Why Should Worship Be Word-Centered?

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on May 30, 2010

In Scripture, when the people of God gather to worship him, God's Word is at the center.

When Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai, God met them amidst thunder and lightning, thick clouds, and an ear-splitting trumpet blast. Quite the worship experience. But the most significant aspect of that encounter was God giving them the Ten Commandments, or more precisely, the “Ten Words”(Deuteronomy 4:2–12).

God has always wanted us to know more of him thancan ever be conveyed through impressions, images, and experiences, as powerful as they may be.

Probably no one exemplified God-pleasing worship more than David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. He was a skilled musician and a man of profound emotion. But when it came to worshiping God, it was his words, not his music, that God chose to preserve for us in Scripture.

Centuries later, when Israel returned from captivity in Babylon to restore Jerusalem, Ezra and the other priests sought to reestablish temple worship. We're told they stood up on a platform and read “from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). They wanted people to hear and understand what God had said to them. God's Word would provide the foundation for the expressions of repentance, gratefulness, praise, and celebration that followed.

The Word of God, clearly explained and understood, will affect us today in the same way.

In the New Testament, Jesus himself exemplified and commanded esteem for God's written Word. He rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for basing their worship more on the traditions of men than on God's commands (Matthew 15:3–9). His words were laced with references to and respect for the Old Testament Scriptures, for they all spoke of him (Luke 24:27).

The early Christians devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42). Paul encouraged Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture and commanded him to “preach the word” (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2). He also instructed us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly” as we sing (Colossians 3:16).

Given the biblical history, God's commands, and the immeasurable benefits we receive from Word-centered worship, it's worth asking why worship today is so often focused on sensory experiences, inward feelings, and subjective encounters.

True worship is always a response to God's Word. John Stott has said that to worship God is “to 'Glory in his holy name' (Psalm 105:3), that is, torevel adoringly in who he is in his revealed character.” Then he adds:
God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to him. He must disclose to us who he is before we can offer him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship.

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