by Pooky Darst
Webster defines the word “worship” as “the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god: the act of worshipping God or a god.” Or “excessive admiration for someone.” The word worship, in this case, means to ascribe worth to something.
More important than these definitions is what the Bible has to say of worship. At this point my strongest urge is to shift into classroom mode and break down the word “worship” into its linguistic complexity and start throwing various definitions in various languages at you and rest on God’s sovereignty in hopes that you won’t drool on your computer as you’re sleeping, dreaming of things that aren’t definitions in languages that you most likely don’t speak. As good a thing as that would be, I think I will take a different route and provide a passage that, in the ESV translation of the Bible, literally uses the word “worship.”
An Example: Abraham and Isaac
My favorite example of this would have to be in Genesis 22:5. In this passage, The Lord has asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son. In order to communicate the severity of this let me say that again. God told Abraham to take his only Son, the son that Abraham had been waiting so long for, with so much hope and all the while quite a bit of discouragement, and kill him. So Abraham obediently takes Isaac to a place where he can sacrifice him. Abraham took two men with him in order to watch the donkey and as they arrived at the place where the sacrifice was to be made, he turned to the two men and said “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (verse 5).
Did you catch that? He said he was taking the boy to go worship. Now, we know that Abraham is taking Isaac to an alter so that he can literally set him on fire, but he uses the word worship to describe it. Some of us know how the story ends, an angel of The Lord stops Abraham at the last second and The Lord provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac, but before we get to that glorious mercy that The Lord demonstrates I think it is important to take the phrasing that Abraham used in this passage and apply it to our working definition of what worship is, because Abraham and Isaac certainly weren’t ascending the hill in the land of Moriah to tune guitars and pump out the chorus of “10,000 Reasons.”
Worship: Obedience and Sacrifice
In this passage, it seems that worship is characterized by obedience and sacrifice. That is an interesting idea because, as Christians, our lives are to be characterized by obedience and sacrifice, not only in the church on Sundays, or at home in the evenings, but also at work Monday through Friday, which leads me to my ultimate question: is your work worship? Whether your job is to run a corporation, fax memos, clean toilets, or keep a handle on some crazy kids, you are placed in that position for God’s glory. Now, if that is true, if God has taken me and placed me where I am specifically for His glory, then wouldn’t doing that job, however that manifests itself and if done in the power of the Spirit, be obedient and sacrificial? I understand that we aren’t putting people up on alters and grabbing the torches, but is it not the same premise? When you bend at the waist, tired from a long yesterday, discouraged at a long tomorrow, and ache in the knees from life lived in work, to wipe down the toilet seat, pick up the mess, or pull out the desk chair, you, O Christian, are worshipping the Most High God.
Not only that, but He is pleased with this worship.
Work: Pleasing to the Lord
Colossians 1:10 says, “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” You work because you have been placed there, and you work hard because it pleases the Lord, and this work that pleases the Lord will manifest, if done obediently and sacrificially, into the lives of those around you. Just as the Lord drew you unto Himself, he has the power to do so with your co-worker that sees you worshipping every day and wonders why there is something different about the way that you work.
So I ask again, is your work worship?
The Center: The Gospel and Abraham
If this was all that I wrote about Genesis 22:5, I would be short-changing you. The most important thing to take away from that passage is the fact that God, like Abraham, had an only Son which was to be sacrificed, and unlike Abraham, God did not spare Him with a substituted ram; Jesus was the substitute. Unlike Isaac, Jesus did bear the burden of death and separation from His Father, in order to glorify Him first and foremost, and also to save those whom He calls. Praise the Lord for this fact, and because of the severity of the cross, we are set free to work hard, and in doing so, worship our Father who is pleased with us in Christ.