Once per month I will be blogging on worship terminology. This month’s term is the word “Worship”. In future posts I will look at the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated worship, but first I thought it would be valuable to look at the etymology of the word “worship” in English. (Etymology is the study of the history of a word.)
A quick look at the Online Etymology Dictionary informs us that worship comes from the Old English words worthscip, wurthscip (Anglian) and weorthscipe (West Saxon). Worth/wurth/weorth all mean “worthy”. The suffix scip/scipe eventually became ship and means “the state or condition of being”.
Putting this all together we come up with “the condition or state of being worthy”. Overtime this became associated with “reverence paid to a supernatural or divine being”. When used as a verb worship has the sense of ascribing worth to a being or object.
So, what does this mean for us as we approach God in worship? Here are a few of my thoughts:
- God is the greatest possible object of worship. In the Old English sense of the word, anyone worthy of their position could be given the title “your worship” meaning “you are a worthy person”. But all humans are only relatively worthy and are always flawed. God is perfect and as such is the perfect object of worship.
- When we worship God we should recognize the fact that He is the the greatest possible being of worth. No being is worth more than God.
- Recognizing the worthiness of God should help us to recognize our unworthiness to come into His presence. It is a great and awesome privilege to worship God.
- Worship then is the opportunity, made possible by the cross, for us as unworthy beings to come before the most worthy being and declare His worth to us.
All of this reminds me of Psalm 96:7-9.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!
And Revelation 4:11
Worthy are You, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they existed and were created.
Question: What does it mean to you to ascribe worth to God? How do you ascribe worth to God? Please leave a comment.
by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory
Worship Director at Crosspointe Church