I have been in Christian churches long enough to know there is much debate about worship, worship styles and such things. The spectrum ranges from people who say that Biblical worship must be boring and cause you to long for the 2nd coming, or the other group that says worship should be like what we all did in Sunday school, just a wish-washy of good feelings and fun. Have you ever wondered about what is God honoring worship? Has it even crossed your mind that the way you practice worship may be displeasing to God?
I think most of us (though by grace not all) would not be able to say we have thought about it. Because we are in the ‘worship-culture’ that we are in, and we have given ourselves the’ necessary proofs’, we feel we are okay, all the others must be wrong. This is a natural problem, and when looking at people in history we often remark that ‘they are a product of their time’. It is with this in mind that I wish to write about worship for the next little while and add my 50c to the discussion as we all strive to the unity of the faith. I will attempt to be brief and yet simple so that I don’t lose people who are new to the historic aspect of the debate, or who are not familiar with tons of theological jargon.
There are two extremes of people who are reading this, and both are coming at it from different angles, I wish to address the extremes, and hope that I hit every one who is in the middle as well.
There are people who say, “It doesn’t matter how you worship, as long as your heart is in the right place”, “It’s all about sincerity” etc. Have you ever thought that way? I mean surly we must not worship God with insincere hearts right? I agree that we must worship with our heart, we must worship with sincerity, and in Spirit, Scripture teaches this:
• Psalm 24:3-6 gives us a picture of true worshippers, and the repeated phrase are those who have a clean pure heart and clean hands.
• Back in John 4:22b Jesus says, “We [Jews] know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.” Now the Jews were just the opposite of the Samaritans. They accepted all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and had the whole revelation of the teaching of salvation. They had the truth – but they lacked the spirit. Just read Matthew 6:1-8, and you’ll see that they were cold, legalistic, and hypocritical. They went through the motions, but their hearts weren’t in it. Now I admit that there were some Jews who had a zeal for God, but the basic existing religion of Jerusalem was lifeless. They had the truth, but their hearts were empty.
However, we also must avoid the danger of reacting against cold clinical worship and thus end up saying, only the heart matters and not practice. But the Bible warns of that extreme as well:
• In John 4:22a, Jesus says to the Samaritan woman, “Ye worship ye know not what.” Now, what did He mean by that? Well, He acknowledged that the Samaritans were worshipping, they just didn’t know what they were worshipping.You see, the Samaritans only accepted the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) as coming from God. So their knowledge was limited.They had enough to know some of the truths about God, but not enough to have the full salvation revelation. They were worshipping, but the didn’t know the fullness of what they were worshipping.Samaritan worship, then was enthusiastic worship without proper information. Their worship was aggressive, enthusiastic, excited, and faithful, but they didn’t have the right content. In other words, they worshipped in spirit but not in truth.
• 2 Samuel 6:1-9 tell of how Uzzah tried to stop the Arc of the Covenant from falling to the ground, and God struck him dead because God had instituted a way for the Arc to be handled, and it was part of that was no one was allowed to touch it. Now we can see Uzzah’s heart, but it seems like the sincere thing to do, yet God was not pleased.
• Leviticus 10:1-2, shows God consuming the two sons of Aaron because the may fire which was to be used for incense in a way “which He commanded them not”.
For sake of time let me summarize what I am trying to say. God desires to be worship, with our hearts in the right place, part of having our hearts in the right place is desiring to do things the way God commanded us to. So two things need to be in place: Heart and Hand, right attitude and right action. To exclude either one is to make false worship.