True Worship

Mankind was born with an inbred desire to praise and worship someone or something. We either praise and worship the one true God or we will create our own man-made idols.

Habakkuk 3:19b NIV

‘For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.’

In an earlier study, we noted that Habakkuk appeared to be involved in leading worship. Here in this verse, he refers to ‘my stringed instruments.’


  • How does your church worship the Lord each Sunday?
    • Do you sing a selection of hymns played on an organ?
    • Are there hymns and songs played on an organ and or a piano?
    • Perhaps you attend a more lively church with a band comprising piano, keyboard, guitars and drums etc? What instruments are used?

Some people believe the only true worship instrument is the pipe organ. But did you know that there was a huge outcry when the organ was first introduced into a church service? The Scots labelled the instrument as a “kist o’ whistles” – a derogatory name with kist meaning coffin. Many believed it was an instrument of the devil.

Today there are those who believe the guitar should not be played in church, and as for drums? Well, really!


Doesn’t this seem strange in the light of the fact that the Bible reveals Old Testament worshipers used a variety of musical instruments?

“Praise God with trumpets and all kinds of harps.
Praise him with tambourines and dancing, with stringed instruments and woodwinds.
Praise God with cymbals, with clashing cymbals.” (Psalms 150: 3-5 CEV)

They also used the shofar (from a ram’s horn, especially the kudu!), bells, lyres, small drums, flutes etc.

A modern-day Habakkuk would almost certainly use an electric guitar and a keyboard!


Here in our own city of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth), from time to time the well-known South African conductor, Richard Cox, leads a service of worship called ‘Songs of Praise’. Pre-Covid, believers packed the large auditorium to join in a great time of praise and worship. A large orchestra and choir comprising choir members from local churches accompanied the singing.

I don’t believe the Lord is choosy about which instruments we use in worship. After all, he gave mankind the ability to design these numerous musical instruments. God’s main concern is the state of our hearts, whether we are truly worshipping Him or merely singing songs.

Shirley and I once attended an amazing service of worship in a rural African church where their only instrument was the Bible! The congregants danced as they sang lustily, clapping the palms of their hands on their Bibles in time to the rhythm. What a wonderful time of truly God-inspired worship that was! 


On the outskirts of the village of Sychar in Samaria, Jesus got into conversation with an adulterous woman. Jesus pinpointed that she had five previous husbands and was not married to the man she was living with. The lady tried to change the subject.

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24 NIV)

She attempted to enter into a debate as to the correct venue for worship. Jesus in effect said the venue is not  important, it’s who you worship and how you worship that is really important – “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

True worship is God centred, Spirit orchestrated, and focused on the truth about Jesus.

On YouTube recently there have been several clips claiming that some of the lively songs of praise and worship sung in many of our churches are theologically inaccurate. That the songwriters are in effect teaching false doctrine which is more man centred than God-glorifying. Jesus said,”.. . .the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth...”


This is not really surprising in the light of the temptations Jesus received in the wilderness after his baptism by John the Baptist.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1,2)

The English word ‘temptation’ comes from the Greek PETRASMOS and can also mean ‘testing.’

It was truly a time of testing for Jesus. After fasting for forty days Jesus was hungry and Satan tempted him to meet His physical need miraculously and thus prove himself to be the Son of God. Jesus replied, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘” (Matthew 4:4)

In His weakened condition, Satan continued to attempt Jesus to question his own identity by taking him to the highest point of the temple – “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” for surely God will send his angels to save you.” Jesus again resisted the temptation by quoting God’s Word, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.‘” (Matthew 4:7).


But now we come to the real crux of the three temptations.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.‘” (Matthew 4:8-10)

Satan hates seeing Christians worshipping the one true God through Jesus Christ the Son. He will do all he can to undermine such worship. Even if it involves getting us to sing words which don’t truly praise and glorify God. We need to be very careful that we are worshipping the Lord our God and not allowing Satan to distract us.


David, himself a musician, had a lot to say about our praise and worship of God. “I will praise the LORD God with a song and a thankful heart.” (Psalm 69:30 CEV)

  • Is your worship truly heartfelt?
  • Does your worship flow from your heart or do you simply sing songs?

Paul’s advice to believers is, “When you meet together, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, as you praise the Lord with all your heart.” ( Ephesians 5:19 CEV)

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you whether you are offering true worship and to teach you how to present God with true worship through Christ His Son.
Then join in with this congregation as they sing a true song of worship. See what instruments you can identify. 


If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

“Silence Please!”


Often a court official or the chairperson of a gathering, will request “Silence please!” when a judge or magistrate enters a courtroom, or when introducing a special guest or in bringing a gathering to order. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Habakkuk 2:20 GNB

‘The LORD is in his holy Temple; let everyone on earth be silent in his presence.’

Churches Unite for Prayer

There was an occasion during my ministry in Harare, Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) that called for silence.

Christians were deeply concerned about the effect the bush war was having upon the economy and safety of the country. At that time Bob Bosworth an itinerant preacher visited our city. He encouraged Christians to devote more time to early morning prayer meetings. After he preached at my own church, the Hatfield Presbyterian Church, we held 5 am prayer meetings in our church hall every morning for a whole week.

A similar meeting was held once a week for all Christians in the Harry Margolis Hall in the centre of Harare (Salisbury at that time). There was an amazing response as hundreds of Christians gathered each week at 5 am. A wonderful uniting of the denominations, everyone there to pray for the Lord to intervene and bring an end to the bloodshed. 

Silence Please!

The coming together of Christians from different persuasions meant that the prayer times became very loud at times. Leaders from the different denominations had a turn in leading the prayer gathering. When it was my turn, I felt that before launching into loud prayers we needed to first focus on the Lord. I quoted Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” and encouraged folk to be silent and just focus on our gracious and powerful God giving Him honour and glory before presenting our prayer requests. There was an amazing sense of God’s presence amongst us.

  • Do you launch into a prayer list without really getting your focus on our awesome God first?    

It is important that we take time to tune out earthly distractions and endeavour to tune in to the Lord by focussing our thoughts on Him. This may be through a time of praise or listening to music or a time of silence.

The word LISTEN contains the same letters as the word SILENT- Alfred Brendel Click To Tweet

The LORD is in His Temple

By contrast with the lifeless idols we thought about last week, we worship the living and true God. He does not live in man-made edifices but in His heavenly, holy temple.

Whereas the idols remain silent, the living, sovereign Ruler of the universe calls us at times to be silent before Him. We do this out of respect and awe, after all everything belongs to Him, for He created it and us.

“Lord, You are worthy to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because You created all things, and through Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 LITV)

Corporate Worship blocked

It has been a tradition for us Christians to gather each week in a church for a worship service. Most Christians found themselves at a loss when due to the Coronavirus pandemic governments around the world banned all gatherings, including church services.

Church leaderships found new ways to hold services and minister to their members. Many resorted to holding online services and even Bible Studies. Unfortunately, there were some countries and areas, especially in the poorer parts of town, that did not have the finances to purchase the necessary equipment and their parishioners were deprived of opportunities to meet together as a body.

As I write, in most countries even though churches are open for worship, they remain under strict protocol restrictions of wearing masks,  sanitizing one’s hands upon entering the church and observing social distancing. This doesn’t apply to all countries, and with the COVID-10 pandemic, this could change at any point.

There is one thing that has become certain to us all during this time and that is, nothing is ever certain!

Worship a precious moment

  • What is the main motivation for worshipping God?

‘Oh, thank GOD–he’s so good! His love never runs out.’ (Psalm 107:1 The Message)

God deserves our worship because of His amazing love amongst many other benefits.

In one of his devotions, Max Lucado’s wrote:

‘Worship is when you’re aware that what you’ve been given is far greater than what you can give.

Worship is the awareness that were it not for His touch, you’d still be hobbling and hurting, bitter and broken. Worship is the “thank you” that refuses to be silenced. 

Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior, by the healed to the Healer, and by the delivered to the Deliverer.’ (In the Eye of the Storm’ – Max Lucado)

Worshipful in Silence?

I am sure that you’ve heard people say ‘I received nothing from that service.’  But is worship really purely about receiving?

If that is true, then it all depends upon the preacher’s message. And the service needs to have as its focus ‘the message’. We should call it a Message Service or a Preacher’s Service.

But we call it a Worship Service. Why?

Surely because the focus is meant to be on the worship of Almighty God. Our purpose for gathering is to express to God the gratitude we feel for His amazing love and provision of salvation from sin.

Max Lucado comments, ‘If worship did nothing for you—it would still be right to do. God warrants our worship.’ (Cure for the Common Life – Max Lucado)

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul has this to say:

‘This is what I mean, my friends. When you meet for worship, one person has a hymn, another a teaching, another a revelation from God.’ (1 Corinthians 14:26 GNB)

These words indicate that true worship is not a one-man or woman show but those gathered participating in one way or another.

Motivation for Worship

When speaking to the woman of Sychar Jesus indicated that true worship is not focused on a place. (John 4:20-24)

True worship depends upon a person—the person of the Holy Spirit.

‘But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.

God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.” (John 4:23,24 Contemporary English Version)

As you come to the end of this study, ask the Holy Spirit now to teach you how to truly focus your worship on the the Father through the Son.

If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.

Popular Idols

Who do you regard as the most popular singing idol of your era?

We are all inclined to have our favourite movie star, sportsman/woman, sports team, singer,  singing group, pastime, whatever. Who or what is your favourite?

The danger arises when we actually idolise that person, that team, that group, that pastime.

In today’s study, Habakkuk speaks about the images the Babylonians idolised.

Habakkuk 2:18 NIrV

‘”If someone carves a statue of a god, what is it worth? What value is there in a god that teaches lies? The one who trusts in another god worships his own creation. He makes statues of gods that can’t speak.

Photo by Chad Kirchoff from Pexels

  • Take a close look at the picture above what do you think is happening?

This could be a photo of a congregation of Christians responding to a Gospel message or worshipping Jesus Christ our Lord.

Alternatively, it could represent folk at a music festival swaying in time with the music coming from the band on the platform.

Maybe even a political gathering.

In effect, one could say that in each situation there is a danger of those gathered worshipping those up front.

Even Christians face the danger of idolizing someone in leadership.

  • I wish I could affect lives as Billy Graham did.
  • If only I was as good at leading a bible study as…….
  • I attend this church because the pastor is so down to earth.

It is so easy for us to become caught up in making idols of performance, publicity, personalities,  personal ability, popularity, pleasure, prosperity.

A created idol

“What you are to a paper airplane, God is to you. Take a sheet of paper and make one  [a paper airplane]. Contrast yourself with your creation. …The thing has no brainwaves. no pulse. It exists only because you formed it and flies only when someone throws it.” (Max Lucado – ‘It’s not about me.’)

No way can an idol created by human hands, be of help to the one who created it. As Max Lucado points out the person who creates is always greater than whatever he has created. It is pure foolishness to believe that a man-made object is able to actively guide and direct humans. Idols cannot speak, so they cannot provide any form of true guidance. 

But then Christians do not make idols and worship them, do they?

  • Do you perhaps have the idol of pagan religion in a prominent place in your home? a little buddha? an African mask?, a Muslim prayer mat? a Koran? I trust you don’t worship that item.
  • But is it wise to even have an object that is worshipped or used by pagans in your home?

“Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love.…” (Exodus 20:3-5a CEV)

Idolised objects

  • What about other items that are worshipped by mankind today?

People are often inclined to worship man-made things like motor cars, houses, boats, jewellery, and art. All of us appreciate beautiful and useful things, but to become so passionate about possessing them makes them the centre of our worship.

If you own something you cannot give away, then you don’t own it, it owns you. (Albert Schweitzer - Click To Tweet

A Human idol

  • As I mentioned at the start of this study, we all have an inclination to indulge in hero worship at times. Who do you tend to idolize? Be honest.

A very real area of idolatry is our inclination to focus our attention and admiration on man rather than on God. Famous people such as politicians, sportsmen and women, the wealthy, and movie stars are so readily idolized.

Popularity, success or a high IQ can all become idols too.

Unfortunately, people we care a lot for can also slip into the category of an idol – boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, child, pastor, team leader, marriage partner to the extent that they take the place that only God should hold.

Self-worth is another dangerous area of ungodly worship. We become so absorbed with our self-worth that it upsets us when others don’t show us the respect that we feel we deserve.

Satanic worship

Our adversary the devil is the chief exponent of this degree of self-worship.

In Isaiah 14:12-14 (CEV) we find reference to Lucifer who is identified with Satan. Lucifer was a fallen angel whom Isaiah calls the ‘son of the morning’. He is accused of having tried to be like God. For this pride-filled ambition, he was cast down to the deep world of the dead (Isaiah 14:15 CEV)

Ever since he has sought to thwart any and all human effort to worship the one true God, Satan has enticed us to focus our attention on things, on people, on ourselves. He even tried to get our Lord to worship him.

The devil said to him (Jesus), “I will give all this to you (all the kingdoms of the earth and their powerMatthew 4:8 CEV) , if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus answered, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ “(Matthew 4:9,10 CEV)

True worship

“Worship humbles the smug and lifts the deflated. Worship adjusts us, lowering the chin of the haughty, straightening the back of the hardened.’ (Spend 365 days reading the Bible with Max Lucado.)

John 4 records how, at a well on the outskirts of the village of Sychar, a woman tried to get into a debate with Jesus over the correct place to worship God.

Jesus response was in effect, the place of worship is not the issue. The important factor is the one who is the focus of your worship. He went on to say,

“But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.” (John 4:23 CEV)

The Babylonian focus for worship was lifeless, worthless, speechless inactive idols.

The focus of our worship as Christians is not on things or personalities or even ourselves, but the living God, through His Son Jesus Christ. As we open our lives to Jesus we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. He then orchestrates and focuses our worship on our gracious Heavenly Father.

God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.” (John 4:24 GNB)

Take a look around your home. Do you have any objects that are idols in another faith? Should you discard them?

Invite the Holy Spirit now to enable you to worship God and Him only.

P.S. If you haven’t yet read the background to the prophecy, please do. It will benefit you throughout this series of studies.