Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Meaning of Worship

Psalm 105:1-2 says: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name; sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!" As I read those verses, I hear a call to worship God. Both Webster's New Dictionary of the English Language and Harper's Bible Dictionary supply an underlying meaning of worship as an "act of reverence toward a deity." Harper's includes in the Old Testament context illustrations of sacrifice, prayer, and song as means of expressing that reverence, and observes that New Testament worship was characterized by joy. Ephesians 5:19-21 helps to define worship for me, especially the phrases "singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” The Ephesian passage has parallels to Psalm 105 of singing to the Lord and giving thanks to God. Notice the mention of reverence in Ephesians 5:21. Reverence, in the Bible, combines aspects of respect and fear. One of the words for worship in the Bible means “to bend the knee.” It brings to mind the apostle John’s falling at the feet of Jesus in Revelation chapter 1. Worship is not always somber, however. James exhorts those who are happy to sing praises (James 5:13). People will sometimes excuse their absence from assemblies of the church by saying that all of life is worship. Indeed, the apostle Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). We should act each day, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, as if we were in the presence of God. However, sometimes we forget that we are in the presence of God, and on those occasions, we may find ourselves acting as if there were no God, saying or doing things that later we will regret. The Bible teaches that the people of God gather together to worship him by means of certain actions. In the Old Testament, regular gatherings for religious feasts included singing, sacrifices, and communal meals. In the New Testament, Christians pray, give, eat a memorial meal, and sing praises to God, although the assembly also has an important purpose of encouraging other believers in Jesus through teaching and song. We worship when we are aware of being in the presence of the God who created our universe. We worship together to reinforce the bonds of faith that unite us and give us strength.

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