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,