Why We Should WorshipBy Nathan Mates
February 27, 2000
Worship is something that many seem to know by exposure to it-- they see others praising God, such as their Church's music team. Put simply, worship is the act of giving praise and thanks to God for what he's done, doing, or about to do; it can be public or private. However, few people participate in worship much beyond singing occasionally along with their Church; it's an "only during the Church service" activity for them.
It is unfortunate that so many people neglect to worship God much, because that's what we were called to do. When Moses had just been called out of his 40-year occupation tending sheep, look at what God tells him to do: "The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, "Let my son go, so he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'"" [Exodus 4:21-23]
God was calling Moses to lead his people, Israel, out of slavery in Egypt, and God's reason for doing so is clear: "so he may worship me" [Exodus 4:22a] God could have told Pharaoh "Let my people go, because living in slavery stinks," or "because you're a rotten leader," or "because I already promised land elsewhere to Abraham," or "because they're to be an independent nation and not under your rule." But, the Bible clearly says above that in God's first direct words that Moses is to say to Pharaoh is that worship is first on God's mind. In subsequent conversations with Pharaoh, Moses keeps repeating the call to worship many times-- see Exodus 7:16, 8:1,20, 9:1,13, 10:3,7,8,11,24,26 and 12:31.
Why is worship so important to God that he'd call out the Israelites for that purpose? Going back to the definition of worship, it's giving thanks to God for what he's done. The Israelites will be able to properly give thanks to God after God's work in their lives-- pulling them out of slavery, and making them a nation-- has been displayed.
In fact, God made worship part of the second commandment: ""You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." [Exodus 20:4-6] God wants to be worshiped, and wants our undivided worship as well.
These days, we may not relate well to being freed from slavery under Pharaoh. However, there's a different kind of slavery people are called out of: "Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." [John 8:34-36] Jesus calls all who are unsaved 'slaves to sin', but those who believe in him are freed from that, just like the Israelites were freed. I don't believe God's motivation for freeing people from slavery-- so that they may worship him-- has changed either.
The next reason why we should be worshiping God is that God can and does great things for his people while they worship him. The book of Acts notes several passages on this: "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." [Acts 13:2-3] What is this work Barnabas and Saul were called to? Some of the first great missionary journeys of the Bible-- this Saul is the Apostle Paul. Their call came in the midst of the prayer, fasting and worship of God, and I don't think that's unrelated.
Later on in Acts, we see that Paul didn't stop worshiping God simply because he was a missionary, or even a missionary in jail: "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose." [Acts 16:25-26] This wasn't an ordinary earthquake; those rarely also pick the locks holding prisoners in. Why did such an earthquake happen? Paul and Silas's worship started another amazing evangelistic opportunity: "The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."" [Acts 16:29-31]
Even in the Old Testament, there are examples of God doing the fighting for us as well-- 2 Chronicles chapter 20 is a great picture of that. King Jehoshaphat of Judah was facing an invasion of "Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites" [2 Chronicles 20:1] -- a vast army of them. Judah, the nation split off from the Kingdom of Israel, but with Jerusalem as its capital and a descendant of David on the throne, was facing extinction. There was no way they could have fought off all these -ites on their own strength.
Some leaders facing a similar situation would offer up a prayer like this: "God, we need stealth bombers, cruise missiles, and a guy named Rambo in charge of our army." Such prayers come to God with your proposed solution to a problem, and you tell God how you want things resolved. However, Jehoshaphat took a different approach in talking to God: "he proclaimed a fast for all Judah," [2 Chronicles 20:3b], and called on God with a public prayer that ends with this: " For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." [2 Chronicles 20:12b; this prayer is in verses 6-12]
Jehoshaphat came to God in humility, instead of with a 'shopping list' prayer full of demands. And he was rewarded for that with this message from God: "He said: "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." [2 Chronicles 20:15] This was just a public reminder of one important fact: God's in control of everything. Whether we acknowledge it or not, God works all things for the good of those who love him [Romans 8:28]. God controls every event that goes on. And yet in our frailty, we sometimes forget that fact and lose hope. So, God's reminder in verse 15 is to keep up the hope.
After all of this, God's power was displayed: "After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever."" [2 Chronicles 20:21] God's people chose to worship, putting the worshipers out at the front of the army. This is stupid by man's rules, but God had already promised that he was in control here. So, giving praise to God is the best way to go.
Once the worship began, God moved: "As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated." [2 Chronicles 20:22] There is an explicit connection here between the beginning to praise and worship God, and God making their enemies kill each other. God threw their enemies into confusion, and they managed to completely wipe each other out, instead of the Israelites.
Even after the fighting was done, the worship didn't end: "When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value--more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the LORD. This is why it is called the Valley of Beracah to this day." [2 Chronicles 20:24-26]
God's people didn't stop worshiping God once one battle was over; they continued on. So should our response be as well: we keep praising God for every victory in our life he's won for us, including such big ones as conquering the power of sin and death in our life.
Finally, one last reason we should continue to worship God is that it's practice for what we'll be doing in Heaven anyways. John talks about this in his vision of Heaven: "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" [Revelation 5:13] Every single creature that existed was giving God the glory during worship. All believers can look forward to being in that crowd, whether they've come to Christ at 5 years old or 105 years old. But, why would one want to miss out on the experience here and now?