What is the definition of worship? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines worship as:
(noun) reverence, homage or honor paid to God // ceremonies or services expressing such reverence; public worship // an utterly devoted admiration for a person; ‘Your (His) worship’ (esp. Br.) a courtesy title used to (or of) certain magistrates, officials, etc.
By defining worship as a noun (person, place, thing, or idea), Webster is indicating that the word has physical properties, parameters, substance — belonging.
But the word “worship” can also be defined another way. In the Life Application Study Bible (NIV) the word is defined as “(verb) to express praise and devotion.” So this definition reveals activity . . . involvement . . . choices being made.
So, which is it? Is worship something physical, tangible, and full of substance, or is worship an activity; something we choose to participate in, such as singing songs on Sunday mornings? Worship actually is both; the blending of two definitions — the noun and the verb. The best example of this mixture of two definitions is in the Hebrews’ view of worship.
In the book Called To Worship: The Biblical Foundations of Our Response to God’s Call, by Vernon M. Whaley, we read that the Hebrew word used for worship is shachah, which means “to kneel, bow, prostrate yourself, or throw yourself down in reverence.” But there are four other very closely related words that Mr. Whaley says broaden the Hebrew description of worship; words that reveal the heart of their worship. These four words are: shabach, “to shout out to the Lord”; yadah, “to worship with raised hands”; tehillah, “to sing impromptu, spontaneous songs of praise”; and halal, “to celebrate God foolishly and boast about His attributes” of faithfulness, goodness, love, mercy, etc. (see Galatians 5:22-23). Can you see the blending of the noun and the verb? It’s a formula, really — a formula that requires the attributes of God and our acknowledgment and application of those attributes to produce the actions that equal worship.
(attributes of God + acknowledgment and application of God’s attributes in us = worship)
A closer look at three key attributes of God should help you understand.
First, God is faithful. How do we know this? By studying Scripture and developing a relationship with God which allows Him the opportunity to reveal His faithfulness over time to us. Consider the following verses: Deuteronomy 7:9 reads, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” Psalm 37:27-28 says, “Turn from evil and do good . . . for the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” Lamentations 3:22-23 states, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” And we also read in 1 Corinthians 1:9 that “God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” By knowing God’s faithfulness, and acknowledging His faithfulness to us, we ourselves can then be true worshipers of God through our faithfulness to Him.
(God’s faithfulness + acknowledging and applying God’s faithfulness = worship)
Grasp with me that faith is not only being loyal to God, but it also requires a complete trust in God. Joshua understood this. As a Hebrew, Joshua defined faith as a complete truth and trust. If you know something is true, you can easily trust it with your whole self. You practice this every time you sit in a chair or walk through a building with multiple floors. You blindly trust that the chair will hold you; that the building won’t collapse on you. Joshua simply practiced this same principle of worship in his relationship with God. How else could he have led such a rag-tag nation into a new land filled with so many ominous situations and formidable opponents and do so without fear or hesitation?
Second, God is hope. Hope can be defined as desiring something with a confident expectation of its fulfillment. In Psalm 62:5-6 we read, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Proverbs 13:12 reads, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Isaiah 40:31 famously says, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Romans 5:1-5 states:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
Also, we read in Hebrews 6:16-19 that:
Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
If we desire a relationship with God and confidently expect that relationship to be realized through Christ, then God will fulfill that desire in us.
(God’s hope + acknowledging and applying God’s hope = worship)
Joshua so desired a relationship with God and pursued that relationship with such vigor that he not only hoped in the idea of living in the ever elusive Promised Land but knew without any doubt that God would give it to him and the Israelites, as promised to Moses so many years earlier (Exodus 3:17). This is the same type of hope that we just examined and that Paul mentioned in Romans chapter 5 verses 2 and 5. The writer of Hebrews also wrote regarding this hope in chapter 11, verse 1, “Now faith [in Christ] is being sure of what we hope for [eternal life] and certain of what we do not see [God and the hereafter].” As Eliza E. Hewitt so perfectly penned in 1898, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!” Such wonderful words; they reveal our hope and our worship as a result of that hope being realized.
In our next post we will continue with building the temple of worship God desires in us as we study the third key attribute of God — His love.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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“Called To Worship” © 2009 by Vernon M. Whaley
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“When We All Get to Heaven” by Eliza E. Hewitt, pub.1898, Copyright: Public Domain
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