by Robert Allon
The Hebraic idea of worship tends to be different from the Western idea. On more than one occasion, I have heard Dr. Douglas Wheeler say that the Hebraic idea of worship was that of "a child climbing into the lap of its father and stroking the father's face while the father stroked the child's hair.1" The Western idea tends to see worship as something we do, i.e. raise our hands, bend our knees, cry, and connect on an emotional and spiritual level. The Hebraic idea of worship is not something you do. It is the outward relationship resulting from the inner feelings between two individuals.
True worship from true worshipers is a life style. We do not have relationship with God one or two days a week. We have relationship with God at all times. There is no separation between congregation, home or work. Hebrew writers used explicit words in an effort to relate the depth of intimacy between God and His people. In fact, in Exodus 33:11 the Bible says, "And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend." (KJV) The idea of friendship is certainly a part of the Hebrew word (rea), pronounced ray-aw, but this Hebrew word is more accurately translated as lover. The idea is not that of the sexual relationship between a man and his lover but that of nothing being held back. For a man to have a lover in Biblical times, her veil had to be removed. At that point, all things were revealed, and there was nothing between them or held back by them.
The Hebrew word (ahav) is most often translated as love, but it is important to understand that this is two-sided love resulting from one-sided selflessness. The idea is to take yourself out of the picture and in doing so, you are part of it. This one is hard to explain, but let me put it this way.
If I love (ahav) you, then my eyes are on you only. I have no personal agenda or sense of self because you are my only desire. It is hard to breathe, and my heart aches for you. I will try to meet your needs in your personality which can only come from my knowing you deeply, and that only comes with time. Put another way, I come to you with only you and your needs on my mind. I do not seek anything for myself in any way. The other person will do the same. In approaching love and worship in this manner, we achieve the highest level of intimacy that can be attained by humans.
If we want to take worship to this level, then we can start by taking the words "me, myself, and I" out of our worship songs. This would be a great, first step, but you would also need to stop singing about what you want and what you will do. Worship is now. Not something we will do in the future or something we have done in the past. Worship is a result of relationship. God is already showing His love for us in this manner, and if we respond to Him in the same way, then we obtain this level of intimacy. This approach places us in the center of the relationship as one with Him and is the purest form of Biblical worship that can be found. You would be amazed at the move of the Spirit of God when a congregation does this.
I do not mean to advocate that we throw out everything we have ever done or believed about worship, but I would ask, "Why not?" I do not suggest that the songs currently being played and sung in our congregations today are wrong or flawed in any way, and I am certainly not suggesting that they are not worship. Anything that glorifies God is, by definition, worship. What I am saying is that there are different levels. There can be no doubt that the way we worshiped God when we were nine years old is VERY different from the way we worship Him now, and I would hope that the way we worship Him now is far more intimate than the way we worshiped Him last year.
Let's examine the words of a popular worship song.
Lord I lift your name on high
Lord I love to sing your praises
I'm so glad you're in my life
I'm so glad you came to save us 2
There is no doubt in my mind that this song glorifies God, and I love it. However, it is not selfless worship because it is not a song about God. It is a song about the person singing the song. If we want to reach the level of intimacy resulting from ahav in our songs, we might want to find songs with choruses that say things like . . .
There is none like you
All kings will fall down before you
All nations will serve you
You are righteous, perfect, and true
There is a complete absence of self in this chorus, and it is without a doubt the highest form of verbal praise we can achieve. We can never lose sight of the fact that this is an outward expression of an inward relationship. In other words, just singing this kind of song will not cause us to become true worshipers, but there is no doubt in my mind that as we introduce our congregations to this level of worship, the Spirit of God will flow in a way that we have rarely or perhaps never experienced before.
Shalom v'shalom (peace be multiplied upon peace to you),
1. Douglas A. Wheeler Ph.D.,Th.D.
2 "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High", Rick Founds (Maranatha! Music/ASCAP, 1989).