By faith, Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff. Hebrews 11:21
Worshipped - Jacob certainly wasn’t Jimmy Hendrix, but you would be on the right track if you thought of this word with the lyrics “kiss the sky.” Proskuneo literally describes throwing a kiss toward someone adored. You can imagine standing next to the road as the king passes by in his golden chariot. Flowers and kisses are thrown in his path to demonstrate affection – and obedience. If you come from Italian or Greek or many other cultural backgrounds, greetings are often accompanied by kisses on the cheeks. But worship is more than affectionate salutation. It is the sign of surrender, of prostration before a sovereign ruler, and of humility.
Don’t imagine that worship is repeated choruses or hands held upward or vocalized praises. Worship, at least as far as proskuneo is concerned, is face-to-the-floor homage in utter abandonment of one’s own desires. Jacob worshipped leaning on his staff, a translation that comes from the Greek Old Testament of Genesis 47:31 (through a mistaken reading of the Hebrew mattehu, meaning “bed”). Jacob is on his deathbed but he knows enough to turn his face toward the ground and submit to his God.
Notice that the author says that Jacob worshipped by faith. So must we. We do not live in the full reality of the Kingdom. Therefore, we submit, bow and serve looking toward the time when the Kingdom will become the only visible reality. Worship today is based on hope, just as it was in the days of Jacob. Worship is our prostrated declaration that God will prevail, that His justice will come, that His kingdom will reign and that His Son will return. We worship because we trust that His word is true and all that He says will come to be.
Jacob never saw the full reality promised by the God he served. So far, neither have you or I. But that does not lessen any part of the promise. Quite the opposite. Christ’s delay strengthens my worship because He gives me opportunity to prepare, to confess, to repent, to transform and to redeem this world for His purposes. I used to think that accepting Jesus as my Savior should be quite enough. I wanted to be instantly whisked away to heaven. Now I know better. Worship begins in the valley of the promise. That’s where kissing the ground beneath His feet matters most.