We have all engaged in worshipping God in one way or another, so there is much to be said about what Worship is. For some, Worship is slow music playing in the background that gives them goosebumps and teary eyes. For others, Worship is praying loudly and in different tongues, spreading out hands and pacing around. Still, for others, Worship is silently in a corner, contemplating and whispering. And there are many other styles. But really, what is Worship?
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the most common Hebrew word translated as Worship is “shachah.” According to Strong’s Concordance, “shachah” means “to bow down”. Therefore, it may be translated as either “to bow” or “worship”, depending on the context. The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated as “worship” (proskuneo) is “to fall down before” or “bow down before”. It describes a gesture of respect or submission to human beings, to God, or to idols. But there are many other definitions of this word, and attempting to zero in on one particular definition may prove almost futile. Instead, we need to answer what Worship looks like when it’s done in Spirit and Truth.
Jews and Samaritans’ Differences
In John 4:1-42 we read the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob. The conversation begins with a basic request for water from Jesus. It ends with a sermon on what Worship is according to Jesus. The Samaritan woman raises issues that had been outstanding between the Samaritans and the Jews—a longstanding conflict between the two peoples. In 732 B.C., the Assyrians swooped in and conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians killed many people and also took many people back to their homeland. They then brought some people from Assyria to live in Israel and took some Israelites to Assyria. Eventually, this led to intermarriage and the formation of an impure Jewish race called the Samaritans. The southern kingdom of Judah hated the Samaritans as they were viewed as having betrayed the Israelite culture. Thus these people were neither fully Hebrews nor fully Gentiles. The Samaritans had their unique copy of the first five books of Scripture and their unique system of Worship.
More than a Location
At the time of Jesus, the Jews and the Samaritans did not deal with one another. Consequently, the Samaritans moved away from considering the Jerusalem Temple as the place for Worship as the Jews did and settled on Mt Gerizim as their place for Worship. We know from 2 Chronicles 6:1-42 (cross reference 1 Kings 8) that Solomon urged his people, after the Temple dedication, to pray towards Jerusalem. God had chosen Jerusalem as his dwelling place (Deuteronomy 12:5-14). When David became King, he made Jerusalem his capital, and Solomon consequently built the majestic Temple there.
For the Jews, the Temple had more than a sentimental attachment; it was a place of refuge. The Ark of the Covenant, the priestly duties and the Temple sacrifices happened there. Because they felt left out and despised, the Samaritans considered Mt. Gerizim the place of Worship because that was the mountain Moses received the Ten Commandments; therefore, it was sacred.
Today, many people, like the Jews and Samaritans, greatly emphasize their church sanctuaries and buildings. They have to be in a particular place; otherwise, they feel their prayers will not be answered. However, the heart of the matter is that Worship is more than devotion to a specific location. It is a matter of the heart. Do you value the place of worship more than the Person we are to worship? It is not about the Temple or the mountain. It is not about the church building, the prayer room, the prayer centre or whatever else we find ourselves esteeming highly. There is something more to Worship than location.
Three Types of Worship Expressions
In the same breath, Jesus opens our eyes to see the different expressions of Worship we need to pay attention to in our day.
Ignorant Worship. (No Mind, No Heart).
Jesus, in John 4:22, tells the Samaritan woman that they worship what they do not know. In 2 Kings 17:24-41, we see the resettling of people in Samaria after the Assyrian captivity. Those who came back to Samaria did not fear the LORD, and their Worship had syncretism (a mixture of deities and worship practices). Though a priest was sent to teach them to worship the LORD, the people remained with their other gods and shrine worship. In their Worship, they did not give thought to the commands of Worship the LORD had given in Exodus 20, that those who worship God cannot worship any other gods. Yes, they were genuine in their devotion, but they were genuinely wrong. There are those now who have a sense of spirituality and religious rigour, but in their devotion, they have no idea about the living God. their minds are not thinking about God or his commandments. Such people worship a mixture of deities, claiming that all roads lead to God. Their minds are not informed about the living God, and their hearts have no connection with him. True Worship engages the mind and heart simultaneously.
Intelligent Worship (Mind Without Heart).
Secondly, Jesus hits at the pride of the Jews who, though they knew this God, worshipped God without their hearts. Isaiah had prophesied long ago about the Jews being a people who “draw near with their mouths and honour God with their lips, while their hearts are far from him…” (Isaiah 29:13, Ezekiel 33:31, Matthew 15:7-9). The Jews had a lot of knowledge about God. To them belonged the Law- 10 Commandments, the priests, the prophets, the Judges and others whom the LORD used to reveal his character. But they had become comfortable and contemptuous about their God that they went on into rampant idolatry. Their knowledge did not lead to transformation because it was knowledge without the heart attached (this is the basis of idolatry). Some of us are knowledgeable about God; we have been to Sunday school classes and know the Christian jargon. We have memorized Scripture and gone to church camps. But somehow, this knowledge has not caused us to walk in the freedom of the Spirit, for we still have more inclination towards our selfish, fleshly ways. Knowledge is good, but we need more to cause us to engage in true Worship. Is your knowledge leading to transformation?
Spiritual Worship (Mind and Heart).
God calls us to worship him with the mind and the heart attached. Jesus dismissed the thought of a specific location or even a level of knowledge (theology). He says that true Worship is to be done in spirit and truth (John 4:23). My knowledge of God should lead me to a deeper appreciation of his character and submission or surrender to his will. Jesus said if we love him, we should keep his commands (John 14:15). Obedience proves that our hearts are in line with our minds. The Spirit of God speaks or connects with our hearts based on what we have come to know about God in Scripture.
This approach is founded upon the character of God- He is Spirit. He does not have a body as we do, and He is not altered by time or space. So Jesus told the woman that Worship should be in spirit because God is Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17, 1 Timothy 1:17). Therefore, worship must ascend from the innermost personality. Secondly, Jesus said that the father calls us to worship in truth. Finally, Jesus said God’s Word is truth (John 17:17, 2 Samuel 7:28, Psalm 12:6, 19:7). Whatever we are doing needs to be gauged against the Word of God if it will qualify for worship in Spirit and truth.
Where to Start
Since true Worship is in spirit and truth, the journey begins at the point of spiritual transformation. Worship begins with our reception of Christ as the saviour of our life. If you have not come to Christ, please visit our website www.kuzaapp.com and check out the Receive Christ video.
3 thoughts on “<strong>WHAT IS WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH?</strong>”
A wonderful explanation of praying in spirit and truth. It is true there’s a misunderstanding ; I always hear of praise songs and worship songs. The worship songs are always slow and prayerful. Can you clarify ?
Thanks for the comment and encouragement. Please keep checking our website for a follow up on this question of praise and worship.
thanks, great information for personal and spiritual development