|Abraham and the Three Angels|
Today I would like to show from Scripture the importance of bowing low before the Lord in worship. I think this is somewhat of a missing element in our worship these days. Worship has become highly commercialized and is somewhat like a spectator sport, in which we are entertained by watching others worship. I'm not saying that we should not enjoy worship. Certainly we should lift up our hands and praise the Lord, making a joyful noise, singing unto Him, even worshiping Him with celebration and holy dancing in the Spirit. This is the kind of worship God enjoys!
But have we become too proud or dignified to bow before the Lord? Have we become too familiar with Him and too comfortable in His presence that we no longer give Him the worship that is due His holy and awesome name?
The Hebrew verb for “worship” is "shachah," which means, “to bow down” (Strongs).
For example, when Abraham’s servant saw that his journey was successful in finding a wife for his master's son, Isaac, it says, “Then the man bowed low and worshiped the LORD.” (Gen 24:26).
Notice that it says that he both bowed low and worshiped the Lord. The Hebrew verb for “worship” (shachah) is used here. But in addition to that verb, it also explicitly says he bowed low, which is the Hebrew word “qadad”, meaning “contract or bend the body (or neck) in deference: - bow (down) (the) head, stoop.” (Strongs).
Even when Abraham’s servant retold what he did, he says he bowed low and worshipped, using those same two Hebrew words, qadad and shachah.
"And I bowed low and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had guided me in the right way to take the daughter of my master's kinsman for his son.” (Gen 24:48)
In addition to these two verses above that I have just cited, there are other Scriptures as well, where we find people bowing low with their faces to the ground (qadad) and worshiping (shachah) the Lord, such as the following verses:
“So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.” (Exo 4:31).
“You shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.' And the people bowed low and worshiped.” (Exo 12:27)
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. (Exo 34:5-8)
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the LORD and to the king. (1Ch 29:20)
“Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped.” (2Ch 29:30)
“Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” (Neh 8:6)
Faces to the Ground
In this last verse, we discover another Hebrew expression that is used in Scripture as well for bowing in worship. The expression is “faces to the ground.” So what makes this last verse in Neh 8:6 unique from all the others I have just cited is that in addition to containing both the Hebrew words, qadad (bow down) and shachah (bow down, worship), it also contains the Hebrew expression “faces to the ground.” This verse literally says that after they said “Amen! Amen!” While lifting up their hands, “They bowed low and bowed down to the Lord in worship with their faces to the ground.” It essentially uses a triple reference to bowing low to the ground in worship to the Lord.
The Hebrew word for “face” is “aph,” which means “properly the nose or nostril; hence the face; forehead” (Strongs). And the Hebrew word for “ground” is “'erets”, meaning “earth or ground” (Strongs). Let’s look at some other passages that uses this expression “face to the ground” with regard to worshiping the Lord.
Another verse that has this same connotation is depicted in the pictorial illustration above, showing Abraham bowing to the earth before the Lord. The Scripture says, "Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth..." (Gen 18:1-2)
Fall on Your Face
There is one other verse in the Bible that has this same triple reference like Neh 8:6, regarding worship of the Lord (1), bowing down (2) with one’s face to the ground (3). It says, “Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.” (2Ch 20:18)
In this passage, while king Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground in reverence for the Lord, all the people displayed a much greater act of worship by falling down before the Lord and worshiping the Lord. In addition to containing the expressions, “bowing low”, “face to the ground” and “worshiping” the Lord, this verse in 2 Chronicles 20:18 also uses the expression “fell down.” The expression “fell down” comes from two Hebrew words. One is “naphal” meaning “fall or lie” and the other word is “panim” or “paneh” meaning “face” or “faces”. In other words, this expression literally means they “fell on their faces” before the Lord.
Another passage that uses the expressions “faces to the ground” and “worship” refers to Solomon’s dedication of the temple, when the fire from heaven came down, the glory filled the house. It says, “Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the LORD, saying, ‘Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting.’" (2Ch 7:1-3)
This verse also contains another word, in addition to the expressions “faces to the ground” (qadad) and “worshiping” (shachah) the Lord, which is the Hebrew word “kara” meaning in this case to “bow, fall, or prostrate” (Strongs). In fact it even adds that it was “on the pavement” that they fell or bowed down. So this has a beautiful, triple reference to worship of the Lord.
Bowing in the Psalms
Let’s look at a few more verses about bowing before the Lord in the book of Psalms, which is a book of worship.
“But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.” (Psa 5:7).
In this verse, the word “bow” is the Hebrew word “shachah”, meaning “worship.” In addition to that, David the psalmist said that it was in reverence for the Lord that he bowed. The Hebrew word for “reverence” is “yir'ah,” meaning “reverence: dreadful, exceedingly, fear (-fulness)” (Strongs). Therefore, David bowed in worship in the fear of the Lord. This is an aspect that is missing today from our modern worship. We have joy, we have freedom, we have love, but we have lost the fear of the Lord. We need to bring back the fear of the Lord into worship once again. Also see my article, Should you fear the Lord?.
“All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.” (Psa 22:29). This verse uses both “shachah” (worship) and “kara” (bow, fall, or prostrate).
“Then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him.” (Psa 45:11)
“Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, And his enemies lick the dust.” (Psa 72:9)
“And let all kings bow down before him, All nations serve him.” (Psa 72:11)
“I will bow down toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.” (Psa 138:2)
“Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” (Psa 95:6). This verse uses the Hebrew word “barach”, meaning “bless, or kneel”, in addition both “shachah” (worship) and “kara” (bow, fall, or prostrate).
Once again, as with the fear of the Lord, it is rare to see people kneeling in worship any more. We see people standing or sitting in worship, but kneeling is a beautiful and biblical way to express your love, adoration, and worship to the Lord. The Scripture calls us to come worship, bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Bending the Knee in the New Testament
|"Thou Art Worthy" by C.V. Lacroix|
For example, the apostle Paul knelt or bowed his knees before the Father. He said, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” (Eph 3:14-15)
In Miletus, Paul met one last time with the elders of Ephesus to encourage them. "When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all." (Act 20:36). Likewise, after spending seven days with the disciples at Tyre, they escorted Paul to his ship and knelt together in prayer. Luke wrote, "After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another." (Act 21:5). Another example is the apostle Peter, who got down on his knees and prayed in Joppa, before turning to the dead woman's body and raising her back to life (Ac 9:40).
One day every knee shall bow before the Lord. “For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’" (Rom 14:11)
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:9-11)
Bowing in the New Testament
In the New Testament, we find many different expressions that refer to falling down and bowing in worship before the Lord. Sometimes they are used in conjunction with each other.
The three magi from the east came to Bethlehem of Judea and bowed before the King. It says, "After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Mat 2:11). The first thing they did when they found Him, even before they presented Him with their gifts, was they fell, or alighted, to the ground. Then they worshiped Him while they were down there.
The Greek word for worship is "proskuneo," meaning "to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): - worship" (Strongs). The Greek word "proskuneo," is a derivative of two words, "pros" and "kuon." The word "pros" means "toward or forward". The other root word is "kuon," or "dog". These two words together connote the meaning "to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand" (Strongs). The magi were most likely prostrate, as they were worshiping the Lord and adoring Him, paying homage to the King.
The demon-possessed man also did this. "Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;" (Mar 5:6). The Greek word for "bowed down" is “proskuneo” (do reverence to, adore, worship), as used in Mat 2:11.
This is what satan wanted Jesus to do for him, when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. “He said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’" (Mat 4:9). The Greek word here for “fall down” is “prospipto” meaning “to fall towards, that is, (gently) prostrate oneself (in supplication or homage), or (violently) to rush upon (in storm): - fall (down) at (before)” (Strongs). The Greek word for "worship" here is “proskuneo” (prostrate, worship, adore).
That is the same Greek word that is found in the response that the Lord gave to satan. Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (Mat 4:10)
This is the same Greek word for "worship" used in the verse about when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. He said, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (Joh 4:23-24)
The blind man that Jesus healed did this. "And he said, 'Lord, I believe.' And he worshiped Him." (Joh 9:38)
Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, "You are the Son of God!" (Mar 3:11). The Greek word here for “fall down” is “prospipto” (fall, fall down).
"But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet." (Mar 7:25)
"But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, 'Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!'" (Luk 5:8)
I have already mentioned the account of the demon-possessed man in Mark's gospel, where the Greek word "proskuneo" (prostrate, worship, adore) was used. However, in Luke's gospel, the word "prospipto" (fall, fall down) is used instead to refer to the same incident:
"Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.'" (Luk 8:28)
"When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed." (Luk 8:47; cf., Mar 5:33)
The apostle Paul spoke of the way an unbeliever or ungifted man would fall on his face and worship God, if he entered a meeting, in which everyone was prophesying. He said, "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you." (1Co 14:24-25).
The Greek words used here in 1Co 14:25 are “pipto” (fall, alight, fall down) and “proskuneo” (prostrate, worship, adore). Another Greek word is also used to indicate explicitly that it is "on his face" that the man will fall. The word for "face" is “prosopon” meaning “the front (as being towards view), that is, the countenance...face…” (Strongs).
Falling Down in Worship in Heaven
Just as worship on earth includes falling down, so does worship in heaven. The same three words used by the apostle Paul in 1 Co 14:25 -- “pipto” (fall, alight, fall down), “prosopon” (face), and “proskuneo” (worship) -- are used in the following verses in Revelation 7:11 and 11:16:
"And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God..." (Rev 7:11)
"And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, 'We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.'" (Rev 11:16-17)
Likewise, there are other verses about falling down in worship. "And the four living creatures kept saying, 'Amen.' And the elders fell down and worshiped." (Rev 5:14)
"And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, 'Amen. Hallelujah!'" (Rev 19:4). The Greek words used in Rev 5:14 and Rev 19:4 are the same as those used in Mt 2:11 regarding the three magi: "pipto" (fall, light on) and "proskuneo" (prostrate, worship, adore).
Bowing Low is Undignified
It's true that bowing low to the ground is an undignified act, but this is the nature of true worship. The flesh (sinful nature) thinks about self and how it will look down their on the ground. It thinks about getting dirty down there in the dust. The enemy will tempt you to think about those things that concern yourself. He'll plant a thought in your mind that you must not bow low or lay prostrate, because it may pose some risk to you, your health, your dignity, your hair, or your clothing.
But the new man denies himself, takes up his cross, and says, “I will die for Jesus, because I love Him, and He’s done so much for me!” The new man says with king David, "I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." (2 Sam 6:22a, NIV). Therefore, resist those temptations that keep you from bowing low, falling down with your face to the ground, and prostrating yourself before the Lord in worship. It's a way of surrendering yourself lovingly in complete abandonment to Him.
Moreover, it's also a way of expressing your reverence and awe of Him. "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12:28-29, NIV)
The Lord Himself Worships This Way
Even our Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, worships this way. He is our example, whose steps we must follow. In the Garden of Gethsemane, "He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.'" (Mat 26:39)
Just like the three magi from the east, the Lord fell, or alighted, on His face. This is how He prayed to the Father in heaven on that fateful night that He was betrayed. His posture reflected his complete surrender to the Father's will.
Even now in heaven, the Lord prays to the Father, as He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25). And as I wrote in my article, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, brother Ezekiel of Nigeria, Africa testifies to seeing the Lord in heaven, laying prostrate on His face before the Father's throne. He said, "I was looking for the Lord Jesus Christ. I wanted to see Him. I looked up and down. Behold, afar off, I saw King of kings and Lord of lords. He was lying down (prostrate), and the twenty-four elders were before Him." I highly recommend reading that entire article, which will change your life. The section where I covered this in the article is called, "The Throne Room."
Worship Has Many Forms
Of course, worship has many forms, which are depicted in Scripture, and laying prostrate or kneeling are not the only acceptable ones. I have mentioned some other forms of worship in this message already, such as standing (Ps 134:1), lifting our hands (Neh 8:6; 1 Tim 2:8; Ps 63:4; 134:2; 141:2; Lam 3:41), sitting (Ezra 9:3), singing with joy (Ps 96:1-2; 98:4; 104:33), rejoicing (Phil 4:4; Ps 33:21; 118:24), celebrating His goodness (Ps 145:7), and holy dancing in the Spirit (Ps 149:3). Also see my articles, Lifting Hands in Prayer and Lifting Your Face in Prayer.
Face to the Ground is Ideal for Repentance
That being said, the last thing I would like to mention is that laying prostrate on the floor is the ideal position for repentance. If we are truly repentant, this allows us to express ourselves best to God, as we humble ourselves before Him, seek His face, and turn from our sin, asking for His forgiveness.
Moses lay prostrate before the Lord for forty days on behalf of the Israelites' sin, because the Lord said He would destroy them (Deut 9:25). Likewise, Ezra lay before the Lord on the ground in repentance, because of the unfaithfulness of the Israelite exiles, who had married foreign women with their detestable practices. He was "...praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God..." (Ez 10:1a, NIV). He was prostrating himself before the house of God, according to the NASB. The Hebrew word used for "prostrating himself" is "naphal" (to fall, lie), which we have already mentioned.
In Jesus' parable of the slave that owed ten thousand talents, he prostrated himself before his master, as he begged him to have patience. "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' (Mat 18:26). The Greek words used here are "pipto" (fall, light on) and "proskuneo" (prostrate, worship, adore), which is the same word used elsewhere in the Scriptures for "worship". This helps to show that the Greek word for "worship" also means to "prostrate" oneself. It also gives us another Scriptural example of laying prostrate during repentance.
A Hungarian sister, who received a revelation of heaven and hell, testified, "And Jesus said it’s important not just to repent at church, but at home also. And even to get down on your face before God when you repent, and bow before Him. I mean, not bow, but lay prostrate before Him, because the Lord told me this the only acceptable way in front of the Lord to repent. We are not just bowing our heads before the Great God. We have to lay down before Him. It’s important that when we repent, we don’t just, like at church, sit in our seats and just bow our head. But we go up front and take the most humble position and lay before the Lord to repent. We have to lay our lives down before Him and say, 'I don’t care if anyone kills me or what happens to me. I don’t care about anything else—what will happen to me.'” -- Eudoxia Varga. For the complete testimony, please see Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell.
Putting it All Together
Therefore, we learn from Scripture that even though the word “worship” itself means to “bow down,” it is often used together with other expressions that further emphasize the humble, subdued position of one’s body before the Lord. Indeed, worship involves kneeling before the Lord, even bowing down before the Lord with your face to the ground. It involves falling or bowing prostrate before Him in reverence and awe. It is an act of humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God. All glory and honor be to the Lord forever and ever. It is my hope that this message has helped to inspire you to greater heights in worship, as you lower and abase yourself before the Most High. For there is no other God beside Him, and He alone deserves our highest worship.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The image of the water color painting, "Abraham and the Three Angels," c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The illustration "Thou Art Worthy" is by my seventeen-year old daughter C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.
Author's note: I also recommend reading Should you fear the Lord?, Lifting Hands in Prayer, Lifting Your Face in Prayer, Crying Out to God Loudly, Avoiding Worldly Worship, Eudoxia Varga Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Ezekiel Moses Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Baptized with the Spirit, The New Wine, Who intercedes for us?, Praying for the Lord Jesus, and Whatever You Do, Do All Like This. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org