Much is being written and spoken today about “praise and worship.” I am bad about accepting things, especially things issuing from Christian friends and reputable Christian leaders. It usually takes some traumatic event or conflict before I research anything on my own. It is obvious that “praise and worship” means different things to different people, but it is just as obvious that everyone seems to think it involves music of some kind.
Bible teachers speak of “the first mention principle,” i.e., the way a word is used the first time reveals the basic meaning of that word throughout the Bible. Worship appears the first time in Genesis 22:5:
And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and WORSHIP, and come again to you.”
The occasion is Abraham taking his son Isaac to be sacrificed to God. What a solemn occasion. What a test of Abraham’s faith. God, Who had given Abraham and Sarah a miracle son in their old age, has now asked Abraham to kill him as a sacrifice! Notice that Abraham tells the men that he and Isaac are going to “worship.” Then he added, “and come again.” No wonder Abraham is called “the father” of faith (Romans 4:11, 20.) We find in Hebrews 11:19 that Abraham believed that God would resurrect Isaac if he sacrificed him. Brother, that’s worship!
Let’s look at the first mention of “worship” in the New Testament.
“… Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to WORSHIP him.” Matthew 2:2
As Abraham offered his son as a gift to God, the wise men offered gifts to God’s Son. In both cases, “worship” was giving. No music, no dancing, no shouting…but real worship.
There is only one verse in scripture where “praise” and “worship” appear together.
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” Psalms 138:2
This is an unusual verse in that it states that God has magnified His word even over His name. Please note that the verse does not say that God exalted His name and His word above everything else. God puts His word (including His words) above all else, including His name. This is an enlightening verse due to the fact that in our time, the more emphasis put on praise and worship, the less is placed upon His word. Most of the so-called contemporary churches are very anemic in Bible preaching and teaching. People want their egos stroked and the new religious speakers are helping them feel good about themselves and they are still on the road to hell.
Just as people need baths on a regular basis, God’s people need the cleansing that comes from “the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26.) We certainly do not need to hear how good we are when we know how rotten we really are. We need to hear about how great He is, not how great we are. Paul’s confession was
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” Romans 7:18
Our praise should be focused on the One Who gave Himself for us. Our worship should be turned to the One deserves it. Nehemiah’s words should be remembered by us all:
“Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly.” Nehemiah 9:33
We seem to think that if we serve God for a moment, He should reward continually. We forget our blessings. In the land of cell phones, color TV’s, air-conditioned homes and cars, places to get free food, clothing and welfare checks we know little about suffering. We smoke to get lung cancer then sue the tobacco companies because we got it. We march to save the spotted owl and murder unborn babies. The list can go on indefinitely. Read the religious section in your newspaper, watch the television religionists; everything is about social programs to help the poor, find a cure for some disease, feed the children or clean up the neighborhood. All of these endeavors are good things. No Christian would be against helping the poor, finding cures for diseases, feeding the children or having clean neighborhoods, but these efforts do not keep people from going to hell. The problem is that it is only putting a band aid on cancer or giving someone an aspirin for a heart attack.
Let us not forget why Christ came.
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
Keep Looking Up!