Does God Need our Worship?

nations worship

“What sort of creator needs his creations to worship him?” Sick. Very sick.”

Recently I received the previous thought provoking comment from a reader. I commend this person who is looking for a creator-god that exhibits moral excellence. However, it seems that in this person’s opinion, the God revealed in the Bible falls short.

I would agree with this person that if the creator needs his creations to worship him, this would raise questions about the moral excellence of the creator. It would be like a person basing his or her self-esteem on one’s popularity rating or a person’s emotional well-being based on how many “likes” s/he has on Facebook. This shows an unhealthy dependence upon the opinion of others.

From my point of view, however, I would consider the premise, that the creator needs his creatures to worship him, to be incorrect; thus the conclusion drawn from the premise is also incorrect, for nowhere does the Bible state that the Creator-God needs our worship.

The Bible, which I consider a reliable source of information about the nature of God, states that God does not need our worship – or anything else from us, for that matter. This passage would be the clearest example:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things. Acts 17:24-25 NASB

In addition there are a series of passages from the Old Testament, such as 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6; Psalm 50:7-12; Psalm 51:16; Jeremiah 6:20; Hosea 6:6; 8:11-13 Malachi 1:10-14 that, when read in context, also affirm the proposition that the creator-god does not need his creatures to worship him.

Why, then, are there commands to worship God?

If God does not need our worship, why are there commands to worship?

While I’ve been pondering this matter, I have also been reading The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I was surprised to find that he addresses this very point.

“But wait,” you say. “On nearly every page of the Bible God calls us to glorify, praise and serve him. How can you say he doesn’t seek his own glory?” (218)

Keller points out that God does this because “he wants our joy” (218). Keller discovered this point in the writings of Jonathan Edwards on the Trinity. Because the three persons in the Trinity share eternally share perfect love and fullness of joy, there is no internal “need” for creatures to love God in return. So why then did God create? Edwards thought that the ultimate reason God created is not to remediate some personal lack or need, but to share his infinite love and delight (218-219). Keller concludes:

God made us to ever increasingly share in his own joy and delight in the same way he has joy and delight within himself. We share his joy first as we give him glory (worshipping and serving him rather than ourselves)…. (224)

Commands to worship God, then, rather than a burdensome duty, are intended to guide humanity on the path toward their greatest good and delight.

God is worth of our worship

Whenever people observe something beautiful, good or excellent, their reaction is often to praise it. So it is with God. When people recognize who God truly is, his character, his deeds, it is quite natural for them to praise him. Rather than God needing people to worship him, people naturally worship God when they discover his true nature. Nothing forced. Nothing sick here.

The English word worship comes from the Old English word weoroscipe or worth+ship. The worshiper, then, recognizes the worth of the object of adoration and hence willingly offers praise. So when humans do understand God’s nature and his works, they freely choose to worship him, because he is worthy. This point comes out in two places in the book of Revelation:

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Rev. 4:11 NASB)

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev. 5:9 NASB)

These two examples highlight that God is considered worthy of worship because he is both the creator of all things and the redeemer of all humanity. The last of the Psalms also points out how God is worthy of our worship. “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness” (Psalm 150:2 NASB).

Worship and discipling all nations

So what does worship have to do with “discipling all nations”? Quite a bit. I’d like to draw four observations.

The Bible describes an ideal future when all nations will worship the true God. For example, we read in Malachi 1:11:

“For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name {will be} great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering {that is} pure; for My name {will be} great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.

Second, this will come about when knowledge of God is universally communicated.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
As the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)

Third, the nations can worship only when they discover the true nature of God and his marvelous deeds. So it is necessary for those who know God must share this knowledge with the nations. This comes out in Psalm 96.

Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. (Psalm 96:3)

Finally, those who know God will be motivated to share the glad tidings of God’s wonderful deeds with all peoples only when they are convinced of God’s excellent greatness. This calls to mind John Piper’s observations in Let the Nations be Glad:

Worship is the fuel for missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish. Missionaries will never call out, “Let the nations be glad!”, who cannot say from the heart, “I rejoice in Lord…. I will be glad and exult in thee… (Psalm 104:34). Missions begins and ends in worship. (11)

So worship is both the goal and the motive for mission. When the people s of the earth come to know God, they will freely and joyfully choose to worship the Lord and also commend him to others.

Where would you place yourself on the worship spectrum?

We’ve looked at a wide spectrum of where people fall on the question of worshiping God. Some think that worshiping God is sick, repulsive. Some consider it a burdensome duty; others sheer delight. A few of those who delight in God also consider it a privilege to share what they have discovered about God with all the nations, so that they too can share in God’s love and joy. Where would you place yourself on this worship spectrum? Where would you like to be?

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