Sunday, April 18, 2010

What is worship?

Yesterday the question was posed, “What is worship?” And if this was the sum of what I got from the message it was quite enough…more than enough…to engage one’s thinking. When the question was posed my thoughts went elsewhere, and have been there until whenever is “now.”

I propose that the answer comes in several parts and that the foundation of the answer is found in the first of the Three Angel’s Messages.

“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’” [Revelation 14:6 and 7 NKJV]

The word “then” (NKJV) is used extensively in chapters 11, 12, 13, 14…etc, as John introduces scene upon scene. Merriam-Webster online defines “then” as adverb, noun, and adjective. In these verses it functions as an adverb; to introduce. Interestingly, KJV uses “and”  which appears over 8000 times in the KJV and is translated “then” only 20 times. NIV also uses “then” to introduce sequential scenes.

Speaking of which, one wonders about the sequence of the two parts of the first angel’s message. Is the sequence a prioritization or a continuum whose parts are of equal importance? Whichever it is, preaching the gospel is given first place and perhaps first priority. I believe it is a priority, and here is why; the gospel is the story of the redemption of mankind and Jesus the Christ is that story from its beginning to the rapidly approaching end.

The command, “… fear God and give glory…” prepares the way for the concluding conjunction, “for.” It is the same as saying “because” which is used in the NIV. (It is the same in the 4th Commandment, which in the latter 1/3 begins with the word [For] and for the same reason.) The angel is explaining why it is that God is commanding us to do certain and specific things. He is not like the parent who exclaims, “Because I say so!” Who hasn’t heard that?

Only after explaining (brief as it is) why we should “fear” and “give glory,” do we hear about worship. It has been implied (fear and give glory) but now becomes clear and specific. We are to worship God (Jesus the Christ) because He is the Creator [Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17; John 1:1-3] of all things.

Many object to the fear aspect in, “fear God and give glory to Him”. The Greek word used here is phobeo which is the root of the word, phobia. It is a temptation to substitute the more gentle, “respect God” for the seemingly harsh, “fear God” though the Greek word phobeo does not easily allow such a substitution however more appealing it may be to our ears.

To answer the question, “What is worship?” I will opine: Worship is first our acknowledgement of God; that He is. Secondly, it includes a realization of “what” He is as in character as Redeemer, Judge and Creator. The first of the Three Angels Messages lays out the credentials of God in Christ as a foundation for fearing Him, giving God glory and worship. e.c.

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