Worship: Our ultimate purpose
Worship is mentioned a lot in scripture. It is something that we are expected to do as Christians, but there are many events around us that are branded as worship and there is a general misunderstanding about what worship of God actually is. This begins a study on worship looking at how mankind was created to worship God, why mankind has created many ‘gods’ to worship and why it is the ultimate purpose of mankind in God’s plan to return to worshipping Him.
Worship is our ultimate purpose
“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto Jehovah, and all the families of the nations shall worship before thee, For the kingdom is Jehovah's, and he ruleth among the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28).
“In the beginning” … The creation and the Fall: It’s effect on worship
When considering the subject of worship we are really considering the purpose of human life. In the beginning God created man in a perfect world where he could enjoy the bountiful provision of God and be at liberty to worship freely in His presence. Man had eternal life according to the definition that the Lord gave in John 17:3 “this is the eternal life, that they should know thee the one true God …”. Man knew God and God walked in the garden with Him. Man’s spirit was completely in tune with God his creator and as such God could enjoy walking in the garden with man. God enjoyed creating a helpmate for him in making Eve. Man and his wife enjoyed life and worshipped God. This was the purpose for which man was created.
Then came ‘the Fall’. Man and his wife sinned and hid themselves. Suddenly they had lost their purpose. They became more concerned with their outward, physical state in which they had been perfectly happy before. They tried to cover it with leaves sewn together and they hid from God. Man had never felt a need to hide from the presence of God before but now the idea of being in God’s presence filled him and his wife with fear and terror. He belived now that the way God had made him was not good enough anymore. He did his best to cover up his condition which he now knew and to make himself suitable for God’s presence but it was no use. Today many try the same thing and seek to cover up the inadequacies of their outward condition through many good works but it is as useful as Adam’s garments of leaves before God. It hides nothing from the one who can see into hearts. “For man looketh upon the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh upon the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
When man sinned he ceased to know God. This is obvious by the way that he tried to cover up his sin and fleshly condition of nakedness, the way that he passed the blame to his wife and she to the serpent. He could not see that God knew everything and that He was personally responsible for breaking God’s commandment. Paul makes clear that it was “even as by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death; and thus death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). So mankind has lost their purpose in life and beyond trying to achieve short term goals like marriage, travelling, earning money, etc, most people have no idea what their ultimate greater purpose is in life and some even deny any greater purpose at all.
Our purpose for existence
Mankind has never ceased to worship. In the absence of worship for God they have tried to satisfy their desire for worship by worshipping other things. Hence we so often find in the Bible that God is condemning the worship of false gods. Idolatry is when we worship the created thing rather than the creator. Thus, people have worshipped the sun, the moon, trees, animals and even wood, stone and gold. Some of the prophets have had to contend with this practice, often at the risk of their own lives:
“Because they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in my sight, and my statutes and mine ordinances, as David his father” (1 Kings 11:33).
“Ashamed be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols. Worship him, all ye gods” (Psalm 97:7). Here the psalmist says that any god would have to worship the one true God (even if they were able to do so being made of stone, wood and metal).
God had to give a commandment concerning this because He knew the natural tendency of mankind to worship and that, in his sinful state, he would worship anything, but God. “There shall no strange god be in thee, neither shalt thou worship any foreign god” (Psalm 81:9).
The prophet Isaiah even, almost incredulously, can only point out the stupidity of those who make idols of created things. He gave the example of man who chopped down a tree “And it shall be for a man to burn, and he taketh thereof, and warmeth himself; he kindleth it also, and baketh bread; he maketh also a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. … And with the remainder thereof he maketh a god, his graven image; he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god” (Isaiah 44:15&17).
They do the same thing with gold and precious metals: “They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance; they hire a goldsmith, and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship” (Isaiah 46:6).
They would even worship created beings such as angels and men: “Let no one fraudulently deprive you of your prize, doing his own will in humility and worship of angels, entering into things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh … (which have indeed an appearance of wisdom in voluntary worship, and humility, and harsh treatment of the body, not in a certain honour,) to the satisfaction of the flesh” (Colossians 2:18&23). So too we will worship anything supernatural, even angels, but when John did this in Revelation he was corrected. “And I, John, was he who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to do homage before the feet of the angel who shewed me these things. And he says to me, See thou do it not. I am thy fellow-bondman, and the fellow-bondman of thy brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Do homage to God” (Revelation 22:8-9). We can worship, but not the right thing. We can give good appearances on the outside and yet not be worshipping God in our hearts.
Our desire is to worship something. There are many people, even in some branches of Christendom, who still worship statues and gaze adoringly on the creations of men, physical idols are not the only things people worship. People worship jobs, family, celebrities, money and even their own bodies. The Lord addresses some of these when He speaks about the fallacy of putting any of these before God in their priorities (see Luke 9:62, Luke 14:26 and Matthew 6:24).
So it is possible for someone to worship without God. They can be consumed in heartfelt, real and true worship for something other than God. Thus, mankind is doomed to worship, for that is his purpose, anything but God. Even in the house of God man is capable of worshipping something else, as Ezekiel found “And he brought me into the inner court of Jehovah's house, and behold, at the entry of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Jehovah and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east” (Ezekiel 8:16).
However, when the Lord touches a heart and it falls down before Him in repentance, suddenly that heart finds a new object for its affections, the Lord Jesus Himself. The Holy Spirit enters this new believer in Christ and for the first time they begin to worship God. They gaze on the cross and see the value of the blood of Christ and they are filled with a sense of awe at the greatness of the sacrifice that has saved them from judgement. This is God’s desire in saving us, that we might be worshippers:
“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship. Jesus says to her, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when ye shall neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we worship what we know, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for also the Father seeks such as his worshippers. God is a spirit; and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:20-24).
The Father seeks worshippers and not just any type of worshipper but those who worship in spirit and in truth. God does not seek people who worship in words but in spirit. There were many times when God had to say that Israel was honouring Him with their lips and not with their hearts (see Isaiah 29:30). It is easy for someone to say the right words when required, to sing some hymns and to be uplifted by some Christian speaker without ever having begun to worship in spirit. Our worship has to be heartfelt and with every aspect of our being.
Why does the Lord say “in spirit and truth”? There are many today who experience heartfelt worship. They are worshipping their idol in spirit and it is very real to them. However, it is not worship “in truth”. Some are engaged in so-called ‘Christian worship’ which is directed to God in name but is not real and true, i.e. it is not according to God but according to what seems good to man. We must worship God “in truth”. This means that we have removed all our idols that consume our heart, mind and time so that God is the only object that, not only we love, but that over-ridingly consumes us. The Lord was the supreme example of a worshipful life. His whole life was lived in adoration for His God and Father. There was nothing that He did without the Father’s direction and He was in constant communication with His Father. It was the will of His Father that consumed His life. “For I am come down from heaven, not that I should do my will, but the will of him that has sent me” (John 6:36). That was life of real all-consuming worship even to glorifying God in His death “But he said this signifying by what death he should glorify God” (John 21:19).
The woman that the Lord was speaking to in John 4 raised a major problem that still exists today. She referred to the fact that the Samaritans would not go to Jerusalem to worship as they should have done according the scriptures. They had their own place to worship God in the mountain. The Lord Jesus responded by telling her that the Samaritans didn’t know what they worshipped whereas the Jews did (though they didn’t worship God ‘in truth’ but with a false idea of their acceptableness before God). This is very true today. There are many who claim to worship God but it is not “according to God”. If we are to worship God, then it is only He who has the right to say how He is to be worshipped.
People might claim that God will accept all kinds of worship but the lesson of Nadab and Abihu should show us that this is not true. They offered ‘strange fire’ before Jehovah and a fire went out from the presence of God and consumed them (see Leviticus 10). Likewise, Cain spent his whole life and energy seeking to bring something to the sacrifice for God. We can understand his crestfallen face when God did not consider his offering. We might say that it wasn’t fair, but Cain had spent his energy and effort on something that would not please God. It doesn’t matter how much energy we put into doing something that we think will please God. If it is not according to the way God has set out in the scriptures for how we are to worship Him, then it is worthless. It was said of some “but in vain do they worship me, teaching as teachings commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7).
Worship can only be through the Holy Spirit. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and do not trust in flesh” (Philippians 3:3). It is He that causes us to worship. It is He that conveys that worship to the Father. If the Holy Spirit has not been allowed to control us completely then we won’t be able to worship fully. Our whole life is to one of worship. Therefore, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct and fill every part of it.
Our purpose is to worship. It should be a continual attitude of our lives. Our death is but an event through which we must pass but we will joyfully worship God just as much there as we are to do so here on earth. The life of a Christian is to one that is consumed by the worship of God that will govern every part of our lives.