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Worship

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Worrell, Charles Flavel, D.D.
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(properly some form of שָׁחָה, especially in Hithpael; λατρεία )., homage paid to a superior, especially to God (which we consider only), usually expressed by prayer, sacrifice, and ritual. See each term in its place; also (See ADORATION).

I. General View. The homage of the progenitors of our race was the direct and simple effusion of gratitude (see Schroder, De Prima Cultus Divini Publici Institutione, Marburg, 1745). There can be no doubt that the Most High, whose essence no man hath seen, or can see, was pleased to manifest himself in Eden, by an external symbol, to the eyes of his innocent worshippers. This divine manifestation is called the presence of the Lord; and may have been in connection with the tree of life in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:8).

After the first transgression the mode of the divine manifestation was altered; and a mediatorial economy was established. Henceforth, the homage paid by man was the service of a. creature conscious of crime, approaching God through the medium of sacrifice, pleading for forgiveness, and confiding in mercy. Though the divine manifestation was no longer immediate, yet a visible symbol of Jehovah was still vouchsafed in the Shekinah or visible glory, from which Cain was exiled (Genesis 4:16; comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Psalms 96:8); which was seen by Abraham (Acts 7:2); by Moses and the people (Exodus 3:2-6; Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 24:16; Exodus 24:18; Numbers 14:10; Numbers 16:19; Numbers 16:42); by the high-priest (Exodus 25:22; Leviticus 16:2); by Solomon in the temple (1 Kings 8:10-12); and finally in "the WORD made flesh " (John 1:14). ''

Since this last visible manifestation, the worship of the Most High, which is no longer external and symbolic, has not been confined to any one place. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24). God now manifests himself to the spirits of his faithful worshippers, helping their infirmities. Hence the presence of the Lord is in every place where Christ is active in the Spirit, and where through hium, the sole mediator, the faithful pay their homage. As the true worship of God is only in the inward heart, and the whole life a spiritual service, every Christian in particular, and every Church in general, now represent a spiritual temple of the Lord. In the assemblies of the faithful, God by his Spirit diffuses his vital and sanctifying influence, and takes his devout worshippers into fellowship with himself, from which they derive strength to do and suffer his will in the various scenes of life, while he there affords them a foretaste of the deep and hallowed pleasures which are reserved for them in his immediate presence forevermore (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14). See the monographs cited by Volbeding, Index Programmatum, pages 107, 127, 130.

II. Among the Ancient Israelites.

1. In General Acts. The forefather of the Hebrew nation, Abraham, appears at the outset as a firm monotheist; but in his migrations there are obscure traces of a lingering idolatry, at least in his family (Genesis 21:19; Genesis 21:30; Genesis 35:2 sq.; comp. Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14; Judges 5:6 sq.; see Jonathan, Targ. on Genesis 31:19; also Sonne, Der Gott Abraham's [Hanover, 1806]). (See TERAPHIM).

The worship of the patriarchs (Ben- David, Ueb. die Relig. der Ebraer vor Moses [Berlin, 1812], contains strange hypotheses) was exceedingly simple, consisting of offerings and prayer (Genesis 24:63), presented at whatever place of residence, although very early particular spots seem to have been held sacred (i.e., where God had specially manifested himself; see Genesis 12:7-8 [comp. 13:4]; 46:1 [comp. 26:23]; e.g. anointed pillars, Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:14), heights having the preference to plains (Genesis 22:2; Genesis 31:54; see Creuzer, Symbol. 1:158 sq.; Zacharia. De More Vett. in Locis Editis Colendi Deum [Halle, 1704]). (See HIGH-PLACE).

Subsequently worship was held under (shady) trees and in groves (Genesis 13:18; Genesis 21:33; comp. Tacit. Germ. 39:7; Callim. In Dian. 38; Soph. Track. 754; Ovid, Fast. 3:295; Apollon. Rhod. 4:1714; see Woken, De Locis Temporibusque quae Fideles, Ante Legem Cerimon. Preces Destinerunt [Rostock, 1720]; Doughtei, Analect. 1:24 sq.). (See GROVE). In the offerings the ruling idea was that of thanking and propitiating God in general, the proper notion of expiation not yet appearing. (See OFFERING). The priests were the heads of the families. (See MELCHIZEDEK).

In Egypt the larger part of the Israelites may perhaps have been more or less addicted to nature worship (see Exodus 32; Leviticus 17:7; Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7), and in the desert traces of Sabaism are evident (Numbers 25; Amos 5:25 sq.). Moses, however, established the cultus of Jehovah as the exclusive religion, and to him the strict rule of monotheism is due. The ritual of the law is no copy of the Egyptian (Spener) nor of the Phoenician (Vatke) institutions, although particular features may have been derived from the former (Hengstenberg, Moses, page 147 sq.; Bahr, Symbol. 1:39 sq.), but recognised Jehovah as the sole national deity, and stood in direct personal as well as public relation to him. (See LAW).

It contained a multitude of special provisions (such as sacrifices, vows, fasts, etc.), both of a positive and a negative kind, pointing to God as the giver of all good, and the object of all moral obligation, both of blessing and atonement; especially embodying the distinction of clean and unclean in all the bodily relations of life. The cardinal sections of this cultus are marked by the regularly recurring festivals (q.v.), and the tabernacle and temple were its central rallying-points as a national system of observance, while the priesthood formed its official conservators and expounders. (See PRIEST).

The most marked of its peculiar features were the invisible character of the deity adored, in which it stood in bold contrast with all the prevalent idolatries; and the universality of its prescriptions, as pertaining not only to the whole nation, but to every individual in it, and to the minutest affairs of social and private economy. (See MOSAISM).

In later times, especially after the exile, the national worship was in some degree affected by foreign subjugation, and in process of time abnormal elements gradually crept in, such as Sadduceeism and Essenism. Under Antiochus Epiphanes a violent effort was made to force paganism bodily upon the Jews, but it succeeded only to a small extent. Under the Ptolemies full toleration was allowed, and under Alexander extraordinary privileges were granted even to foreign Jews. During all this period the heathen rulers occasionally contributed to the Mosaic worship (see Ezra 6:9; 1 Maccabees 10:34; 2 Maccabees 3:3; Josephus, Ant. 12:3, 3; 14:10-23). It is well known that under the Roman rule, the Jews, even in Rome itself (Dio Cass. 37:17), were allowed the full exercise of their religion (see Zimmern, Gesch. d. rom. Privatrechts, I, 2:470; Levysohn, De Judaeor. sub Caesar. Conditione [L.B. 1828]). (See JUDAISM).

2. In Prayer Particularly. This, as constituting the central idea of worship, was always strictly, although not formally, understood in the Mosaic service. There are no directions as to prayer given in the Mosaic law; the duty is rather taken for granted, as an adjunct to sacrifice, than enforced or elaborated. The temple is emphatically designated as "the House of Prayer" (Isaiah 56:7); it could not be otherwise, if "He who hears prayer" (Psalms 65:2) there manifested his special presence; and the prayer of Solomon offered at its consecration (1 Kings 8:30; 1 Kings 8:35; 1 Kings 8:38) implies that in it were offered, both the private prayers of each single man, and the public prayers of all Israel. It is hardly conceivable that, even from the beginning, public prayer did not follow every public sacrifice, whether propitiatory or eucharistic, as regularly as the incense, which was the symbol of prayer (see Psalms 141:2; Revelation 8:3-4). Such a practice is alluded to as common in Luke 1:10; and in one instance, at the offering of the first-fruits, it was ordained in a striking form (Deuteronomy 26:12-15). In later times it certainly grew into a regular service, both in the temple and in the synagogue. (See SYNAGOGUE).

But, besides this public prayer, it was the custom of all at Jerusalem to go up to the temple, at regular hours if possible, for private prayer (see Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1); and those who were absent were wont to "open their windows towards Jerusalem," and pray "towards" the place of God's presence (1 Kings 8:46-49,;Psalms 5:7; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 138:2; Daniel 6:10). The desire to do this was possibly one reason, independently of other and more obvious ones, why the house-top or the mountain-top were chosen places of private prayer.

The regular hours of prayer seem to have been three (see Psalms 55:17; Daniel 6:10), the "evening," that is, the ninth hour (Acts 3:1; Acts 10:3), the hour of the evening sacrifice (Daniel 9:21); the "morning," that is, the third hour (Acts 2:15), that of the morning sacrifice; and the sixth hour, or "noonday." To these would naturally be added some prayer at rising and lying down to sleep; and thence might easily be developed (by the love of the mystic number seven), the "seven times a day" of Psalms 119:164, if this is to be literally understood, and the seven hours of prayer of the ancient Church. Some, at least, of these hours seem to have been generally observed by religious men in private prayer at home, or in the midst of their occupation and in' the streets (Matthew 6:5). Grace before meat would seem to have been an equally common practice (see Matthew 15:36; Acts 27:35).

The posture of prayer among the Jews seems to have been most often standing (1 Samuel 1:26; Matthew 6:5; Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11); unless the prayer were offered with especial solemnity and humiliation, which was naturally expressed by kneeling (1 Kings 8:54; comp. 2 Chronicles 6:13; Ezra 9:5; Psalms 95:6; Daniel 6:10); or prostration (Joshua 7:6; 1 Kings 18:42; Nehemiah 8:6). The hands were "lifted up," or "spread out" before the Lord (Exodus 9:33; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 134:2, etc.). In the Christian Church no posture is mentioned in the New Test. excepting that of kneeling; see Acts 7:60 (St. Stephen); 9:40 (St. Peter); 20:36; 21:5 (St. Paul); perhaps from imitation of the example of our Lord in Gethsemane (on which occasion alone his posture in prayer is recorded). In after-times, as is well known, this posture was varied by the custom of standing in prayer on the Lord's day, and during the period from Easter to Whitsunday, in order to commemorate his resurrection, and our spiritual resurrection in him. (See PRAYER).

II. Christian Worship. This is usually divided into three kinds, according to the extent of the persons engaged in it.

1. Private Worship, otherwise called secret prayer, is between the individual and his Maker. It is specifically enjoined by our Lord (Matthew 6:6), and is essential to the maintenance of spiritual life in the soul of the believer. (See CLOSET).

The lately discovered Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (§ 8) enjoins the use of the Lord's Prayer "three times a day," evidently for private devotion. (See LORDS PRAYER).

Private worship should be conducted with,

(1) reverence and veneration; (2) self-abasement and confession; (3) contemplation of the perfections and promises of God; (4) supplication for ourselves and others; (5) earnest desire of the enjoyment of God; (6) frequency and regularity. (See DEVOTION).

2. Family Worship, i.e., regular domestic prayer. This is obviously called for in order to the proper religious conduct of the Christian household and its obligation is enforced by nearly every branch of evangelical Christendom. (See FAMILY).

3. Public Worship, i.e., religious services conducted in the general congregation. Some who have acknowledged the propriety of private worship have objected to that of a public nature, but without any sufficient ground. For Christ attended public worship himself (Luke 4); he prayed with his disciples (Luke 9:28-29; Luke 11:1); he promises his presence to social worshippers (Matthew 18:20). It may be argued also from the conduct of the apostles (Acts 1:24; Acts 2; Acts 4:24; Acts 6:4; Acts 20:36; Romans 15:30; 1 Corinthians 14; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 11) and from general principles (Deuteronomy 31:12; Psalms 100:4 1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:8; Hebrews 10:25).

The obligation of public worship is partly founded upon example, and partly upon precept; so that no person who admits that authority can question this great duty without manifest and criminal inconsistency. The institution of public worship under the law, and the practice of synagogue worship among the Jews, from at least the time of Ezra, cannot be questioned; both of which were sanctioned by the practice of our Lord and his apostles. The preceptive authority for our regular attendance upon public worship is either inferential or direct. The command to publish the gospel includes the obligation of assembling to hear it; the name by which a Christian society is designated in Scripture is a Church, which signifies an assembly for the transaction of business; and, in the case of a Christian assembly, that business must necessarily be spiritual, and include the sacred exercises of prayer, praise, and hearing the Scriptures.

But we have more direct precepts, although the practice was obviously continued from Judaism, and was therefore consuetudinary. Some of the epistles of Paul are commanded to be read. in the churches. The singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is enjoined as an act of solemn worship to the Lord; and Paul cautions the Hebrews that they "forsake not the assembling of themselves together." The practice of the primitive age is also manifest from the epistles of Paul. The Lord's Supper was celebrated by the body of believers collectively; and this apostle prescribes to the Corinthians regulations for the exercises of prayer and prophesyings, "when they came together in the Church" the assembly. The periodicity and order of these holy offices in the primitive Church, appear also from the apostolic epistle of Clement of Rome "We ought also, looking into the depths of the divine knowledge, to do all things in order, whatsoever the Lord hath commanded to be done. We ought to make our oblations, and perform our holy offices, at their appointed seasons; for these he hath commanded to be done, not irregularly or by chance, but at determinate times and hours; as he hath likewise ordained by his supreme will where, and by what persons, they shall be performed; that so all things being done according to his pleasure, may be acceptable in his sight." This passage is remarkable for urging a divine authority for the public services of the Church, by which Clement, no doubt, means the authority of the inspired directions of the apostles. (See SERVICE).

The ends of the institution of public worship are of such obvious importance that it must ever be considered as one of the most condescending and gracious dispensations of God to man. By this his Church confesses his name before the world; by this the public teaching of his word is associated with acts calculated to affect the mind with that solemnity which is the best preparation for hearing it to edification. It is thus that the ignorant and the vicious are collected together, and instructed and warned; the invitations of mercy are published to the guilty, and the sorrowful and afflicted are comforted. In these assemblies God, by his Holy Spirit, diffuses his vital and sanctifying influence, and takes the devout into a fellowship with himself, from which they derive strength to do and to suffer his will in the various scenes of life, while he there affords them a foretaste of the deep and hallowed pleasures which are reserved for them at his right hand forevermore.

Prayers and intercessions are offered for national and public interests, and while the benefit of these exercises descends upon a country, all are kept sensible of the dependence. of every public and personal interest upon God. Praise calls forth the grateful emotions, and gives cheerfulness to piety; and that instruction in righteousness, which is so perpetually repeated, diffuses the principles of morality and religion throughout society, enlightens and gives activity to conscience, raises the standard of morals, attaches shame to vice and praise to virtue, and thus exerts a powerfully purifying influence upon mankind. Laws thus receive a force which, in other circumstances, they could not acquire, even were they enacted in as great perfection; and the administration of justice is aided by the strongest possible obligation and sanction being given to legal oaths. The domestic relations are rendered more strong and interesting by the very habit of the attendance of families upon the sacred services of the sanctuary of the Lord; and the meeting of the rich and the poor together, and their standing on the same common ground as sinners before God, equally dependent upon him, and equally suing for his mercy, has a powerful, though often an insensible, influence in humbling the pride which is nourished by superior rank, and in raising the lower classes above abjectness of spirit, without injuring their humility. Piety, benevolence, and patriotism are equally dependent for their purity and vigor upon the regular and devout worship of God in the simplicity of the Christian dispensation.

Public worship therefore is of great utility, as

(1) it gives Christians an opportunity of openly professing their faith in and love to Christ;

(2) it preserves a sense of religion in the mind, without which society could not well exist;

(3) it enlivens devotion and promotes zeal;

(4) it is the means of receiving instruction and consolation;

(5) it affords an excellent example to others, and excites them to fear God, etc.

Public worship should be

(1) solemn, not light and trifling (Psalms 89:7);

(2) simple, not pompous and ceremonial (Isaiah 62:2);

(3) cheerful, and not with forbidding aspect (Psalms 100);

(4) sincere, and not hypocritical (Isaiah 1:12; Matthew 23:13; John 4:24);

(5) pure, and not superstitious (Isaiah 57:15). (See PUBLIC WORSHIP).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Worship'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​w/worship.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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