Redefining Worship (Lane)
by Lonnie Lane
I have learned that being loved by God is a sure thing. Having an intimate relationship with Him is dependent upon other factors than His loving me. And learning to hear His voice in order to share His words with others requires yet more involvement from me. As you know, like in any relationship, the time you spend together determines how much you get to know each other, and how deep your relationship can go. How much you actually “listen” to the other person to get to know the things they don’t share easily or with everyone means developing trust and mutual love between you. And so also with God.
There is no substitute for spending time with God. But how we spend time with God also makes a difference in how well we come to know Him. How do you spend time with God? In His Word?… Do you just read it?… Do you have times of studying and digging into the word?… Are you meditating on Scripture…, asking Him to open it up to you? Are you coming before Him in worship?…. What kind of worship?…. Are you singing to Him along with a CD…. or singing from your own heart?…. Are you sometimes moved to silence before Him?…. Are you talking to Him and telling Him what’s on your heart?…. Praying in the Spirit for what’s on His heart?…. Do you listen for what He wants to share with you… to give you new insight into your own life…or revelation of Him? All of these are wonderful ways to be with God and you may have done all of them at different times.
Like in any relationship, there are a multitude of expressions and interactions that are enjoyed. It varies from one experience to another. You don’t do or say the same things with your marriage partner or friend every time you’re with them, do you? Gosh, I hope not. There’s so much to explore about each other in so many different aspects of our personalities. The same is true for God. His Personality is so vast, we could never run out of things to appreciate about Him or to ask Him to reveal to us about Himself. There’s so much to learn about God we’ve not even conceived of yet that He wants to reveal to us. Yeshua wants to share His innermost thoughts with His bride.
But He must bring us to the place of being able to come into His presence so as to be able to hear His voice and to learn from Him beyond what we have known of Him thus far. He wants to change us and conform us to the image of Yeshua. The Lord wants to prepare us for the awesome privilege of being the Bride of Messiah. As we are in His presence, these changes take place deep within us. As we come into His presence we are changed from glory to glory, though we may not always be aware of the changes.
God told Abraham He Himself was his, “exceeding great reward.” (Gen 15:1) This reward is to be had in this life and in the ages to come for those of us who seek to follow the Lord. There can be no greater reward than the closeness of His presence. I believe the greatest adventure is immediately before us in these days closest yet to His return, as the Lord brings us to where He is our chief desire, and our great joy is just to be with Him. Isn’t that how every bride feels about her soon-to-be bridegroom? She just wants to be with him. We who are engaged to become Mrs. Lord-of-Lords-and-King-of-Kings will find ourselves being wooed by the Lord Himself to come into His presence in a newness most of us have not known before. It is for us to respond to His wooing. He will not obligate us to do so. Worship, it would seem, is the key to open that door.
Worship, however, is likely to be another one of those Jewish roots aspects that may challenge your Christian ideas of spirituality. The average Believer today is likely to think of worship as singing music, eyes closed, hands in the air, at least for those inclined toward Charismatic worship. At the least, worship usually has to do with music. Many churches call all of what takes place in church on Sunday mornings a “worship service.” I’m not speaking against these things by any means, as these have been wonderfully blessed and significant times in our lives. But it may surprise you to know that these are not what the Bible identifies as worship.
The first time worship is mentioned in the Tenach (Old Testament) is when Abraham was going to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice. “Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here….I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.’ ” (Gen 22:5) Somehow Abraham expected Isaac to return with him though he was willing to kill his son as an offering to God at His command. Did he believe in resurrection? We’re not sure about many aspects of that transaction between God and Abraham, but we do know that Abraham intended to worship before the Lord.
The worship Abraham was talking about is the Hebrew word “Shachah” in Hebrew. It means to prostrate oneself in order to pay homage to God; to bow oneself down or fall down flat on the ground in reverence; to make obeisance or humbly beseech. All throughout the Tenach this is the word consistently and exclusively used for worshipping God. In every instance where worship is mentioned, the worshippers would prostrate themselves in humility before God. It was not an opportunity for singing.
The New Covenant uses the Greek word proskuneo when speaking of worship, which means to prostrate oneself in homage, to do reverence to or adore. It carries the idea of to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand, the meaning being a kind of loving subservience. It can also mean to crouch. So as you can see, the Biblical meaning of worship introduces the idea of deep humility before the Lord, an awe and a reverence that brings us prostrate before Him.
That is not to say that singing to or about the Lord isn’t something God loves for us to do. He is obviously greatly pleased when our hearts are fully open to Him, singing our love songs to Him, or our anthems declaring His glory, His power and His holiness. Extolling the attributes of God are certainly wonderful ways to praise the Lord. So is dancing. I have had the sense of the Lord even dancing with us at times when we’re dancing in the spirit before Him. I know He loves it! There is also great power in song and dancing, and often spiritual warfare takes place at times. David sang: “Sing to the Lord a new song…Let Israel be glad in his Maker….Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations….” (Ps. 149:12,6,7) That sounds like spiritual warfare in song to me.
Singing to the Lord and dancing before Him can be a spontaneous expression of love for Him, such as “when Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians…Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted…. The Lord is my strength and song and He has become my salvation.’ ” (Ex 15:1,2) That’s what the men were singing. Then the ladies joined in the praise: “Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel (tambourine) in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. And Miriam answered them, “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted… the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Ex15:20-21)
King David’s and Asaph’s psalms bless us even today and no doubt bless the heart of God as well when we sing them to Him. David’s exhortation to “Sing to Him a new song” (Ps 33:3; 149:1) expresses what we feel what God blesses us anew. Exuberance is godly: “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord’ Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” (Ps. 95:1,2)
But the singing is only part of David’s relationship with God. There is no doubt that since David was a worshipper, that his times before God alone in the Tabernacle were spent on his face before God, in humble adoration. It is through positioning himself before the Lord in this posture of humility that he most likely received all those wonderful revelations of God that he then was able to put to music. How else could he possibly have learned what he knew about God except from God Himself?
The apostle Paul, as a Torah observant Hebrew, had a clear understanding of Shachah, of worship as a humbling of oneself in a prostrate position before God. Yet, he exhorts us to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” (Eph 5:18, 19) Heaven is even permeated with music and with the high praises of God. A fair amount of the dialog in The Revelation is sung. For instance, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy art Thou to take the book and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9. This verse, incidentally, is the foundation and the very essence of “one new man.”)
The Bible is filled with instances of songs, both Old and New Covenants, being sung unto the Lord. But again, this is not what the Bible calls worship. Worship (shachah) and praise are both godly ways to respond to God. We may have prostrated ourselves before the Lord at times when this posture seemed to be called for in His dealings with us. But it may not have been the way we may have generally presented ourselves before the Lord. It changes you to do so. For one thing, it makes one aware that we may have perhaps treated the Holy One a bit too casually. Intimacy is not the same as familiarity. We can be intimate with God in an awed and extremely respectful way so as to give Him the honor due Him. But being familiar allows for a certain casualness that is inappropriate when we’re talking about the HOLY One of Israel, the King of the universe.
In centuries past, except for times of severe persecution which always seems to bring Believers closer to the Lord, much of the church held Him in high regard but viewed Him often as distant and out of touch with our daily issues. But moves of the Spirit in the past 70 years have brought Yeshua “close” and “now” as opposed to “distant” and “one day.” As recent decades have unfolded, different revelations of the Lord have become evident, each one increasing our revelation of what it is to be His people. Sid’s recent guest, Larry Randolph, in his significant book, The Coming Shift outlines some of these recent revelations that have affected the church:
“There have been three major waves of renewal in the 20th century….In the 1960’s during the transition from Pentecostal Renewal to Charismatic Renewal, the Jesus movement came on the scene and reshaped the spiritual landscape of religion. The Holy Spirit was once again introduced to the church….
The Word of Faith movement also became popular in the early 1970s. This movement was a great counter-balance for the lack of Biblical foundations that plagued the previous movement…. Around that time, the Shepherding Movement greatly impacted believers around the world. This particular movement confronted the spirit of independence, which had infiltrated the church (bringing) a much needed emphasis on governmental authority and submission to church leadership…(then) experienced a rapid decline. By the mid 1970s the Deliverance Movement provided help for those oppressed by evil spirits…. (Then) the emphasis of many Bible teachers shifted from authority over evil spirits to other aspects of kingdom life….
Another spiritual phenomenon, known as the Kingdom Now Movement in the late 70s and early 80s, centered on the premise that God’s kingdom is happening now, not later. This was a theological shift that redirected our focus from experiencing God in the sweet-by-and-by, to experiencing heaven on earth today….In the early 1980s, the Spiritual Warfare Movement drew attention to a believer’s right to wage war against wicked spirits…that a believer’s struggle was not with mortal men but with principalities and powers in high places as stated in Eph. 6:12….
By the turn of the 1980s, the Apostolic and Prophetic Movements began to emerge…Also the gift of prophecy was reinstated as a core value in the body of Messiah… In the early 1990s, the Laughter Movement swept a number of countries with incredible force. New life was breathed into the lungs of weary Christians in the form of laughter, spiritual drunkenness and other manifestations. People were gloriously set free from their inhibitions and found fresh ways to express their hearts to God….By the turn of the new millennium, many began to transition into a more seeker-sensitive form of Christianity.”
So as you can see, with each of these new experiences for the church, there has been a revelation of Kingdom life, though often these movements either waned or became unbalanced and morphed into the next move to balance it out. What is evident, though, is that God is leading us continually on to higher ground.
It is true that one can prostrate their bodies but not their hearts before the Lord. In the same way, as Sid’s guest, Deborah Shambora (go here for Deborah’s TV interview and here for her radio interview), whose teachings were the inspiration for this article, points out, we can be humble with one another without being meek before the Lord. But if we are meek before the Lord, we are going to be humble with one another. Meekness is defined as ability under submission, or power under control, like a horse under a bit and bridle. When we are meek before the Lord, though we are well able to take matters into our own hands, we defer to the Lord, and respond only to His leading. This is what we are seeking when we come before the Lord in a position of submission and yieldedness. We want to ask Him to create in us true meekness, that we might be entirely obedient to Him.
Humbling ourselves before the Lord as we are discussing goes a long way to finding our true place before Him. The act of taking the position of obeisance and meekness before the Lord has the effect of putting things in their proper perspective. There is a certain sense of rightness to humbling ourselves before Him this way. We are not likely to be demanding or presumptuous in this prone position. Something about being in this position makes us more aware of God Himself. It’s a decision we make to take a lowly position, regarding Him as Sovereign Lord over our lives. When we bow before Him this way, we are acknowledging His authority in our lives. You could think about it as a holy body language that says, “You are my God; I am Yours,” You might even want to say that to Him.
Ask God to speak to you as to what it is that He would like you to do in your worship time each day. The focus is to let Him be Master. You want to develop such closeness and to become so used to hearing His voice speak to you as you draw near this way, that you will recognize His voice the second He gives you the least command. We are seeking a new level of awe and respect for God, to know the honor that is due Him. As we draw closer to God He will begin to share the secret things of His heart with you. As you call upon Him, as Jeremiah said, (33:3) “He will tell you great and mighty things which you did not know.”
Many people have experienced wonderful times of fellowship and even healing and deliverance while doing “carpet time,” laying on the floor before the Lord and focusing entirely on Him without saying a word. Times of “soaking” before the Lord while listening to praise and (what we call) worship music has directed our thoughts toward Him and allowed God to have His way in our hearts. In fact, many have experienced God doing a work in their hearts while they rested on the floor before the Lord that they’d been praying about for years. It’s not the floor, of course, but the attitude of the heart in prostrating oneself, or laying oneself out on the floor before the Lord in meekness that is a key to receiving from the Lord.
Be patient, though. It may take you a while to become comfortable with this way of worshipping the Lord. It may even take you time to get comfortable physically. Some are not physically able to be prostrate before Him, or on your knees, or even just sitting on the floor “at His feet,” as it were. This is not meant to be the only way you come before Him either. Do as you feel so led. The idea is not just what physical position you’re in but the attitude of your heart. And please do not read legalism into this. It’s not intended to be a “have to” or a “must.” In all things, at all times, maintain your freedom in Messiah. This is about approaching God in your heart in a new and deeper reverence than you may have before. It may also mean coming before Him in more freedom and joy than you have before. Because being confronted with a greater measure of His holiness makes one very aware that it is only by the Blood of Yeshua that we come, but through His blood we are fully accepted to come into His presence in worship.
Worship is about coming to know Him personally, intimately and in reverence. He IS Holy! It’s about the Lord, about what He wants, about what He wants to say to you, to us. Worship is about coming into His presence, as He may grant us that privilege, of being in the radiance of God’s glory, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power. (Heb 1:3)
I don’t think this is just a miscellaneous piece of Jewish-roots trivia. If the Lord is making us aware of this at this time, after it being hidden from most of us (though it was right there to be seen in Scripture all this time), what is He wanting to say to us? It would seem that as this aspect of our worship and therefore our relationship with Him may have had a significant missing piece, coming to this attitude of such honor for Him should impact first our personal times before the Lord. And then, if each of us is so impacted in approaching our precious Lord with a new sense of reverence so that we begin to come into a deeper experience of His Lordship and His holiness, how powerfully will that impact the whole Body? Perhaps this is a way the Lord is drawing us to Himself, that is: “He who ascended far above all the heavens…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” (Eph 4:10,13)
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.