The word translated worship in most cases in Scriptures is one of the least understood because of our Western mindset which has nearly succeeded in restricting its use. Indeed this word in Hebrew or Aramaic may mean any of the following, according to Strong:
„to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God):--bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.
From the Greek language Strong provides us also with its various meanings:
from G4314 and a probable derivative of G2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand);
to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage
(do reverence to, adore):--worship.
I believe some of us have seen how Arabs, some Africans and Japanese greet one another. The way these people greet themselves is a sign of mutual respect to one another. Some African boys and men, if not all, (nearly) flatly prostrate to the ground to greet their parents and the elderly, and their girls and women bow the kneel or literally kneel to do the same; also remember how Saddam Hussein’s subjects revered him in his palaces?; take another glance at the various kissings of the right hand or ring of the cardinal of Rome called Pope!; observe the repeated bows Japanese render to one another; and finally how beggars on the streets do reverence, in request to have our mercies (help) in meeting some of their needs. All these are examples of what the language of the Bible would have called worship, and indeed they are.
It is very easy to understand worship in a context related to God, but not when it is related to men, at least not for all in the Western world. Is this probably because of our human equal rights, or due to ignorance, or our poorly designed democratic settings? Let us now see worship in the human and / or angelic context in verses below.
Gen 18:2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men (mortals) stood by him: and when he saw [them], he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground
We would not deal per se with who these mortals are, but it is enough to say they are messengers sent on errand by YHVH, and for that matter they carry that name, because they have the authority and the power of that name in their message. As these were heavenly (angelic) beings how could they have appeared to Abraham in human form, even eating food prepared by his family? This is the question that had bothered many that they do not even understand the irruption of angels recorded in Gen.6:1-4, just as Augustine of Hippo tried to explain away the obvious.
It is two of the three mortals (see their other titles as angels, meaning messengers, below) that arrived at the entrance to Sodom, where Lot was sitting. This verse reveals what worship is in deed. It is to fall on one’s face to the ground. It is not our Western thing – we have been ’psyched’ to accept - which looks one another eyeball to eyeball. What we are discussing is rather a God-given respect. It is like bowing the neck, so to speak.
Gen 19:1 And coming are two of the messengers to Sodom in the evening. And Lot is sitting in the gateway of Sodom. And seeing them is Lot, and rising is he to meet them. And prostrating is he, nostrils to the earth.
Gen 23: 7 And Abraham rose up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, [even] to the children of Heth. 8 And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me, and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar, 9 that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in the midst of you for a possession of a burying-place. 10 Now Ephron was sitting in the midst of the children of Heth. And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying, 11 Nay, my lord, hear me. The field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee. In the presence of the children of my people give I it thee. Bury thy dead. 12 And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.
Est 3:2 All the king's courtiers in the king's gateway were bowing down and prostrating themselves before Haman; for so were the instructions the king had given concerning him. As for Mordecai, he did neither bow down nor prostrate himself.
Est 3:5 When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down nor prostrating himself before him, Haman was filled with fury.
This verse is carrying exactly the same notion as that seen in the case of Abraham and Lot above. Haman had the authority of the king for the people to be worshipping him. There was this man who denied him worship, because the exercise was not ordained of God. Haman went mad because of this. It is a way of saying that Mordecai refuses to give Haman the respect he was looking for. This is an opposite example of what we have been discussing so far.
Ps 45:11 The king yearns for your loveliness, For he is your lord; worship him.
It is very easy for us, after the redemption wrought by Christ on our behalf, to see and read everything as solely applicable to the Messiah. To be sure Scriptures testify of him, but that does not mean it is not applicable to others also, as his type. He is the son of David, hence the reality is in him, but David equally had the same type of manifestation. The relationship portrayed in this Psalm is that of love between the king and his wife, the princess (a daughter of Zion), which is the same between Christ and the Church, the same essence between husband and wife in this present age. This Psalm applies to David while he was alive, in the fist instance. He is the lord (head) of this daughter of Zion, just as the God-ordained hierarchy in 1Cor.13:3 („But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God.”) shows GodàChristàhusbandàwife.
Josh 5:13 . And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, [Are] you for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, No; but [as] captain of the host of the YHVH am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
Whether the entity referred to here is human or angelic does not make any difference. It is Joshua’s understanding of the situation to be commended, having the right attitude that someone greater than him is in front of him. He asked his questions and was given the right answers. What made him to fall on his face, to the commander (captain) or prince of YHVH’s host? Is it not because the commander carries the authority of YHVH and act on His behalf? Is it not because he is on errands for God Shaddai? Even Balaam the Apostate [was compelled to] understand what worship is.
Num 22:31 Yahweh exposed the eyes of Balaam so that he saw the messenger of Yahweh stationed in the road with his drawn sword in his hand. So he bowed his head and bowed himself down, with his nostrils to the ground.
Dan 2:46 . Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
People trying to undermine our religion would say this is not possible. All they need to really see is the notion behind it. It is God that exalted Daniel, and when Nebuchadnezzar saw the mighty acts of God (Heb: Eloah) in Daniel, he came to the conclusion that this is the God of Gods. He is the Highest God, the Most High. God makes ones enemy to be at peace with him in such circumstances, at least for a while. And that may not be a life-long thing, but it does happen. Paul talks about brothers who glorified God in him. Such events are very common in the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
There are cases in which God gives promises to his faithful servants how their enemies will prostrate and worship them. God reveals his glory in this way several times just to show His power and authority. He is the holy, happy and blessed God. He did it in Joseph’s life, after giving him promise through a dream, despite rebutal from his father and brothers. God does this to make a ’show’ of the people He loves. The book of God’s revelation to Jesus Christ (1:1) even tells us a similar thing. All of them will be saying the same thing: ’We have come, because we have seen the One and Only True God, the Light in you. We acknowledge that the God you serve is the God of Jesus Christ the Saviour. Glory to His name now and for all ages. Amen’
Gen 37:10 And relating it is he to his father and to his brothers. And rebuking him is his father, and saying to him, "What dream is this which you dream? Shall I and your mother and your brothers come, yea, come to prostrate to you to the earth?"
Isa 49:23 and kings become your foster fathers, and their chiefesses your wet nurses. Nostrils to the earth, shall they prostrate to you, and the soil at your feet shall they lick up. Then you shall know that I am Yahweh, and those expecting Me shall not be ashamed."
Isa 60:14 And go to you to prostrate shall all the sons of your humiliators, and worship at the soles of your feet shall all your spurners. And they call you the city of Yahweh, Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Re 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
We are beginning to see how worship is first a sign of respect and reverence for another. Secondly we can now see how it is a revelation of how He deserves our worship, through humans or angelic beings. That happens only because God sanctions it. As sons of God, just like Jesus the Lord and the angelic host, the Father deserves our worhip, and we should always admonish one another with HalleluYah! Praise YAH! Praise the LORD! There are hundreds of calls to worship in the book of Psalms. We have to worship Him with our whole being, for He is good, and His mercies endures forever. The LORD God Almighty is the goal of every worship. The entire universe – the heavens, the earth, the stars, the moon, the sun, the waters, the deeps, the mountains, etc - reels with His praise and worship. The heavens declare or rehearse His glory with different utterances, yet in utterances beyond human words (Ps.19).
Ps 95:6 Come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before Yahweh, our Maker.
Ps 132:7 Let us go to His Grand Tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool.
Ps 22:27 All the limits of the earth shall remember and return to Yahweh; All the families of the nations shall worship before Him.
Ps 86:9 All nations which You have made Shall come and worship before You, O Yahweh, And they shall glorify Your Name.
Rev 7:11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and [about] the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God.
And now we come to the last section about how worship relates to our Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen certain aspects of how it relates to him pre-incarnate (Gen.18, Josh.5, etc), but here below we will consider him incarnate and after that. In his earthly life we see him being worshipped in the ways we have seen above, especially as one sent on errand by his God, to take human form, die on the pole to reconcile us back to God. These are recognitions that God was working mightily in him. As a prophet? Nay, more than a prophet. As the son of God, as the only-begotten, the only-born God (Jn.1:18).
In the not-too-famous song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb (Deut. 31:14 – 32:44; Rev.15:3) we could see something spectacular.
Dt 32:43 Jubilate, O heavens, together with Him, and worship Him, all the messengers of Elohim! Jubilate, O nations, with His people! For the blood of His servants shall He avenge, vengeance to His foes shall He return, and a propitiatory shelter shall He make for His ground for His people.
We could see from this conclusion to the song of Moses that the heavens are being called upon to rejoice with him, and all messengers of God are to worship him. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer says „whenever He (God) may again be leading the Firstborn into the inhabited earth, He is saying: And worship Him, all messengers of God!” (1:6). Worshipping the Messiah is under the direct authority of God based on the following: 1) he was ordained as the redeemer and 2) he was obedient and faithful to the Father in all his dealings at all times. If there is any other who deserves our respect and obedience, he deserves them the most. So when he first appeared in human form the Father received praise and worship through him through his teachings, preachings, actiions and miraculous powers. And so when he again comes into the world all the messengers of God will worship him. We would see the authority of the Father in him, and all who sees this will give God the glory through him.
What is also easy to see after Jesus was born is that Herod was jealous, like Haman was, and nearly lured the wise-men to let him know where he is. This king Herod could not imagine another person as king. He murdered many children because of his jealousy over the Lord.
Mat 2: 2 Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah: For out of thee shall come forth a governor, Who shall be shepherd of my people Israel. 7 Then Herod privily called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found [him,] bring me word, that I also may come and worship him. 9 And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
As already pointed out there is a ’natural’, God-ordained line of respect, for example the 5th commandment. And within the family the husband is the head of the wife. This does not mean that the husband should not love and respect his wife. The Christ is the head of every husband and God is the head of Christ. Hence in all objectivity Chist should be worshipped as the son of God. The same continued after his resurrection.
Mat 14:33 Now those in the ship worship Him, saying, "Truly, God's Son art Thou!"
Mat 28:9 Now, as they went to report to His disciples, lo! Jesus also meets them saying, "Rejoice!" Now they, approaching, hold His feet and worship Him.
Mat 28:17 and having seen him, they bowed to him, but some did waver.
Despite all this the Lord Jesus should not be confused with the Lord God Almighty. This fact cannot be more clearer than the verses below. Jesus makes us holy in our walk with him. At the same time the sanctifier and we, the sanctified, have one and only one Origin. We are from the same Father of lights. For this purpose our Lord is making the Father’s name known to us. This is our experience in the sanctification process. It is a part of our growth in holiness. Amongst us and as one of us he sings praises (hymns) to the Father. We should rather be saying that our Lord Jesus has a God and Father. He is a God who worships the Almighty God. Hence he is a subordinate God, and the Almighty God is the ultimate object of our worship, Jesus’ included. Jesus is our head, the head of the ecclesia of God.
Heb 2:11 For both He Who is hallowing and those who are being hallowed are all of One, for which cause He is not ashamed to be calling them brethren 12 saying, I shall be reporting Thy name to My brethren, In the midst of the ecclesia shall I be singing hymns to Thee. 13 And again, I shall have confidence in Him. And again, Lo! I and the little children who are given Me by God!
In the domain of the Adversary things are done semblance to the kingdom of light, since the Devil transforms himself as an angel of light. That is just an imitation as could be seen in the following verse that the Dragon gives authority to the beast, and both the Dragon and the beast are worshipped. Remember that the Dragon is using hijacked authority, that which is originally God’s. He is a rebel, and all who follow him are rebels. They are rebelling against the God whom Jesus the Christ is obeying. And all who are and will be worshipping the Devil and all that belong to him will surely be rewarded to know they are but loosers, because the Enemy is and has deceived them
Rev 13:4 and they worship the dragon who did give authority to the beast, and they worship the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to war with it?
Re 16:2 and the first did go away, and did pour out his vial upon the land, and there came a sore-bad and grievous-to men, those having the emblem of the beast, and worship his image.
To whom respect, honour and prostration is due let it be given to them, in a way that we do not compromise the truth which comes from the God of all spirits. We should always remember that God has ordained respect in a certain way in the family, community and society at large. All this respect is meant to point to the Lord God Almighty, who is the ultimate and sole object of our worship and that of the Lord Jesus. Hence whatever we do to our parents, friends, neighbours, associates, school-teachers, bosses, governors, magistrates and king should be a reflection of what God commands, so that He is praised in our lives.
Re 14:7 saying with a loud voice, "Be ye afraid of God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judging came; and worship the Maker of heaven and the land and the sea and the springs of water."
Re 19:4 And the twenty-four elders and the four animals fall and worship God,Who is sitting on the throne, saying, "Amen! Hallelujah!"