Why and How to Worship
Why and How to Worship
Why is worship important? What are you doing when you worship God?
The writer of Hebrews urges us to ‘worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for your “God is a consuming fire”’ (Hebrews 12:28–29).
The common theme in all three passages for today is Mount Zion (Psalm 126:1), ‘the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God’ (Hebrews 12:22), ‘the holy mount of God’ (Ezekiel 28:14,16). This is the place of the presence of God, where God is worshipped both in the old and new covenant. However, there is a difference between the two.
You no longer have to go to a specific physical place to experience the presence of God. Because of Jesus, the ‘mediator of a new covenant’ (Hebrews 12:24a), you can worship anywhere. Jesus is the one who has made this new relationship with God possible through his death on the cross for you and me.
Your ‘holy mountain’, where you can worship Jesus, is the whole earth, and this anticipates the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ we read about in our passage from Hebrews, and which is described in Revelation 21 – the new heaven and new earth.
As you draw close to Jesus in worship there are, as C.H. Spurgeon pointed out, ‘three results of nearness to Jesus’ – happiness, holiness and humility.
1. HappinessPsalm 126:1-6
Children laugh, on average, 150 times a day. Adults laugh, on average, only six times a day. Jesus tells us to be more like children.
The Christian faith uniquely combines laughter and tears, joy and solemnity. ‘We laughed, we sang... God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people’ (vv.2–3, MSG). This psalm celebrates the return to Zion of the people who had been in captivity. They are so happy: ‘When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like those who dreamed’ (v.1).
They had returned to the holy mountain – Mount Zion. This was the place of the temple of God. This earthly salvation foreshadows the even greater salvation that you experience through Jesus.
Like them, your response should be one of worship: ‘Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’ (vv.2–3).
There are plenty of tears in the Christian life. If life is tough for you at the moment, pray that God will restore your fortunes. If you are sowing in tears right now, there will come a time when you will begin to reap with songs of joy (vv.5–6).
Restore my fortunes, O Lord. May I find happiness, laughter and joy in your presence.
2. HolinessHebrews 12:14-29
‘More spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome presence of God than in years of mere study,’ wrote A.W. Tozer.
Worship is coming into ‘the awesome presence’ of a holy God on his holy mountain. Our God is ‘a consuming fire’ (v.29). You are called to be like him: ‘Make every effort… to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (v.14b). Holiness involves effort. As Mother Teresa said, ‘Our progress in holiness depends on God and ourselves – on God’s grace and on our will to be holy.’ You can decide to let Jesus make you holy.
Relationships really matter: ‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone’ (v.14a). Don’t do anything that could cause you to miss out on the grace of God (to miss out on his holy presence). ‘Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time’ (v.15, MSG). Pull out the roots of bitterness as soon as you detect them.
We have a responsibility for ourselves and for each other: ‘see that no-one is sexually immoral’ or ‘godless like Esau’, who, in a moment of madness, threw away so much for instant gratification: ‘trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite’ (v.16, MSG).
Look at the contrast between the physical mountain where the Law was given in the Old Testament, and the heavenly Mount Zion where you now come to worship God. Think about the extraordinary display of God’s holiness, which accompanied the giving of the law and which left even Moses terrified (vv.18–21).
Every time you worship, you are surrounded by thousands upon thousands of angels (v.22b) and the very presence of the living God (v.23b). All those who have died in Christ join in the heavenly worship (v.23c). You join with billions of Christians alive now and those in heaven.
Supremely, every time you worship ‘you’ve come to Jesus’ (v.23, MSG) who makes all this possible (v.24b). ‘The murder of Jesus, unlike Abel’s – a homicide that cried out for vengeance – became a proclamation of grace’ (v.24, MSG). The blood of Christ brings a message of cleansing, forgiveness and peace with God to all who place their faith in him.
As you come to worship Jesus, ‘do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God’ (v.28, MSG).
Lord Jesus, thank you that I can come into your presence through your blood shed for me on the cross. Help me to be holy and to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
3. HumilityEzekiel 28:1-29:21
Holiness and humility are inextricably linked. Jesus showed us that at the heart of holiness is humility. On the other hand, pride is at the root of all sin. It was pride that led to Satan’s downfall.
According to the biblical world-view, behind the evil in the world there lies the devil. The Greek word for devil, diabolos, translates the Hebrew word satan. We are not told very much about the origins of Satan in the Bible. But this passage is one of the few that might give some hint of the origin of Satan.
Although the original context is the fall of the King of Tyre, it seems that Satan, the ruler of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), was behind the ruler of Tyre.
Read alongside Isaiah 14:12–23 and Revelation 12, it appears that both humans and Satan were created good: ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God’ (Ezekiel 28:12–13). It appears that Satan was an angel: ‘You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God’ (v.14). Satan had access to the throne of grace and to the presence of the Lord. He was blameless in his ways (v.15).
Instead of worshipping God on the mountain of God ‘his heart became proud, going around saying, “I’m a god. I sit on God’s divine throne, ruling the sea”’ (v.2, MSG). He was ‘trying to be a god’ (v.2, MSG). ‘By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud’ (v.5).
Just as great skills and wealth can lead to pride, so can good looks: ‘Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour’ (v.17).
This is a description of self-worship, which happens when we put our success down to our own wisdom, skill and abilities (v.4), without realising that these things come from God and that we should worship him alone. Instead of worshipping the Sovereign Lord, the temptation is to worship success, wealth and beauty – the gods of our culture – they are ‘god-pretentions’ (v.7, MSG).
God brings down the proud and exalts the humble. As a result of his pride and sin, Satan was expelled from the presence of God: ‘you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you’ (v.16), ‘So I threw you to the earth’ (v.17; see Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18). Satan’s final destruction is assured (Ezekiel 28:18b–19). Jesus defeated Satan by his death and resurrection.
The attitude of Jesus is the complete opposite to that of Satan. He took the opposite path: ‘Who, being in very nature God... made himself nothing... he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:6–11).
Worship Jesus today. As you draw close to him throughout your lifetime you will experience these benefits – happiness, holiness and humility.
Lord Jesus, today I bow my knee to worship you and confess that you are Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.’
We have to work at ‘living at peace with everyone’. Insecurities, misunderstandings and failings often get in the way. And as for being holy: well there’s a bit of a challenge!
Verse of the Day
‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…’ (Hebrews 12:14).
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Daily Readings, ‘Morning reading 12 May’ (Wilder Publications, 2009).
A. W. Tozer, (Compiled by Marilynne E. Foster), Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 365-Day Devotional, (Wingspread: Reissue edition) p.337.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.