Dearly Beloved in Yeshua,
Our focus this month is a topic dear to the heart of God, inseparable from our love for God, and an integral part of our walk with God: Worship. Many things will be worshipped during the month of December: family, friends, traditions, food, movies, parties, and gifts. But there is only One who is worthy of our worship: Almighty God, El Shaddai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Hebrew word for worship is shachah (shah-KHAH), which literally means to bow down
before. This includes bending down and prostrating oneself, humbled before greatness, like paying
homage to royalty. We see the use of shachah for the first time in the Torah in Genesis 18:2 where
Abraham bowed himself to the ground in the presence of the three men who visited his tent. Please
note that one of the “men” is addressed as יהוה , the sacred name of God (in Genesis 18:1). Abraham
worshipped in the Presence of deity! Instances abound in the Holy Scriptures of worship that includes
bowing down. To cite a few: Nehemiah 8:6, 2 Chronicles 29:29, Exodus 34:8, Joshua 5:14, Isaiah
46:6; and in the Brit Hadasha: 1 Corinthians 14:25, Revelation 22:8, Matthew 28:9, among others.
One verse will be heard hundreds of times this month: “And when they had come into the house, they
saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had
opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Most people who hear this verse about Messiah Yeshua’s birth focus on the three gifts given to Him.
The fourth (and first) gift given to the Savior was WORSHIP—a gift more precious to the Beloved than
all the gold, frankincense, and myrrh in the world! Wise men worship the King.
When the Lord gave the Ten Words (Commandments) to His People on Mount Sinai, He made
it clear that He was the only God they were to worship: “For thou shalt worship (tish-tah-kha-VEH
תשתחוה ) no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous (kah-NAH קנא ), is a jealous God”
(Exodus 34:14). Yes, our God is a Jealous Lover. He doesn’t want to share us with any other gods.
He longs for an exclusive love relationship with the People He has redeemed. This same idea is
expressed in the New Covenant: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with
the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an
enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns
jealously’?” (James 4:4-5).
What Worship Does
Worship:gets our focus off of ourselves and onto God—puts our lives in proper perspective—
provides us with access to the thoughts of God—helps to dethrone self from our heart’s throne—shows
our trust in God and His inherent goodness despite our circumstances—refreshes, edifies, renews, and
energizes the Body of Messiah as well as individual believers—ushers in the life-giving Presence of God—
helps us know God in deeper ways—focuses on God’s qualities of Goodness, Mercy, Grace, and Love.
Worship is crucial to the life of a disciple of Messiah. It has been said to be the believer’s highest
occupation, since worship is how we express our love for the Lord. It is love responding to Love.
Worship is exalting God, extolling the Messiah, and experiencing the joy of the Ruach HaKodesh, the
Holy Spirit. May December be a month filled with worship of a Holy God, who has commanded us to
love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).
The Tabernacle as a Pattern for Worship
Many Bible scholars have seen a progressive pattern for worship in the ancient Hebrew
tabernacle or mishkan (mish-KAHN). It is a pattern that includes a process that moves from the
external to the internal, involving the entire being of the worshipper. In the OUTER COURT the
physical body is involved in thanksgiving and praise through singing, clapping, lifting hands, standing,
kneeling, and dancing. The Hebrew word for the lifting up of hands is todah (toe-DAH), which literally
means to thank with extended hands. The Altar of Sacrifice was in the Outer Court. This is where the
animal sacrifices were made, which “…were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who
came to worship” (Hebrews 10:1 NLT). Yeshua’s sacrifice as the Lamb of God enables us to draw near
as a holy New Covenant Priesthood (Hebrews 10:14). As worshippers, we place our bodies on the
altar of sacrifice: “…that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is
your reasonable service (true and proper worship)” (Romans 12:1).
From the OUTER COURT the worshipper enters the HOLY PLACE. It is here that the soul, mind,
and will are engaged in worship. Our will is submitted to our Father as we put on a garment of praise,
desire to be fed with the Bread of Life (symbolized by the Table of Shewbread in the Mishkan), and
praise the Lord in spite of our circumstances. We rein in our minds to focus on God, blocking out all
the other voices and distractions that bombard us, “…casting down arguments and every high thing
that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of
Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
As a final step, the worshipper enters the HOLY OF HOLIES (KO-desh ha-KO-dah-SHEEM). It
is here that the spirit of man connects with the Spirit of God. True intimacy with the Lord is found in
the Holy of Holies. God makes Himself known. There is Divine fellowship. God’s Presence is made
manifest. This is where we want to go! Yeshua made a way for us when He died on the tree of sacrifice
and the huge curtain that separated the HOLY PLACE from the HOLY OF HOLIES was torn in two,
from top to bottom. Now everyone who is born again of God’s Spirit, believing in and following His
Son, the Messiah, has the privilege of entering behind the veil into the very Presence of the Living God.
Avodah: Worship and Work
Avodah (ah-vo-DAH) is a very interesting Hebrew word. It means both WORSHIP and WORK.
What could the connection be? (Even in English, the words begin with the same three letters.) When
we think about the ancient sacrificial system for worship, with the enormous numbers of sacrifices and
the detailed instructions concerning them, not only on the Day of Atonement, but all year long, worship
involved a lot of work!
The root of avodah is עבד which means to work or serve. That explains Exodus 7:16, where God
told Moses to go to Pharaoh, “And you shall say to him, ‘The LORD God of the Hebrews has sent me
to you, saying, ‘Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness…'” The word for “serve”
is from avodah. Many versions say “worship” instead of “serve.” Thus we have the WORSHIP and
Is worship of God work? Some of the words derived from avodah give some insight. An oved
(OH-ved) is a worker. An eved (EH-ved) is a slave. Work involves the idea of serving somebody. In the
believer’s case, we serve the Lord and are called servants or slaves of righteousness in Romans 6:18.
Avodat Elohim (ah-voe-DAHT El-oh-HEEM) is the service or worship of the one true God, the God
of Israel. Worship of our God does indeed involve work. For example, we labor to enter into His rest
(Hebrews 4:1). We war against the flesh to be free of the bondage of self which keeps us from entering
fully into worship. When we consider avodah as service, there is definitely work involved, surrender,
humbling, and denial of self. All empowered by the Ruach, but work nonetheless!
We should all agree with Joshua who said, “But as for me and my house, we will serve ( עבד ) the
LORD” (Joshua 24:15). We serve (worship) the LORD because of His worthiness, His “worth-ship.” If in
the Hebrew mind, there is no separation between work and worship, this has practical application for
us today. Any work we do can be worship, if done in a way that honors the Lord. Our work can be our
worship if we see it as a calling. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the
glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). That is both work and worship!
Kavanah and Worship
There is another Hebrew concept, usually associated with prayer, that has implications for how we
worship as well. It is called kavanah (kah-vah-NAH). Kavanah refers to one’s intention, concentration,
and directing the mind to the meaning of words uttered or acts performed. We can pray with or
without kavanah, and we can worship with or without kavanah. Many times, in a worship service,
a song will be sung with words such as, “You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed.” Really?
Can everyone sing these words sincerely with the intention of living them? Can we sing them with
kavanah? Where is our heart directed?
A rabbi once said that Psalm 16:8 is one of the great remembrances that opens the door to
kavanah, “I have set the LORD always before me…” According to Rabbi Zalman Schachter, “God
is always present. The question is, how present are we? We want to stand in that Presence without
opacity.” (Opacity is opaqueness, cloudiness, non-transparency, haziness, uncleanness.)
King David was a passionate worshipper of the God of Israel. “Then David danced before the
LORD with all his might…” (2 Samuel 6:14). Davidic praise and worship included shouting, leaping,
whirling before the LORD (2 Samuel 6:16), and musical instruments of all types. See the Psalms,
Israel’s songbook. Messianic Judaism has resurrected Davidic praise and worship. We are thankful
for the worship we experience each Shabbat. Seeing our grandson, Liam, recently, waving a little flag
with the dancers brought much joy to our hearts. He insisted on joining the worshippers in the front. No
holding him back—age 14 months.
Psalm 95 is an interesting example of Davidic worship. It begins with thanksgiving and praise, “Oh
come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the ROCK of our salvation. Let us come before
His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2). We thank
God for all that He has done. Then we praise Him for who He is, “For the LORD is the great God, and
the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are
His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands form the dry land” (Psalm 95:3-5). Next comes
genuine worship, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:6-7).
Worship in Psalm 95 becomes more personal and intimate, culminating in loving communion…
hearing the voice of God. “Today, if you will hear His voice…” (verse 7) The song ends with a warning
to not harden one’s heart, as Israel did in the wilderness, because the Lord dearly wants His children
to experience praise, thanksgiving, worship, hearing His voice, and rest (Psalm 95:8-11).
Worship in Spirit and in Truth
The Messiah Yeshua spoke of worship with the Samaritan woman at the well, “You worship what
you do not know, we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and
now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking
such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John
God is seeking worshippers! A special type of worshipper. One who worships b’Ruach v’emet
(b’ROO-ach v’et-MET), in Spirit and in Truth. What does this mean? First of all, the Spirit has to be the
right Spirit—God’s Holy Spirit. This Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, plants in us a divine hunger to draw
near to God and experience His Presence. To worship in Spirit is to approach God in humility, with
reverence, knowing before whom we stand, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Worship in Spirit is
not ritualistic nor rote, but relational. It is worship based on love, faith, honor, respect, and obedience.
It is both Spirit-driven and Spirit-empowered. The worship of true worshippers is heartfelt, dynamic,
edifying, and creative.
What is worshipping in truth? This is worship that is biblically accurate and includes God’s chosen
way of approaching Him—through the shed blood of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah. There is no other
true way. Yeshua Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me” (John 14:6). Worshipping the Father in truth is worshipping Him through His Son.
It is also worshipping according to His written Word, the Bible, which shows us the many ways in
which our God can be worshipped, especially in the Book of Psalms. Finally, worshipping in truth is
bowing our hearts before God our Father because of His great love for us, demonstrated by His great
sacrifice. It is worshipping Him in the truth of who He is.
Worship that takes place around the throne in Heaven is a good example of worship in Spirit and
in truth: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!…You are worthy, O Lord,
to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were
created” (Revelation 4:8, 11).
Worship in the Dance
Worship in the dance has been gloriously restored to a portion of Yeshua’s body, especially the
Messianic part. We are privileged at Temple Aron HaKodesh to have, what we consider, the finest
Messianic Jewish dance ministry anywhere. It is led by Arlene Viehweger, who was an employee of
Jewish Jewels before becoming the full-time prayer and dance leader at our temple. Arlene’s focus
has always been on unity in the dance. We have regular dance workshops at TAK so that congregants
know the steps to various dances and can move in unity in worship.
King David danced before the Lord. There were Levites who danced. Moses’s sister Miriam and the
women of Israel danced on the other side of the Red Sea. We also dance weekly on Shabbat. “Let them
praise His name in the dance…” (Psalm 149:3). We do! You can too! Arlene has created an instructional
DVD that provides the building blocks for participating in Messianic, Davidic Dance. It contains a visual
index of over 30 basic dance steps and combinations—which may be used to create an infinite array of
dances. Order your DVD so that you can learn to praise and worship the LORD in the dance.
Something to consider: When our dance pleases the King, we just might be granted whatever we
want! (See Mark 6:21-22).
Worshipping the King! Love in Him,
P.S. Come celebrate Passover with us onboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. We
will conduct the Seder on Friday, March 30, which is the first night of Passover. The cruise will also
feature Davidic dance instruction, and anointed worship concerts featuring world-renowned violinist
Maurice Sklar. We will be teaching “The Ten Skills that Make for a GREAT Marriage,” and then
provide an opportunity to rededicate your marriage, followed by a glorious reception. Gifted teacher
Dr. Gary Habermas will be sharing unique insights about Yeshua’s death and resurrection.