“And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” [Genesis 22:5]
This must be one of the most remarkable verses in the Bible. God has told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering, and Abraham calls it worship and says that he and the lad will return.
In the late 1990s, the pastor of the church attended by Matt Redman sensed that worship in his church was no longer vibrant and that people were not singing from the heart. The pastor bravely decided to get rid of the sound system and the band for a season, and as a result of this Matt Redman wrote these words:
When the music fades
All is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless your heart
I’ll bring more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what you have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart
I doubt that Abraham was singing when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, but he called it worship [verse 5]. It was more than a song. It was the sacrifice of an obedient heart. Many years later, David said that he would not offer to the Lord that which cost him nothing [2 Samuel 24:24].
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul also links sacrifice and worship. Writing to the Roman Church he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” [Romans 12:1 ESV].
James also writes about true worship and says, “Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world” [James 1:27]. The word “religion” in this verse is translated from a Greek word used only four times in the New Testament and on one of those occasions it is translated as “worship.”
Why do you think that the Bible links sacrifice and worship together?
What do you think is the real heart of worship? In the light of our reading today, how would you evaluate your own worship to God?