Psalm 96. Worship (Shachah). More Than Just Singing.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 96. (MsgB)

Sing God a brand-new song!
Earth and everyone in it, sing!
Sing to God—worship God!

Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of God,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!

I love to sing, don’t you?

I love to worship, don’t you?

Now many folks might look carefully at my last two sentences and say, “Boller, you must be getting old…he’s starting to repeat himself!”

But actually, in truth, while I am getting old, I do dispute the idea that I repeated myself with my first two sentences today.

You see, in so many of our churches in our generation, we associate the word worship with singing. As a matter of fact, many church-goers would quickly say that worship is singing. Case closed. Period. No more debate.

But a careful look at the Bible actually tells us that the word worship is not associated with music at all. Now, that’s a tough one for me to admit to, being a musician for most of my life. But here’s the truth. While Psalm 96, and so many other psalms, position the words worship and singing together; in truth, the Hebrew language used throughout the Old Testament begs to differ.

One wise pastor told me once that when I really want to know what a word found in the Bible actually means, I should go back to the very first time that word appears in the Scriptures. So using this solid rule of hermeneutics, my word study of the word worship actually takes me all the way back to Genesis 22. In the NIV, it reads like this:

Abraham Tested.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will WORSHIP and then we will come back to you.”


Notice that this story where the word worship first appears in Scripture has nothing to do with music. No singing. No dancing. No shouts of praise. No worship leader. No guitar. No keyboard. No full choir and orchestra with beautiful, scenic videos encouraging us to lift our hands in adoration to the Lord. No sanctuary filled with people. No CDs for sale out in the lobby. No autograph sessions following the service where the common folk get to meet the worship-leading celebrities.

Just one man who is learning to listen to His God, and then doing his very best to act in obedience on what he believes he has heard.

In this case, what Abraham hears from God is something he doesn’t want to hear. Ever.

“Go to the mountain-top, Abraham, and give back to me (in worship) the most precious gift I’ve ever given you.”

The Hebrew word here for worship is shachah. It actually means to go low or prostrate ones’ self in homage or loyalty to God, to bow down, or to fall down flat on your face.

Hmm. Maybe that’s why Psalm 96 says it this way?

Bring gifts and celebrate,
Bow before the beauty of God,
Then to your knees—everyone worship!


Just think if you and I went to church this coming Sunday and truly worshipped. No music. No shouting. No band. No high praises. Just a bunch of God-seekers lying on the floor, offering back to our Heavenly King our brightest and best, our cherished lives. Bringing our best gifts, bowing before His sovereign beauty, falling to our knees and finally…shachah.

On our faces, like Abraham, waiting for God to receive our humble obedience just as He did Abraham’s so many centuries ago.

Anybody wanna go to worship with me today?

Nah, you can leave your guitar and sheet music at home this time. Just bring your lives, ready and willing to lay them down in obedience to the Most High God.

My prayer: Father God, I ask You to forgive me for taking this biblical word worship (shachah) and reducing it to simply singing a few songs to You in church settings. I’m afraid that I’ve sold the word way short in my life. Holy Spirit, like Father Abraham, teach me Your ways of worship, where lying prostrate before You, offering You my best and brightest, become my way of worshipping You in Spirit and in Truth. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So when was the last time I actually worshipped like Abraham in Genesis 22? Have I ever? What might the ancient Hebrew word shachah look like in my life? While I never want to stop singing and praising my High King, how can I go deeper in my worship of God?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?

Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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