Have you ever longed for meaningful worship?
In the previous article of this series, we
discovered that God’s identity as the powerful and good God
is the reason—the why—of worship. Now that we know the
why behind our worship, it’s time to answer the question of
how. Amidst all our discussions of worship, we often center
on the style of worship. The intent of this article is to
describe how to behave in a worshipful way, whether in a
personal or corporate setting, given insights gleaned from
WORSHIP THE LORD WITH JOY
Joy should be a significant part of how we worship. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Ps. 100:1, 2). 1
In Hebrew, the word translated as “gladness” or “joy”2
means “a glad shout, such as loyal subjects might utter
when the king appears among them, the emphasis being on
For Christians, this is a call to exuberance
because the King of kings, our Creator, put infinite value on
our lives by laying down His life on the cross. When we have
our Sabbaths, our convocations, and our festivals, we ought
to come with gladness, not drudgery. We are coming faceto-face
with the Lord and basking in His presence.
We must not confuse joy with happiness. Happiness is a
subjective emotion dependent on circumstances. There are
times in our lives when we can and should be sad, but we
can still have joy in those moments (James 1:2). Joy is a
state of mind produced by the Holy Spirit dwelling within
us and reminding us that ultimately, we have the victory in
Christ. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23). Our worship is an outpouring
of that joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again,
rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).
WORSHIP THE LORD WITH ENTHUSIASM
Enthusiasm is another requisite for worship. Psalm 100:1
says, “Shout for joy.” “Shout” is the same word used for a
battle cry in Joshua 6:10. The people were told to “shout”
victoriously after marching around Jericho. When we worship
God, we’re called to do it enthusiastically. But some
may wonder, “Doesn’t reverence require silence?”
A choir anthem says, “The Lord is in his holy temple; let
all the earth be silent before him” (Hab. 2:20).
A study of
this passage shows that God is not talking to worshippers
but to an enemy nation receiving judgment. A similar usage
is reflected in the use of silence in the book of Psalms.
I once went through the psalms and looked at all the
references to silence, and almost every one was negative.
For example, Psalm 115:17, 18 says, “It is not the dead who
praise the Lord, those who go down to silence; it is we who
extol the Lord . . .” (See also Ps. 31:17 and 30:12).
Sometimes we need to be silent to listen and decide for
Christ. Silence allows us to reflect on what we’ve read and
learned (Ps. 4:4), but the attitude should still be one of enthusiasm.
But what about reverence? Ellen G. White and the
Scriptures inform us that our worship time should be reverent,
but that doesn’t mean quiet; rather, it means full of
awe and respect for God (Gen. 31:31; 2 Kings 17:34; Matt.
10:28; Acts 9:31).
This reverence should saturate all our
lives. In the Old Testament, reverence is roughly synonymous
with fearing God and obeying His commands (Lev.
19:14; 25:17; Deut. 25:18).
Biblical reverence is an attitude
that affects our character and actions. Thus, this fear and
reverence should lead to greater enthusiasm in our praise,
fellowship, and offerings.
WORSHIP THE LORD WITH TRUE THANKSGIVING
One manifestation of enthusiasm is thanksgiving. Psalm
100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his
courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
This is not just a simple “thank you.” The word for thanksgiving
means to give public acknowledgment.
Let’s suppose you prayed, sent out resumes, had interviews,
and finally landed a job. You know you couldn’t
have done it without God, so you thank Him in your prayers.
That’s great, but you haven’t given true thanksgiving. Biblical
thanksgiving occurs when you share about this blessing in
your faith community and with others. Thanksgiving is a testimony
about the power of God in your life.
Do you have anything to be thankful for? One man answered
this question with these words: “Think of what He
has done for you, in you, with you, and promised to you.” If
we come with this kind of attitude, our individual and corporate
worship will improve dramatically.
HOW DO WE WORSHIP?
According to Psalm 100, the how of worship is deep joy,
enthusiasm, and thankfulness. Whenever we worship, we can
do so with passionate exuberance, expressing to our communities
our thankfulness to God for what He has done for,
in, and around us. This psalm has provided us with a wonderful
framework for our practice of worship, but to get the final
ingredient for this divine recipe, our third and final article will
turn to Psalm 103 and explore the topic of praise.
1 Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations come from the New International Version.
2 Per www.blueletterbible.com, the Hebrew word simchah occurs 94 times in 89 verses in the Old Testament. In the King James Version, it is translated as “joy” 44 times and as “gladness” 31 times.
3 James Montgomery Boice, Psalms, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971), 811.
4 The Hebrew word hacah, translated here as “silent,” is only used 8 times in the Old Testament (Num. 13:30, Judges 3:19, Neh. 8:11, Amos 6:10, 8:3, Hab. 2:20, Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:13). This word carries the meaning of a command for silence, often as a means of correction. The context of Habakkuk 2 is very clear that it is about judgment on the nations. After giving five woes (2:6, 9, 12, 15, 19), the command is given to the nations to be quiet in order to receive God’s judgment.
5 Note that Psalm 46:10 uses the word raphah, which deals with “relaxing” or “letting drop.” Therefore, “be still” is not about sound but about a state of mind. Psalm 131:2 contains the word damam for “quieting myself,” which can mean silence, but, based on the context of a weaned child, deals with quieting one’s mind to remove anxiety by putting hope in the Lord (see verse 3). Some examples are Psalm 8:2; 39:1-2, 9; 50:3, 21; 63:11; 107:42. (Ps. 28:1; 35:22; 39:12; 83:1; and 109:1 deal with a desire of man for God not to be silent.)
6 In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word yare’ and its derivatives (see Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, [TWOT], 907, 908) are usually translated as “fear,” with connotations of being afraid, respectful, or in awe. In the New Testament and the LXX, the Greek word phobos and its derivatives (see W. Mundle, “Fear, Awe” in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology , vol. 1, Colin Brown, editor [Grand Rapids: MI, Regency Reference Library, 1975], 621-624) mean terror, fear, alarm, fright, reverence, respect, and awe. For both the Hebrew and Greek, it is context which determines the meaning.
7 TWOT, 907.
8 TWOT, 847b.
S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership at
the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.