Sunday, September 21, 2008
Searching for the Meaning of Worship
What is the state of worship today? What is the state of worship at your church? How about with you personally?
For too many people, worship has been captured by a tourist mind set. Let me explain that. For these people, worship is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. We go as convenient, by our schedule, according to what fits our needs, desires, and wants. We simply “tour” what takes place.
For others, worship is just a weekly jaunt to church—no real meaning to it, just more of a ritual, something you have to do. It’s Sunday, you are supposed to be in church. If you aren’t, the devil will get you!
For others, worship means an occasional visit to a special service—Easter, Christmas, a holiday celebration, a special musical, etc. You know, large crowds, unfamiliar faces coming to soak up the specialness of the moment and season.
Some people, with a bent for Christian entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies, and conferences. These people go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so, somehow, expand their otherwise humdrum lives.
Isn’t it sad that we will try anything—until something else comes along?
Do any of those descriptions of worship describe your attitude toward worship? Your church’s attitudes?
A look at the original language of the Bible and the origin of the word in English helps us understand the meaning of worship. The primary Hebrew word for worship is Shachah—which means “to depress, i.e. prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.”
There are three Greek words that describe worship. First, Proskuneo—meaning “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand, to fawn or crouch to, homage (do reverence to, adore): worship.” That word occurs 59 times in the New Testament. It originally carried with it the idea of subjects falling down to kiss the ground before a king or kiss their feet.
Secondly, Sebomai—“to reverence, hold in awe.” This word is used 10 times in the New Testament.
Thirdly, Latreuo—“to render religious service of homage.” This word is used 21 times in the New Testament.
The word in the English language literally means to ascribe worth to something.
As you think about going to a service of worship today, whether you have yet to go or already been, do those words describe what you anticipate taking place or what took place? Or, was the activity of a worship service just that, an activity?
I hope you will spend some time in thinking about the genuine meaning of worship, both individually and corporately. I will be praying for you as you do.