“For you shall not worship any other god, for YHWH, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” Exodus 34:14
Worship – In order to avoid idolatry, we must know what it means to worship. This might seem like a fairly simple thing, but we soon discover that it isn’t. One problem is our rationality paradigm. In this Greek-based culture, the question of idolatry has been limited to the proper object of worship. We think that as long as we are worshipping the one true God rather than some false god we are worshipping properly. We think that as long as we are worshipping the one true God it no longer matters how we worship. We are free to express our religious devotion to God by whatever means we wish, just as long as the object of our worship is the right God.
But this fixation on the philosophical issue of the correct God bypasses another Hebrew concern. From an Hebraic perspective, no worship is proper worship unless it is in accordance with God’s instructions for worshipping Him. And His revelation is the only way we can know what proper worship is. In other words, we are not free to make up any approach we wish to worship. We must worship as He specifies. Anything else, even if is directed toward the one true God, is still idolatry. In Hebrew, it is not simply the object of worship. It is also the method of worship.
The Hebrew verb, shachah, means “to bow down, to prostrate oneself.” It is universally regarded as a sign of worship. But I don’t recall ever being in a church service where the congregation was prostrate on the floor. We rarely even bend the knees. Why? No modern believer intends to be idolatrous. But almost all modern believers have accommodated themselves to the Greek-based rationality paradigm. Without realizing it, they have drifted toward a cognitive and intellectual view of idolatry. They don’t pay any attention to the method of worship that God reveals to His people because, as far as they are concerned, they are worshipping the correct God. So, as you attend one church after another, you will find a wide variety of worship expressions. You will discover that worship as we know it is the invention of human minds. From choreographed stage performance to well-crafted sermons, from stirring anthems to rocked-out decibels, today’s worship format is the product of centuries of tradition and innovation. But it barely resembles the instructions given by the God who is worshipped. Have you ever wondered why?
Because we accept the philosophical approach to the question of God, we no longer consider the fundamental concern, “What does God demand of me?” when it comes to worship. But worship isn’t for us. It is for God. How can we worship Him if we are the ones making up the program? Do we make up the commandments and instructions in the rest of our lives? Don’t you suppose that God intended us to follow His directions in honoring Him too?
Topical Index: worship, shachah, bow down, Exodus 34:14