Originally posted 10/3/12.
When my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a few years ago, quite a few changes occurred in my perspective on life and death. The brevity and fragility of life were no longer abstractions. I truly felt them. One result of this new awareness was that I began to notice all the hymns and songs with stanzas about dying.
I recall selecting some songs for Sunday school one day. As I glanced down the list of songs in our database—those we hadn’t sung in a long time, I came to a title I’d passed over many, many times. This time it gripped my attention. A song that had seemed frivolous and silly to me before now moved me deeply as words and music played involuntarily through my mind.
Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away
To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.
The congregation sang it in Sunday school. It’s providential that I was at the piano because I don’t think I could have sung it. Though it had never been more than a light, peppy trifle to me before, it was now too strong to sing.
For a while, quite a few songs were hitting me like that.
What does real worship look like in the Christian life? We have a wonderful example from King Asa of Judah, the third king after Solomon. Not long after a great and decisive victory over a 1,000,000-man strong Ethiopian army, Asa launches a reform movement in Judah. Read here the words of the prophet Azariah to Asa:
And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law. But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity. Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. (2 Chronicles 15:1-7)
We read some familiar things here:
We have been studying 1 Samuel in our Sunday night Bible study. In 1 Samuel 1:28, we read of one who “worshiped the LORD.” In the context, this one seems to be the very young Samuel, perhaps as young as three years old.
The text reads (ESV), “ ‘Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.’ And he worshiped the Lord there.”
In Genesis 24:26-27, when Abraham’s servant was blessed in his search for a mate for Isaac, we read, “the man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.’”
There are other similar examples throughout the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 24:48, Exod. 4:31, Exod. 12:27, 1 Chron. 29:3, Neh. 8:6).
There seemed to be two elements to worshiping the LORD in the above contexts: (1) bowing down, (2) blessing the name of the LORD for some reason. In the case of Abraham’s servant above, the reason is stated: “ ‘who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master…. The Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.’” The blessing defines what is meant by “the man…worshiped.”