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Worship Defined

How do you define worship?

I know how I use the word most often. Usually, when I use worship in a sentence, I’m talking about the twenty minutes to an hour (depending on what church you attend) of singing at the beginning of the service. After all, the people who stand before us are called worship leaders, or worship pastors. So what they are leading us into must be worship.

Or perhaps it’s the entire Sunday morning event. Church. (Yes, we should talk about that word too, I suppose.)

But I have another idea.

But first a picture:

In Isaiah 6 we get a glimpse of the throne room of God.

We see the six-winged creatures.

We hear their fearful and wonderful voices calling,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” - Isaiah 6:3

We smell the smoke as it fills the temple.

We feel the floor beneath us tremble as they cry out.

Then, we see Isaiah, one of the LORD of host's own prophets, lying on his face on the trembling floor. He too is trembling.

Then he speaks,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." - Isaiah 6:5

Now, one of those terrifying six-winged creatures, reaches into the fire burning on the altar before the Lord, and, using tongs, selects a burning coal. He places it in his magnificent hand and touches it to the lips of the broken man lying on his face before the Lord.

Strangely neither the winged creature nor the prophet seem hurt by this burning coal. The truth is, this fire-brand is an agent of healing and restoration for the man. The fire consumes only the dross, the rubbish, and leaves the man with a vision, with a testimony. A man ready to serve.

The next thing we hear is the voice of the Father of Creation Himself. The coal given up by the altar broke through the silent ceiling of heaven, that veil of brass that makes us feel like we’re talking to ourselves. Now Isaiah can hear the voice of the Lord, the voice He longs to hear.

"Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" - Isaiah 6:8

Now—pay attention to what happens next. It is the answer to our question. The next moments from the life of Isaiah define worship. He answers the Lord’s question,

"Here am I. Send me!" - Isaiah 6:8 NASB

In my mind, he first whispers it, testing to see if his voice still works after the coal's effect on his lips. He then repeats it, a bit louder. And finally, he calls out in full voice,

“Here am I. Send me!”

There it is—worship. Did you see it?

Paul did.

He defines worship for us in opening lines of Romans 12. After eleven chapters of talking to us about deep spiritual truth, Paul turns his letter to the Roman church to practical matters. He begins to address how we should live in light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. - Romans 12:1

We like to separate what we do with our bodies in the physical world from what we do with our hearts in the spiritual realm.

Nope—Can’t do it.

Isaiah learned that his spiritual act of worship before the actual throne of God involved what he would do for the rest of his days. He would serve the Lord of hosts as His messenger.

“Here am I, send me,” is the greatest worship cry the world has ever known.

It is, after all, the response of Jesus, to the Father’s call, too.

Jesus, who embodies the fullness of the Godhead, stepped into time as an act of worship in response to the call of His Father.

So today, my prayer is,

Lord, touch my lips, burn the mess out of me, and send me.

Join me?



10 thoughts on “Worship Defined

  1. stella carousel

    LOVE every word, Ben! You're very good a writing so that readers get the majestic visual.

    I'm pondering...many such Bible stories can initially sound scary to people young in their faith--the seeming violence of a burning coal touched to lips (or Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac--which was so disturbing to me before I was taught that God would not actually require the sacrifice, just wanted to see how willing to obey Abraham was). It can take time to learn the whole meaning of the message--not just the graphic component.

    Just thinking out loud here, know me 🙂 God bless you and the fam today!!

    1. Ben

      Thanks so much Stella.

      Yes - the Bible is full of some frightening images, and I'm not sure any amount of learning or time in will take away some of the fright.

      I can remember my dad talking about Gen. 22 - Abraham and Issac, and telling me how that unnerved him as a dad.

      Bless you sis!

  2. Fred Beveridge

    On target, Ben. Worship is not a service. It is our (reasonable) service. Doing all to glorify the Name that is above all names.

  3. Lynn Hare

    Excellent post, Ben! I love that verse from Romans 12. In fact, I memorized Romans 12 last year. I pray that everything you & I do, with and without music, is with the cognizance of God's presence at its center - and therefore worship. I love that we can approach all our endeavors in the natural from the heavenlies, and bring others into heaven's tangible joy.

    1. Ben

      Amen - well said Lynn, and I so agree with your prayer. Keeping God in the center of all we do - now that's worship, in Spirit and in truth.

  4. JE Lillie

    This message was just preached last week in our Sunday evening service Ben. It was framed in the context, worship is intentional, worship is surrendering and worship is sacrificial. It is so much more than we often make it.


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