Worshipping God

Meaning of worship

Same English word "worship" 4 meanings:

  • To use art to express God's goodness, most commonly by singing hymns
  • To pay obeisance to someone in authority (Psalms 45:10-11; 1 Samuel 24:8; 2 Samuel 14:22; 1 Kings 1:23,52; 2 Kings 2:15; Hebrews 11:21)
  • To fall down before an image of an idol (Isaiah 46:6; Ezekiel 20:32; Daniel 3:5-15; Revelation 4:10, 9:20, 13:15)
  • To serve God by sacrificing a valuable possession (Genesis 22:5; Deuteronomy 12:3-7,31; 1 Samuel 1:3; 2 Samuel 15:8; Isaiah 19:21)

Because bible translators uses the same word for both, it is easy to confuse the acts of worship with each other.

Artwork Worship

In addition, many people also confuse "praise" with "worship". Praise is not worship. There are no scripture that allow praise to replace the worship of God. However, nothing prevent you to praise God, while you worship God.

Paying Obeisance Worship

This is simply a way to submitting or paying respect to someone in authority. It could be God (Psalm 95:6), Jesus or a normal human king.

Nothing in the bible forbids this type of worship.

A king who wished to settle accounts with his servants... So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him (the human king), ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ -- Matthew 18:26 (ESV)

More examples of people being "worshipped" (honoured):

Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.

-- Psalms 45:10-11 (ESV)

David "worshipped" king Saul:

Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. -- 1 Samuel 24:8 (ESV)

Joab "worshipped" the king:

And Joab fell on his face to the ground and paid homage and blessed the king. -- 2 Samuel 14:22 (ESV)

Nathan "worshipped" king David:

And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. -- 1 Kings 1:23 (ESV)

King Solomon being "worshipped":

So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.” -- 1 Kings 1:52 (ESV)

Elisha being "worshipped":

And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him (Elisha). -- 2 Kings 2:15 (ESV)

Jacob "worshipped" Joseph's sons:

By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. -- Hebrews 11:21 (ESV)

Fall Down Worship

This type of worship means to fall down before the feet of a god. This is a different posture than bowing before a king.

As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the Lord filled the LORD's house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. -- 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)

And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” -- Matthew 4:9 (ESV)

The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne -- Revelation 4:10 (ESV)

And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!" -- Revelation 19:10 (ESV)

Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” -- Revelation 22:8-9 (ESV)

Sacrificial Worship

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” -- Genesis 22:5 (ESV)

Abraham and Isaac did not go over there to sing hymns to the Lord. Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son to God.

Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”

So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments.

And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.”

And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD.

-- Exodus 24:1-4 (NKJV)

God did not expect Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the elders of Israel to start a church choir or some sort of "Worship" band. Instead, we read:

And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people.

And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”
And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. Exodus 24:4-10 (NKJV)

Another example where people worshipped idols instead:

You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) -- Exodus 34:13-14 (ESV)

The LORD was not concerned that the Israelites were singing hymns to foreign gods. He was concerned about the sacrifice they would make on the altars, pillars and Asherims to false gods.

You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. -- Deuteronomy 12:3-7 (ESV)

Moses contrast idol worship with true worship. Another contrast is:

You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. -- Deuteronomy 12:31

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 (ESV)

Elkanah and Hannah worshipped with a bull sacrifice, flour, wine and by dedicated her only child:

Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bulls, one ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh. And the child was young. Then they slaughtered a bull, and brought the child to Eli.

And she said, “O my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood by you here, praying to the LORD. For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.”

So they worshiped the Lord there. -- 1 Samuel 1:24-28 (NKJV)

Moses, Aaron, the priests and Samuel did not sing hymns to the Lord. They were the ones presenting the sacrifices to the LORD.

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!
Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. -- Psalms 99:5-7 (ESV)

This is how David understood "worship":

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; -- 1 Chronicles 16:29 (ESV); Psalm 96:8-9 (ESV)

This is how Hezekiah understood "worship":

Has not this same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, “Before one altar you shall worship, and on it you shall burn your sacrifices”? -- 2 Chronicles 32:12 (ESV)


But if you say to me, “We trust in the LORD our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar”? -- Isaiah 36:7 (ESV)

This is how Judah and Benjamin's adversaries understood "worship":

“Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” -- Ezra 4:2 (ESV)

This is how Isaiah understood "worship":

And the LORD will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the LORD and perform them. -- Isaiah 19:21 (ESV)

This is how the author of Hebrews understood "worship":

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, -- Hebrews 12:28 (ESV)

Serve God

Often the phrase to "serve a god" means to "worship a god with a sacrifice" as seen in Deuteronomy 8:19-20:

You shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. -- Exodus 23:25 (ESV)


And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. -- Deuteronomy 8:19-20 (ESV)

This phrase was also quoted by Jesus:

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” -- Luke 4:8 (ESV)

Now, the temple has been destroyed. How should a modern believer worship YHVH as God?

When the Samaritan woman told Jesus that they cannot worship God at the temple like the Jews, he responded:

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -- John 4:24 (ESV)

Paul explain the meaning to the Romans:

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(ESV)

What it practically means is:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. -- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20(ESV)


Fasting is sacrificing the privilege to eat or drink, for example:

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. -- Luke 2:36-37 (ESV)


While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. -- Acts 13:2-3 (ESV)

Some incorrectly think that fasting is reserved for the poor who has nothing else to sacrifice but themselves. However, King David also fasted:

And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. -- 2 Samuel 12:15-17 (ESV)


My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. -- Psalm 109:24 (ESV)

Fasting is a way to humble yourself to seek God's favour in an important matter, for example:

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” -- Esther 4:16 (ESV)

Even Jesus fasted:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. -- Matthew 4:1-2 (ESV)

Why God should be worshipped

It is commanded

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. -- Psalm 29:2 (ESV)


Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is He! -- Psalm 99:5 (ESV)

(The old Testament refers to God as "YHVH" translated as LORD in capital letters)

Jesus introduced to the LORD God as "the Father":

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. -- John 4:23 (ESV)

It releases blessings

You shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. -- Exodus 23:25 (ESV)

Only YHVH may be served by Sacrificial Worship

You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. -- Deuteronomy 6:13 (NKJV); Luke 4:8