Worship the Lord Your God


Sylvia Gunter explores what the Bible says about true worship.

Psalm 100 uses three words for honoring and adoring God-worship, thanksgiving, and praise. Any lines between them may be somewhat arbitrary. However, we can think of distinctions. Thanksgiving extols God for how He has worked. It begins with gratitude and centers in the actions and blessings of God-what He does. It is being grateful for how God has moved in our personal benefit. Psalm 136 is a review of the history of Israel in thanksgiving song.

Praise centers in the character of God, who He is. Praise proclaims His attributes, like greatness, kindness, love, victory, strength, etc. The Exodus 15 song of Moses focuses on the attributes of God, as the people celebrated the victory God won. The distinction between praise and thanksgiving is not hard and fast. In Isaiah 25:1, Isaiah said he would praise God for the wonderful things He had done. 

Praise is right, good, and commanded, but it can be done at a distance by people who don't know God from the heart. Some Christians praise with their minds, because they have learned that God is due honor. Other Christians are more expressive and exuberant in praise and thanksgiving, but they do not enter into deep intimate connection with God in worship. 

Thanksgiving and praise should be steps into deeper devotion of our hearts to God in worship. Some of us have camped out in the gates of thanksgiving and the courts of praise. But there is a more intimate place waiting for us. Worship is always first person. In worship, our language of love is personal, and our reverence for His awesomeness is all-consuming. Worship is a love feast. Worship is the defining distinction between a head-relationship with God and a heart-relationship. Something huge happens when we worship.

Let me illustrate the difference between praise and worship. Imagine that our six-year-old granddaughter had a school assignment to write about me. She would take out wide-ruled paper and write at the top "My Grandmother." Then she might write something like this: "I love my grandmother. She buys me fun toys and plays games with me. She likes puzzles. She plays with me in her playhouse. I like to talk to her on the phone. She likes to see me play tee-ball. She laughs at my jokes. I love my grandmother." Objectively, that is every bit true. That is praise.

Now let me describe what actually happened when she came to see us when she was six. I heard the car door slam in the driveway, and I raced to the front door. I was just in time to see her fabulous blue eyes under cupped hands, her nosed pressed against the glad, above an ear-to-ear grin, peering through a window pane of the French doors. I was opening the door from the inside as she was pushing it open from the outside. I reached down to her, and she leaped up toward me as I picked her up. She locked her legs around my waist and her arms around my neck. We hugged each other fervently. I kept saying, "I am so glad you came to see me," while she smothered me with kisses. She kept saying, "I want to stay here with you always." So we sat down on the stairs with her still entwined around me, and we continued our embrace for minutes on end. That is worship. Do you feel the passionate heart connection that marks worship? 

Why Worship God?

First, God is God, and we are not. He commands worship (Ps 95:6, Matt 4:10, Rev 14:7). Worship requires that we get off center stage and put God where He belongs. Worship brings our lives into God-centered wholeness. 

Second, we worship because we acknowledge that He is God, not because He needs our praise and adoration. Psalm 100:3 says, "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his." He made us for His glory (Rom. 11:36). We draw close to Him, intimately acknowledging that we belong to Him and want Him to draw near to reveal His deepest nature (James 4:8). 

Worship sees into the unseen and touches the hem of His garment. We can know only the edges of His ways. Job said, "These are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?" (Job 26:14). 

Through worship, God gives us His perspective. In worshiping, the psalmist found God's perspective on his questions and doubts. "When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood..." (Ps 73:16-17).

Worship places a deposit in our hearts that grows into a desire for more of Him. Nothing will satisfy our longing but God. "I have set the  Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  And I in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness" (Ps 16:8-9,11; 17:15).

We were created for worship. All things are created by Him for His glory. The Westminster Confession says that the chief end of man is "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." God is looking for us to fulfill the purpose of our creation. He made us to be worshipers. David, one of the greatest worshipers of all time, said simply, "I love you, O Lord, my strength" (Ps. 18:1). 

Worship is pure pleasure for both God and us. The psalmists reveled in the presence of God. "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Ps. 73:25).This worshiper is saying, "There's nothing I enjoy more than God. It gives me great pleasure to sit close to Him and sense His preciousness, to adore Him, and to be overcome with His majesty." For a child, the company of his father is pure fun and desperately desired. 

Worship is the full-time occupation of heaven. Worship is the only recorded activity of the saints and angels there. The worship vocabulary of heaven includes blessing, honor, worth, glory, praise, the Lamb, the throne of God, bowing down, trumpets, loud voices, Hallelujah! and Amen!

Worship is the hungering of our hearts for home. God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3 KJV). With worship, we invite God to inhabit our hearts and spirits. Worship is the continuous occupation of our eternal home, and He has set eternity in our hearts. 

My prayer is that you awake every morning with your heart full of worship for our almighty and loving God. May you press your face up to your Abba with anticipation of connecting with Him in a real and powerful way, locking onto Him, not wanting to let Him go.

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