Imagine I took my wife out for an anniversary dinner and took the liberty of ordering her a rare steak with a side of steamed carrots for the entrée and a slice of apple pie and coffee for dessert. That sounds like a nice way for me to show her love, but the truth is she does not like any of those items.
When we love or care deeply for someone, it is normal to want to learn all we can about the person. When they tell us about their likes and dislikes, their childhood, and the important events in their life, we are interested and get excited because the knowledge helps us to know them better. We can show love and affection in ways that respect and honor them.
What about how we approach our bosses, parents, teachers, or judges? In each of these relationships, we must know what the authority figure expects of us and behave in the way they expect. If we do not, there will be negative consequences for us.
Since it is better to understand and respect our loved ones and authority figures, why would we not want to do the same when it comes to our relationship with God? In the Bible, God is called our Father (John 20:17), our judge (Hebrews 12:23). Jesus is referred to as our teacher (Matthew 23:10) and we are his bride (Revelation 19:6 - 9, 22:17). These are all relationships of authority and intimacy.
If God had wanted us to live our lives and worship Him the way we want, then He would not have left us with His word, the Bible. It can be frustrating when we do not know what our spouse, boss or teacher expects from us. But God has graciously given us the Bible and it shows us clearly His attributes and how we are to respond to the grace He has shown us.
How do we learn about God? It is through theology. At its most basic level, theology is the study of God, and we can study God through studying the Bible. The apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” All that we need to know regarding God is found in the Bible and having a greater knowledge of God should affect the way we worship and serve Him.
It is common to put theology and worship against each other, as though knowledge about God somehow does not glorify God. But we have already seen that knowledge of our loved ones does not diminish our relationship with them. To properly worship and serve God, we must know who God is and what he expects of us. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). This shows that knowledge must be a part of our worship.
We can see in the Bible the relationship between knowledge and worship. The book of Psalms is considered the worship book of Israel. It is filled with emotional praise and worship of God. At the same time, the worship shown in the Psalms is based on knowledge of God. This is most clearly seen in Psalm 119 which is the longest chapter in the Bible (176 verses), and it is entirely about God’s word and the beauty of knowing it. For example, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore, I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:103-104). When we learn who God is and what He expects of us, heartfelt worship and praise should be the natural response.
While we can never fully understand God, God does make His word plain to us. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” When it says God’s word give understanding to the simple, it means that it does not depend on how smart or educated someone may be – God causes people to understand His word. Other passages such as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells parents that they should teach their children God’s word. What these passages tell us is that we all have the ability to study God’s word and understand how we are to serve Him.
If there is a conflict regarding worship and who God is between human tradition and the revealed word of God, then we must choose the word of God. Paul warned the church at Colossae, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). It is critical that we know who God is and how He is to be worshipped so that we are not led astray by tradition or false teaching.
Let us praise God that He has called us into a relationship with Him and that He has graciously shown us the proper way to worship and honor Him through His word.