kataggello.org Home Page ||  Table of Contents ||  False Worship << Previous || Next >> Shachah, An Old Testament Word for Worship
Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Pictures of Worship in the Old Testament

Let us turn to some illustrations that show us an aspect of worship we may not often think about. An imaginary story set in antiquity shows the raw nature of worship. Imagine for a moment that you are transported back in time to ancient Assyria. You’re in the marketplace and the king comes through in a procession. Everyone falls face down to the ground in obeisance. Just to make sure that everyone does, soldiers are on the lookout. But there you are, standing up. What do you think would happen. The soldiers grab you roughly and throw you down, a soldier yells at you, “Why did you not bow down!” What is your response? That you’ve done it so often that it has become trite and boring through overuse? It wasn’t satisfying to you, you want a different or more exciting way to do this, maybe you just want to do it somewhere else? You’re looking for a richer experience? How do you think those kinds of answers would be received? No one, not the soldiers, not the king, no one, would care about your desire for a more satisfying experience, or that you’re bored with doing the same old thing over and over, and that you want something fresh. I’m sure the soldiers would make sure you had an interesting time of things, whether you liked it or not. This is a very primitive and raw form of worship, and it speaks also to worship done in fear.

The Bible has an actual example from the Bible story of Esther.

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment? Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.”
(Esther 3:1-6)

Haman was promoted to a very high position. Everyone was commanded to bow to him to show reverence. Haman became angry when Mordecai refused do this. Neither the king, nor Haman cared one little bit whether or not anyone enjoyed bowing to Haman? Why were they to bow? They were to bow in reverence to Haman, and through him, show reverence to the king indirectly. This is a form of worship, civil worship, which was barely separated from religious worship in those days. And this worship was for no one else but Haman, and indirectly the king. It was not for the benefit or satisfaction of the kings subjects. It was for the satisfaction of the king, and his desire to honor Haman. Do you think that they would care that it became trite and boring to you, and that you only did it because you must? Not in the least, except that if they knew your heart in the matter they would probably be angry and take some form of vengeance on you.

Abraham provides an example of worship of a different kind, for a different reason, worship that shows respect.

And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her. And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying, I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight. And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him, Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead. And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth. (Genesis 23:1-7)

Matthew Henry explains it this way, “He (Abraham) returns them his thanks for their kind offer with all possible decency and respect; though a great man, an old man, and now a mourner, yet he stands up, and bows himself humbly before them”. Abraham bowed, which is the Hebrew word shachah, a physical form of worship, to the people of the land. This was to show them respect. Abraham bowed to them, for their sakes, not his own. This show of respect is given to others and is similar to some aspects of worship.

These illustrations are meant to illustrate only one aspect of worship, which is that this matter of showing reverence, or submission, isn’t for the one who shows it, it’s for the one to whom reverence or submission is shown. The principle of giving tells us something about worship. The principle of giving is that what is given is intended for the recipient not the giver. In the same way, worship given by us to God, is for him not us. That is the nature of worship, it is for the one receiving it, not the one giving it. Worship is what we give to God as His due, for His good pleasure, not our own benefit.

We all know about the sort of gift that is really given for the benefit of the giver. That is not the kind of worship we want to give to God. Is it possible that this is true of us sometimes? That we worship God with mixed motives, unintentionally seeking our own benefit? Although it is true that we do benefit by our worship. Supposedly we are seeking to give Him worship but unless we keep this idea clearly in mind we may actually be seeking something for ourselves.

But let’s give balance to things, today we know through the revelation of Jesus Christ that God is good and loving and desires us to be in proper relation to Himself. He has said that He desires that none should perish but that all should be saved,

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

And Jesus has said that God loved the world, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world …”. He has not only said He loves us, He proved His love for us,

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:6-9)

Having proved His love and given us this free gift of life we will worship willingly, thankfully, gladly. But there are those who reject God’s love and gift. They too will worship one day. Worship will be given willingly, or taken by force. But that is not one and the same to God because He has proved His love for us. Today God wants worship that flows from hearts that are willing, that are responding to His love.

God is not a tyrant demanding worship from us, He is a loving Father who has proved His love by giving His only begotten Son for our salvation. He desires freely given worship from those He has redeemed. And that freely given worship is our joy to give to Him. He has won this love and worship from us through His Son. This is freely given worship from us, led by the Holy Spirit. As one has said,

It is worship that flows from hearts that are willing to let the Spirit of God glorify Christ to them. Worship is these self-same hearts now overflowing with love for Christ - love that expresses itself in glorious song, or silent tears; prayers of adoration or shared thoughts that focus on Him alone. May our worship be such today—not for us but for Him. (by S. McEachern, quoted in the Choice Gleanings calendar for May 15th, 2011)

I suggest that if we grasp this idea about who worship is really for it should condition our thinking about how and why we worship. This idea isn’t, or it shouldn’t be, startling. Jesus said the truth will make us free, it is good to look at the truth of worship.

©FH 2012

Next >> Shachah, An Old Testament Word for Worship

Previous >> False Worship

To top of page ||  Table of Contents ||   kataggello.org Home Page