The first time we see the word worship mentioned in the Scripture is in Genesis 22:5. The context is that Abraham has been given a command by God to take his son[i] Isaac to the land of Moriah and offer him, as a burnt offering, on one of the mountains the LORD would tell him (Genesis 22:2).
Abraham was a man who, although not perfect, had walked with God. He spoke with God, rescued his nephew Lot, interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, believed that God would grant him a son despite his age and the “deadness” of Sarah’s womb, and now he was being asked to, in essence, hold nothing back from God.
There was a lot at stake.
Abraham was being asked by God to take his son and offer him as a burnt offering, meaning he would have to take his son, place him upon an altar, kill him, and then burn his body. Imagine being in Abraham’s position and the feeling you would have when that command from God reached your ears!
Moreover Isaac was the child of promise. God had told Abraham that through him all the nation of the earth would be blessed and God had promised Abraham, “in Isaac your seed shall be called”[ii].
This was the test with which Abraham was confronted. All the prior tests of faith were, in essence, a building process leading to this point of paramount importance.
As the Scripture continues we read,
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 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.”[iii]
It’s in the context of waking up early in the morning, gathering the wood needed for the burnt offering, and going to the place God had told him to go that Abraham says to the men who were with him, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you”.
This is the first time we see the word “worship” in the Scripture.
According to Abraham, and inspired Scripture, he and Isaac, were going up the mountain to do just that, worship God. The Hebrew word that’s translated “worship” is the word “shachah” (shaw-khaw’).The word literally means, to bow one’s self down, crouch, fall down flat, humbly beseech, do reverence, worship.
Abraham and Isaac were not going up the Mount to sing songs of praise to God but they were going to worship.
How were they going to worship?
Abraham was going to present his son upon an altar to God. He was going to sacrifice the son he loved, trusting the God he worshipped.
Isaac was going to lay his life down in obedience to his father, Abraham, as his father sought to obey God. Isaac willfully laid down his life.
And here, in this epic moment of Scripture, we see a foreshadowing of the greatest act of worship ever! We see a foreshadowing of an event that took place just outside the city of Jerusalem where God the Father would offer His Son, and His Son, Jesus Christ, would offer Himself … and worship would happen at a place called “the Skull”.
The first mention of worship in Scripture points to greatest act of worship ever… as the Son wouldn’t bring an offering to the altar of the cross… He would be the offering on the cross.
The Scripture says,
But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10a)
Worship to Abraham was much more than a song… it involved a costly sacrifice and all out trust in God.
Worship for Isaac was trusting his father, being obedient to his father’s direction, and believing that God Himself would provided a lamb.
Worship, as exhibited by 2nd Person of the Trinity, meant life and death for the glory of God, and the salvation of men. And on the cross God is glorified as being both just, and the merciful Justifier of those who believe in Christ Jesus.
And our reasonable act of worship is typified by these acts of worship.
As it is written,
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
True worship, reasonable worship, God glorifying worship happens …in view of God’s mercy. In view of the Father offering His Son, in view of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, laying His life down for His sheep… it’s only in view of this that true worship can happen because true worship must be centered upon the one true God.
And true worship, reasonable worship… God glorifying worship… involves all of me, all of you, being and becoming by His grace… a living sacrifice… holy and pleasing to God.
[i] God calls Isaac his “only son”. One might ask the question, “What about Ishmael?”It’s important to note that although Ishmael was his son, he was born of Sarah’s maid and not the legitimate/ legal son of his wife.
[ii] Genesis 21:12
[iii] Genesis 22:3-5