By Not Known
Studying the Old Testament history of worship is crucial to a fuller understanding of worship today. Even if we do not carry over all old practices to our current worship services, we can gain many valuable lessons that enrich our worship just by studying them. Andrew Hill’s book “Enter His Courts with Praise: Old Testament Worship For The New Testament Church contains seven Hebrew worship words which have added to my understanding of Old Testament worship and provided affirmation as a worshipper”.
The first Hebrew word is ‘darash’. This word means to seek or to inquire (Ps 24:6). Genuine worship is a quest for God, to know Him and to seek His will. This is an essential aspect of worship, since we cannot truly worship what we do not know. The next Hebrew word, ‘yare’, speaks of the fear, awe, or reverence the Israelites felt toward God because He has the authority to deliver the righteous (Isa 43:1) and judge the wicked (Joel 2:31). This reverence bordered on terror, and motivates the heart to worship, respect, and obey the Lord. Hill defines it as “reverent obedience” (Ps 2:11).
The third Hebrew word is ‘abad’. Abad means “work” or “service,” but can be translated as “worship” when it deals with carrying out the commands of God. God demanded loyalty and faithfulness from the Israelites and constantly challenged them to choose between loyal service to false gods or to Yahweh (Josh 24:14-15). ‘Sharat’ seems to refer to a higher level of service than ‘abad’, and speaks of the ministering of the Levitical priests, as ministers of God. ‘Sharat’ suggests the idea of a commissioned minister and representative of God. Thus, it implies a solemn dedication to service. ‘Sharat’ also signifies a type of quality control as evident by the precise execution of God’s laws (Num 1:50-53) and is a lifelong calling (Num 8:24-25).
The most commonly used Hebrew word for worship is ‘shaha’. The word literally mean to fall down or grovel. Shaha implies the humility and conscious unworthiness of the worshipper. God expects us to be genuinely humble, and it would change our worship services and our relationships with God if we truly grasped the implications of this word!
The Hebrew word ‘sagad’ occurs only in the book of Isaiah, and most likely comes from the Aramaic word ‘segid’, which occurs only in Daniel chapter three. Both of these words mean to prostrate oneself in prayer, implying thankfulness or supplication.
Finally, a group of Hebrew verbs which, while not translated by the English term “worship,” are used in a worship context to speak of nearness to God, or abiding carefully by His laws. These words are, ‘bo’, meaning “to come,” or “enter,” ‘halak’, meaning “to go” or “to walk,” ‘nagash’, meaning “to approach,” and ‘qarab’, meaning “to draw near.” These words not only speak of our drawing near to God but most importantly, God drawing near to us (Lam 3:55-57).
After learning these Hebrew worship words, let us examine our hearts. When we worship, do we seek God earnestly or are our hearts distracted? Does the fear of God motivate our worship or are our hearts indifferent? Do we pledge allegiance to the only true God or do we rely on our own wisdom? Do we give God the best or do we give Him leftovers? Do we acknowledge that God is the Lord of all, thus using our time, money, and talents for His glory? Spend a few minutes and realign your life to Him. Even better, spend your lifetime looking for Him. “Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know Him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring” (Hos 6:3).