(1) This definition of worship came from Dr. Greg Harris a former professor of mine. Dr. Harris is the author of several books including: The Cup & the Glory, The Stone & The Glory, The Darkness & the Glory, and The Bible Expositor’s Handbook-Old Testament. You can learn more about him and his ministry at GloryBooks.org.
“You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.” ~ Deuteronomy 12:4
When the Lord issues a command it is done so with persuasiveness and clarity. The law given in the Old Testament was not only definitive but very specific and exhaustive. Deuteronomy 12:4 comes in the midst of the Lord’s establishment of rules for worshiping him. Both the place of worship and the manner of worship are to be determined by God alone and anything outside of that is not permitted.
In the course of his instructions here in Deuteronomy 12, he gives instructions to destroy the altars, pillars, images, and places of worships that other nations used for their own gods. They are to get rid of the remnants that were used to adulterate the relationship that should be had with God. It is in the course of these instructions that God tells them they should not worship him in the same way.
That statement Deuteronomy indicates something very important for those who profess to follow the one, true God. It suggests that not there are acceptable ways to worship the Lord and unacceptable ways to worship Him. This principle is illustrated by Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry as well. John describes what true worship looks like (John 4:22-33) suggesting also that if there are true worshipers then there must also be false worshipers. It is not until Matthew 14:22-33 that the disciples offer worship to Christ AND that he accepts it. Therefore, it is not surprising to read a verse like Deuteronomy 12:4 and see that the Lord gives instruction to not worship Him in any other way.
If there are legitimate ways of worship and illegitimate ways we are left questioning then, what is true worship? Once again referring to John 4:22-33, a great definition is “a response to the attributes and/or activities of God in spirit and truth” (1). Such a definition makes worship less about us and more about God as it should be. Worship should be directed towards Him based on who he is and what he does.
While many will claim they are worshiping the Lord, we see that the Lord only accepts what is true worship directed towards him according to his own standards. Therefore, we must be cautious not to impose man’s ways into a God-ordained doctrine. As we do the results are astounding because not only does God get enjoyment and praise, but Deuteronomy 12 also indicates that it results in joy for us as well. Thus worship is not merely a process in which we devoting all attention towards a narcissistic being, but instead, there is an important principle that comes out of it: there is no greater joy that a person can experience than being with God, thus worshiping Him finds us in most joyful of conditions.