Worship. It’s what we are made for. God, our Creator fashioned and designed us to worship Him (Colossians 1:16).  How can I best encourage and challenge The Ekklesia, the called out ones, to live this life of worship that we are all called to?

These scriptures have recently captured my heart and caused me to look at my own life of worship.

Twice in scripture, we are given this warning where our worship is concerned. God, through Isaiah in chapter 29 says, “Because this people approach Me with their words and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of the commandments of men that is taught; Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the understanding of their men who have understanding will be concealed.”

Jesus repeated this to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:8-9, while calling them hypocrites as they questioned him about his disciples.

What a rebuke! And He doesn’t do this to shame or condemn us, but He disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6), so that He may kindly remind us and move us closer to our true identity and calling.

Oh Father, may our worship honor you with our whole being, and not be just lip service! May we not weigh the commands and teachings of men more important than our worship offering to you.

When I consider what our worship “looks like” today in the Church, I sometimes giggle at the thought of Christ’s return, and other times I’m deeply grieved. Do we really believe that how we worship Him today when we cannot see Him, is going to be anything like how we will worship Him when we finally see Him face to face? Will we stand stoic, and maybe raise a hand, or even two if not already gripping our coffee cup, up in the air in awe of Him as we see the man with eyes of fire? Do we really believe His physical presence before us won’t make us tremble and shout, and much more? Oh my goodness, we will be undone! Nothing else will matter in that moment. We won’t care who is watching or listening. We won’t care what we look or sound like. We will just be in absolute awe of Him.

The crazy thing is His presence IS here with us when we worship! And yet our responses don’t always seem to indicate our understanding of that incredible treasure.

I grew up in the Wesleyan church, and it was pretty subdued when it came to worship and posturing. Not a lot of clapping. No raising of hands. There was never any shouting, and dancing was not allowed. It was never very joyful, honestly. But my dad sang and traveled with a Gospel quartet, and I got to experience the different expressions of worship in different congregations. None of it was incredibly charismatic, but it was beautiful to behold The Lord worthy of so much more than I was used to seeing Him given. And I don’t say any of this to dishonor the spiritual family I grew up in. These were good people, full of faith, and used by God to bring the good news of Jesus to so many! But a desire was birthed in me as He knit me together in my mother’s womb, to freely worship Him with abandon, and I have sought to give Him more and more as I’ve grown older.

I think there are a multitude of reasons we can get stuck in the “commandments” of men where worship is concerned, and our hearts are not given fully and freely to Him. Perhaps it’s just fear and/or pride of looking/sounding foolish. We justify our feebleness with the excuse that singing is for the people with the good voices or dancing is for those with good rhythm. Perhaps it’s false humility that keeps us from giving Him everything in worship. We don’t want to make it about us, or take up His spotlight, or maybe we do. Perhaps we are afraid to dishonor leadership, or we’ve been spiritually bullied into a place where we are forced to keep a certain image rather than give it all to Jesus. Maybe we’ve allowed style of worship to be an excuse to not participate in, or give Him our worship. I am confident every single one of these justifications has been part of my journey, and I repent. Jesus, forgive me for being like the Pharisees and for being more concerned with the teachings, commands, and opinions of imperfect and sinful men than in giving you my full self. I know You created me to worship You, and I know the time has arrived for me to worship You in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

It is You that I long for. Thank You for Your faithfulness and loving kindness to me. Thank you for revelation, for correction, and for training me in how to offer You the sweetest worship.

So, really how do we do this? How do we get past the commands, teachings, and opinions of men, and worship our Creator and Savior with our whole heart? Well, scripture shows us much more about worship than we read at just a glance.

There are seven Hebrew words for praise, each found throughout scripture that highlight expressions of worship.

  1. Halal – to be clear, to shine, to boast or rejoice in the Lord with a distinct sound (root of the word, Hallelujah). Psalm 22:22, “I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; in the midst of the assembly I will praise (halal) you.”
  2. Yadah– to lift and extend your hands unashamedly to God in surrender (like a child asking to be held by his father). Psalm 134:2 “Lift up your hands to the sanctuary and bless the Lord.”
  3. Barak – to bless God as an act of adoration, to kneel or bow expectantly and quietly before Him. Psalm 145:21 “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless (barak) His holy name forever and ever.”
  4. Towdah – a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; an extending of hands to receive, initiated by the believer, to honor God. Psalm 100:4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving (Towdah), and His courtyards with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”
  5. Tehillah – to use your voice to sing in the spirit; sing a new song (this is the only Hebrew word used when scripture speaks of The Lord inhabiting our praises). Psalm 40:3 “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise (tehillah) to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.
  6. Shabach – to address in a loud tone, a triumphant shout. Psalm 63.3 “Because Your favor is better than life my lips will praise (shabach) You.
  7. Zamar – to play strings or instruments to make music, sometimes accompanied by voice. Psalm 33:2 “Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises (zamar) to Him with a harp of ten strings.”

I challenge you to consider these words and meanings. What are you willing to give to The One who redeemed you and set you free? Or perhaps question why you don’t give Him your worship in these ways, and see if there is room in you for repentance that may make a way for you to submit so much more to Him in worship.


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