By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. Hebrews 11:21
When God asked Abraham to give his son as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, he complied without questioning God as to why he asked this most unusual thing, especially when the boy had been a gift from God when they were childless. As Abraham approached Moriah, he turned to the men accompanying him and said, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5).
Notice he said, “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham’s reference to worship is the first mention of that word in the Bible, though certainly it is not the first time man worshiped God. But here’s the question. Who taught Abraham to worship? Or who taught Adam to worship, and what did these men who worshiped do? The circumstances cry out that worship was their response to God, not something which He taught them to do. It was something intrinsic, something spontaneous, an instinct which came naturally. It was part of the DNA of the soul, and just as a suckling newborn nurses at the breast of his mother, so, it seems, the heart of man strives to reach out to God to re-establish spiritual wholeness and health through worship.
A. W. Tozer once asked, “Why did Christ come? Why was He conceived? Why was He born? Why was He crucified? Why did He rise again? Why is He now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, ‘In order that He might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that He might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.” (A. W. Tozer, “Worship: the missing jewel,” Herald of His Coming, May, 2001, p. 5).
What can we learn from Abraham and history itself? More than you might think. First, the Hebrew word that Moses used, telling us that Abraham worshiped, was a word which means to bow, to stoop or bend, to kneel, to prostrate yourself before someone. The word was used not only of God, but described what a person did when he bowed before a king. Ancient manuscripts tell how someone would kiss the feet of a king or the hem of his garment. Both Persians and Greeks did this, thereby acknowledging that the authority of the one before whom they bowed came from God.
It always included the posture of humility. In Roman days it included the practice of kissing the hand of the one you worship, something still observed in some cultures.
When he was an old man and could not kneel, Jacob “when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21).
The Bible tells of men who worshiped stones and pagan gods and idols carved of stone and wood. It uses the same word for those who worshiped Satan. It was used of those who bowed before Jesus Christ and worshiped Him, not only when He was an infant in the manger of Bethlehem, but in His ministry as men and women prostrated themselves before Him in worship.
I, for one, believe that we need to rediscover what worship is about–far more than singing a few songs, listening to announcements which remind us of commercials, and hearing a thirty-minute message which often keeps our attention for only a few minutes before our thoughts begin to stray.
There is value in worship which we need to rediscover, and in learning to worship we absorb the resources of God’s grace and blessing.
Resource reading: Romans 1:1-21
- Hebrews 11:21
- Genesis 22:5