“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.

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

In this video, we examine the Christian church’s typical praise and worship themes junta pose them with the book of Psalms and how the Bible defines praise and worship. A major disconnect is exposed! Learn what the true praise and worship is that is pleasing to our Abba Father in heaven—YHVH Elohim.


The Psalmists’ Extreme Passion for Elohim and YOU

David dancing before Elohim.

David, the author of the majority of the psalms in the Bible, along with several other psalmists, were men who followed hard after Elohim. No less than Elohim himself called David a man after his own heart (1 Sam 13:14–16). The spiritual cup of David’s heart as well as the hearts of other psalmists were full and overflowing with passion for Elohim, which expressed itself in quantifiable, extreme and radical ways by today’s Western standards. What can we learn from such individuals, and how can we come to this same place of passionate and enthusiastic (meaning “inspired or possessed by God”) devotion to YHVH Elohim?

David’s wife despising him dancing.

David did not merely express his passion for Elohim intellectually in the psalms through music and poetry, for Scripture records that in one case he actually removed his kingly robes that hindered the movement of his arms and legs, and danced leaping and whirling, almost naked, with all of his might in the streets of Jerusalem praising and worshipping YHVH to the disdaining scorn of his less than passionate wife. Needless to say, after that incident, David refused to have intimate relations with his wife ever again to the day of her death (2 Sam 6:23). This was likely because her heart was in a very different place than that of her husband, and he could never get close to her again. This incident demonstrates the seriousness with which David took his passion for YHVH and how he viewed those close to him who were of a dissimilar or antithetical passionate disposition.

To be sure, David was not the only Hebrew given to outward displays of passion. The Hebrews, in general, like many inhabitants of the Near East to this day, were a dynamic and emotionally passionate people, whose lives were a river that customarily overflowed its banks with a emotionally enthusiasm for their Creator. David was a quintessential stereotype of this cultural norm. But many of the Hebrew prophets demonstrated a similar emotional exuberance when urging the Israelites to return to YHVH and to worship and obey him only. This passion worked itself out in many seeming bizarre stunts in their attempts to capture the attention of a people who had lost their passion for Elohim. For example, on one occasion, Isaiah prophesied virtually naked through the streets of his city for three years warning Israel of its impending doom (Isa 20:3). One prophet even adorned himself with iron horns and then prophesied to the kings of Israel and Judah (1 Kgs 22:11). Once Jeremiah prophesied with a wooden yoke wrapped around his neck (Jer 22:11). Another time, YHVH instructed Ezekiel to build a model city of Jerusalem and to construct siege walls and battering rams to symbolize the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians (Ezek 4:1–4). After that, YHVH commanded Ezekiel to lay on his left side for 390 days and then on his  right side for another 40 days to symbolize YHVH’s judgment against Israel (Ezek 4:4–6). If that was not enough, during this time, YHVH instructed Ezekiel to eat only beans, lentils, millet and spelt baked on a fire fueled by human excrement (Ezek 4:9–12). These are just several example of the extreme passion with which the biblical people of Elohim were willing to serve and obey their Creator.

Admittedly, in our day, YHVH is seldom asking his people to engage in such extreme practices as the ancient biblical prophets did in service to him. But sadly, most people are not even passionate enough to do the minimum that YHVH expects. For example, how many people are willing to put aside their electronic devices to which they are addicted along with their other secular activities long enough to pray for an hour a day as Yeshua instructed (Matt 26:40–41)? 

Make no mistake, we are capable of becoming passionate about many things that are of interest to us—things that we really want to do, and we definitely make time in our busy schedules for these things. We can spend hours glued to our television and computers screens watching movies, engaged in social media on our electronc devices, listening to podcasts, watching sports events, playing video games and the like. In fact, today how many people hoot and holler acting crazy cheering their favorite sports team, but when it comes to being fanatical for YHVH, well, “that’s emotionalism” and “I’m not that kind of person,” we tell ourselves. “What will people think of me?”

There is no lack of distractions out there whose octopus-like arms laden with suction cups will grab us and suck us in to its jaws, while drawing us away from seeking YHVH. Why is this? Its is because too many of us have let our hearts become hard and cold for Elohim and as a result of this we have fallen into a state of lukewarmness, lost our first love for Yeshua along with the joy of our salvation.

So what is the aim and goal of this brief written homily? It is to hold up in front of each of us a mirror in which to see ourselves, and then to compare what we see with what pleases YHVH Elohim as recorded in Scripture, and thus hopefully to challenge each us to repent of our lassitude and incite us to “break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek YHVH, till he come and rain righteousness upon you,” (Hos 10:12). Our as Jeremiah chides us to do, “For thus saith YHVH…Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to YHVH, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings,” (Jer 4:3–4). Or as Yeshua warns us, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent,” (Rev 2:4–5). These are sober and challenging warning words from our Messiah!

Do you long to see and experience spiritual revival in these days of overwhelming darkness and evil? Well, revival starts in the heart of each individual as each of makes the conscious and determinate decision to seek YHVH and to allow him to revive us. Revival starts with YOU! Selah and amein.

How intense is YOUR worship of YHVH Elohim?

Shout joyfully to YHVH, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.…Shout joyfully before YHVH, the King. (Ps 98:4, 6)

Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. (Ps 119:164)

Oh come, let us sing to YHVH! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.… Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.…Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before YHVH our Maker. (Ps 95:1–2, 6)

And her saints shall shout aloud for joy. (Ps 132:16)

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless YHVH. (Ps 134:2)

I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods [or mighty ones] I will sing praises to You. (Ps 138:1)

Let them praise His name with the dance. (Ps 149:3)

Let the high praises of Elohim be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand… (Ps 149:6)

Praise Him with the timbrel and dance… (Ps 150:4)

How intensely passionate are YOU in seeking YHVH Elohim?

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Despise Not the Anointed Presence of YHVH

2 Samuel 6–7

2 Samuel 6 :1–2, 14–23, Bring up the ark…David danced…Michal…despised him. Some people who are purveyors of dead, stale and fossilized religious systems may turn their noses airward in diffidence at the tokens or symbols of YHVH’s presence. On the other hand, there are those of equally petrified and lifeless religious systems that look to religious icons and tokens to somehow breathe life into that which is spiritually dead. Such can easily become nothing more than thinly veiled idolatry and relic worship. Neither of these situations was the case with David when he sought the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. The ark was, for the Israelites, the symbol of Elohim’s blessed presence among them. With passionate zeal from a heart of worship, David longed for the ark’s placement in Jerusalem in a place of honor, and YHVH honored David’s desire. Yet there were those, even in David’s own family, who in an effort to keep old dead systems alive, despised the anointed presence and David’s zeal for it.

As physical humans, YHVH knows that we need points of contact to aid us in connecting to the deeper things of life—especially to those things of the heavenly realm. In the physical realm, a cherished photo of a loved one, a wedding ring, a souvenir from a trip, a gift from a friend or a family heirloom may serve to refresh our memories and to stir the emotions reminding us of the people, places or events behind the keepsakes. A souvenir is something we purchase while on a trip to remind us of good memories when we return home. The word souvenir is a direct borrowing from the French word of the same spelling meaning “to remember.” The power of keepsakes, heirlooms or souvenirs over one’s mind and emotions can be so strong that they can cause us to shed a tear, go into a depression, or bring us great joy. Our emotional attachments are so strong to them that often they will be the things that we will retrieve before anything else from our burning home. These things serve as points of contact with important events that have happened in our lives. 

In our spiritual lives, we have similar points of contact. It could be a favorite Bible or another token of our faith and devotion to YHVH. The Bible reveals that anointing oil or an anointed cloth can be a point of contact with YHVH the Healer. Communion and baptism are both points of contact to higher spiritual truths. It is heresy, possibly even idolatry, to say that the water of baptism actually spiritually cleanses the sinner, or the bread and wine become the actual the body and blood of the Savior. But they are important in that they are a physical representation of deeper spiritual truths or realities.

Perhaps now we can appreciate better David’s zeal over the ark of the covenant’s return to Jerusalem. Embodied in that box was the very heritage and future of Israel, for it represented YHVH’s divine presence in the midst of his people. David recognized this and knew that, like Moses, unless YHVH was with him (Exod 33:14–15), the future looked bleak and he despaired about going forward without YHVH’s presence among them.

What are the points of contact in your spiritual life that serve as points of reference, contacts, milestones, road signs, or souvenirs either reminding you of or pointing you toward YHVH’s grace in your life? 

David literally danced for joy before the people when the ark of the covenant paraded into Jerusalem. Do we have a similar emotional tenderness, enthusiasm and exuberance about spiritual things that we too, like David, can worship our Creator with total abandon? Or do we, like Michal, the daughter of King Saul and wife of David, criticize those who, like David, did so? In reality, everything in that ark pointed to Yeshua—the Living Word of Elohim. No doubt David, a spiritually attuned man after YHVH’as own heart, recognized the deeper symbolism of the ark and its contents, and he would have loved every bit of it unreservedly as evidenced by his zeal at the ark’s return. Similarly, do we still possess such a love for Yeshua, or have we lost it? (Read Rev 2:4–5.) What did YHVH-Yeshua threaten to do to the assembly at Ephesus if they did not reignite the passions of their first love for him?

 2 Samuel 6:3–7, The house of Abinidab. While in the house of Abinadab, the ark’s presence had become so commonplace such that, as Matthew Henry states in his commentary, the familiarity of it engendered contempt (or at least a casual disregard) for it. Perhaps an irreverence for YHVH’s set-apart things had gripped Uzzah’s heart prompting him to touch that which was forbidden to do so. In our modern culture, and Christianity is not exempt from this, there is very little respect for authority, one’s elders, the law or other’s property, much less holy or set-apart things. In YHVH’s order of things, this is unacceptable behavior. Scripture draws strict lines of demarcation between that which is holy (kadosh or set-apart) and that which is commonplace or profane. YHVH has designated certain times, places, things and even people to be honored and respected—even revered. Are we in danger of incurring Elohim’s wrath, as Uzzah did, for not properly recognizing this?

 2 Samuel 6:16, [Michal] despised [David] in her heart. In reality, what was Michal despising—David or the ark itself? Often humans in actuality are despising the things of YHVH even though they misdirect their disregard and spite toward his human agents. Scripture reveals that the children of Israel’s rebellion against Moses was really against YHVH himself. Similarly, if the ark was a prophetic picture of Yeshua, then for whom was Michal really showing contempt? Yeshua is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to many people. Many Christians claim to follow Yeshua, yet they despise his Word and his messengers. They also despise those who are passionate devotees and worshipers of Yeshua referring to them as right-wing fanatics, extremists, unbalanced, Bible-thumpers, Jesus freaks and other derisive terms. How passionate for Yeshua and his ways are you? What does YHVH say about this attitude? (Read Rev 3:15–19.)

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Exodus Chapters 29 and 30—Natan’s Commentary Notes

Exodus 29

Exodus 29:1, Hallow. Heb. qadash meaning “to dedicate, consecrate, set-apart, observe as holy, to be treated as sacred or majestic.”

Exodus 29:12, Horns of the altar. The four horns of the altar of sacrifice was the place where the blood of atonement was sprinkled (also Lev 4:4, 17, 18, 25, 30, 34; 8:15; 9:9; 16:18). 

But there’s more. Horn is the Hebrew word qeren meaning “horn, hill or ray.” This word is used to describe the rays of light rays emanating from the face of Moses after his encounter with YHVH (Exod 34:29) and the horns of an animal (Ps 69:31). In ancient cultures, the horn was a metaphor for physical strength or spiritual power (Deut 33:17; 2 Sam 22:3; Ps 18:2). Elsewhere, YHVH is referred to as man’s “horn of salvation” meaning he is the strength of our salvation. The Hebrew word for salvation is yesha meaning “deliverance, rescue, safety, welfare, victory, prosperity.” The root of yesha is the verb yasha meaning “to save, to deliver, to give victory.” Not only is YHVH called our “horn of salvation” in the Tanakh, but this designation is applied to Yeshua as well in the Testimony of Yeshua (Luke 1:69). Interestingly, Yeshua is a derivative of the Hebrew name Yehoshua (or Joshua), which also derives from yasha. 

It should be evident from this quick study that the horns of the altar are a picture of Yeshua, who is the horn or strength of our salvation and who shed his blood for our sins on the altar of the cross. 

This being the case, why then are there four horns on the altar? This is likely symbolic of the four attributes of Yeshua, even as the four colors of cloth used throughout the tabernacle prophetically symbolize the same thing. Crimson speaks to Yeshua’s humanity, purple to his kingship, blue to his divinity, and white to his sinlessness or righteousness. 

Additionally, the Jewish sages view the four horns as symbolizing the four corners of the earth, for, in Hebraic thought, the earth is nothing more than a large altar dedicated to Elohim. (See The ArtScroll Tehilim/Psalms commentary on this verse and notes at Ps 118:27.) 

More importantly, the horns on the four corners of the altar prophetically and symbolically point to the fact that Yeshua’s blood poured out at the cross saves all humans (from the four corners of the earth who would trust in him) from their sins.

Exodus 29:13, 17, (also Lev 1:9 cp. Matt 23:26; 2 Cor 7:1) Entrails/inwards…legs. In the process of cleansing the animal to be sacrificed, there are two lessons here for us. First, Yeshua was perfect, totally clean and spotless Lamb of Elohim sacrificed for the sins of man. Second, the saints are to become living sacrifices (Rom 12:1–2). This means we are to be like Yeshua—totally clean on both the inside and outside. Yeshua rebuked the religious hypocrites of his day for being like whited sepulchres and for being like cups that were clean on the outside but dirty on the inside (Matt 23:26–27). As the sacrifice was laid on the alter (Exod 29:18), and as Yeshua went to the altar of the cross, so we must lay our lives down as a living sacrifice as well.

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What does Elohim require of us?

Deuteronomy 10:11, Begin your journey. At the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land, the children of Israel had a divine encounter with Elohim. This experience that occurred at the start of their trek across the wilderness marked the beginning of a spiritual relationship with their Creator. To be sure, it was an intense, emotional experience where Elohim revealed himself to them, but as is the case with any relationship human or divine, this was a starting place for them, or a spiritual launch pad into a new way of life. This new relationship carried with it responsibilities and requirements. Paul declares, that what happened to the Israelites was for OUR learning and admonition (1 Cor 10:11; Rom 15:40). 

So what can we learn from this? Simply this. When we had our first encounter with Elohim at the beginning of our spiritual journey, this wasn’t just a one time event where we experienced an emotional high and had a brief period of spiritual enlightenment occurring and then we went from there unchanged. No! YHVH Elohim revealed himself to us so that our lives would be transformed, changed and so that we could enter into a special relationship with him. For example, when one gets married, life changes. There are new responsibilities and duties to maintain the marital relationship. One’s life doesn’t continue as before. It changes dramatically. The same was true for the Israelites after encountering the Creator of the universe at Mount Sinai, and the same thing occurs with us when we encounter Elohim at the beginning of our spiritual journey en route to the Promised Land of our spiritual inheritance. 

So what does our Creator require of us from the beginning of our spiritual journey through the wilderness of this life? The exact same thing he required of the children of Israel. Moses answers this question in the next two verses. Elohim’s standards of righteousness and obedience have never changed from then until now.

Deuteronomy 10:12–13, What does YHVH your Elohim require of you? These two verses lay out the five fundamental things that YHVH requires of us. 

Fear YHVH your Elohim. The two levels or types of fear explained. There are two aspects or levels of fearing Elohim. The higher of the two is the sense of awe and reverence we should have for him simply because of who he is, and that is what Moses calls for here. Such fear is easy to imagine, hard to walk out. This type of fear involves loving Elohim because of who he is; therefore, we want to obey him because it pleases him (not to mention that it will bring great blessings upon us).

The second fear, and the lesser of the two, is the fear of physical punishment because of disobedience to YHVH (The ArtScroll Kestenbaum Edition Tikkun, p. 433). When the higher fear fails to be a significant motivating dynamic in our lives, we are likely to experience the lower type of fear birthed out the so-called “school of hard knocks” or the consequences of our sinful actions. If this type of fear causes us to wake up from our spiritual stupor and we correct the error of our ways, then we can come back to the higher level of fear—obeying YHVH because we love and revere him. Sadly, it seems that few humans ever figure out these fundamental spiritual principles and make it to the higher level.

If we walk constantly in a loving reverence of Elohim, we will keep his commandment because we love him (John 14:15, 21), because he is Elohim and it’s our duty to serve and obey him, and, lastly, because we don’t want to come upon us the consequences that disobedience brings. 

How can we achieve the greater level of fear and maintain it as a constant force operating in our lives that helps to keep us on the straight and narrow path of righteousness, while at the same time walking in intimacy with the Father? This can only occur through a relationship with Yeshua and the work of his Set-Apart Spirit who has written YHVH’s Torah on our hearts.

Deuteronomy 10:16, Circumcise … the …heart. (q.v. Lev 26:41; Deut 30:6; Jer 4:4; Rom 2:29) Are you shocked to find that Paul did not originate the concept of heart circumcision? What does it mean to have a circumcised heart? What other concepts that you’ve heard taught were innovations of Paul actually originated in the Torah? How about salvation by grace and the concept of a loving, merciful and gracious Elohim?

Deuteronomy 10:17, Elohim.The name Elohim denotes YHVH’s omnipotence (that he is all powerful), and that he is over and controls every other power in existence. But as the The ArtScroll Tikkun points out, in this scripture that this word is used with reference to anything or anyone imbued with power—real or imagined—over others. Thus elohim can refer to judges (Exod 21:6), to a master (Exod 7:1) or even to idols (Deut 5:7, p. 433). Note that in Deuteronomy YHVH himself uses the “sacred name” elohim to refer to idols. What does this teach us about the use of “sacred names”? Because the pagans have appropriated one of the names or titles of YHVH for idolatrous practices this does not mean that his people cannot continue to use it in worshipping him. It is not the name that is the important issue here, rather the object of our affection.