There was a call to worship, then we sang about how we wanted to worship God, we sang songs about God in the 3rd person
how we’d raise our hands
how we’d raise our voices
what we feel about Him
what heaven would be like
and even what God feels about us
but we never quite got around to actually worshiping HIM.
The music was powerful and carried us on a wave of emotion, but when it was over, there was a cavernous emptiness, a void.
We had come to the outer courts, we had called others to come, we’d talked to God, told Him about our feelings and how we wanted to worship Him…
then we turned around and went home.
We never made it past the outer courts. We never entered the most holy place where we commune with God, face-to-face and in the first person.
Certainly there are examples in Scripture of these kinds of songs:
A call to worship
A proclamation of how we worship
A declaration of our love and adoration
A description of who God is
There is even a verse that says that God rejoices over us with singing. But every time you see these examples, paired with them is a clear and definitive example of actual worship directly to God.
You see, we can call people to worship and then talk about worship, but let’s look at what worship really is.
The etymology of the word worship is literally “worthy-ship”, meaning giving reverence to a divine being.
We can do this in a number of ways:
Music, song and dance
Proclamation, shout, strong expression of emotion
But when we look at scriptural examples of worship we see that actual worship was vertical, not horizontal.
It was always man extolling God, not God speaking to man (the Lord singing over us), not man speaking to man.
And this is where I think a lot of confusion has entered what we now term worship.
God speaking to man is not worship, but instruction.
Man speaking to man is encouragement and edification.
While I realize that some may think me nit-picky, I do believe it is actually important that we examine biblical worship and take great care to make sure that our congregational and personal times of worship resemble that.
I do believe it is vitally important what we sing in our congregational and personal times of worship.
If our times of worship are comprised mostly of us: what we feel, what we do, and 3rd person lyrics about God then our focus is off course.
I believe that words are extremely powerful. There is something deeply significant that happens in our heart when we move from singing, “He is holy” (a 3rd person, horizontal declaration, man speaking to man declaring who God is) to “You are holy” (a 1st person, vertical declaration of worship to God.)
Speaking about God in the 3rd person carries a level of significance, but there is a degree of separation present when we sing about Him in the 3rd person that is removed when we begin to sing to Him in the 1st person.
I find it fascinating that for years the church has been embroiled in debate over what style of music we should sing in the church.
We’re quick to toss out old songs
We tire easily of songs that have been “outsung”
We focus more on what’s new and popular
We complain the music is too loud
We grumble about the drums and electric guitar
We think every new worship song sounds like U2
The style of music has taken on greater importance.
But what I find lacking in most conversations is what the lyrics are saying.
Shouldn’t the words carry importance in the conversation? In fact, shouldn’t they carry even greater importance? Because the words, not the music, determine if we’ve ever really moved past the outer courts and into the holy place.
What happens inside when we truly worship God, when we sing directly to Him about who He is and what He’s done, is deep intimacy that changes us.
We look upon Him in all His holiness and glory that exposes our own human condition.
We cannot look at His holiness in this way and walk away unchanged.
The calls to worship, the declarations of our love for Him, the songs that declare that we will worship, lift our hands and bow down before Him, and even the songs about who God is in the 3rd person are good songs and we need to sing those songs.
But let us not forget to truly enter into His presence and worship Him, sing to Him, and look upon Him in all His holiness and glory.
Let us not neglect intimacy in worship.
Because this is truly worship.