Biblical Expressions of Worship

Hey! So I’m gonna write about something that some Christians find awkward to discuss, because I’m never afraid of being awkward. People have such widely varied opinions and preferences on worship styles, and that’s fine! But I just want to talk about them a bit because I think too often we let our worship be dictated by what we’re used to, or what everybody else around us is doing, or other factors besides our passion for God. And here’s rule #1 of worship:

It’s not about you. You have to let go of your self-consciousness, tune everyone else out, and just worship God! If you were to stand near me at Sanctuary, you would never guess that I’ve had 5 years of voice lessons and a performance-quality voice because it sure as heck doesn’t sound like it — I sing/shout till I’m hoarse, and my only volume option is “loud”. Because I’m not performing — I’m worshiping!

When Pastor Steve talked about this a few weeks ago, he mentioned the story of the Samaritan woman. She was asking Jesus about where the “right” place to worship was — where the Samaritans worshiped, or where the Jews worshiped? Jesus answered that neither was “right”, because God was just seeking people to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It’s not about tradition or culture or expectation, and it’s not always dignified — it’s a natural outpouring of love in response to God, and a very personal expression of devotion. And so it makes sense that in most examples of worship in the Bible, people are letting go of propriety and releasing their emotions in passionate worship to God. So once you get it in your head that worship shouldn’t be defined by what is proper or socially acceptable, let’s start looking at some biblical examples of worship.

Raising hands. There’s nothing wrong with raising hands to God in worship! It’s awesome symbolism both for surrender and for reaching out to God, and sometimes you just can’t help but throw up your hands in a glorious exclamation of freedom! Plus, it’s totally biblical! Psalm 63:4 talks about lifting up hands in God’s name as an expression of praise. 1st Timothy 2:8 talks about lifting hands in petition to God.

Clapping hands. Psalm 47:1 — “Clap your hands, all you nations!” Why not?! We applaud everything else to show appreciation; why not show just as much — or more — to God?

Kneeling. “Let us bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). Sometimes, overwhelmed by the holiness of God, there’s not much else to do but fall on our knees in His presence. Again in Revelation we see the elders falling before God in worship. Kneeling is an expression of worship and surrender just as much as raising hands or singing!

Singing. God sings over us (Zephaniah 3:17), so why shouldn’t we sing to God? He gave us a voice with which to praise Him! Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). Sing praises to God (Psalm 47:6). Sing of His strength and His great love and His justice (Psalm 59:16, 89:1, 101:1).

Shouting. If you think you can’t sing, I know you can shout — and God loves it just as much! Psalm 100:1 and Psalm 95:1 encourage us to shout out loud for joy. When God has changed, has saved, your life, how can you not explode with amazement and gratitude? At worship tonight as we sang the words, “Oh, praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!” an awesome shout of uncontainable excitement rose from every pair of lungs in the place. It was joyful, it was beautiful, and it too was biblical! In Revelation we get to see a glimpse of the glorious party in heaven and the roar of a great multitude shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” (Revelation 19:1). It’s not a timid whisper. There’s no subdued “inside voice.” It’s an explosive joyful noise to God!

Dancing. Psalm 149:3 — “Praise His name with dancing!” David obviously believed what he wrote because that’s exactly what he did! 2nd Samuel 6 tells the story of David “leaping and dancing before the Lord” (oh and look, shouting as well!) for joy when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Jerusalem. David’s wife was embarrassed by him and upset by the spectacle, but David was focused on more important things: “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes… [but] it was for the Lord, and I will celebrate before Him.”

And sometimes, I just can’t help but celebrate as well. : )

The Psalms are rich with expressions of worship, and definitely check out Revelation as well! After all, why wouldn’t we want to imitate a little bit of heaven on earth? I challenge you not to settle on “traditional” worship, whatever that is for you — whether it’s conservative church of Christ or Pentecostal, search Scripture and explore the heart of God, and above all else, whatever physical expression of worship you choose, always worship Him in spirit and truth!

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