“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.’
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”
I’ve been reading the book of Job again. In this passage, Job has just been bombarded by bad news, having lost his livestock, his servants and finally all of his children, who were killed when the house where they were together collapsed on them in a storm. It doesn’t seem strange to read that he arose, tore his robe and shaved his head, which are all signs of extreme grief. But I imagine it does seem strange to some to read that his response is to fall to the ground and…..what do we expect to see here, weep? But that is not the word there, is it? It says he worshiped.
I imagine he probably wept greatly as he worshiped. But he worshiped. Isn’t that interesting?
I have been thinking about that for a few days since I read that last week, and Kim at The Upward Call wrote an interesting post about a conversation she had with someone recently about worship that goes well with my thoughts, too.
I think sometimes our understanding of worship is too shallow. I think a lot of times when we think about worship, especially in a church setting, we tend to think that the music portion of the service is the worship time and then we have the preaching, which we don’t so much equate with worship. We seem to think we haven’t worshiped unless we have had an exciting, emotional time of music-that-we-like kind of experience. Music is very emotional. A skilled music leader can very effectively create a certain mood with careful song choices, and I think sometimes, if we are not careful, we can tend to equate emotion with worship. And they are not the same thing. We can be and often are extremely emotional when we worship, I often am! But, we do need to be careful about assuming that we haven’t worshiped unless a music service brings the house down in some kind of emotional outpouring. And we need to be careful not to put too much emphasis on the music and the type of music and too little emphasis on the preaching of God’s word. And we would do very well to remember that worship is not about how we feel, but about the worth and honor we ascribe to God!
I’m not saying that emotion is wrong or that music is not important. In my last post I talked about a song that is really special to me, and there are lots of songs that do aid in focusing my thoughts on God and help me to enter into an attitude of worship. Having said that though, I also must say that I have been in church services where I have been emotionally spent after the music fades because, frankly, the emotional manipulation is over the top, and it was just that – manipulation. It was obvious the songs had been carefully selected to produce just such a mood. I may feel any number of things, but have I truly worshiped just because I’ve been through an emotional wringer? That is a question we need to ask ourselves.
I was once in a church service on a patriotic weekend (July 4th or Memorial Day, something like that) and the music was all patriotic that morning, and very stirring, very emotional, and very……America-centered. In church. Where our worship should be focused on the King of glory, Jesus, the Savior who poured out His blood to redeem His people, and as I sang those songs I became more and more uncomfortable that we were mixing up love of country with love of God that morning. In fact, the same kinds of emotions we have during a moving ‘worship’ service were flowing that morning, and as we sang “America the Beautiful,” people were swaying with eyes closed and hands raised as we sang the line, “Thine alabaster cities gleam….” And I cringed, thinking, who/what are we actually worshiping with this? I think we had equated emotion with worship, and it was disturbing. I kept thinking about how someone from another country may have experienced that service. Would their attention have been drawn to the Savior? I fear it would not.
So, what I suppose I mean to be saying with this post, that is once again too long, is that I often need to be careful not to count on having a certain kind of emotion in order to worship or to think that music is the most important part of worship. We need to remember that, while music is wonderful, preaching and hearing God’s word is equally important. It is as our understanding of God’s word grows that our worship deepens because knowing God as He has revealed Himself to us through Christ and His word is what should inform and motivate our worship. As we’re singing those songs, we should be focusing on what we know of the One we are singing about. Some of my deepest times of worship have happened without music, in fact.
When I had my third miscarriage, Drew had just the week before departed for 6 months in Iraq and I was alone with two little boys and my heartache and the physical ordeal of the miscarriage. I had been memorizing Psalm 34, and I remember during one very difficult afternoon crying out, “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise will continually be in my mouth,” through sobs and tears and hurt and physical things I won’t go into detail about here on the blog. In the midst of it all, His peace truly was the peace that passes all understanding. I think this must be a glimpse of what it means when it says that Job worshiped. Moving beyond the feelings into what we know is true, in spite of the feelings and acknowledging God’s absolute worthiness of honor and glory and surrendering to Him, in spite of the feelings.
I think we need to be careful not to limit worship just to the music, and we need to be careful not to say that we can only worship if a certain emotional situation is achieved or only if certain music is sung. Good Bible teaching and spending time studying the Word for ourselves is every bit as important, and I would argue even more important, than music that makes us feel excited or whatever that feeling is that we seek. Sometimes the purest worship happens when we don’t feel like worshiping at all but we fall on our face and do it in spite of the feelings.
His word will inform our worship as we seek to really know Him through reading it and knowing it and hiding it in our heart and through prayer. Then we can learn to worship Christ Jesus with our lives as we learn to apply what His word says, offering our lives as a living sacrifice, obeying and serving Him and not just waiting for a certain type of emotion to define worship for us. Then when the crises come, we can choose to say, with Job, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD,” and with David, “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise will continually be in my mouth.”