Welcome to the new series here on TWS where we’ll reflect on Scripture and worship. My hope is that we will gain a deeper appreciation for the act of worship, how it impacts us as worshipers, and how it reveals God’s character.
We will start in the beginning.
In Genesis 1:26-28 we read this:
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26-28 (NAS)
28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This passage may not explicitly mention singing, prayer, or worship, but it does reveal a crucial part of our identity. All humans, not just royals (as other ancient cultures asserted), are made in the image of God. But this leads us to a pressing question.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
Some might say that being made in God’s image means we have certain attributes that God has, like intellect, or we are capable of certain actions, like making art. One of the problems with this view is that it gives us grounds to devalue fellow humans if we find them lacking in either attributes or ability.
If our ability to reason identifies us as being made in God’s image then what does it mean for those who cannot reason? Are they lesser image bearers? If we take this path we are setting ourselves up to dismiss those we find lacking.
Thankfully, there are better options when it comes to interpreting this passage. In the Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 1: Genesis 1-15, Wenham asserts that the strongest interpretation is that “to be made in God’s image” means that humans are God’s representatives here on earth.
We have intrinsic value, not because of an attribute or ability, but because we have a relationship with God. This is not a relationship that we fashion, it is one that He gives us. We are His representatives, not because we have earned that position but because He gave us that position.
This makes sense when we consider how ancient cultures treated images. Imagine a time before cameras. Think of a time when the only way to represent someone was with paintings, sculptures, coin heads, or a similar medium.
How would a villager know what their king looked like? They can’t google him, or see him on TV. Instead, it is more likely that they would pull out a coin and see a face on that coin. It just so happens that the face on the coin matches the face on the sculpture in the center of town. Then, because of these two images, when the king visits the village, the villagers can say “I know who the king is because I have seen his image”.
This is what God intended when He created us in His image. Go back to the passage and make note of what God commands His image to do. First, they are to “be fruitful and multiply” thus spreading His image over all creation. Then, as they spread out, they are to rule over every living thing. Every living thing is supposed to look at humanity and say “I know who God is because I have seen His image”.
Here we meet the intersection of image and worship: if we are fulfilling our role as the image of God then every aspect of our lives will point others to the fact that God is God. If we are failing in our role as image, then we will lead others to worship something else as God.
Unfortunately, this is where we find ourselves now. We are flawed images, constantly glorifying something or someone else as God. Perhaps we point to ourselves and say “I determine what is good and evil” or we devote ourselves to the pursuit of money and determine morality by how much we can increase our income, or perhaps we pick and choose the parts of God that we want to glorify then hide the parts we find undesirable. In our current time we have a habit of exalting His love while veiling His holiness and justice.
But that is a topic in itself.
For now, I want us to walk away with this: the first way that humans worshiped God was by leading others to worship Him. We may not use the same methods as prefall humans, but we still engage in this form of worship when we spread the Gospel and when we gather together on Sunday morning.
When we sing, we not only offer individual praises to God, but we encourage our fellow image bearers to worship God as God.
- Write songs that encourage, or invite, God’s image bearers to worship Him
- Consider God’s whole character when writing songs. Not every song will explore every aspect of His character but make sure you have a healthy balance of topics between different songs (my struggle right now is that I am writing a lot of songs about eternity, or His eternal nature, and I need to balance it out with some more songs that deal with how God’s character interacts with us in the here-and-now)
- Themes of restoration are particularly impactful when combined with the idea of being made in God’s image