|OUR PHYSICAL ATTITUDE OF WORSHIP
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Oct 16 2009 08:00 AM
There is no such thing as motionless worship. There is no such thing as worship in which our body makes no
responses. Worship is intensely active. I've had the privilege of being able to read the Bible in both the Hebrew of the
Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. Some time ago, I decided to look at all of the words that
described worship in both languages. In doing so, I made a discovery that surprised me and altered my whole concept
of worship. I discovered that every word that described worship also described a posture or position of the body,
without exception. I will give you some examples by starting at the head and working downward.
In Genesis 24, Abraham's servant was sent to Mesopotamia to seek a bride for Abraham's son, Isaac. The servant did
not know where he was going or whom he would meet. Without the servant realizing it, the Lord directed him to the
family of Abraham's brother, which was the traditional way to seek a marriage in those times. And so, when the servant
realized that the woman he met, Rebekah, was Abraham's niece, the Scripture say, "The man bowed down his head and
worshiped the LORD" (Genesis 24:26).
Then, in Exodus, we have Moses and Aaron returning from the desert to bring word to the enslaved nation of Israel that
God had come down and committed to deliver them from the Egyptians. After they delivered their message to the
elders, we read, "And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and
that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped." (Exodus 4:31).
In some situations, other physical postures may be difficult, but there is hardly any situation in which you cannot bow
your head. For instance, when Ruth and I have a meal in a restaurant we nearly always say a rather lengthy prayer of
thanksgiving. In doing so it would be impossible for us to kneel or fall face down, but bowing the head is a thing that can
be done almost anywhere. I encourage you, the next time you say grace before a meal, do not keep your head upright;
bow it. It makes a total difference to your whole relationship with God. It is a simple, but very significant, act.
One of the world's great worshipers was David. He gave us two different postures of the hands that represent worship.
Psalm 63 begins with these beautiful words:
thirsty land, where no water is;" (Psalm 63:1)
David was in the wilderness of Judah when he offered this prayer to the Lord. Then he went on:
up my hands in thy name." (Psalm 63:3-4)
The lifting up of your hands in the name of the Lord is an act of worship that is described many times in the Bible.
In Psalm 141, David described this same posture of the hands: "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." (Psalm 141:2). Incense tells us immediately that this is about
worship. In the temple, there were both morning and evening sacrifices. David was asking God to accept the lifting up
of his hands as the evening sacrifice at the close of the day.
Then, in Psalm 143, David described another posture of the hands: "I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul
thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land." (Psalm 143:6). Notice the language of longing for God again.
I think there is a difference in the significance of these two attitudes of the hands. When you lift up your hands, you are
acknowledging God's majesty and sovereignty. When you spread out your hands, you are open to receive.
One time, when Ruth and I were at a meeting in Holland, Ruth stretched out her hands while we were experiencing some
really wonderful worship. Then she said to me, "My hands are getting so heavy I cannot hold them up." The Hebrew
word for glory is the same word for weight: cheved and chevron. I told her, "God is putting His glory in your hands."
I tell you this because I want you to see how real God is in dealing with our bodies. We are not just disembodied spirits
floating around in the air; we are people who live in very real, physical bodies. And God wants complete control of our
bodies in worship.
There is another activity of the hands that I love: "O Clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of
triumph!" (Psalm 47:1). When we clap our hands we are worshiping God. Worship is not some rigid posture in which
you sit; it is an activity of the entire body.
Another person who spread out his hands to the Lord was King Solomon, when he dedicated the temple that he had
built. But Solomon went a little further. He did not just spread out his hands, but he also went through into the next
attitude of worship:
hands: For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits high,
and had set it in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the
congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven..." (II Chronicles 6:12-13)
In Daniel there is the story of when King Darius decreed that worshipers who prayed to anyone other than himself would
be cast into the lion's den. This was Daniel's response to the king's written decree:
chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before
his God, as he did aforetime." Daniel 6:10)
Daniel had a regular practice of prayer, kneeling down toward Jerusalem (which is the way all Jews pray still, facing
Jerusalem, no matter where they are in the world). So, both Solomon and Daniel knelt down in prayer.
When Paul prayed and worshiped, one of the things he normally did was to bow his knees. Bowing your knees is an act
of total submission, which is very important. I find many Christians who are not totally submitted to God. They submit
when God does what they like, but when God does things differently from what they want, they complain, argue, and get
One of the key words we need to learn today is sovereign. You don't hear that word much today, but it is a fact about
God. He is absolutely sovereign. I would define it this way: God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He
wants, and He asks no one's permission. The sooner you get a grip on that fact and bow your knees, the easier it will
be for you to lead a victorious Christian life. God does things in our lives that we don't think He ought to do. Many of
you may be holding on to some kind of complaint with Him. Be very careful of murmuring against God.
Bowing the knee is an act of worship. At some point in the future, everybody is going to do it. So you may as well beat
the crowd and do it now.
every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." (Isaiah 45:23)
At a certain point, God is going to insist that every living creature in the universe that has knees will acknowledge His
total sovereignty. "Every knee shall bow." In Philippians, Paul indicated to whom the universe will bow.
name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.."
Now we come to the most-used description of worship in the Bible - falling prostrate on your face before God. This has
a distinct meaning. It means total dependence upon God. It means, "Lord, I can do nothing without You. I cannot even
start." As John Bunyan once said,
When you are face down on the floor, you have gone as low as you can go. There is only one way to go from there,
and that is up.
In Genesis 17, the Lord appeared to Abraham twice. It is a very important chapter because the Lord made an
everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants to be their God and to give them that strip of land at the east
end of the Mediterranean as an everlasting possession. So, the first time the Lord appeared to Abraham (or Abram, as
he was called at that time), He said,
Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will
multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him..." (Genesis 17:1-3)
Later in that same chapter, we read,
be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of
nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart,
Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"
Incredible! How could the Lord say such a thing with Sarai, or Sarah now, being well past the age of bearing children?
But at the right time, it happened. Abraham grew used to being on his face before God, doing it twice in Genesis 17.
In Leviticus, there is another example of people falling prostrate before God:
which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces." (Leviticus 9:24)
Actually, I do not believe they could have remained standing if they had tried. They were in the immediate presence of
God, the Holy Spirit. Then, later we read in Numbers,
congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them." (Numbers 20:6)
We continue to see examples throughout the Scriptures. Joshua fell on his face when the Commander of the army of
the Lord appeared to him (see Joshua 5:14). When Elijah called down fire on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, the whole
nation "fell on their faces; and they said, 'The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!'" (I Kings 18:39). Not one
person was left standing. That is the response to the presence of God. In Ezekiel, we read,
round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. and when I saw it, I fell upon my
face, and I heard a voice of one that spake." (Ezekiel 1:28)
I question whether any man or woman who has never been on his or her face before God has ever been very close to
God. You would have to search quite a way through the Bible to find any of the really great men of Scripture who had
not been on their faces before God. I practice this posture of worship, not as a matter of legalism or ritual, but out of a
need for security. I have found that the most secure place I know of is on my face before God. That is the way to
greatness - get on your face before God.
Dancing before the Lord
There is one more act of worship described in the Scriptures. In II Samuel, David had finally succeeded in getting the
ark to Jerusalem after it had been captured by the Philistines and then stored for safe keeping. There had been
several problems along the way. God killed a member of the first crew and they all had to learn an important lesson:
the ark could only be touched by the Levites. Eventually, accompanied by all sorts of music, the ark was installed in
Jerusalem, and Scripture records,
An ephod was an item of clothing that made you, in a sense, a priest. "David danced before the LORD with all his
might." David was a mighty man of valor, so when he danced with all his might I don't think there was any muscle in his
body that was not moving. I picture him leaping up and down, giving it his absolute all. That is worship. You are not
really liberated until your entire body is liberated.
But there is another side of this story:
How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his
servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before
the LORD, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the
LORD, over Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD. And I will yet be than thus, and will be base in mine
own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour." (II Samuel 6:20-
And the last verse of this account reads,
And all because she despised her husband for dancing before the Lord. It is sad, but also very dangerous, to criticize
people who are enjoying the Lord. They may not be proficient, and they may not be highly educated, but God likes it.
He wants to be enjoyed. So be careful not to judge.
It is important to worship God with the whole body. Jesus said we must worship in spirit and in truth. Paul said, "...and I
pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless ..." (I Thessalonians 5:23). Remember what we
learned earlier: total personality is spirit, soul, and body. You need to get your whole personality in tune with God and
responding to God, as He desires.
Our Material Act of Worship
Another way in which we may worship God in the physical realm is in our material offerings. God wants us to see our
money as something holy, something that we need to offer to Him in worship. Without doing so, our worship is
In Exodus, God gave regulations for how every male Israelite would travel to the temple in Jerusalem three times a year
to offer worship and to celebrate before God.
shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it
thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)" (Exodus 23:14-15)
This was part of God's ordinance for worship and celebration in the temple. They were to go at God's appointed time
and in God's appointed way, and no Israelite was to appear before Him empty-handed. There needed to be an offering
as part of the celebration and worship.
In Psalm 96, the psalmist said,
In other words, "Do not come without an offering." In this passage we see three important facts about an offering to
God. The psalmist said, "Give to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering." How are we to give glory to
God? By bringing an offering.
Next it says, "Bring an offering, and come into His courts." Bringing an offering gives us access to God's courts. We
have no right to claim access to God if we do not come with an offering. Remember the passage from Exodus: "None
shall appear before Me empty" (Exodus 23:15). If you want to appear before God, to come into His courts, you have to
bring an offering.
And third, it says to "worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!" (Psalm 96:9). We are to worship Him in exactly the
So, bringing an offering is a God-appointed part of our worship, and our worship is not complete until we bring our
offering to Him. When we give our money to God, we are giving a very important part of our lives. Most of us would say
that we put a major part of our lives into the work that brings in our income. When we offer to God the appointed
portion of our income, we are really offering ourselves to God. We are actually giving Him our time, our strength, and
our talents. Really, there is nothing more holy that we can offer to God than ourselves. God tells us, "If you want to
come into My courts, if you want to appear before Me, if you want to give glory to Me, if you want to worship Me in the
beauty of holiness, bring your offering." So, bringing an offering, worship, and holiness are all very closely connected in
God's plan for your life.
God Keeps an Account
Here is another important point that many of God's people do not fully understand: God keeps a record of what His
people offer. Numbers 7 is a very long chapter - it has eighty-nine verses, and most of it is given over to describing
what the twelve princes or leaders of the tribes of Israel offered to God. Each of them offered exactly the same things
but the amazing thing is that each of the offerings is described in detail, item by item. God does not merely say, "The
second prince offered the same as the first." He does not say, "All the twelve princes each offered this." No, Scripture
goes through each and every item of each one. Now, the Bible is a very economic book - it does not waste space. So
when God does this, He is illustrating to us how carefully He records what we offer to Him. Here is the account of the
first prince's offering:
offering before the altar. And the LORD said unto Moses, They shall offer their offering, each prince on his day,
for the dedicating of the altar. And he that offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab,
of the tribe of Judah. And his offering was one silver charger, the weight thereof was an hundred and thirty
shekels, one silver bowl of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them were full of fine flour
mingled with oil for a meat offering: One spoon of ten shekels of gold, full of incense: One young bullock, one
ram, and one lamb of the first year, for a burnt offering: One kid of the goats for a sin offering: And for a sacrifice
of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year: this was the offering of Nahshon
the son of Amminadab." (Numbers 7:10-17)
God kept an absolute record of what each leader offered, in specific detail, and caused it to be preserved in Scripture.
But this accounting is not just reserved for ancient Old Testament ritual. Notice in Mark how Jesus Himself carefully
observed the givers:
that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain pour widow, and she three in two mites, which make a
farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow
hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but
she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." (Mark 12:41-44)
There are two points here: first, Jesus observed what everybody gave and estimated its true value; and second, God
measures what we give by what we keep. The one who put in the least, in actual value, Jesus said gave the most
because she had nothing left. So bear that in mind; when God estimates what you give, He looks at what you keep.
And one final point: one day, each of us will give account to God: "so then each of us shall give account of himself to
God" (Romans 14:12). This is the future for each one of us. The phrase, "shall give account," in the original Greek, is
used primarily of a financial account - not exclusively, but primarily. So according to Scripture, every one of us is going
to give a financial account to God.
God does not need our money, but He knows that our attitude about our money reveals our true attitude toward God
Himself. As Jesus said,
and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)
We are faced with a choice. If we serve God, we do not serve mammon, the evil, spiritual force that controls and
manipulates people through their attitude toward money. If our attitude toward God is right, then our attitude toward
money will be right also. If we hold on to God, if we cling to Him, if we worship Him, then we will despise mammon; we will
not let that evil, satanic power dictate to us. Love God or love mammon; there is no third possibility, no neutrality.
Worship is only to God. You can praise men; you can thank men; but you must not worship anybody but the Lord. This
is the unique act by which we say, "God, You're our God. We worship You; we kneel down and we stretch out our
hands and we bow down and we fall on our faces and we worship You with all that we are and all that we have."
Worshiping the Lord our God deserves the involvement of our entire being.
ENTERING THE PRESENCE OF GOD, by Derek Prince, Copyright 2007, Whitaker House.
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