Israel’s Old Testament Worship


Part 2 of 6 –

In the Old Testament the word “worship” is used over 60 times, using the most common Hebrew word for worship as seen here. Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Worship here is the Hebrew word “shachah.” This Hebrew word is the similar to the New Testament Greek word “proskuneo,” meaning “to prostrate,” but with an added description as seen here below according to Strong’s Concordance.

“Worship,” Hebrew 7812, Strong’s, shachah, shaw-khaw'; a primitive root; to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive in homage to royalty or God)…

Notice that “worship” of the sort defined here above in Strong’s is especially REFLEXIVE,” that is its not planned or premeditated worship. After all a “reflex” is a spontaneous reaction to something. True worship as a reflex is then is an impulsive, spontaneous, automatic, genuine heart response to God.

By example; my reflexive response to seeing the many powerful life-changing truths of the Pauline “gospel of the grace of God” is to love the Lord all the more, wanting to serve Him. I dare say that I do not know exactly what my reflexive response will be in that day when I see Him face to face, but this I do know; I am sure my reflexive response on that day will be genuine.

In the Old Testament we have many accounts of Israel ’s external worship in ceremonies and rites under “the Law.” They sometimes included a prostrated bodily position, singing, lifted hands, instrument, dancing, etc. Yet, we see none of this or any form of “congregational worship” encouraged in Paul’s epistles to the mainly Gentile “body of Christ.” (Note: “Lifted hands” as seen in 1Tim 2:8 is a matter of an individual’s own personal consecration in prayer (see v1), not “congregational worship.”).

Paul’s emphasis was always upon the speaking ministries given to the church, which builds up (edify) the believers… by encouraging, teaching, and preaching.

Ephesians 4:11 (AMP) And His gifts were [varied; He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers and expounders), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (AMP) Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing.

Each of the functions noted in these verses above relate to speaking the proper exposition of the Bible’s truths of Paul’s gospel that applies to us today under “the dispensation of the grace of God.” Proper knowledge of the truths of God is what has always been lacking among God’s people and, to me, it seems the dearth of proper Biblical exposition and understanding today is most dangerous. In most all Paul’s prayers, as seen in his epistles, were for the believers to gain experiential knowledge, understanding, enlightenment, and revelation (e.g., Eph 1:17-18). This is why our gatherings of believers today should not be centered upon so-called congregational worship, but rather the proper, spirit empowered, “rightly divided” (2Tim 2:15) exposition of the Bible’s truths. There seems to be no place in Paul’s epistles for Old Testament style outward congregational worship, and clearly Paul speaks against tradition, philosophy, ritual, and the presentation of men’s ideas (Col 2:8).

Paul’s one favorable reference translated “worship” is enlightening. Philip. 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which WORSHIP (Gk. latreuo, serve) GOD IN THE SPIRIT, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Here, Paul tells us the source of true worship. Paul says worship of God is to properly be “in spirit,” where the believer is in union with the Lord’s resurrected “Spirit of life” as “one spirit” (1Cor 6:17). True worship is innermost and may be invisible to the eye. Thus, genuine worship may be conducted with or without any audible words being spoken, and unrelated to bodily prostration, lifted hands, singing, music, etc.

I am not opposed to the outward expressions of genuine reflexive worship. Sometimes, I find myself with lifted hands, reflexively, as I sing along with some Gaither music or as I am moved to offer thanksgiving to the Lord, thanking Him for so much; for His faithfulness, His grace, His consistency, His genuine love, His hand in my life, etc. Again though, true reflexive worship may or may not include singing, lifted hands, dance, clapping, or other outward expressions…it springs from within and may be entirely inward.

There is so much misunderstanding about worship among believers today. I recall that when I was a so-called charismatic believer we were encouraged to outwardly worship based upon Psalms 22:3.But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel .” The charismatic leaders told us worship was needed in order to bring God’s presence into the meeting. This of course is pure folly. This is typical of the misuse of Scripture whereby many erroneously assign what is spoken to Israel to “the body of Christ – the true church” today (Eph 1:22b-23a). In the Old Testament “the Spirit of God” came upon holy men of old – He did not indwell them and stay as He does today. This is why David prayed “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11).

But today, under the Pauline “mystery” (musterion, secret) gospel of “Christ in you” ( Col 1:27) things have changed. Now the LORD INHABITS US, individually. He indwells each believer’s human spirit as any father’s DNA indwells their individually birthed offspring. If the Lord doesn’t indwell us, then we are “none of his” (Rom 8:9-10). Thus, the presence of the Lord in our meetings occurs only because each believer who walked into the meeting room carried the Lord’s Spirit with them when they entered the doorway. He forever indwells our human spirit (1Cor 6:17). We do not have to earn or work-up His presence. Forced external prayer and external worship are purely false.

Surely, we recognize that oftentimes the outward acts of worship, which most people call worship, is not necessarily a genuine bowing, submission or thankfulness of their hearts as reflexive response to Him. Today, the only acceptable service or worship is for us to live in accord with the spirit union we have with Him. The core of genuine worship is that of an attitude of heart and that springs reflexively or spontaneously from our “spirit.” To be “in the spirit,” as Paul instructs us, is for us as a soul (our mind, emotion, and will) to be yielded to Christ’s “Spirit of life” within our spirit. When we live and walk in accord with Him, trusting Him… this is worship.

Thus, there can be true worship both with and without any visible outward indication of worship as we carry our genuine reverence and reflexive love for our Lord in our hearts, moment by moment in our daily walk. 1Samuel 16:7b the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.