Summary: In this sermon, we focus on three important questions about worship. What is worship? Why do we worship? And when and where do we worship?
A. I enjoying listening to children talk and explain things. Sometimes their insights are very perceptive, other times they are just so funny.
1. Here are some children’s responses when asked to quote the Lord’s Prayer:
a. Our Father, who are in heaven. Hello! What be Thy name?
b. Our Father, who are in heaven. Hollywood be Thy name.
c. Our Father, who are in heaven. Harold be Thy name.
d. Give us this day our jelly bread.
e. Give us this day our daily breath.
f. Lead us not into creation.
g. Deliver us from weevils.
2. One preacher asked the children to tell him what the “Amen” means at the end of a prayer. One little boy said, “It means ‘Tha-tha-tha that’s all, folks!”
3. Obviously, children are not the only ones who have misconceptions and misunderstandings about God and worship, we adults have our challenges as well, don’t we?
B. Today I would like us to ask several very basic questions about worship, and I hope we can arrive at some helpful, biblical understandings.
I. WHAT IS WORSHIP?
A. Most basic of all questions is “what is worship?” How can one define it?
1. In reality, it is hard to give a simple definition, because the Bible does not give one.
2. The term “worship,” like many other great words, such as “grace,” defies adequate definition.
a. The meaning of these words, like the perfume of a rose, or the taste of honey, is more easily experienced than described.
3. Yet, we can look at scripture and examine the many words translated “worship” in our English versions, and begin to define worship.
4. So, let me briefly review a few of the most prominent Hebrew and Greek words which come into our English translations as “worship.”
B. The first is Histahawah (his-tah-a-wah).
1. It occurs 170 times in the Hebrew Bible, and is the most common word in the OT for worship.
2. It means “to bow down in reverence and humility” whether before man or God.
3. Bowing down, or prostrating oneself, was the common way to expressing one’s unworthiness before another.
4. In Genesis 18:2, Abraham “bowed low” before the three strangers who had come his way.
5. In Exodus 12:27-28, the people “bowed down” and worshiped.
C. The Greek equivalent to histahawah is proskuneo (pros-kun-e-o).
1. It has the same overtones of submissive lowliness and deep respect.
2. It literally means “to kiss toward,” but also means to prostrate oneself, to reverence, and to show humility.
3. It is found 59 times in the NT, and is the primary verb used for worship.
4. It is used in the passage in John 4, where Jesus discussed worship with the Samaritan woman
5. It is found in Revelation 4:10-11, where the 24 elders fell down and worshiped God.
D. The second most frequently used Hebrew word in the OT to describe worship is abad.
1. It means “to serve,” and that is the way it is often translated into English.
2. It is from the same root as the term “slave” or “servant,” but it is important to understand that the Hebrews could think of no higher privilege than to be called a servant of God.
a. Unlike the Greek concept of slavery as servile abasement, the Israelite thought of the word “servant” in terms of a relationship with a kindly master.
3. This word is found in Exodus 3:12, which says, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
4. Another sampling of its use is in Deut. 10:12-13, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
E. The Greek word that most closely corresponds to abad is latria or latreuo.
1. It also means “to serve” and it is one of the most common words in the NT.
2. It is usually translated “serve” or “service”, but it is often translated “worship.”
3. That is how it is translated in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.”
F. There are many other Greek and Hebrew terms, but these are sufficient to draw some conclusions about the meaning of worship. There are two clear impressions that come through.
1. The first is that worship is a yielding of the human will to God.
a. No one can worship God acceptably who comes before Him with a prideful heart and a stubborn, unyielding will.