Terms for Worship in the Old Testament
Featuring Worshipedia Posted on May 7, 2010
There is no general term for “worship” in the Old Testament. Instead, many words are used to describe the actions of worshiping the Lord. The worshiper seeks the Lord and his presence (Psalms 24:6; 27:8; Psalm 34:4) or seeks him early or eagerly (Psalm 63:1). He or she calls on the Lord or on his name (Psalms 18:3; 50:15; 105:1). Thus the worshiper “appears” before the Lord (Exodus 23:17; Psalm 42:2; Isaiah 1:12) to confront him or come before his presence (Psalm 95:2; Micah 6:6). In the sanctuary may Yahweh “make his face shine” or give light (Psalms 67:1; 80:3); worshipers behold (Psalms 17:15; 63:2) the Lord’s presence, lift up to him their eyes (Psalm 123:1) or soul (Psalm 25:1). Thus they set the Lord (Psalm 16:8) before them.
In the holy place the worshiper “waits” for the Lord (Psalms 27:14; 37:34; Isaiah 40:31; Psalm 33:20). The worshiper sojourns (Psalm 15:1) in the Lord’s tent, or dwells (Psalms 23:6; 84:4; 91:1) in his house or in the shelter of the Most High. The Lord brings him or her near to dwell (Psalm 65:4) in his courts. In the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, with its winged guardian cherubim, the worshiper of the Lord takes refuge in the shadow of his wings (Psalms 36:7; 57:1; 91:4). In prayer, he or she implores the Lord’s favor (1 Kings 8:33; Psalm 30:8; related nouns “supplication,” 1 Kings 8:38; Psalm 55:1; Psalm 143:1). The worshiper intercedes with the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1; 1 Kings 8:42), offering prayer or intercession (1 Kings 8:38; 2 Chronicles 6:19; Psalm 80:4; Isaiah 1:15). The first half of the book of Psalms is called the “prayers of David” (Psalm 72:20). On penitential occasions, the worshipers might “make confession” (Nehemiah 9:2–3).
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