By Jeff Smith
Worship is a bit of an enigma, despite the fact that it is key component of our faith and we use it regularly. I am currently enrolled in a graduate level program at Liberty University where I am studying worship arts. In my twenty-plus credit hours of lectures and classroom interaction, I have heard many definitions of the wordâ€¦each different.
As children’s ministry leaders, can you qualify what your children actually ‘do’ in worship? Have you ever sought to bring intention to your teaching on the subject of worship in children’s church? What is the composition of the curriculum? When someone says, “Come, let’s worship,” what do you think of doing?
I would like to share some introductory thoughts on the subject of teaching children how to worship. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary says ‘worship’ is “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power.” The best way to capture the essence of worship in our contemporary culture is to observe the idolatry of celebrity. Turn on a final episode of American Idol or observe the inordinate amount of time our children spend following the storylines on ESPN. In any event, worship is a concept that casts a much broader net than we need to introduce here. Instead, I would suggest that we deal with a component of worship; a word that is sometimes used interchangeably with worship but is, arguably, much more concrete. It is the subject of praise. If worship is our reverence, praise is the visible expressions of that reverence. I would define praise as “our response to the character of God in terms of physical or verbal expression.” Perhaps we can introduce the idea of worship to our children by teaching them about praise. In other words, we can point them towards the Holy of Holies while showing them life in the outer courts. This idea is further supported with a biblical reference: “Out of the mouth of children, I have ordained PRAISE.” (Psalm 8:2)
Of primary consideration in any theology of worship is keeping God the focus. Inherent in our definition of praise is a proper understanding of the character of God. As a writer, I can write authentically about what I know. Solomon based his writings in Ecclesiastes on both the academic and the experiential: I thought to myself, “Look, I have grown and increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”(Ecclesiastes 1:16) Likewise, we learn about the character of God from reading and studying the stories of how He interacted with His people, Israel. Through the biblical accounts we find that God’s people gave Him names that revealed His character.
From here we begin our journey of better understanding the character of God revealed through His names. Here is a short list of names given to Jehovah in the Old Testament.
EL: God (“mighty, strong, prominent”) used 250 times in the OT See Gen. 7:1, 28:3, 35:11; Nu. 23:22; Josh. 3:10; 2 Sam. 22:31, 32; Neh 1:5, 9:32; Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 10:5.
EL SHADDAI: God Almighty or “God All Sufficient.” It appears 48 times in the OT, (Gen. 31:29, 49:24, 25; Prov. 3:27; Micah 2:1; Isa 60:15, 16, 66:10-13; Ruth 1:20, 21. (el shad-di’)
ADONAI: “Master” or “Lord” 300 times in the OT always plural when referring to God, Ex. 4:10; Judges 6:15; 2 Sam. 7:18-20; Ps. 8, 114:7, 135:5, 141:8, 109:21-28). (ad-o-ni’)
JEHOVAH: LORD. Yahweh is the covenant name of God. “The Self-Existent One,” “I AM WHO I AM” or ‘I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE” as revealed to Moses at the burning bush, Ex.3. (yeh-ho-vaw’)
JEHOVAH-JIREH: “The Lord will Provide.” Gen. 22:14. From “jireh” (“to see” or “to provide,” or to “foresee” as a prophet.) God always provides for our needs but not our wants. He is not the bellboy. (yeh-ho-vaw’ yir-eh’)
JEHOVAH-ROPHE: “The Lord Who Heals.” Ex. 15:22-26. God’s healing is for our spiritual, emotional as well as physical healing. (Jer. 30:17, 3:22; Isa. 61:1) (yeh-ho-vaw’ raw-faw’)
JEHOVAH-NISSI: “The Lord Our Banner.” Ex. 17:15. God is on the battlefield and his banner flies over his people. Nissi is from word which means “to glisten,” “to lift up.” (yeh-ho-vaw’ nis-see’)
JEHOVAH-M’KADDESH: “The Lord Who Sanctifies” Lev. 20:8. “To make whole, set apart for holiness.” (yeh-ho-vaw’ M-qadash)
JEHOVAH-SHALOM: “The Lord Our Peace” Judges 6:24. “Shalom” translated “peace” (yeh-ho-vaw’ shaw-lome’)
ELOHIM: “LORD God” Gen. 2:4; Judges 5:3; Isa. 17:6; Zeph. 2:9; Psa. 59:5. “The Lord Who Creates and Sustains Life” (el-o-heem’)
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU “The Lord Our Righteousness” Jer. 23:5, 6, 33:16. From “tsidek” (balanced – as on scales – full weight, justice, right, righteous.) (yeh-ho-vaw’ tsid-kay’-noo)
JEHOVAH-ROHI: “The Lord Our Shepherd” Psa. 23, from “ro’eh” (to pasture). (yeh-ho-vaw’ ro’-ee)
JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH: “The Lord is Present” (Ezek. 48:35). (yeh-ho-vaw’ shawm’-maw)
JEHOVAH-SABAOTH: “The Lord of Hosts.” The commander of the angelic host and the armies of God. (Isa 1:24; Ps. 46:7, 11; 2 Kings 3:9-12; Jer 11:20) (yeh-ho-vaw’ se ba’Ã´t)
This is not a comprehensive list of the names of God and there are many references to a further understanding of God’s character as revealed through His names. A critical connection to teaching your children praise must include teaching them the names of God and the character traits these names reveal.
Perhaps you could highlight a name of God each month in your programming. Make a sign that includes the pronunciation, the original Hebrew spelling, the meaning and perhaps the story behind the name. Put in a prominent location that can be seen, especially during the singing. Reference it often throughout the service time. Pick music that accentuates this attribute of God and sing about his power (Jehovah Sabaoth) or his faithfulness (Jehovah Jireh). Find ways to connect these character traits into the Bible teaching. For example, the story of Adam and Eve reflects the nature of God as Jehovah Elohim.
By teaching your children the names of God, you are putting them on the path to praise and a life of worship.
Part two of this story will be featured in our December edition
Jeff Smith is the Director of Salt & Light Ministries based near Richmond, VA. He resides in Richmond, VA, with his wife Debbie and their two sons, Benjamin and Samuel.