “What, then, is time? If no one asked of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.” If Augustine thought time was hard to explain, what shall we do with the topic of worship? Fortunately, it’s not necessary to know everything about worship before we can enjoy it, but the more we do know, the better our worship will be. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to love relationships.
Let’s begin by defining what the word “worship” actually means in English and what it means in Hebrew and Greek, the languages in which the Bible was written.
The English word “worship” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “weorthscipe” which denotes one who is worthy of honor and reverence. When we worship God. we are declaring to Him His worth; confessing to Him that He is worthy. In Revelation 4, the twenty-four elders worship the Lord by confessing that He is worthy to receive glory, honor, and power.
The Hebrew word for worship is “shaha” It means to “how low” or to “prostrate oneself.” Worship involves our bowing low before the Lord, not only physically, but in our hearts. When a Hebrew came into God’s presence, he would bow low; his posture demonstrated his reverential fear of God.
The Greek work for worship is “proskuneo”, which literally means to “kiss the hand of one who is revered” or to “do obeisance to another”. If a member of the early church were to have an audience with Jesus, he would get close enough to kiss His hand.
Notice that the New Testament concept of worship involved closeness and intimacy. The God who was unapproachable under the old covenant may be approached with boldness in the new covenant, and without the slightest fear of being shunned.
Worship is the expression of a love relationship.
Worship presupposes a relationship, which correctly implies that those who do not have a personal relationship with God cannot and will not worship Him. Worship also requires open, public expression; concealed love is to be questioned. It’s like the husband who winked at his wife – in the dark, he knew what he did but nobody else did. And worship occurs in a love relationship, not an association prompted by commerce, politics, or convenience.
It is amazing that the same person we acknowledge as God, is also our Savior, and even friend. But as the hymn-writer wrote, “I stand amazed in the presence…,” and I suppose we’ll never lose the wonder of His love and fellowship.
Perhaps the most intriguing, persistent, philosophical question in Christendom has been, “What is the chief end of man?” The best answer was given in the catechism “To glorify God to to enjoy Him forever.” Let’s learn how to worship!