Recently I was listening to a song that spoke of God’s authority and sovereignty. The words went on to ascribe to God all things wonderful, enveloped in surrender and awe. One specific phrase gave me pause, and as I thought about the phrase “be enthroned upon the praises of a thousand generations.” In my head I was wondering at the scene where God was cast as smirking and all powerful, letting us live just to praise him (this was not the theme of the song but the image my mind conjured up). Was our praise and worship the very substance that provides Him a throne to sit on? I heard God, smilingly, ask me what I think exactly it means to worship Him. What does it mean to worship Him, and why is it important to Him? Why does it seem that our acknowledgement of His sovereignty and Majesty is evidenced and proved by our worshipping Him? It seemed pretty weak doctrine if He would only be King if we chose to worship Him.
As I started thinking about what worship meant to me, and what happens in my heart when I worship, I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that many times I sang and praised God hoping I would be blessed and honoured for at least putting in the effort of trying to seek out His presence. I made it an event, I was attempting to come before Him and “feel” some presence so that I could draw some of His presence and essence into my situation. We tend to think that God honours us for the time we allot to Him. Because we still see Him as far away, and in need of being involved and introduced to the situations in our lives, and the worse the situation the more intense our worship and prayer sessions become, because we need to let God know we mean business and that this scenario needs more attention than usual. We tend to worship Him from afar, introducing our need and yearning in increments, slowly exposing our hearts to Him for fear that the severity and magnitude of our request might scare Him away. We ultimately feel unworthy, and lack the boldness to say to Him what we feel.
The problem with this approach is that I’m still sitting here seeing myself singing along to a song, hands raised, or on my knees, when in fact Worship is not an event we cater to on a Sunday, it’s a lifestyle. How we live daily speaks volumes of what our hearts are busy with. God wants us to commune with Him daily and consistently, He wants us to ardently and passionately pursue His heart for us. Having said that, I want to point out that He is a good God and that His intentions for and toward you is pure and lovely. I think we sometimes pray and while telling God about the things bothering us we are conversing in more of an accusatory tone as opposed one of inquisition. Look, God doesn’t fall off His throne when we ask questions. Believe me; He has heard it all before. But it is imperative for us to consult Him out of an attitude of trust and rest. If you are asking “WHY” with the intent of using the question to twist God’s arm to generate a different result, you are praying to manipulate, not to connect with His heart. Asking God “why” and telling Him of the things bothering you will never manipulate Him into feeling sorry for you and changing a situation for the sake of less suffering for your sake. “WHY?” you ask, because the predicament you find yourself in was not His doing in the first place. If you feel that you can twist His arm into doing you a favour, your idea of who He is, is warped. the fact that you think His arm needs twisting, that He needs convincing to assist you, testifies to the fact that you do not know that His intentions towards you are always good.
Let me take you to the story of Moses and the Israelites.
All through Exodus when Moses gets told to speak to Pharaoh, God says to let his people go so they can worship Him.
Exodus 2:23 After the death of the king of Egypt, the Israelites still complained because they were forced to be slaves. They cried out for help,
Exodus 2:24 and God heard their loud cries. He did not forget the promise he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Exodus 2:25 and because he knew what was happening to his people, he felt sorry for them
Exodus 8:1 he said to Moses: Go to the palace and tell the king of Egypt that I order him to let my people go, so they can worship me.
Exodus 9:1 The LORD sent Moses with this message for the king of Egypt: The LORD God of the Hebrews commands you to let his people go, so they can worship him.
Exodus 10:3 Moses and Aaron went to the king and told him that the LORD God of the Hebrews had said: How long will you stubbornly refuse to obey? Release my people so they can worship me.
This is significant because they were enslaved and in bondage, and Gods idea of letting them become free was in worshipping him. God heard their cries and their pleas, and then creates a way for them to come out of bondage and be free. At first Pharaoh tells Moses that this story he is spinning about the slaves is a lie, and he increases the severity of their work by making them look for their own straw to make bricks with, while also expecting the same amount of bricks to be made in a day. God retaliates by commanding Moses to strike the Nile and lets it turn to blood, killing the fish and not allowing them any water to drink. This scenario happens again and again, Moses keeps asking for Pharaoh to let the people go, and Pharaoh keeps refusing, every time culminating in some worse thing falling on the population. We all know the story; eventually the Israelites do escape slavery, and run away from Pharaoh into the desert. Now if you were to escape a certain type of bondage, being released into the desert might not be your ideal locale. You might not consider the desert any better than what you had before. This is exactly what the Israelites thought too.
Exodus 16:3 “We wish the LORD had killed us in Egypt. When we lived there, we could at least sit down and eat all the bread and meat we wanted. But you have brought us out here into this desert, where we are going to starve.”
They kept on complaining about everything they didn’t have, and God kept being faithful in proving Himself and convincing them that He was with them. REMEMBER, He took them out of Egypt so they could worship Him, so far they have not done that but have only been asking for things from Him.
Exodus 16:6 Moses and Aaron told the people, “This evening you will know that the LORD was the one who rescued you from Egypt.
Exodus 16:7 And in the morning you will see his glorious power, because he has heard your complaints against him. Why should you grumble to us? Who are we?”
Exodus 20:5 Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.
Exo 20:23 So you must never make idols of silver or gold to worship in place of me.
God explicitly instructs them to not erect any sort of idol they can bow down to, they didn’t know who they are, they kept looking back to the “comfort” they experienced in Egypt, saying at least we had clothes to wear etc, murmuring and complaining, not trusting God’s heart for them and his intentions. God realised that if they had the chance to make an idol their need for love and lack of identity would allow them to make one, to sacrifice things of value in order to have an idol to bow before, denying Him as God and worshiping something tangible, because it was easier than having blind faith in what God said through one man.
God is asking them to worship Him after He set them free from the Egyptians; countless times He proves Himself, that it is indeed He that commands Moses, that they should heed Moses and be attentive to the things He is demanding from them. God not only wanted to physically set them free from slavery, but also mentally and emotionally. That is why HE is so adamant at reminding them to be obedient and faithful.
It is when we worship Him that we find His heart for us. It’s in the everyday acknowledgment of the fact that HE is sovereign and Lord. He doesn’t need us to worship Him; it does not validate Him as king, except it does to our hearts. When we ascribe to God glory and honour, our souls are reminded of who He is, and in turn it edifies us and restores our hope in Him. So worship is an everyday necessity.
Now let’s go to the New Testament
Jesus goes to the well and encounters the Samaritan woman, and He asks her to give Him some water. She tells Him, you are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan, we should not have anything to do with one another. See, she approaches Jesus with a “know-it-all” attitude handed down by her leaders, and Jesus ‘response is so classic, I love it!! He says to her, you do not know what God wants to give you, and you also do not know who you are speaking to, because if you did you would ask me for life giving water. The people in the desert kept complaining about water, and God kept providing. Now Jesus is the one who asks for water, because He is thinking He wants to give this woman living water so she will not thirst again, she will never question again, experience longing and need that can’t be satisfied with material comforts.
John 4:17 -25 The woman answered, “I don’t have a husband.” “That’s right,” Jesus replied, “you’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.” The woman said, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.”
As soon as she discerns that Jesus is a Godly man, she immediately steers the questions to the thing most prevalent to her heart and culture…. WORSHIP.
My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.” Jesus said to her: Believe me, the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father either on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans don’t really know the one you worship. But we Jews do know the God we worship, and by using us, God will save the world. But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him. God is Spirit and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.
The woman said, “I know that the Messiah will come. He is the one we call Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” “I am that one,” Jesus told her, “and I am speaking to you now.”
The disciples returned about this time and were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman. But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking with her. Then the woman left her water jar and ran back into town. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?”
She abandoned the very thing she came for! She left her water jug and ran to town, knowing still not who Jesus was, but Jesus made her very aware of whom she is and what she should be busy with.
I find it ironic that she asks about worship, and Jesus immediately addresses her heart and her life. HE wanted her to get some truth, to forget about the how and where we worship, but to get to the very heart of what worship is. Worship is God’s time to remind us who He made us, of His power in us, and the ability He has given us to overcome and be great. Worship is absolutely just as much for you realising your true identity as it is to magnify Him, because you cannot have the one without the other. He is enthroned upon our praises only because he is honoured when we come to the knowledge of who HE is and who that makes us.
In the New Testament God comes and says, I will give you my Spirit, which is the Spirit of Truth, and when you worship, this Spirit will testify to your heart of the truth. So when we worship we are reminded that He is great, and that makes us great. We are reminded that He is strong, and that makes us strong, we are reminded that He is able, and that makes us able. In every situation, when we allow our thoughts to be steered towards His truth for us, we are worshipping. When you face something and ask His guidance, you are allowing your reality to submit to His, that is worship. Allowing the Spirit to speak truth to your heart about who you are, is worship. John 4:24, you have to be led by the Spirit to worship Him according to the truth, not according to your reality and version of things. When we know His heart for us we can operate with confidence and assurance that we are blessed and will not fail or be ashamed.
Philippians 3:3-11 But we are the ones who are truly circumcised, because we worship by the power of God’s Spirit and take pride in Christ Jesus. We don’t brag about what we have done, although I could. Others may brag about themselves, but I have more reason to brag than anyone else. I was circumcised when I was eight days old, and I am from the nation of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a true Hebrew. As a Pharisee, I strictly obeyed the Law of Moses. And I was so eager that I even made trouble for the church. I did everything the Law demands in order to please God. But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life.