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Worship that pleases God


Etim Ekong

Studies have shown that the term ‘worship’ and its derivatives occur 112 times, as the translation of six Hebrew and Aramaic verb forms (RSV). The most important of these is the Hebrew ‘hishtahªweh,’ which means to prostrate oneself. It occurs 86 times. The Hebrew word expresses the act and the attitude appropriate to the worship of a sovereign deity, whose exclusive claim upon Israel is a central Old Testament theme.

The remaining terms are: ābhadh, which means to serve; yārē, ‘to fear’ (Joshua 22:25); slārath ‘to minister or do service,’ (Ezekiel 20:32) and the Aramaic seghagh ‘to pay homage to’ (Dan. 3). Numerous additional terms are employed to describe the acts and attitudes of worship, prominent among which are those referring to praise, rejoicing, prayer, sacrifice, making and payment of vows, etc.

With the appearance of God to Moses and the subsequent deliverance of the slaves from Egypt, the foundation of Israelite worship is laid. He is a jealous God, Who brooks no rivals. He will not permit any representation of Himself to be fashioned, nor may His Name be used in conjuring or other forms of magic (Exodus 20:3-7). To please Him, such worship must depend upon an understanding of His nature and purpose.


The words most commonly translated ‘worship’ in New Testament are Proskuneō (‘to prostrate oneself before the deity or a ruler’), sebomai (‘to show reverence or respect’), and latreuō (‘to serve or carry out religious duties’). It is evident that Christian worship arose out of Jewish practices at both synagogue and Temple. Equally evident is the fact that early Christian worship was fixed upon God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. The Jewish Sabbath is quickly replaced in Christian worship by the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2, Act 20:7), the Lord’s Day (Rev.1: 10).

The Lord’s Day is the occasion for celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, His resurrection having occurred on the first day of the week (Mark 16:2). New Testament statements concerning the content of early Christian worship are found in Act 2:42; 46-47 and Col. 3:16-17. The following elements are found in such worship: proclamation and teaching, prayers, acts of communion (Koinōnia), especially the Lord’s Supper, prophetic discourses, ecstatic speech and its interpretation, and various benedictions and congregational responses. On particular occasions, the rite of baptism was performed, almost certainly within a setting of Christian worship (Hastings: 1963).

Worship is all embracing. It should be holistic because God does not want part of our life. Rather, He desires our full devotion to Him. Remember what Jesus Christ told a Samaritan woman who tried to show Him the best time, place and style for worship. The woman was thinking of external issues. In the new dispensation, these issues are irrelevant. “Jesus said unto her, woman, believe me, the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father… But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is spirit and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24) KJV.

Worship that pleases God must be based on the truth of the scripture, not our opinions about God. We cannot please God unless we worship Him as He is truly revealed in the Bible. God is pleased when our worship is accurate, authentic, thoughtful and practical. Our worship must therefore be deeply emotional and deeply doctrinal. It must be rooted in the word of God.

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Etim Ekong
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