There are some human experiences that evoke an automatic response.
- A man might see a beautiful woman, or a woman a handsome man, and without any intellectual processing there is an appreciation and a response to the person’s attractiveness.
- You might hear a piece of music and instantaneously it grips you, enters into your soul, it may even lead to life-long love of a particular band or a genre of music.
- Or you might be watching a football game and someone executes an ‘impossible’, shot, tackle pass, dribble, or save, and you immediately respond with a gasp, a cheer, or you raise your hands in joy.
In each of these instances we experience something that we respond to emotionally, our response communicates and expresses that we appreciate what we have encountered and that we take joy in it and we esteem it to be of great value.
You could argue that these instances are examples of a kind of worship.
Now the particular thing called religious worship is normally defined as
‘the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration (of a deity)’
However, whilst the our response to everyday worship-inducing experiences is very natural, religious worship can often seem a bit more problematic as a concept.
We are told in the Bible that God commands us to worship Him. Indeed, this was something Jesus Himself reiterated when he was tempted in the wilderness;
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
So God tells us to worship God. The problem is that this can sound a bit feeble to our ears.
I mean is God so insecure that He needs our affirmation?
Or does God have such a raging ego that he has this insatiable desire for the whole of humanity to be constantly telling Him how great He is? Doesn’t He already know?
As a way of resolving this seeming difficulty it is helpful to remember the three instances we have already considered.
In each instance we experience a reality – beauty, music, human skill – and our response to that reality is automatic, the only thing we can properly do in the face of such an experience is to appreciate it.
In a similar way, worship is the natural and normal response to God. Any time that we even glimpse a fraction of the realty of God there can be no other response that worship.
Worship is living in the truth about God.
This helps to explain why God commands us to worship Him, it is to live in the truth about Him, to know Him in the reality of His nature and His activity.
Perhaps this makes the opening question and response of the Westminster Shorter Catechism more understandable:
Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
It is a man or woman’s greatest achievement, their greatest development of their human potential, when they perceive, and live in response to, the truth about God.
Stated negatively, a life that does not centre around the worship of God is a life that is still blind to the truth of the nature of human existence. It is a life that stumbles in the darkness, ignorant of the glories that surround it.
That is the truth about worship.
 Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1646/7