I saw a video several weeks back, where a young man shared why he walked away from his faith. Praise God, he has since returned, but one of his particular struggles with little “c” church culture struck me, and I believe should strike all of us as His Church.

He mentioned that he had never been taught the “why” behind worship, specifically behind music within the church.

After all, it is strange, right? We gather, week after week, stand up, sing a few songs, sit down, and in the young man’s words, “nothing more was ever said about it.” Wash, rinse, repeat the next week. No “why” for worship was ever mentioned or explained.

So what is worship? Why do we worship? And, more specifically, why do we sing or make music unto the Lord?

First, it should be mentioned the nature of the word worship goes beyond the constraints of a 20-minute window of music on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. To worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission. To worship is to ascribe worth. Worship is the very posturing and outpouring of a life.

Musically, it should also be mentioned, worship allows us to declare truths about who God is and what He has done for us in a forum that is uniquely communal, with God and with others, marrying both the intellectual and emotional. 

In Genesis 22:1-14, we see the first mention of worship:

“Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.’” Genesis 22:5

1. Worship is guided and directed by God.

God told Abraham what to do (vv.1-2). The Word of God always guides true worship; it is a response to a revelation of God. This means that worship is a matter of faith. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Worship is more than following traditions and customs. It goes beyond our preferences. Genuine Biblical worship is responding to who God is, as He is revealed in Scripture, and all that He has done. Worship is our personal response to God – awe, love, devotion, and gratitude.

2. Worship requires obedience.

Abraham submitted to God and then followed through in obedience. Submission leads to action (vv. 3-4). Worship is our response, but it is also an attitude that drives our actions. As believers in Jesus, we worship all of the time, seven days a week.

3. Worship should cost us something.

v. 2 “Take your son, your only son, whom you love…” Isaac was precious to Abraham. Isaac represented Abraham’s future and the fulfillment of God’s promise. God commanded Abraham to offer up that which was most precious to him as a sacrifice – as worship.

Authentic worship is always costly! Consider David’s offering in 2 Samuel 24:24: “No, but I will buy [the land] from you for a price. I will I not offer burnt offerings unto the LORD God that cost me nothing.”

What does it cost us?

o Preparation, spiritually and musically (Psalm 33:3; 1 Chronicles 25:7).
o Humility toward God (recognizing that God is God, and we are not; taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on God is costly to our flesh).
o Humility toward others.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

4. Worship requires precision and excellence.

o In both Leviticus and Malachi, we read about what makes a sacrifice acceptable or unacceptable before the Lord.
o “Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.” Psalm 33:3
o “…who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful…” 1 Chronicles 25:7

Worship is not: What am I getting out of this today? What is God going to do for me today? What songs are we singing today? I don’t like that song. I don’t like that singer.

We see from Scripture worship is commanded. It’s communal. It’s humbly focused on God. Through tears and battle cries, worship is our response to Him, and He’s concerned, above all things, with the heart.

As worshippers who worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), we declare the truth about who God is, and what He has done for us. He sees straight through to our hearts, every thought, every motive. May our worship be pure before Him! He is worthy!