Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Does it matter what the Bible says about worship?

Does it matter what the Bible says about worship? Well, of course it does. You know this and I know this. What is amazing is that if we look at many churches, what we see as "worship" is often far removed from what we see in the scriptures. I believe most churches have good intentions in this area, but nonetheless, many fall far short of Biblical ideals of what worship should be.

I recently finished reading David Peterson's Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (IVP, 1992). I came upon this book for two reasons. First, I wanted to read a book about worship that focused on the scriptures instead of either denominational traditions or some sort of "hymns versus praise choruses" debate. Second, this book is one of Alan Knox's three favorites. Thanks, Alan!

Two quotes stand out to me from this text. Peterson says:
"Throughout the Bible, acceptable worship means approaching or engaging with God on the terms that He proposes and in the manner that He makes possible (p. 283)."
"Acceptable worship in Old Testament terms involves homage, service, and reverence, demonstrated in the whole of life. A common factor in these three ways of describing Israel's response to God is the assumption that He had acted towards them in revelation and redemption, to make it possible for them to engage with Him acceptably (p. 73)."
One of Peterson's primary thrusts is that it is God who determines what is acceptable worship.

This book is making me think about how I am living out my life. Is what I think of worship the same as what God thinks of worship? If not, then what does God think of my life?

I am reminded of the example of Nadab and Abihu in the Old Testament. Leviticus 10:1-2 tells us, "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD."

God takes worship very seriously (when I use the word "worship," I am referring to an entire life given to God, not a church service at 11:00 AM on Sundays). Peterson's book makes me want to examine my life more closely to see if both my definition and my practice of worship are acceptable to God.

In other words, is my worship Biblical? Is yours?


Lew A said...


Alan commented on my blog to this post. I posted a similar blog last night regarding Worship from a chapter in John Piper's Let the Nations be Glad!.

Alan turned me on to Engaging with God a while ago, after he had first read it. It still remains on my Amazon wishlist, but I plan on getting it and reading it soon.

Thanks for sharing these quotes and your thoughts.

God's Glory,

Eric said...


I appreciate your comment. When Alan recommended "Engaging with God," I figured that it would be good. I trust his judgment quite a bit. The book really did challenge me to look in the Bible to find out what God considers acceptable worship to be.

I'll be taking a look at your post in just a minute. It is interesting that you wrote about "Let the Nations be Glad!" That happens to be my favorite book of all time.


Alan Knox said...


I'm glad that you enjoyed the book. I'm always hesitant to recommend a book, because something that speaks to me may not speak similarly to others.

Anyway, you are correct. It is so important that we truly examines what God expects from us instead of what others expect from us. We must determine what pleases God instead of what pleases ourselves and others. When we walk in obedience to God, then we are worshiping him.

I was disappointed that Peterson did not take his application further at the end of the book (but, then, I am extreme when it comes to church meetings). But, at least it is a step in the right direction.


Eric said...


Thanks again for the recommendation. It was refreshing to read a book about worship where the author really tried to derive his conclusions from the biblical text and not bring anything else to it.

Let's pray that our churches will be willing to step back and examine what they call worship. I think great good could come from this all across our country, across all denominations.

Thanks again, Eric