Dr. Nash’s Word Study: Worship
Dr. Donald A. Nash
Welcome to Word Studies by New Testament and Greek professor, Dr. Donald A. Nash. The articles on this blog were first printed in the monthly issue of The Voice over the 1970’s through the 1980’s. We’re excited to share with you these articles to enhance your own personal studies or sermon preparation.
There are several words translated “worship” in the New Testament, but the most frequent is the Greek word proskuneo. Literally this word means to “kiss toward.” A background study will help show why this word came to mean worship.
In a semi-feudal state, land was owned by lords who would rent or assign out this land to husbandmen, farmers who would raise the crop. Naturally a portion of this was to be brought to the lord at harvest time. Several of Jesus’ parables are based on this custom, such as the “Wicked Husbandman” of Matt. 21 33-46. When the husbandman would bring the fruit of the land to the lord he would bow in humble obeisance to the master. The master would extend his hand in formal gesture of acceptance of the fealty of the servant. The servant would then kiss toward the hand. He would not deign to touch it for he was too menial and subservient, but he showed his gratitude to the lord, his acceptance of his oversight, his adoration and love by kissing toward.
Thus in worship of God, we come to Him as His humble creation, recognizing that we are human, He is divine; we are earthly, He is heavenly; we are material, “He is spiritual; we cannot actually touch Him, but we can kiss toward Him in token of our adoration of His greatness, power, goodness, and mercy.
Many lessons concerning worship can be learned from this beautiful word picture. One is that humility is necessary to worship. We must recognize that God is love; we are servants. We cannot worship aright when self-will, self -love, self-conceits make us feel we do not need God.
Another lesson is that when we worship, we must bring something to the Master. No husbandman would dare come to worship the lord without the fruit of the ground that was due him. So, we bring to God in worship our gifts as the wise men of old who worshipped the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Our gifts include our tithes and offerings (gold), our allegiance and adoration to Him in songs of praise and love (frankincense), and our lives completely dedicated in service to him (myrrh).
We can have the attitudes of worship-love, gratitude, prayer, humble service -at all times and everywhere, just as the husbandman had these as he went about his daily tasks. But there is also a definite time and place to kiss toward God just as there was a time for the husbandman to come before the lord to pay his respects. On the Lord’s Day, commemorating the resurrection of our lord, around the Lord’s table, commemorating His death for our salvation, in church, the assembly of the Lord’s people, we do this.