What does "worship" mean?

What does "worship" mean?


You hear that word thrown around a lot at church. There’s the “worship service,” the “worship center,” “worship music,” “praise and worship,” and probably a few I forgot.

I get it. Worship is important. But what is worship exactly?

Is it more than singing a few Christian songs? (Yes.)

Are we worshiping things other than God without realizing it? (Could be.)

How can we worship God alone if we don’t know what worship is?

(By the way, we do NOT get paid if you click on any of the links below.)

What does “worship” mean?

The meaning of the word “worship” is to ascribe worth to something. In other words, it means to say and act like something has worth. It means to honor something, to say it is good and deserving of special attention. More than that, to worship something means to make it important.

There’s so much I could say right there, but for now, let’s limit ourselves to what the Bible says about worshiping God. (We’ll come back to the rest of what I’m thinking in a bit.)

Let me show you three wonderful examples of worship in the Bible.


The first is the impromptu response of Thomas to the risen Lord Jesus. If you’ve forgotten, Thomas wasn’t there the first time the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples. Thomas did not want to believe the amazing story of his friends without factual evidence. So, Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he had touched Jesus’ scarred hands and feet.

Here’s what happened the second time the risen Jesus appeared to His disciples.

Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

John 20:27-28 (NIV)

When Thomas saw Jesus for who He truly was, the risen Savior, he responded in worship. He praised Jesus for being his Lord and God. He proclaimed Jesus’ worth as Savior and King. He gave Jesus honor and said how important He was and why.

Around God’s Throne

Now we get to one of my favorite scenes in the Bible. (Ok, I like a lot of them. But this is good!)

Focus on what the angels say. Why is Jesus worthy? Why is He the most important?

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders… He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:6-14 (NIV)

Did you catch it? Why is Jesus worthy? Why is He the most important?


Donald S. Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life defines worship this way:

“Worship  is focusing on and responding to God” (Whitney 104).

This reminds me of Job. Remember him? He’s the guy who lost everything. All his kids died. All his possessions and wealth were destroyed or stolen. Then he got terrible sores all over his body that ITCHED. The man lost everything with no warning or explanation. (See Job 1-2.)

In most of the book of Job, Job and his friends are trying to figure out why all of this happened. Where was God? Why did He let these terrible things happen? What did Job do to deserve all of this? (Nothing.)

Then God shows up to say something. (Hold your hats!)

Get this. God doesn’t give reasons for what He allowed Job to go through. Instead, God spends four (4!) chapters saying, “I’m God. You’re not.” It’s an amazing few chapters to read. Please take a minute to read at least part of them. Here’s the link for Job 38-41.

Think about it. Job felt miserable. He felt so sorry for himself that he was sitting on a dirty ash heap, scratching his sores with bits of broken pottery. His friends are no help. They just said it’s all his fault. Then God showed up. He listed a LOT of things God has done that you could never hope to do or understand. How would you respond? I’d probably cower in a corner and try to hide.

Job doesn’t do that, but he does respond in worship. Look at what he says.

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:1-6 (NIV)

That is worship. Job took a good look at who God was. What he saw made him realize how great God is. He also realized he couldn’t ever compare to God. Job had sinned, fallen short of God’s perfect standard. Because of that, Job responded in worship. He told God he was sorry for his sins and that he believed in God (“now my eyes have seen you”).

Will you do the same thing? Take a moment to think about who God is and the things He does. THAT is what makes God worthy of worship and honor. THAT is why He should have first place in our lives.

I’m out of time for today, but we’ll revisit the topic of worship next week. Until then, God bless!

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