Front Page
Series Contents
Series Theme:  Worship

























1. Introduction
2. The Verses
3. Conclusion

4. Application




























































1. Introduction
2. The Verses
3. Conclusion

4. Application













































1. Introduction
2. The Verses
3. Conclusion

4. Application



















1. Introduction
2. The Verses
3. Conclusion

4. Application


Title:   2. Main Old Testament References to Worship


Each of these pages form part of a series of Worship Seminars. To that end we hope that they will be used to stimulate worship and not merely provide information.


1. Introduction

We now simply look at some key verses that specifically mention ‘worship'. We are not looking, here at least, at the many associated verses that could be considered. We'll look at the wider picture later.

If you are concerned about New Testament practices you may wish to go directly to Page 5 which considers 1 Corinthians 14 gatherings, or if you wish to consider basic ways of expressing meaningful worship using the Old Testament model, go directly to Page 6. These first pages seek to consider a wide range of verses from Old & New Testaments in order to focus on just what worship is.

As in the first page we'll simply work our way through verses, mostly in the order they come in our Old Testament.


2. The Verses

Gen 22:3- 5
Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering , he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."


1. This is the first use of the word ‘worship' in the Bible.
2. Abraham referred to the act of worship and clearly it involved a ‘burn offering' and the account shows it as a ‘sacrifice'.
3. The Hebrew words for worship simply mean, ‘to bow down or prostrate oneself in homage'

Gen 24:26,27
Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, saying, "Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives."


1. This was Abraham's servant who had been sent on a task.
2. When he realizes that the circumstances have been working out to fulfil his task, He realizes that it is the hand of the Lord behind it.
3. His natural response is to fall down and worship. He acknowledges God's greatness and wonder. Is this something he has learnt from his master, Abraham?

Exo 3:12
And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt , you will worship God on this mountain."
Exo 24:1,4,5
1 Then he said to Moses, "Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel . You are to worship at a distance… He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain…. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD

1. God told Moses that when he and the people came back to this spot (Sinai) and met Him, they would worship there.
2. The Lord assumed (knew) that worship was a natural response to an encounter with Him.
3. When it did happen, it involved and altar and sacrifices.

Exo 4:29-31
Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.


1. The elders of Israel are convinced by what Moses tells them and miraculously shows them.
2. They natural response is to glorify God by bowing down and worshipping Him, for they recognise this is all of Him.
3. We find the people similarly responding at the Passover (Exo 12:27)

Exo 7:16
Then say to him, `The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.

1. This was God's word again and again through Moses (see also Exo 4:23 , 8:1,20, 9:1,13, 10:3,7,8)
2. The reason that Pharaoh was to release the Israelites was so that they could go to an isolated place, encounter the Lord and worship him.
3. Worship is thus assumed to the outcome in mankind of an encounter with the Lord.

Exo 23:25,26
Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.


1. In this early set of laws, worshipping the Lord was a prerequisite to blessing of health and life.
2. Worship here is seen as having a right attitude and a right relationship in respect of the Lord, and out of that will flow the blessing of life.
3. It is also seen as a counter to the previous warning not to worship the idols of the nations they were dispossess in Canaan (Ex 23:23,24) in line with the instruction of the 2 nd of the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:5).

Gen 47:31
"Swear to me," he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.
Exo 33:10
Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent.


1. We pick these two verses together as they indicate a mode of worship that didn't actually involve bowing down.
2. Jacob (Israel) realised God's word to him about the land was being fulfilled and this prompted him to acknowledge the Lord's greatness as he worshipped. Being an old man, he didn't get down on his knees but simply bowed his head over his staff.
3. The people of Israel, whenever they saw the cloud which was the visible sign of the presence of God coming to the Tabernacle, acknowledged His greatness by standing and worshipping. For them standing was a sign of respect, in the way we might stand when a person to be honoured enters the room. It was still a sign of respect and honour.

Deut 12:4-7
You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.


1. Here Moses was instructing Israel, before entering the Promised Land, to reject all false idol worship in the land. He then gave instructions on how they should worship.
2. They should worship together, in one place designated by God. This would prevent people going off into false worship. Worship would thus have a corporate dimension.
3. Worship would then involve sacrifice and giving and celebration.
4. This requirement to worship God's way was then reiterated in v.31.
5. Many of the subsequent used of the word ‘worship' are in warnings against wrong worship, of idols from foreign peoples.

1 Kings 1:47,48
And the king bowed in worship on his bed and said, `Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel , who has allowed my eyes to see a successor on my throne today.'"


1. David, as an old man, has just been told that in accordance with his wishes, Solomon has just been made king.
2. His response is to acknowledge God's goodness in bringing this about – and he worships.
3. Worship here includes praise.
4. The Hebrew word for the verb ‘To Praise' in its simplest form means ‘to boast' or, if you like, to acclaim the achievement, here of God.
5. Worship can thus be seen as an acknowledging of God's greatness in His activity as well as His being.

2 Kings 17:35-39,41
When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: "Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.... Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols.


1. The recorder of 2 Kings summarises the past history of Israel.
2. He blames the plight of Israel on their refusal to worship properly. They worshipped God AND idols. No way!
3. Associated with worship is bowing down and sacrificing.
4. Integral with this, it seems, is the requirement for them to remember they are a special covenant people with a whole variety of instructions from the lord that they were to follow.
5. Thus true worship is also to involve obedience to the Lord.

1 Chron 16:29
Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness.


1. This comes as a psalm of thanks by David. It seems to be a combination of parts of Psalms 105, 96 and 106.
2. In these verses together we see a number of things that contribute to worship:

  • giving thanks (v.8,34)
  • singing (v.9,23)
  • declaring God's acts (v,9,24)
  • giving praise to Him (v.9,25,36)
  • giving credit or glory to Him (v.10,24,28,29,35)
  • rejoicing because of Him (v.10,31)

3. The fact is that worship is actually bowing down in awe before the Lord, but each of these may be seen as aspects of acknowledging His greatness and wonder, as means of holding a right reverential perspective, of honouring and submitting to Him.

Neh 9:1-3,5,6
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God.
And the Levites ….. said: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.


1. This was a time of facing their failures (v.1,2)
2. Components of this day included:

  • reading (declaring) God's word
  • confessing their sins in the light of it
  • acknowledging God's greatness in the light of it (worshipping)

3. It was accompanied by declarations and instructions by the Levites, the temple servers, to acknowledge the Lord's greatness – just as the hidden angelic hosts do, i.e. worship, get a right perspective, and bow down!

Job 1:20,21
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."


1. Job has just had a great loss but determines to maintain a right perspective.
2. He acknowledges his grief but he also falls down and worships God, acknowledging His sovereign greatness that only does good.

Psa 22:29
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him.


1. In this prophetic, messianic psalm, David declares the outworking of the work of the Messiah – even the rich who feast will eventually die and then they will have to acknowledge the greatness of God and kneel before Him.
2. The interpretation of this verse may also mean, of course, that every person who comes to Him will have to die to self to receive His righteousness and their riches will mean nothing as they are humbled and bow in worship as they come to Him.

Psa 86:9
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.


1. David is sure that worship is the right response of any person from any nation to the greatness and wonder of the Lord.
2. Indeed as people worship the Lord, as they acknowledge His greatness, so He will be glorified by all who look on (see also Eph 3:10).
3. When we truly worship we truly bring glory to God.

Psa 100:2
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.


1. We are seeing a constant refining of the picture of worship. Although it is a bowing in awesome reverence this is not to be a ‘hard' (see Mt 25:24) thing but a joyful thing.
2. When it is joyful it is recognizing the wonder of what God has done as it affects us – we are children of God! There is a wonderful relationship with the One who is Love (1 Jn 4:8)

Jer 7:1-4
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: Stand at the gate of the LORD's house and there proclaim this message: "Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!"


1. These are verses of great challenge. This people apparently came to worship.

2. Yet the reality was that their coming was superstition – they thought as long as they came to this particular building (the Temple ) they would be all right.
3. Their lives once outside the Temple did not match God's requirements and therefore He held them accountable.
4. While they lived unrighteous lives, the Temple and their so-called ‘worship' meant nothing!

We see a similar thing in Jer 26:2



3. Conclusions

From what we have noted, we observe that from the outset worship involved sacrifice and offerings. The Hebrew word for worship simply means, ‘to bow down or prostrate oneself in homage' although on rare occasion it could involve specifically standing up. In addition we have noted that:

1. The Motivation for Worship was seen as a natural response to the awareness of: 

  • God's good will being observed
  • God Himself being encountered
  • God's miraculous powers at work

2. The Purpose of Worship was also seen as:

  • having a right attitude towards God and when that is there, relationship flows and life is imparted from God,
  • a counter to worshipping things that are not worthy of worship
  • something to be done corporately to counter deviation from God-worship
  • something that can be joyful in the awareness of God's goodness towards us,
  • a means of maintaining proper perspective in the face of a crisis.

3. Expressions of Worship could also involve:

  • sacrifice, giving & celebration
  • giving thanks, singing, declaring God's acts, giving praise to God, giving credit or glory to Him, rejoicing because of Him – all as helps towards acknowledging His greatness
  • reading God's word, confessing sins in the light of it, & acknowledging His greatness in the light of it.

4. The RESULT of worship will be that:

  • others see and understand and
  • God is glorified by others on earth and in heaven.

5. A Warning about Worship is seen as:


  • performing ritual while the heart is far from God
  • trusting in buildings etc. and not the reality of a saving relationship with God.



4. Application

So that this study does not remain as a mere academic exercise, in the light of the above points we might ask ourselves the following check questions:

1. Do I really worship?

Are my expressions towards God genuine expressions of awesome respect, thankfulness and praise?
Do I consider (through listening to preaching/teaching or by personal meditation) the wonder of who God is and what He has done, to create a release of genuine worship in me.
Do I simply participate in singing or listening in a ‘service' with it creating any real ‘worship response' in me?

2. Do I use worship?

Do I purpose to worship, to build awareness of the truth about God, in me to counter negative and wrong thoughts?
Do I purpose to participate in corporate worship to counter the temptation to be led astray into glorying in wrong things and in wrong ways?
Do I purpose to worship to remind myself of God's goodness towards me?
In the face of a crisis, do I purpose to worship God as a means of maintaining a right perspective?

3. How do I express worship?

Have I a right perspective of God so that I not only see Him as Father, but also maintain an awesome respect for he is the almighty Creator of all things? Does that involve bowing my heart in humility before Him?

Am I willing to sacrifice my self-centred ‘needs' for personal peace and comfort to become a God-centred, corporate worshipper who participates in public worship?

Am I a giver of worship rather than a getter with a ‘bless me' attitude, acknowledging that really seeking God will mean finding the Holy One of Israel who is awesome, so that worship will mean me bending and bowing?

Do I use reading His word, prayer and praise as means of drawing near to Him to stir real worship within me?

Am I willing to face my failings in the light of His holiness, and confess and change?

Is my understanding of the Lord increasing with the depth of my experience of worship and the expressions associated with it?

4. What is the result of my worship?

If I genuinely worship, am I changed by my encounters with God?

If I genuinely worship, are others moved by me to seek Him for fully for themselves?

5. How is the rest of my life?

Do I partition my life so I am one person when I ‘worship' but another in all other areas of daily life?

Do I allow music, buildings or ritual to make me feel good ‘in worship' to cover up spiritual poverty in the rest of my life?

May these questions help us come more fully to a place of genuine worship of the One alone is worthy of our worship.