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
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'
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
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
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."
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
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.
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
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)
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.
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
"Swear to me," he said. Then Joseph
swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on
the top of his staff.
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.
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
giving thanks (v.8,34)
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)
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.
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)
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!
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
2. He acknowledges his grief but he also falls down and worships God,
acknowledging His sovereign greatness that only does good.
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.
All the nations you have made will come and
worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to
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.
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)
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
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
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
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
a means of maintaining proper perspective in the face of a crisis.
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.
The RESULT of worship will be that:
A Warning about Worship is seen as:
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
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
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
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
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
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.