The Dual Meaning of Worship

These last few weeks the Lord has been impressing on my heart and mind the word “Worship” so I decided to do a brief study into the word from a biblical perspective to discover more about this often used, but rarely understood, biblical concept.

There are many images that come to one’s mind when we think of the word worship. Most would immediately think of a popular Christian song or the solemn part of a church service. For those not familiar with Church or church services, the word may conjure up the image of servants bowing before a king or some huge stone idol in an isolated East Asian temple or perhaps even crowds of swooning, chanting fans bowing before a beloved celebrity or star.

But what does worship actually mean from a Biblical perspective. Why is worship so prominently featured throughout the Bible?

Did you know that the word ‘worship’ is actually used more than 1505 times in the Bible?

When we study the original words taken from the Hebrew or the Greek Biblical text we gain an understanding of the term used which provides an insight on its meaning and the intention behind the use of this word. Example, in John 4:23 where it says,

But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.”

The word used here is in Greek and is translated as ‘proskynein’ which means “to fawn or crouch, i.e. prostate oneself in homage”.

The same word is also found in the Old Testament but in this case the Hebrew word for worship is written as הִשְׁתַּחֲו֥וּ, and is transliterated as hiš·ta·ḥă·wū which refers to “bowing down, to depress, to prostrate oneself before superior in homage.” This particular use of the word is found in a few scriptures such as Psalm 29:2; Psalm 96:9; Psalm 97:7; and Jeremiah 8:2.

Based on the above meanings, we can see that both these languages have a similar use for the word ‘worship’, however, there is also another use for the word which is quite different and which I discovered as part of my in-depth study. This particular use of the word occurs throughout the Bible but only in certain Bible translations.

In the NIV Bible the word worship, as seen in the following scripture, is used in place of another word which I thought provided an important insight that we sometimes often miss when referring to worship.

In Exodus 23:24-26 it says,

Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. 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.

The NIV Bible used the word ‘worship’ in exchange for the word ‘to serve/shall serve’ which was used in other Bible translations such as the KJV, INT or NASB. The actual transliteration of the word “to serve” in Hebrew is wa·‘ă·ḇaḏ·tem (וַעֲבַדְתֶּ֗ם) and is found in various scriptures throughout the Old Testament such as in Numbers 18:7, Deuteronomy 4:28, Joshua 23:16, 1 Samuel 12:14, 1 Kings 9:6, 2 Chronicles 7:19, and Jeremiah 16:13.

In all these passages the word ‘worship’ is sometimes used interchangeably with the word ‘to serve’. Was this deliberate? Yes, I believe so, because the word ‘to worship’ is often demonstrated as an act of ‘serving’ or offering service to another. As with everything in the Bible, nothing is a mistake, and I believe those biblical scholars that chose to use the word ‘worship’ in place of the word ‘to serve’ wanted to allude to the special two-fold nature of worship.

The word ‘to serve’ used in this context means ‘to work, to labour for another, serve another, to serve as subjects, to serve (God), to serve (with Levitical service – as a priest), to compel to labour or work, cause to serve, serve as subjects, to be led or enticed to serve.’

Within the Strong’s Concordance of the Bible I noticed that the context in which this word was used in most of the occurrences was when referring to the Israelites service to either God Jehovah or to other pagan gods or pagan empires/ruling powers of their day. So, when taking this into account, we begin to see an emerging theme; one, I believe, the Lord is trying to hone in on during these difficult times.

Worship is not only a position or posture but also an action. It is not only seen through your reverence and humility before God (although that is vital) it is also seen in your act of ‘serving’ or laboring in service to God with all that He has given to you. I.e., your body, your mind, your talents, your gifts, your abilities. Worship is not just passive, as in the act of being prostate, bowing before Him, but is also an active, assertive and intentional act. This means that there is a requirement placed upon you, as His child and a person who has been anointed and appointed by God for active duty.

We all have a calling or assignment upon us and when we strive to accomplish it we are performing our due act of service or 'worship' to God.

Each and every believer is called for a specific purpose or to accomplish a specific task for God. This is what is referred to in Romans 12:1 which speaks of having our lives offered in worship as “living sacrifices”. This life and this body is not our own. It was bought with a price that far exceeds anything we could ever offer in this world. The specific passage of scripture reads as follows,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.”

I believe this is the secret weapon we all need during these difficult times we’re facing that will enable us to overcome the fear, confusion, pain and uncertainty we are all experiencing.

When your sole focus, object of adoration, reverence and desire is God, it compels you to also act on it. Worship needs to be practically demonstrated as well. That means that your goals/vision, efforts, energy and resources are centered on pursuing the calling God has for you, not pursuing things that deviate from that call. This results in a worship that is both a position and a practice.

Make worship for God the sole focus of everything you do today. As you do so, it will begin to change you from not just seeing it as a posture you hold, but one you live out fully in your life as well.

Be Blessed Precious One! And if you need help or support with anything discussed please do not hesitate to reach out through our online chats, email or via any of the social media platforms.

Your Sister in Christ!

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