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Treasure Digest: What Is Worship?

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Treasure Digest

What Is Worship?

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Worship is one of those religious-sounding words that the average person doesn't think much about. If you press him, the average man might say it has something to do with how we act toward God or some supreme being, maybe what religious people do in a cathedral, church, synagogue or mosque. Maybe it has something to do with prayers or praise or singing?

The English word worship is pretty broad. But it might be more helpful to know what the Bible means with the words that are translated worship. What does the Bible say about worship?

The word most often translated worship in the King James Version is the Hebrew shachah (Strong's number 7812). Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says it's used more than 170 times in the Hebrew Bible to mean "to worship, prostrate oneself, bow down."

Consider typical uses of this word in Exodus 34:8, Psalms 66:4 and 95:6, and Zechariah 14:16.

Worship in this sense carries the connotation of bowing down in deep respect and honor to a superior (sometimes a king or master, but in a much deeper way to the God who created us and who gives us life). This worship can be accompanied with singing praises and meeting together to keep God's Feasts.

In the New Testament the main word used is proskuneo (Stong's 4352) used nearly 60 times. Strong's says this word is probably derived from 2965, "meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand." Vine's says it means "to make obeisance, do reverence to (from pros, 'toward,' and kuneo, 'to kiss.'"

The second most commonly used word translated worship in the New Testament is sebomai (Strong's 4576) meaning "to revere." It is used six times. Latreuo (Strong's 3000) is used four times, and means "to serve, to render religious service or homage." The New Bible Dictionary says this "originally signified the labour of slaves or hired servants. And in order to offer this 'worship' to God his servants must prostrate themselves—Hebrew histahawa or Greek proskyneo—and thus manifest reverential fear and adoring awe and wonder."

Worship in its most specific biblical sense means to bow or even prostrate yourself before God, revealing the deep reverence, honor and respect we have for Him. This meaning and the underlying attitude toward God it carries is too often lost in the loose way the term is used in English today.

"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker" (Psalm 95:6).