Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Bodily Expression and the Worship of God, Part 2

  • Bob Kauflin Director of Worship Development, PDI Ministries
  • Published Jan 14, 2003
Bodily Expression and the Worship of God, Part 2

Last time we looked at a number of Scriptures that confirmed God is pleased with a variety of physical acts when we worship Him. However, externals in themselves are no guarantee that our worship is acceptable to God. Today we'll take a look at physical actions that were condemned by God due to the sinful hearts of the worshipers.


The most common word for worship in the Old Testament is hishtahvah, which means to bow down in homage or reverent submission. While bowing down is an appropriate act whenever we gather to worship God, the same word and action is used to describe the worship of idols. For example, Isaiah 2:8 reads, "Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made."


Singing accompanied by instruments is another means God has given us to express passion and devotion to Him. In our current culture, singing has almost become synonymous with worship. However, God finds no pleasure in singing that is not accompanied with righteous living.


Take away from me the noise of your songs;

to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24 ESV) 


Lifting hands can signify a wide range of emotions and attitudes-dependence, gratefulness, expectation, reverence, or celebration. However, God condemned both the actions and motives of the Israelites through His prophet Isaiah. "When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood" (Is. 1:15 ESV). In commenting on this passage, Ron Allen and Gordon Borror write,


"It is possible to do all the right things but to do nothing right-if the heart is not right before the Lord. It is holy hands we raise to the Lord (1 Tim. 2:8) to bless His holy name and to implore His matchless grace. Bloody hands are pictures of soiled lives. Mistreatment of the poor, abuse of the unfortunate, debasing of the things of God, even bloodshed-such are the marks God sees on hands that are raised to Him when those hands are not holy." (Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel, pg. 126)


Even the simple act of standing can be offensive to God if unaccompanied by heart devotion. In Matthew 6, Jesus rebukes the hypocrites who "love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others."


Our expressions of devotion on the outside must line up with attitudes of faith-filled devotion on the inside. Otherwise true worship is non-existent. No amount of bodily expressiveness can made up for a wayward, unrepentant heart.


Jesus condemned such activity as vain worship in Mark 7:6: "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, their heart is far from me.'"


May our external actions always be indicative of passionate, truth-informed, ever growing love for our magnificent Savior.



Recommended Resources:


Bob has one of the featured columns in the current edition of Sovereign Grace magazine. The theme is "In the World, But Not of the World: Music, Media, and Modesty." You can read it online at http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/sgo/v20no4/music.html.


These articles are based on an audio series by the same name, which is available through the Sovereign Grace Store.