I want you to know, beloved child of God, that it is a great joy for me to embark upon this vital quest in search of genuine Christianity together with you. My prayer is that the time we’re spending together has been, and will continue to be, both enlightening and profitable to your personal walk of faith. And now, it is my great joy to explore with you a most wonderful aspect of the authentic life in Christ to which we are called—our call to worship.
It is my premise, child of God, that worship is the highest, the holiest, the most powerful, and, perhaps, the most coveted expression of interpersonal relationship in all of heaven and earth; and that it is, for this reason, reserved exclusively for God. You may remember that the Apostle John, while writing the book of Revelation, was overcome with emotion at the great mysteries that were being shared with him; so much so that he fell down at the feet of the angel who was guiding him, as if to worship the angel. But the angel said, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10, NASB).
In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his “hierarchy of needs” in a paper he entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation” (Maslow’s, 2013). His famous pyramid portrayed an ascending range of human needs and motivation. Maslow’s illustration of needs and corresponding motivation included, at the most basic level, our physiological needs—food, water, clothing, and shelter. After these basic needs are met, human beings then begin to concern themselves with safety and security issues—health concerns, financial stability, and continued personal well-being. When these essential issues are taken care of, people begin to be more concerned for community and their place in society, including a sense of belonging—family, friendship, and love. Moving up the pyramid, human beings then begin so express a need for some measure of personal distinction and esteem—self-respect, honor, and recognition. Finally, at the top of Maslow’s pyramid, among some of the highest motivators known to humanity, are those things that contribute to, and satisfy, our need for self-actualization—morality, creativity, service to others, and tapping our personal potential to become all that we can be.
However, in the context of our discussion, I think it’s safe to say that Maslow fell incredibly short at recognizing the highest motivation capable of driving sentient beings. If we were to extend Maslow’s hierarchy to include the greatest desires and motivators among people in general, we would need to add at least three more ascending categories: prosperity—not just sufficiency; authority—power, position, control, over one’s own life and others; and, at the highest pinnacle, above everything else, worship—to be praised, honored, revered, and exalted above others—as seen in Illustration 2.
Illustration 2. Maslow’s pyramid extended.
So immeasurably powerful is the concept of worship—as both a motivator and a potential framer of place and standing—that many human beings, and even some angelic beings, have desired it for themselves above all else. As the old adage goes: “Everyone wants to be the STAR!”
So powerful and dangerous is this desire to be worshipped that it is attributed to the very downfall of Satan. In a mysterious Old Testament prophecy, the context of which involves the fall of the King of Tyre—but prophecy often has duel meaning—we read:
You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared.
You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.
By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God. And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground…
(Ezekiel 28:12-17, NASB)
And in another Old Testament prophetic passage concerning the overthrow of the King of Babylon, we read:
How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.
(Isaiah 14:12-15, NASB)
From these passages, and others similar to them, scholars have guessed that, perhaps, when Satan was created, he was one of God’s highest and holiest angelic beings with immense beauty, intellect, and responsibility. However, because of pride, he sought that which belongs only to God; he sought worship for himself which, of course, led to his complete downfall. Whether these passages are actual prophecies concerning Satan, or whether they were meant to apply only to mere mortals, the lesson we glean from them is the same. Worship is a dangerous thing when misdirected and sought by, or given to, anyone other than God.
Furthermore, whether or not these Old Testament prophecies can be applied directly to Satan, we know that his desire to be worshipped is so strong that when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he was willing to turn jurisdiction of all the nations on earth over to Him if Jesus would but worship him. We read:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
(Matthew 4:8-10, NASB)
There is, in fact, such a great danger involved in worship, and in the desire to be worshipped, that the very first two of the Ten Commandments succinctly state: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3, ); and, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them…” (Exodus 20:4-6, NASB).
Due to the moral turpitude inherent in misguided worship, idolatry in all its forms is strictly forbidden throughout scripture. This principle applies not only to religious idols and false gods, but to anything and everything in this world that would supplant one’s devotion to God; even the pride—self-adoration—that continually plagues humanity. The Apostle John writes:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
(I John 2:15-17, NASB)
There is good reason for God reserving worship for Himself alone. For not only is God the only living being who is truly worthy of our worship, He is also the only One who can actually handle being worshipped and it not infringe upon, alter, or change the essence of His personal being.
This is not true, however, of any other created being. We have all witnessed the old cliché proven true time and again down through the annals of human history: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!” We commonly speak of people who, when given a little bit of power or authority, let it go “straight to their head”; they take it to the next level—the level of self-worship—and end up abusing their authority and hurting others.
But nowhere are the dangers of worship better illustrated than when the scriptures speak of the appearance of the antichrist upon the earth. The Bible notes that he will, above all else, seek the worship of all men everywhere; even if such worship has to be forced. The scriptures call him, “the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, NASB). Concerning this being, the Apostle John informs us, saying:
And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names… And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority… And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”… All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain… Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed… And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
(Revelation 13:1-17, NASB)
Note the emphasis on worship throughout this prophecy. It seems as if beyond wealth, beyond power, beyond everything imaginable, at the top of the pinnacle, Satan desires worship. Well, you know the age old saying, “What else can you give the man who already has everything?”
But while engaging in any expression of idolatry—the worship of anything or anyone other than God—is incredibly dangerous and strictly forbidden, expressing oneself in true worship to God is the absolute highest endeavor that can be undertaken by any created being. This is probably nowhere better exemplified than in the throne room scene of John’s revelation wherein the most exalted beings in all of creation are seen engaging in the highest and holiest purpose for which they were created—that of worshipping God! We read:
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.’
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’
(Revelation 4:2-11, NASB)
While God does not need our worship, after all, He is God—complete in and of Himself and not dependent on any created being for personal affirmation or anything else—still, He has created humanity, and all beings, with the need to worship. Solomon writes: “I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11, NASB). Ultimately, we are spiritual beings; and we know it! We have been created in the image of God with a need to worship our Creator; and, in our hearts, we know it! This need to worship the One who has created us is a strong tie that binds our hearts to His. The purpose of worship is not only to glorify God and extoll all the splendors of His being, it is to inflame our desire for Him; to keep us wanting Him, seeking Him, and pursuing a life-giving relationship with Him.
This is why, in the second of the Ten Commandments, after saying, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them,” He then goes on to say, “for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5, NASB). As our Creator, God has a right to our devotion, to our love and adoration, to our worship. And because of His great love for us, He is not willing to give us up to anything or anyone else. Would a loving and righteous man give his wife over to some other man or group of men to be used and abused by them? Would a loving and righteous father abandon his own children to strangers? “For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord” (Song of Solomon 8:6, NASB). There is a healthy jealousy in authentic love that seeks to secure and protect not only the object of one’s love, but the whole relationship.
This is why Jesus said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, NASB). This is also why idolatry is likened to spiritual adultery throughout scripture; and why we’re admonished:
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’?
(James 4:4-5, NASB)
Worship is beautiful. Worship is powerful. Worship is mind altering and life changing. Worship can enflame our desires for God and fuel this crazy love affair we have with Him; or, when misdirected, worship can lead us down the wrong road, inciting our passions for all the wrong things and wreaking havoc in our hearts and lives. In view of the power of worship, and the above warning from James, let us make a mutual commitment, beloved child of covenant, that God alone will be forever magnified as the ultimate desire of our hearts; and that He will be glorified in our lives, as the sole object of our worship.
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