Recap: For All God’s Worth
To follow Jesus – to grow intimate relationship with the Father in his Son by his Spirit – we prioritize and practice devotion to God’s Word, and to Worship. God’s Word is his self-revelation to us. Our response to his self-giving disclosure is worship: the gift of our self in responding disclosure and full surrender of ALL who we are and possess, to ALL who he is and has done for us, that God may possess us in utter mutual delight. When you encounter Someone so significant, so beautiful, so majestic and all loving, you cannot but respond with awe and adoration. Think of the moments when beauty breaks through – seen in creation, in people, in the arts, in God’s goodness to you, and above all in Jesus of Nazareth – tears of appreciation and joy well up in you… that is worship… because God is Ultimate Beauty!
‘Worship’ comes from ‘worth-ship’, meaning ‘giving God all he’s worth’. Worship is: For All God’s Worth! Who or what is more worthy of our worship, of our love and our lives? Thus worship is both an act of loving God (proskyneo, in church and in personal times with God) and a lifestyle of serving God (latreuo, all we do every day is for God)… or is it? God is not our butler, at our beck and call, “You rang?” – there to serve us whenever we need him.
A Kingdom View: Worship is Heaven on Earth
A ‘Kingdom view’ of worship is this: the promised end of the world, God’s future Rule and Reign, the Kingdom of HEAVEN, has already come to earth. It broke into human history in the man Jesus of Nazareth. What is the picture of worship in heaven… now come to earth?
Read John’s amazing vision of worship in God’s throne room: Revelation 5:6-14, 7:9-17. We worship as God’s gathered people (called ‘church’), as we stand, sing “in a loud voice”, cry, and fall on our faces before God, giving him our love and our lives. We do this is – in fact we can ONLY do this – because we’ve been bought and cleansed from all sin by the precious blood of Jesus, redeemed and gathered from every tribe, nation and language, into one people of God. Thus our worship of the Father and Son (the Lamb on the throne) is all about him – his worth, his presence – but in the unity of diversity of culture and language that reconciles all God’s people. So, worship in the local church ought to be characterized by cultural diversity to reconcile and unite all kinds of people.
Do we model heaven on earth in our corporate worship? Or do we reflect, and even uphold, societal divisions? The scattering of all the people speaking one language from Genesis 2 to 10, into different tongues and nations in Genesis 11 (“Babel”), with the consequent dividing walls of hostility, has been overcome in Jesus’ body on the cross, where he made “one new humanity” to reconcile all cultures (Ephesians 2:11-18), made real and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, who united Diaspora Jews from 15 different languages by Jesus’ followers “speaking in tongues” (read Acts 2). Calvary and Pentecost reverses Babel, which must be reflected in our worship of God in Truth (Calvary) and in Spirit (Pentecost). That’s why Jesus prayed that we’ll all become one, that the world may believe (John 17:20-23).
‘Kingdom worship’ originates with the Hebrews: worship is enthroning God as King (Psalm 22:2), i.e. worship lets God be God among us, he rules and reigns over us. Worship invokes God’s power over sin, sickness, demons, death, pain, etc – they flee at his presence. Worship is our God-given lightning conductor by which we encounter him, releasing heaven’s awesome power on earth. Jesus’ death and resurrection makes this a reality. Hebrews 10:19-25, 12:22-24 teaches that the veil between the future age and present age, between heaven and earth, has been torn from top to bottom in Christ, giving us free access to God, and God to us. When we worship, we actually enter into the worship of heaven described in Revelation and Hebrews, into the “heavenly Jerusalem with thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” And THAT reality actually enters our (place of) worship in the local church. If you think about it (mind-blowing!), you may just worship a little differently, a little more passionately!! In fact, you may even want to come to church regularly and “not give up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing!” (Hebrews 10:25)
Does this not place great responsibility on those who facilitate and lead worship in church? Yes… and no! No, because YOU are called to take responsibility to worship via any and every means made available to you. The only exception, of course, is sin: things that offend God. So, maturity in following Jesus is being able to worship God with growing meaning and intimacy via a growing variety of means and expressions of worship. To demand a certain style or monoculture of corporate worship, so as to worship, is self-centered, and tends to cult sectarianism and ideology. We have the power to grasp and appreciate (worship) how wide, long, high and deep, is God’s love, only together with all the saints (Ephesians 3:18). The greater our diversity the greater our potential to know God’s great love in Christ.
And yes, those gifted and called to lead worship carry great responsibility before God and his people. WE are called to pray for them as they work hard at worship. And to respond and work with them as they facilitate our worship in the context of a Sunday service: the mix of musical instruments, voices, songs, styles, generations, cultures, languages, etc. There are so many factors (not least the instruments and sound mix) that go into worship and our experience of God (or lack thereof) – which is subjective and different for each of us – that it generally makes evaluating (“how was that…?”) a frustrating exercise. That doesn’t mean we don’t evaluate and pray and work at worship, giving to God all we can, asking God for peak experiences of his presence and power, as we read in the scriptures.
Hebrew Worship: Three Movements of Encounter
Psalm 95 gives us guidance in regard to all the above – for worship leaders and those they lead in worship. There are three clear (body-posture) movements in worship:
- Entering God’s presence with joyful praise, vv. 1-5: We enter with music and song. Why? Because YHWH is the great God, the great Warrior-King above all gods, the Creator and Ruler of all things. Joyful praise focuses our mind, emotions and body on God.
- Encountering God’s person with intimate adoration, vv. 6-7: At some point the mood shifts: we bow down, kneel and kiss God in worship. Why? Because he is our Shepherd-King who, at great cost to himself, made us his flock… adoringly caring for us, carrying the lambs and the weak… so we adore him in surrendered intimate embrace.
- Embracing God’s voice with implicit obedience, vv. 8-11: Worship ends with hearing God. In the restful afterglow of intimate embrace he whispers words of love, of healing and guidance (prophetic words and teaching). We must listen, discern and obey. Do not harden your heart, or you will not live in and from the peace and rest he gives you.