What do you think of when you hear, or read, the word worship?
Go ahead and think about it, but not for too long! I want to know the first thing you think of. Well, I want you to know the first thing you think of.
Got it? Okay, now write it down, or type it into the comments, or tweet it at me, scrawl it on your palm with a Sharpie... whatever. It'll be useful later.
In this short series my aim is to dispel misconceptions about what worship means, while gently nudging you, good reader, toward a proper understanding of what worship truly is.
"Well, who are you, buddy, to tell me what worship is or is not?"
Who, me? I'm just a guy with a brain, a Bible, and a desire to know God better, and to know how better to worship Him... and even ander to help others to know these things too!
In my fifteen or so years as a professional "worship leader" I have spent a great many hours studying the subject of worship. After all, shouldn't those of us who're called into worship ministry have a firm grasp of what it is we are supposed to be leading? What I have discovered is that true worship has very, very little to do with music.
Now before you flip all the entire way out, yelling back at me through your smartphone screen or computer monitor, or, if you're super fancy, your big screen HD television, that you worship God all the time through song, please understand that I am not saying that worship cannot be expressed through song, only that worship, at its heart, is not song.
It can be song, but it is so much more.
So, please continue reading and follow the series to see what the heck I'm talking about. Once the series is finished I guarantee that you will either agree with me, or disagree with me, but I will leave no space in between for wishy-washiness.
And now, on with the show...
Well, this entry has been a long time coming. I promised this would be a weekly series when I wrote part one, but that was over a year ago... My sincerest apologies. I guess this series just got lost in the craziness when I decided to "be a writer." Let's fix that, shall we?
If you haven't read the intro to the series and part one, please go back and do that. You'll be pretty lost at the start of this otherwise, but I'll give a brief recap for you slackers who don't want to read too much in one sitting. God forbid!
That being said, I ended part one with kind of a cliffhanger, with the dagger in the air, literally. So, let's just jump right back into the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22.
The scene is set. The players are in place. The events being acted out are a foreshadowing of a greater event which would follow some two-thousand years in the future. But for now...
EXT. MT. MORIAH - DAY
An emotionally devastated Isaac is tied to the makeshift altar, by the force of his own will as much as that of his father, awaiting what he believed would be his own death at the hand of his father by the command of his God. I can't imagine what was going through Isaac's mind at that moment, but I am positive I never want to find out. This was Isaac's act of worship - obedience to the point of sacrificing his own life.
The venerable Abraham's trembling hands tightly grasp the dagger, raised out over Isaac, ready to plunge into the heart of his only beloved son as an act of worship to His God. Obedience so extreme he was willing to sacrifice that which he loved the most in this life.
Obedience and sacrifice.
Suddenly, as Abraham is about to lower the blade and slay his cherished son, the angel of the Lord called out to him, staying his hand. Abraham replied, "Here I am!"
The angel suppressed the desire to respond, "I know where you are, dummy."
Instead, the angel of the Lord delivered what is likely the best news anyone could ever hear. Abraham's son would live! Not only that, but Isaac would also be the progenitor of so many descendants that you'd have a hard time counting them, even with the most advanced abacus of the day.
God was blessing Abraham, and the reason given was his obedience.
So, whereas when we looked at the possible meaning of worship based on what Abraham and Isaac thought was going to happen - obedience and sacrifice - we now see a simpler, and singular, definition of worship: Obedience.
Obedience is God's love language.
God may not always want us to give something up (unless it's sin), but what He does want, in every situation, is for us to be ready to sacrifice anything and everything for Him, no matter how valuable it may be, because He is infinitely more valuable.
And when we are willing to part with everything for His glory - to speak to His love language - we will often find that He does not require us to. What He wants from us is simple: Obedience, even if it means sacrifice.
1 Samuel 15:22 ties this all together very well. Samuel informs us that, "to obey is better than sacrifice." It was Abraham's obedience and willingness to sacrifice that God desired from him; not the actual physical sacrifice of Isaac.
In Psalm 40:6-8, David wrote the following.
You do not delight in sacrifice and burnt offering; You open my ears to listen. You do not ask for a whole burnt offering or sin offering. Then I said, "See, I have come; it is written about me in the volume of the scroll. I delight to do Your will, my God; Your instruction lives within me."David got it. It's never been sacrifice and burnt offering that the Lord has wanted from us, but only for us to be obedient; to delight in doing His will. This is worship. It speaks directly to the heart of God that we love Him.
But what does it mean to be obedient? Doesn't this concept of worship sound like legalism? Like God just wants worker bees, slaves to do His bidding and blindly follow Him?
Stay tuned, good reader, for these questions and many more will be answered in the weeks (years?) to come! And, spoiler alert, those questions were all misdirects! Mwahahahahaha! Or were they?...
Until next time...
Peace, love, and a third thing.