...and so should we
This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney.
How do angels worship God? We have a picture of that in Isaiah chapter 6. We actually have quite a few pictures of angels worshipping before the throne of God in Heaven. In verse 2, it is interesting to observe the wings of these angels, the Seraphim. With two wings they covered their face. It is a concept that the New Testament speaks of as shamefacedness. When the angels stood before the throne of God they took two wings to cover their face. It was not because they were sinners. These were holy angels, elect angels. These were angels that loved and served God. There was not a trace of sin in them, yet, there was still this sense of utter humility before God Almighty so first of all, angels worshipped God in humility.
In the book of Nehemiah, the people were gathered together to hear the scriptures. As Nehemiah stood up to preach, the people worshipped, bowing
their faces to the ground. This is a concept that we see in the Bible over and over again. The very essence of worship is bowing down before the Creator. It involves two things. When we bow ourselves down as creatures, we are lifting Him up in our hearts. That is what worship is all about. It is about exalting God and humbling ourselves. Bowing down is the natural response of a creature that senses the presence of God. Our English word for worship comes from an Old English word that means worth-ship. It is attributing worth to God. It is exalting God for Who He is. That is exactly how we see God worshipped in the scriptures. Blessed is God. The Angels ascribe blessedness, majesty, and glory to God because of who God is. These are His attributes, His characteristics. As God's worth is considered, it is humbling to mere creatures. The creature is abased and the Creator is exalted. As soon as we pause to think and meditate on the majesty of almighty God, we are humbled. It exalts the Lord. When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he said "Woe is me!" (Isa. 6:5) He said he was undone and so are all creatures who come into the presence of an infinitely holy God.
In Genesis 17, when the Lord himself appeared unto Abraham, Abraham fell on his face before God. The book of Ezekiel begins with the same picture. When is Ezekiel got a glimpse of the throne of God in Heaven, (chapter 1) he fell on his face. Again in Ezekiel chapter 3, he got another glimpse of the throne of God and he fell on his face. When Job finally understood who he was dealing with, he said, "Wherefore I abhore myself" (Job 42:6) He had to rejoice in the almighty character of the Lord. When Daniel, (Daniel chapter 10) got a glimpse of God, his strength left him. His strength just failed him. It was as if the wind was knocked out of him. Matthew 17 says when the disciples were on the Mt. of transfiguration they heard a voice, the voice of almighty God. The text says they fell on their face before him. What else can you do in the presence of God? In the very closing book of the bible, in Revelation chapter one, there is that vision of the risen, glorified, Lord Jesus Christ. And when John saw Christ, he fell down as a dead man before Him!
In the scriptures, God is worshipped with a sense of humility. It is a sense of unworthiness of even being in his presence. Keep in mind, this concept of shamefacedness, or bowing down before the Creator is not a response to a COMMAND. It is not the physical bowing down God commands us to do. It is not a ritual like genuflecting and nor is it a learned or a cultural response that varies from place to place. Worship at its very essence is the creature bowing before the Creator. Whether we bow physically or in our hearts in the presence of almighty God. That is how the angels worshipped the Lord.
I can remember a few years back standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so big that it just took my breath away. In New England the roads are so crooked that you can only see a few feet in front of you. There you could see what looked like forever and I felt so puny. If we feel so small before a little crack in the Earth, how much more humbling is it to stand before the creator of the universe? When David looked up into the heavens and saw how vast they were, he saw only a tiny fraction of their true size. He had no idea how many more stars and galaxies there were that his eyes could not see. But what he could see, humbled him. He said, "What is man?" (Ps. 8:4) It took his breath away. When he saw how immense the creation was, he thought how immense the Creator must be. You see, there is a tendency before God's presence to be shamefaced, to be humbled before him. This overwhelming sense of humility before God is not necessarily based on the guilt of sin because the angels were holy angels. There was no sin in them whatsoever. Yet they were still humbled in God's sight. Yes, it was true of Isaiah, that in part, shrinking away from God had to do with the fact that he was a sinner. He said, "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." (Isa. 6:5)
When Peter got a glimpse of Jesus in the boat, he said, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (Lk. 5:8) but when we see the angels standing before God in humility, with shamefacedness, there is not a trace of the guilt of sin. The contrast is the infinite Holiness of almighty God, and a puny creature who is able to reflect just a tiny bit of that glory. As majestic as we might envision the angels to be, they see themselves as quite small before God. True worship has to take place in an atmosphere of humility. That is why there is no room for 1 ounce of showmanship in worshipping the living God.