Many times because of preconceived ideas or traditional opinions, we miss the correct meaning of some profound Biblical truth. Without proper Scriptural examination and spiritual revelation, incorrect beliefs and opinions continue to persist. This is certainly true concerning the traditional ideas of praise and worship.
In most religious circles of modern Christendom, the act of praising God is minimal, but it is safe to say that the meaning of true Biblical worship is seldom mentioned and that the act of worship is totally neglected.
No doubt the vast majority of todayís modern Christians have never worshiped God. If ever approached on this subject, their retort would be that they go to church on a regular basis, read their Bibles and sing the hymns of praise in a congregational setting. This may be proper and good, but it is not the depth of true Biblical worship.
One of the natural traits of a truly righteous person should be the giving of praise to God. The Psalmist says, "Rejoice in the LORD, 0 ye righteous; For praise is comely for the upright." (Psalm 33:1). This word "comely" in the Hebrew language means, "suitable", "beautiful" and "becoming". Offering praise unto God should be a big part of the daily spiritual experience of the righteous. The definition of the word "praise" means "to set a price on", or "to commend the worth of, to express approval or admiration of, to laud the glory of, to extol". To the righteous, praise is our response to God for what He has done.
In the Hebrew language, according to the Strongís Exhaustive Concordance, there are several different words that were translated into the one English word praise. They all express the same idea, but with a slightly different thought according to the context.
The title of Psalm 145 (Strongís #8416) denotes "laudation as by song". The word praise, as used in Psalm 145:2 concerning Godís name, means "to celebrate and boast" (#1984) because of the many victories that have been won in His name.
In Psalm 145:4, the word praise, in connection with Godís works means "to commend" (#7623). The writer says that one generation shall praise Godís works and declare His mighty acts to the next generation. Many times in Israelís history the people were admonished by God to tell their children of His wondrous works in delivering them from Egyptian bondage and of their supernatural preservation in the wilderness. This trait of transmitting Christian faith to each succeeding generation is one that the Lord said was resident within the genes of Abraham (Genesis 18:19). Surely, with deep gratitude we should be thankful that our parents commended and even recommended the works of God, extending from creation to the regenerative work of Christ on the cross for us, so that this flame of righteousness may be kept alive in the earth.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer is quoting the Psalmist David (Psalm 22:22) in reference to Jesus Christ as saying, "in the midst of the church [or congregation] will I sing praise unto thee" (Hebrews 2:12). The word praise in this verse means "to sing a hymn" in order to make known to the congregation of Israel the purpose and plan that the Heavenly Father has in store for the congregation.
We see according to the record in the Scriptures that there have been many different ways in which our Israelite forefathers have praised God. They praised Him with their vocal cords: "I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; . . ." (Psalm 109:30); they praised Him with uplifted hands: "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD." (Psalm 134:2); and praised Him by clapping: "0 clap your hands, all ye people; . . ." (Psalm 47:1). We also read where the children of Israel are admonished to praise God with a variety of musical instruments (Psalm 150); by dancing (Psalm 149:3, 150:4), while standing in the House of the LORD (Psalm 135:2) and while lying down in the bed (Psalm 149:5).
"I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.† My soul shall make her boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.† O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together."
-- Psalm 34:1-3
We have seen that praise is the response of the righteous for what God has done, but worship is the response of the righteous unto God for Who He is, the admiration of His Person.
True worship is to engage oneself in the act of reverence and devotion to acknowledge the honor, dignity, greatness of character, and the high rank of Deity. It also involves a genuine expression of intense love and deep admiration for the Person of God Who is being worshiped.
According to Strongís Concordance (#7812) the word worship in the original Hebrew meant to "prostrate oneself in homage to royalty, bow down, crouch, fall down, humbly beseech, do obeisance, and to do reverence".
In Genesis 22:5, the record says that Abraham told his servants that he and Isaac were going up to the mountain to offer worship unto God. In spite of what God had previously commanded him in offering up Isaac for a burnt offering, Abraham still desired to worship or offer reverence and devotion in acknowledgment of the honor, dignity, greatness of character, and of the high rank of the Deity of God, while in obedience to this grave command.
In the New Testament, the word worship, according to Strongís Concordance (#4352), means "to kiss, like a dog licking his masterís hand", also (#4314) meaning "forward to or toward, the destination of the relation, motion toward, accession to, and nearness at". Both the Old and New Testament definitions require getting oneself involved in approaching into the divine presence of God and offering homage to His royal Person.
In Matthew 2:2 we see a clear example of true worship when the Wise Men inquired of the whereabouts of ". . . He that is born King of the Judeans. . .". These wise men of the East had no intentions of offering unto the child Jesus some shallow form of praise or flattery for some mighty deed that He had done. Matthew says that they came ". . . to worship Him" (to bow down before Him, to move forward into His presence, to reach the destination of their relationship with Him, and to have access into the sphere of His royal Person). They knew they were seeking a King, and therefore they were prepared to prostrate themselves in holy reverence and homage to the Royal Majesty of the heavens. They did not come to recognize something Christ had done but simply to acknowledge the Deity of His Person.
From this and other Bible examples we see that the holy act of true worship is only done in the presence of the person that is being worshiped. Matthew 2:11 says that ". . . they saw the young child. . . and fell down, and worshiped Him:. . . and they presented unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh". They presented unto Him gold in recognition of His royal birth; frankincense in recognition of His sinless life as a Son; and myrrh in recognition of His worthiness in fulfilling the requirements of Divine law in being the Supreme sacrifice for sin. Here in this holy act of true worship, we have an example of the total sacred acknowledgment of the three-fold manifestation of the person of Christ in His early ministry as Prophet unto His people Israel; as a faithful high Priest in the administration of the supreme sacrifice of atonement for the redemption of His brethren; and as King who hath conquered all His enemies and who now rightfully takes the throne of His father David and reigns over the House of Jacob forever (Luke 1:32-33).
From the experience of the wise men, it is very obvious to see that worship is not getting, but giving. The act of real heartfelt spiritual worship in recognition of the high rank and the majestic greatness of God is only done in His presence. It is impossible to worship outside of His presence. Therefore, the reason why we donít worship God is because we are not in His presence.
In the Book of Luke (17:7-10) Jesus gives us one of His strongest admonitions concerning the relationship of work and worship. One of the biggest misconceptions in modern Christianity today is that working for God is synonymous with worshiping God. Fewer ideas have been more seductively deceitful.
As Jesus indicated in this parable, working for God should not be a substitute for the worship of God. He made it very clear that after the work of ". . . plowing or feeding cattle. . ." that a servantís obligation is not finished until that servant makes ready the meal, girds himself and serves his master. Jesus went on to say that even a faithful servant receives not his masterís thanks for doing the things that he was commanded to do. In our vanity we often give high praise and recognition for "great works" that we accomplish "for God", but in keeping with Christís priorities we should consider ourselves unprofitable servants by girding ourselves with the garments of humility and serving our Master in the sacred acknowledgment of His majestic Person. It is so easy for us to find self-gratification in doing the work of our Master, yet we totally neglect the Master Himself. In our work, let us not forget our worship. In fact, our worship should come before our work.
One of the first principles of true worship is the ability to know when you are in the presence of Deity. As soon as this Divine Person appeared to Joshua and identified Himself as the Captain of the Host of the LORD, Joshua, in his innate ability to know Deity, immediately recognized Him as such and fell on his face to the earth and worshiped (Joshua 5:13-15). It is to be considered a shame in the life of the Christian Church when the Royal Majesty of the heavens has appeared, yet He has not received his proper recognition as the Head of His body, the Church; whose military commands are not obeyed nor His divine Person and position given proper loyalty due to the captain of the armies of God. It is no wonder that modern Christianity has no desire to remove its self-made shoes of pride and fall on its face and worship, because we are in need of an appearance of royalty in our midst in order to realize that we are standing on holy ground.
In all instances of the Scriptures, worship and adoration of God has always been the natural and immediate response when men and women come into the full conscious reality of the presence of the person of God Almighty.
In the Revelation letter, the Apostle John records that in response to the continual cry of the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before the throne of God and began to worship Him. In their utmost reverence for royalty, they began to do obeisance by casting their crowns before the throne. In the act of true worship, oneís own merits of accomplishment and righteousness become totally insignificant in the glorious light of the greatness of character and the high rank of Deity and therefore must be removed and cast at His feet. Then and only then can we begin to recognize His person and ascribe unto Him the worthiness ". . .to receive glory and honor and power . . ." for His divine attribute or ability to create and control all things for His own pleasure (Revelation 4:6-11).
In Revelation chapter 5, we see another scene similar to the one in chapter 4. Concerning earthís title deed contained in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne, John wept because no man was able to answer to the proclamation of worthiness in order to accept the task of redeeming this earth. Then One appears on the scene who comes from the royal line of David and as the Lion of the kingly tribe of Judah. John recognizes this ". . . Lamb as it had been slain,. . ." standing ". . . in the midst of the throne . . .".
"And when those beasts give glory and honor and thanks to Him that sat on the throne, who liveth forever and ever, the four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy. O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
-- Revelation 4:9-11
In His capacity as the Supreme sacrifice for the redemption of all Godís earthly possessions, He then accepts the title deed book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne.
It is then that the four living creatures, representing the encampment of regathered Israel, and the twenty-four elders begin to ascribe unto Him the worthiness of His Person to receive the worship and intense admiration for His great deed of redemption.
They first fell down before this Lamb who is none other than Jesus Christ, and they recognized Him in His great work of redemption by Blood and the two great results of that High Priestly office work which He wrought on the cross. This great company of Old and New Covenant saints recognized that Christ had regathered them according to the covenants of the patriarchs and the promises of the Old Testament prophets, and had placed them in a high position as kings and priests reigning in righteous rule over the earth (Revelation 5:1-10).
No doubt much of todayís prayers and praise by modern-day Christians is self-centered and subjective in that they are either begging God to do something for them or "buttering Him up" - so to speak - in order to convince Him to do them another favor. On the opposite pole of the subjective approach to God is a purely objective worship toward God in recognition of His Person, regardless of what He does or doesnít do for us personally. Too many times, we have been taught to use praise and worship as tokens to purchase the benefits of God, only to be disappointed.
Revelation 5:13 contains the phrase ". . . be unto Him . . ." that so aptly expresses this principle of objective worship. The innumerable throng of verse 11 expresses the worthiness of the Lamb ". . . to receive power, and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." (Verse 12).
True worship has no selfishness in it. It knows not the act of getting, but of giving
From the foregoing Biblical examples, we can easily see that when we, as sons of God, enter into the presence of the Sovereign and Almighty One of Israel, His presence then enters into us. We cannot live in His presence, or His presence cannot live within us, without a rich and deep expression of adoration, exaltation, intense love and reverence, extreme devotion, high praise and humble worship being given unto Him for His greatness of character and the high rank of His Deity.