Before proceeding, don’t miss the second thing Jesus said. Worship in the Old Testament was only presented to God by a specific group of priests who were qualified for the job. Today, Jesus said, “The Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). He is seeking “true worshipers.” Interested? Willing to sign on and commit to becoming the best worshiper you can? To worship more effectively, study and follow God’s model for worship as it is presented in Genesis 22.
The Cycles of Worship
Worship is not an action, it is a reaction. It is the response in the heart of admiration and appreciation for something or someone who has great worth and importance. Why do some people idolize and worship actors, music performers and athletes? It is because they admire their abilities, qualities or looks so much that it touches their hearts to the degree they are willing to give time, money, praise and loyalty to the objects of their worship.
Abraham was in Beer-sheba when he understood a new feature of God and he called the Lord “the Everlasting God” (21:33) for the first time. He was so overwhelmed that he was saying like the Psalmist, “From everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). When a believer is admiring a feature or work of God, the automatic response from the heart is to worship and express appreciation. So, even though the Bible says, “God tested Abraham” (22:1), Abraham told the servants, “The boy and I will go over there to worship” (22:5). God saw the experience as a test; Abraham saw it as an opportunity to express adoration to his God. That is what happens when a believer is truly enjoying his Maker.
Notice what happened to Abraham after he was willing to offer his Son in Moriah. “Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place, The Lord Will Provide” (22:13-14). By worshipping God, that put him in a position to learn something new about God. Therefore, the first cycle is:
Learn something about God -> Worship God -> Learn something more about God.
It must have shocked the sandals right off Abraham. God really did tell him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.” (22:2). That would be difficult to process for anyone, and even harder for a 125-year old man. Take his son and offer him? That would mean the son he and Sarah had wanted for decades was about to die. The old couple had given up any hope of having a son as their biological clock had run out. They were too old to have children naturally. God surprised them, though and he told Abraham, who was 75 years old, that they were going to supernaturally have a child. Even then, Isaac was not born until 25 years later. Clearly, Isaac was a gift from God as there was no other way to explain his birth at their stage of life. Now God was asking them to give back to God (a burnt offering) what God had given to them. Therefore, the second cycle of worship is:
Receive something from God -> Offer what you have received back to God
Ever feel dry and dull spiritually? Initiate this cycle of worship with God’s help and you will never regret it. Start reading the Scriptures and ask God to show you something about himself or his Son. He loves to reveal His Son to us! Suddenly, when something impresses you about Christ in your reading, you will want to bow and worship the Lord. As such, you are getting something from God, which you then turn and give back to God.
This cycle applies to every angle of worship:
Worship with your body: God made your body and gives you life. In addition, your body has been bought at the costly price of the life of the Lord Jesus. After all you He has given you, do you not have every reason in the world to give yourself back to God in worship? Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
Worship with your speech: Naturally, you will not have beautiful thoughts of the Lord Jesus. Your mind is warped and inclines your thoughts towards everything else but Christ. Therefore, if you want thoughts of Christ, you must get them from God. When you do enjoy something of the Savior, you will invariably want to turn and thank him for Christ. The writer to the Hebrews shared much of Christ in his letter to the Jewish believers. It is logical, that he should then say, “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
Worship with your money: James wrote that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). This includes every penny of income you receive. If it were not for God’s grace in giving you employment, you would not have any income. From what God has provided, you have the opportunity to set apart a portion for God and his work. Then, you can offer it to him through a church offering, through personally giving a gift to support God’s work or by helping another person, God counts this as worship. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi to tell them that their gift of money was “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). The writer to the Hebrews agreed as he said, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
Worship with your acts of service: The Christians in Philippi were a great group of believers. They were active in the gospel and active in serving one another. Paul complimented them and spoke of “the sacrificial offering of your faith” (Philippians 2:17). Any resources we have to help others and any opportunities to lend a hand are all gifts we have received from God. When we use them correctly for the benefit and blessing of others, they rise up to God as worship.
The Consequences of Worship
What do all the statements below have in common?
“I have to put something in the offering; I don’t want people to think I am robbing God.”
“When I worship, it makes me feel awesome!”
“I like worshiping as it helps me get my week started right and it helps me grow.”
“I want to give my life to Christ, because I know it will be the best life for me.”
There are 13 first person singular words (I, me, my) in these four sentences. Every sentence above presents worship as a positive activity because of the benefits it brings to me. It makes people think acceptably of me, makes me feel good, helps me grow spiritually, provides the best life pathway for me. How selfish!
Jesus said, “True worshipers will worship the Father” (John 4:23), who is to be the prime recipient and beneficiary of our worship. Abraham was willing to offer his Son as “a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:2), from which the smoke would rise to God. He understood, true worship should be given to God whether it benefits the worshiper or not. God was evidently pleased with Abraham’s worship and Abraham is commended for it in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:17).
Today, whether you offer your body, your time, your service, your prayers, or your money, the Bible says that “such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16). Therefore, please worship, but not because of how it makes you feel or because of what it means to you. Worship because of what it means to God!
Abraham was a man who built altars (Genesis 12:7,8; 13:18; 22:9); he loved to worship his God. One day in Beersheba, Isaac “built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 26:25). He had watched his father build altars and worship. Maybe you don’t have children yet, but what greater desire could you have then that your children become true worshipers of God? If that is your prayer and goal, start worshipping regularly now, so they can follow your example.
Worship also can have an impact on others. One day, Abraham’s servant went to look for a wife for Isaac. When he found Rebekah, “The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord” (Genesis 24:26). Where did he learn to do that? He had served Abraham for years and witnessed his master worshiping regularly. Abraham’s worship made his family worship and others as well. Young person, you have no idea what the impact of your worship might have on God’s heart and in the lives of your family and other people.
The Composition of Worship
Abraham may not have been a rocket scientist (maybe he was smarter than that), but he sure was wise in his worship. The big question new believers and young believers face is, how can I worship God better?
Make it a priority: Worship is not a hobby you work at when you have free time. God never told Abraham what time he should head out, but “Abraham got up early in the morning” (Genesis 22:3). The preparation of his worship was such a priority that he gave it attention before anything else. What about you? Do you prepare your offering ahead of time for Sunday morning or just do a “last-minute-wallet-grab” so you can at least give something? The Breaking of Bread meeting is first in the week in the New Testament (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2), because it is the meeting when we clearly express worship as we remember the Lord Jesus. Do you attend? Do you go prepared? God has designed it so that you can be gathering and preparing all week - it is that important to God!
Put in some effort: We are given the details as a man of 125 years of age “saddled his donkey…and split wood for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:3). He went completely prepared: he ¨took the wood … and … he took the fire and the sacrificial knife” (Genesis 22:6). There would be no scrambling at the last minute to present worship to God. A good discipline to develop is to have a notebook or a file on your computer or phone in which you gather thoughts of Christ from your reading and meditation on Monday through Friday. Then, use Saturday to prepare your worship and present it on Sunday at the Breaking of Bread.
Give it some order: God is just as interested in how you worship as he is in what you present to him. Abraham knew that God is a God of order. He had looked up at creation for over a century and seen order in the stars of the sky. God had led him step by step. So, “when they arrived at the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood” (Genesis 22:9). Carefully, precisely and logically he organized his worship before he presented it to God. Do you do that?
Keep it consistent: Abraham worshiped God and both what he presented and how he presented it were in agreement with the Word of God. God told him to offer his son, Isaac (not Ishmael) in the land of Moriah (not in the land of Egypt). Today, some people say, “It doesn’t matter how I go about worshiping God, he knows my heart and that is what counts.” Yes, he does know your heart. However, he wants you to express what’s in your heart in ways that agree with his Word.
For example, I could say to a judge, “Hey, dude, wasup? It’d be dope if you’d cut me some rope?” Or, I could say to a judge, “Good afternoon, your honor. I would like to ask that the court kindly show me mercy.” Which request would a judge be more likely to honor? The question is the same, but the expression of it is vastly different. So, if it matters how you speak to a judge, why would you think that it doesn’t matter when you speak to God? To put it positively, there is a double opportunity, then, every time you worship: what you say and how you say it can both give glory and honor to God. So, may you pray each day like the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord” (Psalm 19:14). The writer to the Hebrews agreed. He said, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
The old Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646 by a group of theologians and laymen. It begins, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” They nailed it! They understood that God was not being selfish by requiring us to worship him. Instead, God made us so that we are at our greatest peace, joy and sense of fulfillment when we are responding to his worth by worshipping Him. Worship will be an eternal privilege, so may God help you to start today, if not already, to make it a consuming passion and may the Lord be greatly honored by the worship you present.