05 October 2009

Positions of worship

Recently at church, we were singing a popular worship song that included the lines:

We stand and lift up our hands, for the joy of the Lord is our strength
We bow down and worship him now, how great how awesome is He.

People often lift their hands as they sing this song (and many other worship songs). Admittedly, it may difficult to continue to sing a lively worship number while genuflecting, but I cannot recall the last time when I saw someone bow down in [a Protestant] church, even during prayer. I suppose I personally don't bow down for fear of embarrassment.

Throughout both Testaments, there is evidence of both raising hands (Psalm 63:4, Psalm 141:2, Lamentations 3:41) and bowing low (Isaiah 51:14, Psalm 95:6), but what I find interesting is what the two positions suggest. From my perspective, in our society at least, raising hands suggests an offering of loving praise whereas bowing low suggests a brokenness of spirit--an acknowledgement of unworthiness--such as we see from the tax collector in Luke 18 who averted his eyes from heaven.

I believe that both positions can demonstrate worship, but to me, happily singing "we bow down and worship him now" seems out of place. The song is joyful, bowing down is contrite. They don't easily fit together.

As we worship God individually and corporately, let us not forget the One we worship is perfectly holy and worthy of our fear (Isaiah 6, Revelation 15). I think that too often we lose sight of His glory in our worship and it simply becomes about singing happy songs to Jesus. God loves us and He sent His son to die for us, but He is also glorious.

John knew this better than anyone. He was the "beloved" disciple (John 21) and wrote effusively about the love of Christ but when he encountered Christ in his Glory, he "fell at as His feet as if dead" (Revelation 1:12-18). For John, it was no stretch to see Christ as both perfectly loving and deserving of fear. We should seek the same.

Phillipians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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