Worship is paying homage to a superior being and involves specific attitudes and activities that are designed to recognize and describe the worth of the entity being addressed (Enterprise Dictionary of the Bible).
The spirit of God and Jesus Christ in Exodus 20v1-5 and St. John 4v24 made commanding statements regarding the importance of worship to past, present and even future worshippers. The Lord God told the children of Israel that He was the Lord their God who brought them out of land of Egypt and the house of bondage, and that they should have no other God before Him.
They were also instructed not to make any idol or likenesses of what was in heaven or under the earth (Exodus 20v1-5).They were also specifically told not to worship or serve them, because He God is jealous and will punish them by visiting the iniquities of their fathers upon them to the fourth generation.
Jesus Christ in St.John 4v 24, was engaging a Samaritan woman in the spiritual discipline of worship discourse by Sychar’s well, which was near to the parcel of land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph, when he told her that God is a spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.(St.John 4v24).
Worship is therefore a demand from God on the basis of who He is, and must be given to Him exclusively in spirit and in truth, or it will be rejected and will attract punishments extending to several generations.
Martin Luther gave an example of how he understood worship, when he remark, “ what your heart clings to and trust in, that really is your god” (Wainwright &Tucker 2006).
When Isaiah, the great needle eye mouth piece of God adds emphatically that the people draw near to God with words and honor him with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from Him, he was showing that these people had no understanding of worship, because they were doing exactly the opposite of what God requires from his true worshippers (Isaiah 29 v3).
Abraham was the epitome of what worship requires in Genesis 22v1-3, after God told him to offer up Isaac, his only son as a sacrifice. Upon arrival at the location God told him to go, he told the servants at the foot of the hill that he and the lad are going yonder to worship and come back again (Genesis22v1-3).
Worship first and foremost requires trust, obedience, faith, and sacrifice, and in one instance Abraham was exhibiting all those requirements. He had to hear the words of God and obey it, he had to trust that the Lord will honor his words, then believe that his son Isaac- no matter what, was going to be alright, and finally from his heart he had to surrender the boy to God.
The Old Testament patriarch had already shown in an earlier scenario that he understood what the spiritual discipline of worship was all about, when a Theophany of God appeared unto him in Genesis 18. Abraham understood the significance of moment, and begged for time to prepare a sacrifice. He was later promised by God that next year at the same time Sarah shall have a son (Genesis 18).
The sacrifice offered during worship like in this case can bring forth the promises of God into one’s life, even after years of waiting.
Samson’s mother and father Manoah, showed that that they understood the spiritual discipline of worship, after an angel first appeared unto the former and prophesied of the birth of Samson. Manoah later entreated the Lord to repeat the angelic visit, and when the Lord did, the asked the angel to wait while they prepare a kid as a sacrifice. When the sacrifice was made, the angel danced in the midst of it, while ascending into heaven. This was possible evidence that it was accepted, and that they were truly going to have a son (Judges 13v 1-20).
Worship must be given to God regardless of what is happening in the external environment, because as the Psalmist David said, God is a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46v1). King Hezekiah was in trouble when he got a letter from the Assyrian king Sennacherib, about an impending invasion. He took the letter with him to the house God to worship, and was granted a remarkable victory over the enemy (2nd Kings19).
Similarly, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrust into the inner most part of the Philippians’ jail, but at midnight they sang praises to God to the extent that the prisoners heard them, and the power of God came down in the form of an earthquake, and shook the place to its very foundation. Their chains as well as the prison bars were broken, off causing the head jailor to contemplate taking his life, but Paul persuaded him otherwise (Acts 6v1-6).
True worship can break chains, remove barriers, solves problems one face in life, as long as there is an understanding of the power of it. It may take the form of prayers, praise, singing, reading the word of God, fasting or even meditating, but it must be done in spirit and in truth to have the desired effects.
A Historical Perspective Concerning the Use and Development of Spiritual Worship through Christian History
Shortly after the command was given by God to the children of Israel, and in the absence of Moses, the same people turned to committing idolatry, and caused the Lord to destroy thousands of them. They had the audacity to declare that it was the molten calf that they had made, was responsible for delivering them out of the Egyptian bondage.
This was a long way from the time in the Garden of Eden when God would come down in the cool of the day and facilitated Adam’s worship, and the children of Israel suffered at the hand of God.
During the Babylonian Captivity, the children of Israel were mocked by their tormentors when they asked them to sing a song. Singing is a form of worship, which the Psalmist David seems to delight in, when he said, sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints.
However, here were the captive children of Israel refusing to worship God with their voice by declaring, how shall they sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? (Psalms 137v4). They hang up their harps and refuse to display a true attitude of worship which could have enhanced their deliverance like Paul and Silas.
The disciples got a word from the angels of God at the mount of Ascension in Acts 1, and left the location worshipping God, until they reached the upper room in Jerusalem, the place they were told to wait for the promise of the Father (Acts1).
Great joy should emanate from the hearts of believers when they hear the word of God, as was the case with these disciples. They took the joy with them and cease not to worship God until the New Testament church was born on the Day of Pentecost. 3000 souls being added to the church after Peter preached the first message (Acts 2),
Polycarp, a disciple of John and the bishop of Smyrna, was urged to swear against the name of Jesus in order to save his life, replied in true worship style.” Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never wronged me, how then shall I blaspheme my King, who hath saved me?
According to Milligram (1971), the highest level of worship can only be reached by saintly soul, but ordinary man as a rule pray for the practical needs of life. They pray for health, sustenance, security, and long life. Nehemiah was seen as one such person by Milligram, because he through his worship, brought salvation for the entire nation of Israel (Milligram, A. 1971).
In offering prayers and supplications, Nehemiah laid a foundation that every leader should emulate, in that he prayed to God first confessing his sins, the sins of his fathers, and then the sins of the people (Milligram, A 1971). Milligram noted further that if these forms of supplications were removed from any religion today, it would be stripped of its vitality (Milligram, A. 1971).
The role of Abraham worship patterns however, has contributed significantly to the development of spiritual worship down the ages. He was called out of Ur of the Chaldees- a city full of idolatry, by God in Genesis 12, to a place where he could worship in spirit and in truth. He later showed how true worship should be done, in that he had to separate himself from his past and in the process become the leader of a tremendous host of people, who later would be called the seed of Abraham.
Abraham gave the altar great significance throughout his life, because after the first one at Bethel (Genesis12v8-9), everywhere he went he was building them and calling upon the name of the Lord.
But what really is an altar with respect to worship? According to Friedman et al (1992), while scholars speaks of altar in connection with a variety of phenomenon, the primary term for it is in the Hebrew word mizbeah, which is derived from the root word zbh, meaning slaughter (Friedman, D. N., 1992).
Abraham therefore slaughtered himself regularly before God, so that he could remain righteous. This may have been in light of the command the Lord gave to him in Genesis 17v2 , which reads, “I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect” (Genesis17v2).
The Apostle Paul, from a spiritual perspective, charged the Romans Christians to present themselves as living sacrifice before God, which was holy and their reasonable service (Romans 12v2). He was building on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ Himself, who was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep before his shearer was dumb, he opened not his mouth, on his way to become the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world as well the greatest contributor to the development of spiritual worship throughout Christian history.
In terms of song and its impact on spiritual worship, the contribution of John Newton in 1772, has to be included as the greatest of them all. Justin Martin may have spoken eloquently and taught many how the services for Christian worship should be ordered, and the early Christians may have abandoned the Jewish special day of worship by transferring those functions to Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (Friedman, D.N. 1992).
But who can ever doubt the great contribution of John Newton to the development of spiritual worship in the history of Christianity? He had been a slave trader prior to 1772, but after he wrote the song Amazing Grace, he became a Christian. Today the song has been sung and recorded thousands of time, and is a part of countless hymnals and praise books that has been printed (Thompson, l. 2010).
Examples of People Who have Displayed and Lived out their Lives, as well as Taught Others the Spiritual Discipline of Worship
In the book of Samuel, the prophet of the same name was asked by the Children of Israel to pray for them, and he remarked that if he did not do so, he would be sinning against God. This shows how dedicated and committed Samuel was to his responsibility before God in terms of worship (1st Samuel 12v23). He was still willing to teach the children of Israel the Word of God and pray for them despite the fact that they had sinfully asked for a king like other nations.
Job prior to his great tribulation, often pray and offer sacrifices for his children, for perhaps in their hearts they might have sinned against God (Job1).
When the devil executed the permission from God to destroy his possessions, and Job heard all the news, he shaved his head and wrapped himself in sackcloth and ashes and said, “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return, The Lord gave, and The Lord hath taken way, blessed be the name of the Lord (Job1v21).
Job was still a shining example in displaying true worship as well as teaching his friends Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad, the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamatite, when he told them that though God slay him, yet he will trust him. He also was willing to be slaughtered before God, so that he can remain perfect before Him, and his worship accepted (Job 13v15).
During the Babylonian Captivity, three Hebrews boy, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were commanded by king Nebuchadnezzar to bow to the god of gold, after the playing of all the musical instruments of that time, or be cast into a fiery furnace. They replied ‘Oh king we are not careful to answer thee in this matter, the God whom we serve will deliver us from this fire, and if he doesn’t, we still will not bow” (Daniel3v1-28).
They were thrown in the furnace, but God came down to be the fourth person in the fire, and caused the king and the entire nation of Babylon to be taught a lesson about the spiritual discipline of worship, and how it can activate the power of God to intervene in very difficult situations.
Joshua distinguished himself in teaching and being an example in the spiritual discipline of worship, when he instructed the Children of Israel to throw away the gods they worshipped on the other side of the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. He went on to tell them that if it seems evil for them to serve the Lord, they should choose this day who they will serve? But as for him and his house, they will serve the Lord (Joshua 24v15).
The great military leader was a true worshipper who influenced his people to seek the Lord in all their battles, was a shining example to all past and present, to acknowledge God in all their ways and he will direct their paths.
The Importance of Living and Teaching the Spiritual Discipline of Worship in North America during the Present Time
North America has a population of approximately 310 million (Rosenberg 2010) people, and is the greatest nation on the face of the earth today. It is therefore the ideal place to live and teach the spiritual discipline of worship, because like Babylon, it is a breeding ground for the spirit of idolatry which God spoke about in Exodus 20 v1-5 (Rosenberg, M. 2011).
Living and teaching the spiritual discipline of worship will generate thousands or even millions of Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos to stand as the true worshippers Jesus spoke about, when he said the hour cometh and now is when the true worshipper shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth (St John 4v23).
They will say to the false gods, devil music, illicit lifestyles, technology, guns, violence, drugs, abortion practices, hatred, and gender and racial discriminations that they will not bow.
Paul in 1st Corinthians 8v5 says there were gods many and lords many in his time. The situation is no different today, and is a threat to those who are seeking to find the true and living God to worship Him. Teaching and living the Spiritual Discipline of Worship in the most populous country in the world, where technology has made people everywhere to see and hear of events as they happen, will serve a great lights to those that are in darkness worldwide.
This is the time when teachers of the discipline of true worships should let their lights shine, that the world may see their good works, and turn to worship the God they serve. This would cause many of the Greeks today to ask, Sirs we wish to see Jesus (St. John 12v20), or the Ethiopians Eunuchs to ask, how can I know these things, except a man teach me? (Acts 8v31).
This may also the time that Jesus spoke about when He told the woman of Samaria that the time will come when many shall neither in this mountain or in Jerusalem, worship the father (St. John 4v21). He definitely spoke here of future global or corporate worship, and United States has the technological, human and other resources to deliver the teachings of spiritual discipline of worship to the world.
Megafest and Woman Thou Art Lose Conferences, Oral Roberts Ministry, Billy Graham Ministry-The Hour of Decision, Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN), and many others, are examples of such efforts.
- Interpreter Dictionary of Bible Worship, p.189
- Wainwright, G., Tucker, K.B.W. (2006). The Oxford History of Christian Worship, Oxford University Press Inc. New York, NY p.1
- Exodus 20v1-5 New American Standard Bible Text edition Foundation Publications
- St Luke 4v24 New American Standard Bible Text edition Foundation Publications
- Isaiah29v13 New American Standard Bible Text edition Foundation Publications
- Psalm 137 v4 Holy Bible New International Version Zondervan Bible Publishers
- The Martyrdom of Polycarp AD 56, www.crossdroads.to/persecution/polycarp/.htm O4/18/11
- Milligram, A., (1971). Jewish Worship, The Jewish Publication Society of America Philadelphia, PA p.11
- Genesis 12v1-3 Holy Bible New International Version Zondervan Bible Publishers
- Friedman, D.N. et al (1972). Anchor Bible Dictionary Double Day New York, NY p.162, vi1979
- Thompson, L., (2010). Popular Christian Worship Songs www.ehow.com/list_7264016_popular-christian-worship-songs-html, 04/18/11
- Joshua 24v 15 Holy Bible New International Version Zondervan Bible Publishers
- St Mathew 4v4 Holy Bible New International Version Zondervan Bible Publishers
- Rosenberg, M., (2011). Current USA Population www.geography.about.com/od/obtainpopulationdata/a/uspopulation.htm 04/20/11