We Bow Down (#2)

This is a summary of message #2 of a sermon series on worship. To listen to the entire message click here.

What does it really mean to worship God? What is the essence of worship? Take a look at one of the passages in the Bible that gives us a glimpse into heaven:

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.'” (Rev. 7:9-12)

Whenever the Bible describes the activity in heaven we usually find worship at the center. And often the worship includes “bowing down” (see Rev. 4:11; Rev. 5:14; Rev. 11:16). In fact, in Revelation nearly every time that the twenty four elders are mentioned we find them bowing down before the throne. (Other examples of bowing before God are found in Num. 20:6; Neh. 8:6; Mat. 2:11 and Luke 5:6-8)

What does bowing have to do with worship?

The primary Hebrew word in the OT translated “worship” literally means to “bow down.” The original Greek word in the NT has a similar meaning. Obviously there is a close connection between worship and “bowing down.” But what is the connection?

People in the ancient world understood the significance of bowing down before someone. Bowing was the nearly universal sign of respect and submission in the presence of a king or other powerful leader. We find examples of bowing before a human leader in the Bible as well (Gen. 41:42-43; 2 Sam. 14:22). No wonder bowing down before God became a primary expression of worship.

To bow down before someone indicates two things. First it is a sign of honor and respect. It is recognition of the greatness of the one before whom you bow. Second, it is a sign of submission. By bowing before a king you are saying that he is greater than you are (you are the one bowing) and that your life is in his hands and under his power (you can’t defend yourself with your face to the ground).

Why we must bow

In worship we declare God’s greatness. He alone is worthy of glory, honor, and praise. One day all created beings will bow before Him and acknowledge that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Phil. 2:9-10). In response to this truth we bow in surrender to and adoration of our King. Our bowing may not always be physical (although it can be), but in our hearts we must bow before Him who is on the throne. Without this there is no true worship. If we do not bow, we are merely reciting words that we do not really mean. Our worship is hollow and hypocritical.

Bowing down in worship is not optional because there is only room for one on the throne. God will not share His glory. The first of the Ten Commandments demands exclusive allegiance (Ex. 20:2-3). If we declare that He alone is worthy then we must bow. There is no other way.

The problem is that we find it very difficult to truly bow before the throne. There is something in us (it’s called “sin”) that would rather we be the one on the throne. Submitting ourselves to the will of another just doesn’t come naturally. We like to be self-sufficient, in control, and free to do what we want, but God calls us to be dependent on Him, under His control, and ready to do whatever He calls us to do.

In order to bow before the Lord we must deal with the question of who sits on the throne. We must confess our attempts to be our own little god, and surrender the throne to the One who alone is worthy.

We each have a choice to make. In the words of the song “Will You Worship”

Will you worship, will you bow down
Before your Lord and King?
Will you love Me, will you give Me your heart,
Your everything?

26 Responses to We Bow Down (#2)

  • Daniel says:

    I don’t find it particularly admirable when a weak person grovels or bows before a powerful person. Perhaps the powerful person likes to have his ego stoked, or maybe the weak person feels satisfied that he has pleased the strong person and will be on his good side. Neither of these things motivations are laudable. Rather it shows that worship belongs to an era of despots and slaves. Worshiping God makes the tacit assumption that God has a self-image problem and needs reassurance from his groveling creatures.

  • PK says:

    Daniel, you raise some interesting points. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts here.

    I don’t think that we should worship God simply because He is more powerful than we are. According to the Bible Satan is also more powerful than we are, yet we should not worship him. Rather we worship God because His character and nature make Him ultimately deserving of our worship. That’s the topic of my post He is Worthy, which is #1 in the series on worship.

    Our bowing down before Him comes in the context of that. We acknowledge who He is and our proper response is to praise Him and submit ourselves to Him. There is nothing shameful about acknowleging the truth, that God is greater than we are and deserves our praise.

    God does not have a self-image problem, and He does not need our worship. Rather, we have a self-image problem (and a “sin” problem) that keeps us from bowing before Him. The idea of admitting our need to depend on Him challenges our fragile egos. We would much rather try to be our own god than to acknowledge Him.

  • Carl says:

    I cannot find one verse in the bible stating that satan is more powerful than we are. Please point me to a verse??

  • PK says:

    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for stopping by. One thing that comes to mind is the power that demons had over some people in the NT. Some verses that you might look at are Mk. 5:1-13 and 9:14-29.

    If Satan is the “chief demon,” then he must be at least as powerful as they are. The important thing to remember here is that Christ defeated the power of Satan on the cross, and in Christ we can have the victory (Lk. 10:17-20), so there is no need for fear.

  • Eric says:

    The fact though is that we are more powerful than satan and he has nothing on us. As Christians we are empowered by God to do his work and thus with God’s power satan cannot defeat me.

  • Con says:

    Here you give an excellent Biblical description of what God says “worship” is. Yet in other articles, you jump into Satan’s redefinition of it. Worship is the ONE thing that God maintained absolute control over. There was no confusing the worship of Jehovah God with idols. Satan had done much to destroy Biblical Christianity, but succeeded only in spreading the gospel by attacking the Churches. So the great deceiver went inside. He changed the definition of worship. When we mention the word “worship” 90% of modernized “christianity” thinks of music. But there in not one Biblical correlation between the two. As stated, the word worship is associated with a posture of humility and submission to a Holy and righteous God. Praise largely involves singing. Not worship. I believe that you can worship while singing – but singing is not worship. But since the devil has redefined the word, and since modern “christians” are more like Nadab and Abihu than like David or Abraham or Noah or Daniel or Paul, etc. Modern “christians” are not interested in serving God – they are interested in God serving them. It manifests itself in “worship” being an emotional, self-fulfilling activity – because when people talk about “worship” they talk about how great it “felt” – it is not about us – it is all about HIM!!! Worship is about a physical and Spiritual posture – not about a feeling.

    The first two articles are really very good – but you seem to forget your own statements thereafter in reference to music…

    Anyway – thanks – good article!
    Lord Bless
    crh

  • PK says:

    I agree with you that worship does not necessarily need to involve music, but it is also true that music is a powerful means of expressing our worship to God. The Psalms were originally set to music in ancient Israel. Since David wrote many of them, he must have spent considerable time worshiping God in song.

    I understand your point about the tendency to focus on seeking a certain feeling rather then on giving glory to God, but whole hearted worship will certainly include feelings. The Psalms express a wide variety of emotions in their worship. So I’m not quite sure why you say that in my later articles I “jump into Satan’s redefinition” of worship.

    • Mike Fisher says:

      I don’t see anything wrong with being blessed by God with feelings or a feeling. Not that we are looking for that, we are looking for Jesus and His presense and thanks to Hi, he also touches us with presense. The demonrs knew who He was, so they obviously felt something! In His presense there is fullness of joy!

  • Con says:

    “Ge 22:5* And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”

    The Doctrine of first reference or first mention shows us that the first time God gave us the word “shachah” which means: “to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God):– bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.” The first reference to this is sacrifice. Abraham went to sacrifice his son.

    3 times in Gen 24 God explains what HE means by the word and the principle of WORSHIP.

    One time in the OT is worship found in conjunction with singing and not one reference to worship in the NT is in conjunction with singing.

    As stated before, certainly one can have a heart of worship in praise. But praise is not worship. Worship is very specific, invented by God, defined by God and reserved for God. Generally speaking, Worship is associated with contrition and a posture. Praise is associated with rejoicing and blessing. So people would take time to worship God in humility, bowing down, acknowledging His WORTH, understanding our low position before Him, the HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God who dwells in a High and Holy place – with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit. Then they would praise His for His blessings.

    Satan wants the worship for himself, He has not been able to prove himself mightier than God -and he knows he never wil, so there is no hope of him WINNING the worship from the people – so he has redefined it. Taken it away from God – few WORSHIP God now. – because the definition of the word God chose for WORSHIP has NOTHING to do with music – but Satan has redefined it to MEAN MUSIC. So to lend credibility to that heretical mindset is to perpetuate the dearth of Biblical Worship.

    I LOVE music. I love to sing. We sing all the time. We enter His courts with praise – I love to sing. But singing is not worship – at least according to God. Modern “christianity” has accepted the new definition from the pen of Lucifer – writing true Biblical Worship out of existence….

    He has already made repentance of thing of the past – no one really talks about repentance anymore. And Hell. We now have “fundamentalists” saying that hell is a “state of mind” or a place of “purification” – when the Bible plainly states that death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity…

    This is just another Biblical mandate that Satan is destroying…

    But I really do like the articles – I just wish you would rethink that one simple thought….

    Lord Bless!

  • James says:

    to my amazement tonight I agree with you Con. I just finished a study of entire of scripture re worship for a sermon, thinking it would man ‘enthusaism, singing, preaching, sacrfices etc’ only to discover it consistently means bowing down- usually physically, asa physial manifestation of an inner attitude of reverence to God – in both NT & OT it is the same!!! thanks for this blog/chat – I stumbled upon it via google tonight.

  • PK says:

    The idea of bowing down is not primarily the physical act, but our attitude toward God. It is impossible to truly worship God without an attitude of submission toward Him.

    So I agree with Con that music is not part of the core definition of worship. But music is a powerful tool to use in our worship of God. Otherwise why would there be frequent references to music in connection with OT worship? Why would David set up a permanent team of musicians to serve in the temple?

  • oliver says:

    Why we need to worship God? It because it’s the only way on how we can serve him. And He commanded us to worship him. Worship means, the Spirit is going to God to be in his presence. And to be in his presence could make your life bright and your burning lamp will never fade. Likewise we should always tell God that we Love him. I love you GOD!

    He’s awesome and great!

  • ESTHER says:

    awesome Article! I would like to read more on the significance of bowing down and worshiping God. It is something very important to know when serving our God. 🙂

  • Ken says:

    I’m glad that you appreciated the article. It’s so easy to make worship all about us, rather than about God. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  • Mike Fisher says:

    Some things God has placed wtihin us and bowing down in reverance and worship is one of those. Once we are His, to me, it become easy! And on His day ALL knees will bow and confess- to the pleasure of the Father!

  • Stephanie says:

    Love this article. It gives alot to think about.
    I would like to say though that the devil doesnt not have power over us and is not stronger than we are.
    Yes in the beginning when adam and eve gave their power over to him, he had it and we were all under his rule, but Jesus came to strip him of that power Col 2:15 talks about how he disarmed powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them. Matt 28: 18 talks about all authority being given to Jesus and He in turn sending us out. Luke 10:19 talk about Jesus haven given us the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy, in 20 He even says the spirits submit to us. Colossians says God has redeemed us from the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of the son He loves. Ephesians says His power is at work in us.
    The minute we received Jesus Christ into our lives He came to dwell in us and in Him we have all power and authority, so it is very inaccurate to say Satan is stronger than us or he has power over us, it is actually a lie which he would like us to believe because the truth is he doesn’t he is subject to us in the name of Jesus, he only has power when we give him ours by choosing to believe his lies and live in fear or in less that Gods desire for us.

    • Ken says:

      You are right, in Christ we have the authority to stand against Satan and the powers of darkness. But if we rely on ourselves we don’t stand a chance.
      Looking back, the earlier comment asking about this topic really doesn’t have anything to do with the article. Let’s get back to talking about worship.

  • Jacob says:

    A leader in my local church during a recent sermon stated that our physical posture during worship does not really matter, and what matter was the state of our heart. He argued that you can bow down without your heart not really right for worship. Disturbed by the suggestion that bowing down was not necessary, I undertook a personal study of the bible with the help of a good concordance on the subject of worship. I was amazed that bowing down was most frequently associated with worship and no where was worship of God associated with sitting down or standing up in both the New and Old Testaments. I shared my findings at a Sunday service yesterday only to stumble on this website today! While it is true that the physical posture is not necessarily an indication of genuine and sincere worship I argued, it is impossible to have a heart of true worship without bowing down as an expression of submission to God’s sovereignty. What a confirmation the postings on this blog has been to me. Stay blessed.

  • Ken says:

    We can worship God in any physical posture. In the passage at the beginning of the article, the saints are standing before the throne in worship. The 24 elders are mentioned earlier as seated on thrones. The essential thing is that we have the attitude of “bowing” in humble submission to the Lord, regardless of our physical position.

    Physically bowing before the Lord can be a wonderful expression of worship, but I would not want to say that we are required to take this posture.

  • Troy M.Heffernan says:

    God knows whats in my heart. He kows because i asked. I dont have to do exercises to prove what he already knows. Bowing iz a man made ritual to show weakness before your enemy. You cant defend yourself with your face in the sand.

  • Ken says:

    Certainly God knows our hearts, even better than we do. We don’t bow down to prove anything to God. We need to “bow” to God primarily in the attitude of our hearts. Bowing physically can sometimes help us to have the right attitude toward God. The position of weakness and powerlessness expresses our true position before God. That’s why we need His grace.

  • Richard says:

    Ken: I just wanted to thank you for your blog and great insights on Chinese churches. It has been a great resource to help with mission and vision casting. I noticed you are at Portland Chinese Alliance church. I am currently attending one of the other PCAC’s (Plano Chinese Alliance Church). We’re very much a time-warp version of some of the other churches you’ve blogged about. We have a new interim pastor who is an experienced pastor but new to the Chinese church–so I am using many of your blog entries to help him learn just what he’s gotten himself into in terms of the special challenges and dynamics of an EM in a Chinese church.

    thanks for your love and faith to serve and lead in this context.

    richard

  • Jonathan says:

    There is God-ordained worship and then there’s the man-made version. Every word used for worship – both in the Old & New Testaments – describes a posture of the body. This is NOT a matter of opinion but an incontrovertible linguistic fact. Bowing down is, therefore, NOT a man-made idea. All the great heroes of the Bible such as Moses, David, Gideon, etc bowed down or fell on their faces before the Lord. If you have never found yourself on your face before the Lord, I question whether you’ve ever been in His presence. My last point is this: man was created to worship – he cannot change that aspect of his nature. What we can change, however, is the object of our worship. In other words, it’s not a question of IF but WHOM we will worship. In many cases, human arrogance and pride means people choose to worship their opinions.

    Jonathan

  • Ken says:

    There is a real benefit to physically bowing down to the ground in worship. For those who have never tried that, I recommend that you try worshipping that way. But God looks on the heart, and it is even more important that we “bow” in our hearts, that is, that we come before God with an attitude of reverence and submission. I don’t think that it is wrong or somehow “man-made” to worship in another position. I hope that we can maintain an attitude of worship throughout the day, even when we are not physically bowing down.

  • Glenda says:

    Thanks to All who had an input –
    I am now thinking of the ways of bowing before our Lord

    1. When we wake up (God says thank him for the Mercies of the night) so, I wake up and say Thank you father when night time falls. I ask him to help and direct special people that need his help.
    2. Thanking over our food giving him reverence for everything.
    3. Talking to him during the day while doing task.
    4. How about the quiet time with him at any moment you find.
    5. Thank God immediately when a prayer has been answered or out of no where a Blessing falls right into your lap that is noticeable – Give him Praise immediately!
    6. He says, when we lie upon our beds to thank him for the Mercies of the morning, so as I am laying in bed I thank him for the day and the next morning mercies.

    Are there anything else I have missed to honor our father? Our bowing may not always be physical (although it can be), but in our hearts – (How about reciting God’s words back to him) Thank You, for your nice comments and words I truly loved reading everyone’s comments

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"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." -- C. S. Lewis