“In Vain They Worship Me”—Praise & Worship in the Church

Much of the praise and worship themes in the modern Christian church are incongruent with the biblical model and needs to be reoriented accordingly. Praise and worship is largely an emotional and not an action-based activity. In fact, very few of the lyrics, for example, of modern day praise and worship music even talk about fearing YHVH or walking in righteousness and holiness as it relates to obedience to his commandments. This is not how the Bible defines praise and worship as we shall discuss below. In true biblical praise and worship, the actions of the worshipper match his verbal proclamations.

Why should we worship Elohim?

Why humans should worship YHVH Elohim, their Creator, should be self-evident. But in the hectic flurry of daily living, it is helpful to reminded ourselves of the most basic element of human existence to acknowledge our proper place in the cosmos by giving acknowledgement and respect to the powers that be that are greater than ourselves. So here are some basic reasons why man should not only acknowledge, but respect and even fear his Creator.

  • He made us.
  • He is greater than us.
  • There is no hope in this world outside of him.
  • He demonstrates his love for us in countless ways such as placing us on this earth with all of the necessities of life.
  • He demonstrates his love for us by offering us hope and redemption or salvation from sin (the violation of his laws) and escape from the lethal entrapments of this world, the flesh and the devil.
  • He offers us escape from the cosmos (this time-space continuum space capsule) in which we are inexorably bound.

This is only a beginning. Countless more reasons could be given why humans are duty-bound to worship Elohim.

How Should We Worship Elohim?

The purpose of the following discussion is not to criticize or tear down all the good things that the Christian church has down or does. My purpose is to bring us all to the higher level and thus become a more pleasing bride to Yeshua our bridegroom by pointing out those things in the church that are incongruent with the Truth of Elohim as revealed in his Word.

That said, I have to admit that I am non-plussed by most of the praise and worship music and activities in the Christian church as well as most so-called Messianic and Hebraic worship music. Why? Doesn’t Elohim inhabits or is enthroned on the praises of his people and love it when they praise him (Ps 22:3)? Yes and no. But, there is a higher level of praise and worship that the church largely misses. Let’s explore and discuss this.

There are two kinds of ways to worship Elohim.

The first type of worship is through man-made religious activity—the commandments or doctrines of men. This is vain, empty or meaningless worship in the eyes of the Creator. As Yeshua said, “AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN,” (Matt 15:9). This is from Isaiah 29, 

Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men… (Isa 29:15).

On the issue of false, man-made worship, let’s note Matthew 15:8 and Isaiah 29:13 respectively,

Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt 15:7–9)

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. (Isa 29:13)

The second form of worship is through spirit and truth.

The first form of worship is unacceptable to YHVH, because it is the religion of secular humanism where man puts himself on the throne of his life and follows what he wants to do instead of following what YHVH wants man to do. Secular humanism is a form of self-worship and idolatry. On the other hand, to worship Elohim in Spirit and Truth is to worship him how he wants us to worship him.

Yeshua lists these two types of worship in John four. When the woman at the well mentions worshipping Elohim in man-made temples, Yeshua makes this amazing statement,

Yeshua said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. Elohim is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:22–24)

What is it to worship YHVH in spirit and truth? What is spirit and what is truth?

To worship our Creator is much more than simply getting high on and being addicted to religion, religious experiences and engaging in religious works base on man-made traditions. 

To many religious people worship Elohim how they want to worship him, NOT the way YHVH instructs us to worship him.

In fact, the ways that Elohim instructs, no commands, us to worship him, the church often falsely teaches us that…

  • this has been done away with
  • this has been nailed to the cross
  • this has been fulfilled
  • this is Judaizing
  • this is legalism
  • that this passed with the old covenant, and that we are now under the new covenant

In place of how YHVH has told us to worship him in his Word, the church has inserted its own man-made religious traditions and dogmas and often ignores YHVH’s commandments. This is colloquially referred to as “fig leaf religion,” that is, creating our own religion to conform to our bodies instead of obeying the Word of Elohim. This is what Adam and Eve did when they sinned by eating of the forbidden tree—they made leafy garments to cover their naked bodies after they sinned. In ancient Jewish thought, based on Proverbs 27:18, the fig is a symbol of the Torah. Based on this symbolism, wrapping leaves around one’s body speaks of conforming YHVH’s Torah-law to fit ourselves instead of the other way around as the Word of Elohim demands.

Again and again YHVH urges and pleads with his people to return to his ways of Spirit and Truth—to conform their ways, including their praise and worship, to his Word and not to their own humanistic, man-made, man-centered religious systems. This means returning to biblical-based paradigms including how we praise and worship our Creator.

Thus saith YHVH, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jer 6:16–17)

Sadly, most of YHVH’s people aren’t interested in walking in YHVH’s ways. This is because they have drunk the intoxicating wine of the confused mixture of Babylonian religion from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Due to spiritual drunkenness, many well-meaning Christians have lost their ability to discern between good and evil, and thus they are unable to differentiate between the profane from the holy. This is the toxic mixture of good and evil, of man-made religion, that YHVH is urging his people to come out of in these last days (Rev 18:4).

YHVH doesn’t take too kindly to those who refuse to listen to and conform their lives to his Word.

Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; to make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity. (Jer 18:15–17)

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Rev 18:4)

Based on this Truth, it is to man’s advantage to worship his Creator the way he tells us to worship him in his Word—the Bible. This is worshiping YHVH in Spirit and Truth. Worshiping YHVH is much more than simply throwing our emotions at him in a church worship setting. It’s a whole lot more than being involved in man-made religious traditions and doctrines. It’s a whole lot more than just singing songs about how much we love Jesus, how much we need him and how much he has done for us. This type of worship tends to center around man, and not around the Creator. This is humanism and is a pathetic counterfeit for true biblical praise and worship. Never forget this: it is not about us, but about our Creator! 

The biblical psalms, for example, present a much more holistic view of praise and worship than the superficial concept that most modern churches present. 

Examples From the Psalms of Worshiping YHVH in Spirit and Truth

Here are some examples from the Word of Elohim (the Psalms) on how to worship Elohim in Spirit and truth.

But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple. (Ps 5:7) [To fear YHVH in a biblical way is to reverence him as well as to obey his Word—his commands.]

My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. (Ps 22:5) [Keeping our promises to YHVH is a form of praise and worship that involves more than just throwing one’s emotions at him; if involves obedience and action.]

Give unto YHVH the glory due unto his name; worship YHVH in the beauty of holiness [How does the Bible define holiness? It is for YHVH’s saints to be holy as he is holy. That is, to do what he commands and adhere to those things that he defines as holy, as well as to imitate Yeshua the Messiah. Without holiness, no one will see Elohim (Heb 12:14).] (Ps 29:2 and Ps 96:9)

Sing unto YHVH, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. (Ps 30:4) [Again, Scripture enjoins the saints to be holy as YHVH is holy. In this way, the saints are worshiping YHVH not just in word, but also in deed.]

Rejoice in YHVH, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright [that is, those who are righteous, and who keep his commandments (Ps 119:172)]. (Ps 33:1)

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our Elohim: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in YHVH. (Ps 40:3) [Again, to fear YHVH is to obey his commands.]

In Elohim I will praise his word in Elohim I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. (Ps 56:4) [Our praise and worship must be based on his word, not just an emotional response. Moreover, it is not only pointless but also irreverent to praise the word of Elohim and not to obey it.]

Exalt ye YHVH our Elohim, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.…Exalt YHVH our Elohim, and worship at his holy hill; for YHVH our Elohim is holy. (Ps 99:5, 9) [How can an unholy or unrighteous people properly worship Elohim if they are not walking in holiness (as defined by Scripture) themselves?]

Praise ye YHVH. Blessed is the man that feareth YHVH, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. (Ps 112:1) [One cannot praise YHVH unless they fear him and delight in his commandments. Delighting in them is more than words; it is an action-based activity, otherwise it is, by  biblical definition, vanity or empty and meaningless.] 

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. (Ps 138:2) [The Word of Elohim is above everything; worshiping Elohim is so much more than just throwing our emotions at him and then ignoring his commandments.]

I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. (Ps 119:7) [To have an upright heart means that one is upright or righteous meaning that one is walking according to the commandments of Elohim.]

At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments. I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts. The earth, O YHVH, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes. (Ps 119:162–164) [Praising and worshiping YHVH through thanksgiving involves obedience to his Torah-commandments or precepts in righteousness.]

I will extol thee, my Elohim, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.… Thy kingdom [a kingdom has laws] is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.… YHVH is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.… YHVH is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth [How does the Bible define truth? The word of Elohim is truth(John 17:17) and his Torah- commandments are truth (Ps 119:142, 151)].… He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. YHVH preserveth all them that love him [Loving YHVH is more than throwing our emotions at him in a church service— it involves keeping his commandments (John 14:15, 21) and fulfilling his Torah-law (Rom 13:8–11)]: but all the wicked will he destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of YHVH: and let all flesh bless his holy name [YHVH is holy, and he calls us to be holy as well. Holiness involves loving him by keeping his commandments, which tell us how to love Elohim and our neighbor (Mark 12:29–31)] for ever and ever. (Ps 145:1, 13, 17, 19–21) 

Praise ye YHVH. Praise YHVH, O my soul. … Which executeth judgment [Executing righteous judgment involves knowing what the legal code or Torah-law of Elohim is, which forms the legal basis for pronouncing judgment on those who have broken his laws.] for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. (Ps 146:1, 7)

Praise ye YHVH: for it is good to sing praises unto our Elohim; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely. …YHVH taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. Praise YHVH, O Jerusalem; praise thy Elohim, O Zion.…He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. (Ps 147:1, 11–12, 19) [Again and again, Scripture teaches us that true praise and worship involves obedience to YHVH Torah-statutes and judgments!]

Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of Elohim be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people. (Ps 149:5–7) [Once gain, judgment upon the enemies of Elohim cannot be executed unless there is a legal basis for it. To execute judgment illegally is tyranny, and YHVH is not a tyrant, and neither are his true saints who are called by Yeshua to exercise righteous judgment (John 7:24).


As we can see from the discussion above as backed up by the Word of Elohim, true biblically defined praise and worship is so much more than going to a church service and verbally extolling the virtues of YHVH Elohim and thanking him for what he has done for you. Such praise and worship is a step in the right direction if it is backed up by action—by bringing one’s life into conformity with the Word, the commandments of Elohim. Otherwise, such praise and worship is merely empty, meaningless, even hypocritical words. Such words spoken in emotional passion and fervor do not replace action any more than a man fervently telling his wife that he loves her while committing adultery behind her back, or physically abusing her. In this case, his words are meaningless. Such is the case with too many church people whose walk does not match their talk.


4 thoughts on ““In Vain They Worship Me”—Praise & Worship in the Church

  1. I recently realized when I decided to study the first recorded, red letter, words of Yeshua, that was Suffer (old KJV English for allow) 1) “ALLOW it to be so for now (as John baptized Him) , thus it becomes us TO FULFILL all righteousness” Matt.3:15 He is our example. Then He showed us how to 2) RESIST TEMPTATION, in Matt 4:6 by using the word of God “it is written” which then satan also quotes Scripture (teaching us that not everyone who can quote Scripture is to be followed). Man shall not live (that means die!) by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (isn’t the OT the word of God?!) How to live-Deut. 4:1…that you may live. 3) Matt 4:17 His next word was “REPENT” then in 4) Matt 4:19 FOLLOW ME. All through the rest of my study, which took me through John 21:22 the main message is “Follow ME.” Spirit and Truth 🙂 and finally in Rev.14:4 “these are they which follow the Lamb” and where are they, why with Him of course!

  2. For a long time, I have wondered what it means exactly to worship in spirit and truth; a few days ago, during prayer, this understanding suddenly entered my mind:
    Truth is synonymous with reality; if we physically obey our Creator, we are worshiping Him in truth. This is an outward act that is observable, visible etc.
    Yeshua taught us what it means to worship in spirit, meaning our soul needs to be involved as well. To not harm another human being is an act of obedience and therefore part of worshiping in truth, to ‘stop hating’ others is the spiritual counterpart of ‘not harming’ and therefore is a worship in spirit. To not have forbidden sexual relations is an act of obedience and part of worshiping in truth, to not dwell on sexual fantasies sets the stake higher and is the spiritual counter part of being sexually moral.
    To have our mind, will and emotions aligned with Elohim’s laws, that is ‘worship in spirit’.
    To have our actions aligned with Elohim’s laws is ‘worship in truth’.

    In the introduction of Ezra (from the Complete Jewish Study Bible), Stern writes: True worship requires consecration and obedience to the Torah of Moshe.

    Shalom, Sonja

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