We use the word “worship” often in Christian circles. We say that we worship God, of course. We also talk about going to the “house of worship” to sing “praise-and-worship” songs during a “worship service”.
The Bible’s words for “worship” (Hebrew shachah, Greek proskyneō) mean to bow, prostrate, kneel, pay homage, or show reverence; the English word is associated with “worth”, as in to claim something to be worthy.
The first question-and-answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” The answer given is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever” .
The Biblical words for “glorify” (Hebrew kabad, Greek doxazō) mean to show honor or acknowledge importance; the English is “praise” or “celebrate” or even “boast”. The etymology for “enjoy” is to “take pleasure” or to “delight in”.
Taken together, how are we to go about worshipping or glorifying God? What kind of worship does the Bible teach is pleasing to Him? What are we, as finite creatures, to enjoy about an infinite, all-powerful God? Here is one way of looking at it:
- Worship is directed toward God.
- Glorify is about God, directed toward others.
- Enjoy is shared with God.
God is simply magnificent. From the power and design involved to create the world…to the sovereignty that controls how that world moves along the path He chooses…to His intimacy with His rebellious creatures…to the sacrifice He made to provide for reconciliation…to the eternal home He plans for those who choose Him… Everything about Him calls for acknowledgement and praise, in other words, for worship.
One idea to discard is that worship is limited to a specific place, time, or activity. It can happen while singing a praise song in a Sunday morning church service 1. But it can also happen while doing the laundry or driving to the office. Any time that we look toward God and offer our love and appreciation to Him is a time of worship.
The ancient Israelites between Moses’ time and Jesus had the misconception that the specific sacrifices in the temple were all that was needed for worship. So did the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, and so do many people today. The prophets went to some effort to teach that the inner attitude comes first, and then is reflected in the actions.
For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,Hosea 6:6
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
He has told you, O man, what is good;Micah 6:8
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:5, quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22:37 and Mark 12:30
For a musical rendition of this thought, here is “Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman.
To glorify God is to show Him off to others. We don’t cause Him to be glorious — He already is! But we can demonstrate His glory by letting others know about Him. Everything that is to be known — His power, love, mercy, justice — are all aspects of that glory. We reflect and glorify Him…
- When we forgive instead of taking offense, because He is forgiving.
- When we stand up for what is right instead of what is convenient, because He is righteous.
- When we faithfully keep going when it would be easier to give up, because He is faithful.
- When we sacrifice for someone else, because He sacrifices for us.
- When we are honest, because He is the Truth.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.Matthew 5:16
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.1 Peter 2:12
A song by Stephen Curtis Chapman does a good job of illustrating this point. “Do Everything” reminds us to “Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you”.
We enjoy God when we take pleasure in His company. That’s what Adam and Eve did before they rebelled and sin entered the world: They took care of the garden, and God would walk in it with them in the cool of the day. Their decision interrupted that joy, but God’s plan — via Jesus — is to bring it back, one individual at a time.
In this fallen world, it takes conscious effort (at least for me) to remember to enjoy God. When I notice something beautiful, like the Fall colors that are currently starting around me, I try to thank God for them. Enjoying the colors is enjoying Him — after all, they are His handiwork — but it is far too easy to enjoy the gift while ignoring the Giver. When I remember to watch for Him, He is there in everything that brings joy to me. Simply bringing Him into the (admittedly somewhat random) train of thought that runs through my head all day is a way to consciously enjoy His presence with me. Taking a moment to ask for His guidance in day-to-day life will cause me to appreciate and enjoy Him more each time I do so.
The classic hymn to demonstrate this is “In the Garden”, written in 1912 by C. Austin Miles. Here is a version sung by Anne Murray.
All Together, In Sequence
When I look at God and what He has done, I can’t help but worship. He truly is worthy of all my love. When I follow through on that worship in my everyday life, those actions will automatically glorify Him…because I will better reflect the qualities that He shares to me. As I worship and glorify Him, the result is bound to be joy. It’s a process, not a one-time event. But during that process, I will move closer to my “chief end”.