I’m going out on a limb here, but recently I’ve only been able to focus on one “act” of worship in the New Testament … that is, one thing that is physically done in connection with the word worship:
Yup, that’s right. Worship in spirit and in truth when you worship. Offer your body as a living sacrifice, your spiritual act of worship. Sing when you’re happy. Sing and edify others. Pray without ceasing and in the Spirit. Speak in tongues and interpret and prophesy when you’re gathered. Read a bit of scripture. Commune at the table. Give from the heart as you’ve purposed. Give verbal praise to God, which was done in the temple, in the synagogues, in the streets and in the country – among other contexts in the scriptures. All good things to do. All good things to do in several different contexts, alone and together; in big groups or small; on Sunday or not. (That’s more than 5 acts of worship already, isn’t it? – Though I guess my fellowship isn’t real big on tongues and interpretation, either…)
All things that are good to do together, when gathered and especially on the first day of the week; that makes it handy to do them.
But the one physical thing to do as a part of worship that keeps popping up in scripture is bowing down, kneeling, falling on one’s face, doing obesiance. No matter how it’s phrased, it’s consistently there.
Here’s a short list, just from the New Testament:
- Matthew 2:11 – the reaction of the wise men to the infant Christ
- Matthew 4:9 – the temptation offered by Satan; as if the worship would not be complete without it
- I Corinthians 14:25 – where a convicted visitor would seemingly feel compelled to worship in this way
- Revelation 4:10, Revelation 5:14, Revelation 7:11, Revelation 11:16, Revelation 19:4 – where the 24 elders, 4 living creatures and hosts of angels do so before the throne of God
- Revelation 19:10 and Revelation 22:8 – when John the Visionary mistakenly (but perhaps forgiveably) falls to his knees to worship an angel, which is forbidden
That’s a very short list. Search Bible Gateway for “knee” and “kneel” in the New Testament, and you’ll find even more. Because kneeling was a physical way, in almost every instance, for those people to express their humility, brokenness, even shame of themselves; and their respect, need, and/or request of the God they came before, often in the person of Jesus.
It doesn’t seem to be limited to one culture; to Jews only, and not to Gentiles; to earthly creatures, and not to heavenly beings.
It doesn’t seem to be limited by time to one era; to the law and prophets only, and not to anno Domini.
It doesn’t seem to be limited by circumstance to one context: to church only, but not in the street or at home or at work.
I won’t go into it all again; I’ve blogged about it before, not quite a year ago.
What I will do is confess.
I’ve been more conscious of kneeling and faithful to the practice of it, especially when beseeching God in public or private prayer – but I’ve been holding back. I’ve been falling to ONE knee. I’m not a big fan of the “command, example, inference” hermeneutic, but if I were … I’d have to say my approach to God is still not scriptural. The word is almost always plural – “knees,” not “knee” – when used in scripture.
But in a larger hermeneutic – the hermeneutic of the heart – I think my single bent knee is an expression of half-knee’d faith and a half-hearted prayer life. I want it to be double-kneed (smiting against each other as in the case of Belshazzar when necessary!).
I want it to be full-hearted, in spirit and in truth.
I want it to express the faith that if I get down on both knees – even at fifty and after knee surgery on the right one – God will give me the strength to stand again. Even if that strength comes at the hand of a brother or sister nearby … or even a complete stranger.
Because I really believe it does no good to express something that’s not in in your heart … any more than it is to have something in your heart for God that you will not express in a way He’s described so many of His beloved ones doing.
Is that silly? Am I picking nits and swallowing camels here?
Or is this really the lost act of worship?