I’ve just been reading some blogs on worship looking for something to write. I’ve found this blog on definitions that got me thinking about why we worship God the way we do and how I could worship God in a way that is more resembling what He wants. As I like to do, I’ve gone off and googled the various words for worship used in the Bible. I think to often, we frame our own ideologies and doctrines based on one English translation of the Bible and overlook the actual concepts in the Greek and Hebrew languages which can be far more expressive.
What I’ve found on this occasion that has interested me is that not every word for worship (or even praise – which is a very specific form of worship) actually requires this relationship. For example, the Hebrew word segid is simply showing respect or paying homage. However, this word can only be found in the book of Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar is trying to force the Jewish people to worship a golden image of a figure that is not God. What this tells me is that this type of relationship is based in the world rather than in the Spirit and Truth that Jesus asks of us (John 4:23) – it is based on what you do, not who God is. Ultimately, it is separate from God.
So far so bad, but let’s hop over to the new testament and we find another word for worship – the Greek proskuneo. This word means a variety of things – it is a kiss, it is (profound) reverence, prostration, and finally homage. So here is this concept once again. And it is the most common form of worship in the Greek. It is used throughout the passage in John 4. It appears in all the gospels apart from Mark, Acts and is all over Revelation. In short, its a big deal. Whereas the Hebrew form of homage is reduced to an act directed at a man made object, this homage is paid directly to…Father God and Jesus Christ.
So how do we pay homage correctly?
The key between these two is the focus. Nebuchadnezzar is focussed on the external appearance, the act. Its an act that only requires obedience, it requires no love. Homage to God is full of desire, it is romantic, it is a pursuit, it is powerful and intense (it usually follows falling to the ground or on ones face), and finally this homage leads to action (people move towards/serve God after this experience) rather than being the action (as in Daniel). I’ve often seen people bowing down or even getting on the floor face first during times of prayer and worship only to get up a minute later and start texting someone. I often wonder if this is really the homage God is after. I am much more encouraged when I see someone rarely go pay this kind of homage, but when they do, they are profoundly altered by it.
So here are some homage dos and don’ts I’ve been thinking about:
- Make sure that everyone can see what you’re doing. It’s not a competition. If you have that encounter then its awesome – now make sure that you are being changed before you are being noticed.
- Force it – it should flow out of the time you’re spending with God, not be a point on your checklist.
- Pursue God – put your mind on Him, think about who He is and what He’s done for you, find excitement in Him.
- Express what you are actually feeling – if you’re thankful be thankful in your homage, if you’re respectful be respectful, if you have a need then bring your need.
- Commit to it – worship is a lifestyle and sometimes it needs to be a choice you make rather than relying on some divine inspiration.