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Revelation 5:11 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:50 mins 33 secs

Biblical Worship: Fact or Feeling; Rev. 5:11


There are criteria in Scripture, objective criteria in worship, that are determined by content and focus, and not by how it makes us feel. Worship, as we will see, is based on truth. That means there is worship that is right and worship that is wrong. In between there are areas where we can use the words appropriate or inappropriate. This is a very important concept because we have to bring to worship something that is lost in our modern culture, and that is this idea of coming to God and submission to His authority in reverence for what He has done and in gratitude for who He is and what He has done. So worship that the church brings is worship that is theocentric (God-centred) and not anthropocentric.

Revelation 5:12, 13 NASB "saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.' And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, {be} blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'" The response by the four living creatures is that they sing, "Amen," based on the Hebrew verb aman which has to do with this is true, this is foundational, Let this be true. This emphasises the eternal truthfulness of this particular statement.

We need to have some objectivity to develop our own understanding of worship. Furthermore, we have to understand what worship is today in light of this because the term "worship" has unfortunately become restricted, and in many contexts worship equals singing. Now we go to many churches and they have a worship leader who is not the pastor, he is the song leader. Then they tack fifteen minutes of the Bible on at the end to identify they are Christians, but real "worship" takes place in that 45 minutes that precedes the teaching of the Word when we all get to impress God with our singing and how this shapes our feelings.

So we need to answer some key questions about worship like, is worship synonymous with singing? What is the relationship of worship with praise? What about concepts such as spontaneity or the idea of being extemporaneous in prayer or singing or other aspects of worship? In some church cultures the whole idea is that we need to be spontaneous and there seems to be this sense of immediacy so that "If the God Holy Spirit leads me in a different direction today I can go that way." Pastors have talked about the fact that they don't want to plan what is going to happen in six months because they want to leave room in case the Holy Spirit leads them in a different direction. Well, if the Holy Spirit wants quality—and He does—then don't we think that He would lead us in time to do the study, the research and planning, and not come off with some sort of halfway-prepared service because we think that the Holy Spirit operates at the last minute. This is viewed in some circles as being more spiritual because we are going to have everything very spontaneous and emphasise the extemporaneous. Then we need to look at what the relationship is between singing and praise and what content should be at hand in relationship to the teaching of the Word, because the teaching of the Word is the primary focus in all worship. This is because it is through the Word that we learn who God is and what he has done and we learn how to think in terms of His revelation and not in terms of our own notions and our own feelings. 

The doctrine of worship

1.  We have our keys words on both Hebrew and Greek. The first Hebrew word is abad and is translated "worship" is in Genesis 2:15, to tend or to serve, and it has the idea of ultimately serving God. So even in the garden there is an aspect of worship, of serving God, in terms of the abilities and talents that God gives each and every one of us. We serve God by taking that which He has given us and using it for His honour and glory, understand that as His creatures in the image and likeness of God we are to reflect who He is and what He has done in terms of everything that we do. This word is also used in the Mosaic Law in passages like Deuteronomy 6:13 NASB "You shall fear {only} the LORD your God; and you shall worship [abad] Him and swear by His name." In the context of the Mosaic Law that which precedes service is a fear of the Lord. This is a fear that is not simply respect, it goes beyond respect. The fear of the Lord is not only a recognition that God is the creator God of the heavens and the earth to whom we owe everything, but there is also a recognition that there is eventual accountability and judgment. This adds this sense of seriousness to our living. Ultimately there is accountability before God. The second word that is used is a word that has generated some debate recently means to worship: shachah, to bow down, to do obeisance. In both words we see the idea of a recognition of divine authority and that the core idea in worship is the subordination of my will to God's will. Therefore that means that we are to know what God's will is, and the only way we can know God's will is through the study of His Word. So the idea of worship is respect, submission to authority, and honouring Him for who He is and what he has done. The first time we run into the word shachah is in Genesis 22:5 NASB "Abraham said to his young men, 'Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.'" So worship relates to sacrifice in this case but it is honouring and obeying God. We see that Abraham is not going to let his finite human understanding or emotion shape what he does. He is going to be completely subservient to God's authority. That is what worship is: subordinating all of our thinking in every area of life to the authority of God's Word. We interpret God's creation first by understanding it in terms of how it has been revealed in the Scripture, and then we go to the details of creation; not the other way around. But unfortunately in the history of Christianity and even further back in the Old Testament people want to determine their categories and their framework from creation, from rationalism or empiricism, and then take those categories and impose them on God's revelation, which always leads to misinterpretation. So we have to start with God's Word and subordinate our thinking to it. Another passage where we have this word is in Genesis 24:26 NASB "Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD." Here we see that he is being thankful. Cf. 24:48. A second thing that we see about worship here is that it is God-centric; it is not based on our feeling, our experiences, but on who God is and His action in our lives. So it is also a response to God's grace in our lives. Of course, to understand God's grace is to understand God's Word. As Martin Luther observed: "How can anyone who actively understood this means not break forth in song and rejoicing over all that God has done for us. Singing is not something that was just picked up traditionally but it is something that was understood to be a part of worship from the Old Testament times. Ephesians 5:19 NASB "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord."

2.  Worship starts with a mental attitude of subordination to God. We see this in the Greek word proskuneo [proskunew]. This is equivalent to the Hebrew meaning to bow down, to prostrate, to worship. It originally meant to kiss and eventually had the idea of kissing someone in a formal setting to show respect to someone in authority, to worship or to prostrate one's self before a superior. It is used 24 times in Revelation. A second word that is used in the New Testament, equivalent to the Hebrew word abad, is latrueo [latruew] which has the idea of serving and worshipping God. Key verse for this is Romans 12:1. What Paul is saying is that in worship we are to present everything in our life to the authority of God. So it is not just abstract thought, it is everything that we do in life that is to be subordinated to God because we recognise as believers that our primary purpose as creatures is to serve God. But to serve God we have to know who God  is, what he has done, who we are as a creature; and all these things come into play which means we have to be students of the Word of God.

3.  Definition: Worship is subordinating my opinions, preferences, thoughts, philosophy of life, finances, politics, emotions, relationships, attitudes, actions, time, and priorities to the authority of God's Word. Worship is a complex idea which involves a number of aspects from private prayer to public expression of thanks, the singing of hymns which reinforce and reflect on God, His person and work. It also includes bringing sacrifices in gifts and to personal Christian service. Worship can be both individual and corporate. We may sometimes be emotionally stimulated but that is not to be confused with worship; it is simply a response. Worship is something that is more objective.