In the book of Revelation, John describes a vision of worship in Heaven. The angels gathered around the throne speak of God and Christ as “worthy.”
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Revelation 4:11).
“You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals” (5:9).
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (v. 12).
As is so often the case in the book of Revelation, there is an Old Testament parallel here. These songs of praise reflect a language often used in worship psalms. The familiar refrain: “Great is the Lord, and worthy of praise” (Psalm 145:3).
This brings to mind a connection between worship and worthy. Our English word worship is derived from the Old English worthship. That seems quite fitting when we consider the nature of worship according to Scripture.
To Declare His Worth
One characteristic of biblical worship is that it delineates the nature and work of God. God’s characteristics and attributes are described and lauded. His actions and deeds are extoled and applauded. The story of God provides abundant material to serve as the content of our praise.
For those who have been saved by the mercy and grace of God, there is no shortage of things to talk about in our worship. The deadly peril we faced because of our sins, the great lengths to which God went through Jesus Christ, and the incredible blessings bestowed upon the saints. In all of these things we have much to declare about God’s worthiness.
And there’s more. God’s amazing work as the Creator of all things, setting before us a creation that testifies to his great wisdom and power and goodness. Along with that is his providential care, experienced daily by every creature on earth. If our intent in worship is to declare God’s worth, there is much to be said for our Creator, Provider, and Redeemer.
But consider this. There is a ground for worship that precedes the great works of God. Before God’s first act in history, his amazing nature was already deserving of praise. God’s eternal being and infinite power are beyond our imagination. His pure holiness and just wrath fill us with awe and fear. His unconditional love and mercy draw us to him with humility and gratitude. If God did nothing to impress us or benefit us, he would still be worth talking about. Perhaps this is where worship should begin. Taking our cue from the angels in Revelation 4, 5, the logical order might be to praise God for who he is (4:8), and then for what he has done, as our Creator and Provider (v. 11), and as our Redeemer and Savior (5:9, 10).
Because He Is Worth Declaring
Another characteristic of biblical worship is that it says what ought to be said. To put it another way, God ought to be talked about. He deserves to hear us sing his praises aloud, and not simply observe him in silence.
A case in point is thanksgiving. God deserves to hear us say thanks for all the good things we have received from him. In social settings well-mannered people know they should say thank you for kindnesses received. To fail to do so would be inconsiderate and inappropriate. Imagine then how much greater the offense when God is treated with ingratitude. The one who showers his blessings upon us each day deserves nothing less than to receive appreciation in return. The challenge for us is to be mindful of the breadth of God’s goodness to us. An old familiar hymn encourages us to “count your many blessings, name them one by one.” We tend to do the easy count. Say grace for our meals and offer a blanket statement of thanks “for all your blessings.” But no, God is worthy of so much more than that. Make an effort to grow in the area of thanksgiving, and you will grow in your worship.
God is praiseworthy. His glorious nature and awesome works are worthy of mention, and he is worthy to hear them mentioned. It is what he is due. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness (Psalm 29:2).” To worship God is to declare his worth because he is worth declaring. That is worship in a nutshell.
For over three decades Johnny Pressley taught theology and New Testament at Mid-Atlantic Christian University and Cincinnati Christian University. He now serves First Church of Christ, Washington, North Carolina, as senior minister.