Written by Britteny Ling
Territorial Just Brass Consultant
A great friend of mine often talks about the music in Sunday services. “The music isn’t worship,” he says matter-of-factly. My initial reaction is that I feel paralyzed by the notion that what I do maybe isn’t worship. As a musician, how do I take this? If the music isn’t worship, what is? What does the Bible say worship is?
I am not the first to write about this subject. I find it a remarkable thing to truly understand the word worship; where it appears in the Bible, and how knowing this information has transformed my own attitude in all aspects of service.
I pose a question: Where do we get the modern idea of worship? When you read the word, what comes to mind? Hold on to that thought for a second. The Hebrew word for worship is shachah and depending on the context, it is translated into English as worship or bow down. Here are a couple examples from scripture:
He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship [shachah] and then we will come back to you.”
Then Abraham rose and bowed down [shachah] before the people of the land, the Hittites.
The problem lies in that our own language prevents us from seeing the two definitions as one and the same. The English translations have made a separation between worship of a person and worship of God. However, this isn’t quite right because the meaning of the original word has not changed. As it turns out, my friend was correct. The music itself isn’t worship. My spiritual posture is everything.
Think about it for a moment. What are you doing when you bow down with your face to the ground? It’s a vulnerable position. It indicates a few specific things:
You are in control of this situation.
I have no power here.
My life is Yours.
This is what the word shachah tells us; God is in control, and we give ourselves as an offering to Him.
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “If music isn’t worship, what’s the point?”
The Bible gives us several perfect examples of acts of worship, and they also appear as worship and praise throughout scripture (in English).
To praise, celebrate, boast, or rave.
Another way to think of this is “crazy, exuberant praise.” I’ve experienced many Salvationist worshippers who do this very well. When there is an abundance of joy through the Holy Spirit, how can we possibly stay quiet about our good God?
Such a simple physical act, yet an obvious one. Again, it is a posture of surrender and reverence. In The Salvation Army, we have a dedicated place for it in our services at the mercy seat. It doesn’t need to be left to an altar call or special moment in the service; we can kneel in worship.
To twist, to leap, to dance, to twirl.
This is not just a casual swaying but rather vigorous movement! I was fortunate to visit South Africa and Zambia a few years ago and if you need a lesson in “makal,” that is where to get it. No one there is afraid or shy about dancing in worship!
Give a sacrifice of praise.
You can find more information about this word at this link:
Hebrews 13:15 commands us, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
Think about Paul and Silas (Acts 16:23-25) who praised God and sang hymns after being beaten and imprisoned. In trying times, it takes a personal sacrifice to still praise God; a determined act to bow down even though we don’t understand the suffering.
To play an instrument.
Finally, the timbrellists and all other instrumentalists are mentioned specifically. When we play for God, we are enacting our praise. We must always continue to do so.
To strike, to smite, or clap your hands.
In other words, make noise! Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” I, for one, am positive that clapping on the offbeats is being described here as well.
Praise, song or hymn of praise; to sing a new song.
This is a very interesting word because it also stems from “halal,” which I’ve already mentioned wasn’t typically a quiet act. We are commanded to sing and to write new songs to the Lord, and to do it joyfully, boasting not about ourselves, but of the glory of God.
Cast, show, or point with the hand; lifting up one’s hands.
When you’re in an attitude of worship, whether in prayer or song, we lift our hands in adoration. If you’ve ever felt restricted from raising your hands in worship, take this as your permission to let that fear go!
Soothe, boast, pronounce happy, announce with a loud voice.
This worship act makes me think back to a corps sergeant major I had while growing up.
Their announcements were never boring or half-hearted. This man truly had an attitude of worship as he announced everything from SAGALA camps, to fundraising, weddings, birthdays, and even young people receiving their driver’s licenses. He believed everything could be attributed to God’s glory and the announcements were an opportunity to boast about it and provided a way to get the corps excited about the ministry opportunities that week.
If after reading all of this, you are still wondering about your own worship, remember the word shachah. Bow down. Do it. Bow down, physically. Bow down your heart. Put everything you are at God’s feet. This is what shachah/worship means - to give up oneself. By taking this simple step before performing anything else, you are at the heart of worship. Then, when you enact your worship and praise through zamar, tehillah, barach or anything else, know that God will receive all the glory and honour. And that, my friends, is everything.