Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
Continuing our series on how to navigate what lies ahead with 2020 vision, the seventh though ninth elements of spiritual clarity share a common theme: escape routes from temptation. As Paul reminds the church in Corinth, God always provides a means for avoiding that first step toward sin’s downward spiral:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
One primary way the Holy Spirit redirects our affections away from ourselves and the world toward the Father and Son is to lead us into praise and worship of the Triune God. But what does it mean to “worship?” The hebraic understanding comes from the root word שָׁחָה (pronounced haw-khaw), which appears 172 times in the OT. In each instance, the meaning entails body positioning (bowing, kneeling, prostrating…) in deference to a superior being (whether the one true God or false gods). In practice, the Israelites worshipped through animal sacrifices, the singing of psalms, the celebration of feasts, and through prayer. One key example is from the book of Nehemiah. After the return from exile, Nehemiah led the remnant in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. From a sprit of contrition and gratitude, Ezra, the High Priest, led the people in worship:
And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:6 ESV
Their heartfelt worship continued with the reading of the Scripture for the remainder of the day. This monumental event marked a major course correction for the Jews. After a succession of wicked kings, God’s people had strayed far from their Lover in pursuit of pagan worship—including the horrid practice of sacrificing their firstborn to fertility gods. Resultantly, God permitted invading Babylon to conquer the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin and deport them into exhile for four decades leading up to the remnants’ return.
In the Greco-Roman culture, the Greek word mostly commonly used for worship, προσκυνέω (pronounced pros·koo·neh·o), derives its origin from the Orientals and embodies a more sensual aspect of adoration (kissing the hand of a superior as a show of obeisance). With the Gospel in view, the writers of the NT, expanded on the Greek etymology to emphasize an internal reality of true devotion to God founded in Christ Jesus. Two key passages that illustrate elements of worship in the Kingdom of God are written by the disciple, John. First is the discourse between Jesus and the woman at the well:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 ESV
Body posture and mode of vocalization mean nothing outside of worshipping in spirit and truth. If our worship is centered in a loving devotion toward our Creator, then our words of adoration are true and pleasing to our Father. Still, worship is not limited to the Father alone. John later writes in his Revelation vivid imagery of the end times, when all of creation will worship Jesus (the Lamb who was slain) with their praises while the twenty-four elders will bow down in homage:
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. Revelation 5:13-14 ESV
With the return of Christ, we will be set free of sin and purely worship him in “spirit and truth.” Meanwhile, while we await the Consummation, we have this glorious means of escape from the destructive path of sin. So as we worship our Creator and Savior with heartfelt gratitude, we are mindful that he who died for us, who began this good work in us, will see it through to completion (Philippians 1:6). Confident of this promise, our heartfelt worship redirects our misguided affections and hones our 2020 vision!