top of page

Worship in the Bible: Alive & Proven for 4,000 years

Worship in the Bible: Alive & Proven for 4,000 years
God has been worshipped since Creation. That worship has grown fuller and deeper ever since. The Holy Bible records the first 4070 years.

God has been worshipped since Creation. That worship has grown fuller and deeper ever since. The Holy Bible records the first 4070 years.

Table of Contents:

Worship in the Bible: Alive & Proven for 4,000 years

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.–Psalm 95:6

Worship is a verb and a noun



(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1: to honor or show reverence for a divine being or supernatural power

2: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion: a celebrity worshipped by her fans

intransitive verb

: to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship


Definition (Entry 2 of 2)

1: reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power: also: an act of expressing such reverence

2: a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual

3: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem: worship of the dollar

Worship began in heaven

St. John the Apostle*(7-100) reports this scene: *= in my book, SPIRITUAL LIVES

And each one of the four living creatures had six wings about him, and within being full of eyes. And they had no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come. – Revelation 4:8

Isaiah*(700s BC) shared this vision of seraphim in heaven singing:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3).

The LORD Himself asks Job*(1836-1689 BC):

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? …. when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38: 4 & 7

On Earth as It Is in Heaven: A Biblical Theology of Worship

All this heavenly angelic activity was before the Bible gives us

the first picture of human worship in Genesis 4.

Here, “in the process of time,” Cain* and Abel* bring offerings to the LORD. Each brings the product of his occupation; Cain, “a tiller of the ground” brings what he has grown, and Abel, “a keeper of sheep,” brings of his flock.

The LORD respected Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Why? The Lord spoke to Cain:

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. Genesis 4:7

The center of this worship is the LORD. No place is mentioned nor specific time, but it is not a routine part of daily life.

Offerings are freely given, products of each one’s labor. The LORD receives/respects or not, and somehow SIN is a factor.

The only Biblical insight to this first offering comes 4000 years later:

It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s. Through his faith he won God’s approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. – Hebrews 11:4

The next development is the appearance of the altar:

Noah*(3078-2146 BC) built an altar to the LORD; he took one of each kind of ritually clean animal and bird, and burned them whole as a sacrifice on the altar. Genesis 8:20

Carl Friedrich Keil (1807 – 1888) supposed altars were not needed before the Flood because the glory of God was still visible at the gate of Eden,

so that they could turn their offerings and their hearts towards that abode.

John Gill (1697-1771) reports that ancient Jewish writers say,

this was the altar on which Adam sacrificed when expelled from the garden of Eden, and on which Cain and Abel offered; and being demolished by the flood, was rebuilt by Noah, which is not at all probable;

Gill thinks the view of Aben Ezra (1089-1167) is more likely:

that it was built on one of the mountains of Ararat, and that as Noah took the first opportunity, so he built it in the first place he came to, or at least not far from the place where he came out of the ark:

However that may be, Moses*(1571-1452 BC) next records an altar in Abraham’s* day (1996-1821 BC):

And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.– Genesis 12:7

As in many other instances, the altar was built by the one to whom the LORD appeared or was calling on His name. The offering of a sacrifice is implicit, although some were built as memorials.

Two takeaways are that

  • altars were built outdoors by individuals and

  • the use of altars was occasional, for one time, not a regular or routine practice.

Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt to sacrifice

In Egypt, the children of Israel continued to offer sacrifices as the patriarchs had until they were enslaved. From their request to Pharaoh, it seems they could not sacrifice in Egypt:

The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. --Exodus 5:3

Here we see that it was God who commanded the sacrifice and this time not of an individual but of His people as a group.

John Gill shares this thought:

Some think the reason of this request they were directed to make, to sacrifice out of the land of Egypt, was, because what they sacrificed the Egyptians worshipped as gods, and therefore would be enraged at such sacrifices; but for this there is no sufficient foundation;

But the sacrifice they were to make came only after the children of Israel saw the LORD’s power and glory on Mt. Sinai and heard His word and then received it in written form.

This word was not only to be honored by reading and obeying but my being placed in the Ark of the Covenant which was in the center of the Holy of holies.

Moses oversaw the creation of the Tabernacle, including the Ark and all the sacred furniture and vessels to be used in sacrifice, and Aaron established the priesthood that would oversee the service and perform the sacrifices, which were the central feature of that worship.

All this was still occasional, but now regular, scheduled at specific feast times, the first being the Passover.

David*(1085-1015 BC) and Solomon*(1034-975 BC) enhance and formalize

David deeply desired to build a house for the LORD but was denied that work which was promised to his son. Nevertheless, DAVID prepared for this work by amassing great wealth designated for it and writing 75 psalms that would be sung there. Here is one that expressed his faith, desire, and confidence:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

Solomon built the Temple in seven years, and it was the finest building ever built, one of the wonders of the world. He also furnished it richly

Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD. – 1 Kings 7:31

At the center of all of this was the Ark of the Covenant, containing only the word of God in the two tablets given by God to Moses at Mt. Sinai. At its installation, the people celebrated and praised the LORD, through the psalms and praises sung by the Levites and accompanied with music:

It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying,

For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; --2 Chronicles 5:13

This Mosaic system was in place until the Temple was destroyed.

Takeaways from Old Testament worship

  • It celebrates the glory and holiness of God

  • It is based upon separation from the world

  • Recognizes the separating effects of sin and power of repentance

  • Establishes word of God as central to worship

  • Prefigures Jesus, His sacrifice for our sins, and His saving power.

  • Celebrates God’s mercy and goodness via thanksgiving.

  • Establishes priesthood as a vocation.

History professor Glen Sunshine sees these values in Old Testament practice that we can learn from:

Celebration and music are important, as are giving alms and the reading of Scripture;

further, the Psalms are an important component of prayer, giving us a vocabulary (and permission) to express our deepest needs and longings to God and to offer Him praise and thanks.

These are all elements we need to incorporate into our worship.

New Testament updates

Jesus was dedicated to the LORD in the Temple as an infant and as an adult, honored it as His Father’s house:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. – Matthew 21:12-13

In the Temple, he taught, healed the sick, and contended with the scribes and Pharisees. It was the center of Jewish life and the center of sacrifice, praise, and thanksgiving. When Jesus died on the cross,

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; Matthew 27:51

This was effectually the end of the Old Covenant and the sacrificial system that had been a forecast of Jesus’ atoning death. Now that His work of salvation was finished, the old sacrifices were obsolete.

The rending of the veil signified that, when Christ had overcome the sharpness of death, he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

Nothing can obstruct or discourage our access to heaven, for the veil is rent; a door is opened in heaven, (--Revelation 4:1) – Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Temple worship was over, but meetings in synagogues continued.

Jesus Himself went to the synagogue regularly:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. – Luke 4:16

Synagogues had arisen after the first temple had been destroyed and the Jews were in exile about 500 BC. They provided a local place of worship, standardized prayers, and scripture readings.

Synagogues also set up the practice of weekly Sabbath meetings and discussions of spiritual things. They were located all over the world and were the most frequent meeting places for believers in the first century. (The word “synagogue” is used 45 times in the New Testament.)

St. Paul’s missionary journeys usually began in the synagogues of the cities he visited. As the Jewish worshippers accepted Jesus, water baptism and taking the Lord’s Supper moved early Christians to other places often in homes.

The Lord's Supper

The observation of the Lord’s Supper is the first step in the developing worship of the church. St. Paul gave the text to the Corinthians that we still use today

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Later, he gives some more explicit instructions on how the church’s worship should proceed:

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.

Let all things be done unto edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:26

Notice that the congregation is active and not an audience. Everyone is to participate.

Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy and forbid not to speak with tongues.

Let all things be done decently and in order. – 1 Corinthians 14:39-40

What is not here is a place for a sermon or preaching. Wikipedia says that sermons as we know them did not exist in the Bible.

What we call the Sermon on the Mount was a collection of discourses Jesus gave at various times and that Matthew put in its current form for his Gospel.

Peter’s famous call to repentance on the day of Pentecost and Stephen’s testimony in Acts were more “testimonies.”

These addresses were used to spread Christianity across Europe and Asia Minor, and as such are not sermons in the modern sense, but evangelistic messages.

The Apostles did identify leadership roles in the church:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: – Ephesians 4:11-12

Bishops and deacons are described in 1 Timothy, whose qualifications were gravity, holiness, and maturity, who rules his family well, whose family was in the faith, and are well regarded by those outside the church.

Paul tells Titus to “ordain elders in every city” and James commands the sick to go to the elders for anointing with oil and healing prayer.

The liturgy and service of the Church are still developing as the New Testament ends, but all the elements we need are there and have been serving us well for 2,000 years and will continue to bless us until Jesus comes again.

When He comes and takes us with Him to heaven, we will have a part in that heavenly worship. We will join,

a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. – Revelation 7:9-10

This will be the final and complete fulfillment of this Psalm of David written 1,000 years before Jesus came!

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. – Psalm 96:9

Worship with me today, and with those singing this song:

1 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,

bow down before him, his glory proclaim;

with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,

kneel and adore him the Lord is his name.

2 Low at his feet lay your burden of carefulness,

high on his heart he will bear it for you,

comfort your sorrows and answer your prayerfulness,

guiding your steps in the way that is true.

3 Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness

of the poor wealth you would count as your own;

truth in its beauty and love in its tenderness

these are the offerings to bring to his throne.

4 These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,

he will accept for the name that is dear;

mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,

trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

5 O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,

bow down before him, his glory proclaim;

with gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,

kneel and adore him the Lord is his name.

Jubilate Hymns version of a text by J. S. B Monsell (1811 – 1875)

© Jubilate Hymns Ltd


11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page