The author of the book of Hebrews told his readers, “you need someone to teach you again the first lessons of God’s message” (5:12b, NCV). In my wandering thoughts this week, I came to think about worship as one of these first lessons, or “elementary principles” (NKJV).
You see, we talk a lot about reading our Scriptures, praying, having our devotional times with those classics by Charles Spurgeon or Oswald Chambers. But what did people do before the printing press brought books to be available to the masses? What about when the Scriptures were only in Latin, and the average person couldn’t read, much less read the Bible? What did these people do for their “devotions”? Surely we cannot say that they didn’t serve God, did not truly know Him because they didn’t read their Bible or have My Utmost available to them.
It’s true that these are wonderful elements that we can incorporate into our daily lives. But if it was possible to know God, intimately and sincerely, before these books were either written or available, we must be missing some element (or elements, even) that our predecessors in the faith were aware of and utilized.
Worship comes to mind, because we know that all of Creation would sing the praises of God if no man were to do so. We know that David was a man after God’s own heart, and I believe that is most likely because of the intimacy he experienced with God in worship.
You must know by now that simply reading the Scriptures does not draw one into the heart of God. How many professors of theology and religion have read the Bible, even have portions of it committed to memory, but clearly have no knowledge of or relationship with its Author? There are panels of “experts” that travel around telling the world why we shouldn’t believe the Bible because they studied it for so many years and did nothing for them.
As far as our devotionals go, some daily readings can be completed in thirty seconds, with little or no Scripture reading at all, and often with prayers written out for us so that we don’t even have to think about what to say to God. Forget about how it relates to us personally, or that we know just who in our lives today’s reading would be perfect for. We can check our devotions off of our to-do lists, and we go along with our day.
The point is, we can read devotionals, pray the prayer at the end of the day’s reading, or even read our Scriptures, with our heads engaged, but our hearts focused on other matters. But when you worship God, when you open up those gates to the depths of your being to the Creator of the universe – and you, you are either fully involved, or not involved.
Think about when Paul and Silas were in prison, chained to each other and the wall. The book of Acts doesn’t tell us what stories they remembered from the Old Testament; it tells us they “prayed and praised God in a hymn” (Acts 16:25, MKJV). Sometimes we can quote Scripture, or we can remember the lesson of the day. But if you’re like me, what you really want is God to come beside you and be with you.
So how does worship fit into your life? Is it an elementary principle, something learned and lived from the very beginning? Or maybe it’s something forgotten, or never learned at all. Worship is much more than what most of us experience on a Sunday morning, because it is a personal experience as well as a corporate one.
Worship is necessary because it creates that personal intimacy with God Almighty. You can stand firm in it, trust in Him, because the God that meets you where you are is closer than the God you might find in a book written by human hands, molded by human intellect. Make place for His Word, pray, and worship Him with all of your heart.