Worshipping the King:
Read Philippians 2:1-11
“Every knew will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
In the ancient near east, when one came into the presence of a king, the appropriate response was to bow in his presence as an acknowledgment of his position and authority. While bowing remains foreign to us, it was an important expression in the Biblical period. To bow in the presence of another was a sign of respect and submission. When people were defeated on the battlefield, they would be required to bow before the victorious king to show their surrender and submission. It was an affirmation not only of his victory but also their deference to someone who was in a higher position. It was an expression of humility before others. Because of this, it became central to one’s response in worship. The word “worship” itself comes from the word that means to bow down and prostrate oneself before another. This is what brings us to the heart of what it means to worship God. We often view worship as an act of praise, a celebration of God. While worship certainly includes this joyous proclamation of who God is and what he has done, we fail to understand true worship when we divorce it from submission and surrender. Worship is not just an emotional response to God, it involves the genuine surrender to God’s will and purpose for us. This is why it is impossible for a person to truly enter into a worship experience who has not first renounced his/her own independence of God. Tragically, often our worship is focused more upon self-service rather than God, more upon self-fulfillment than self-denial. This is why worship is not an emotional experience but rather a heart condition. It is a response of faith and obedience to the person and work of God.
When the wisemen knelt in worship before the baby, there were giving their allegiance to him and surrendering their life to him. They were acknowledging his supremacy. When Christ returns in all his glory to establish His eternal kingdom, Paul points out that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. In other words, everyone will acknowledge that he is supreme and will recognize his rightful position. Tragically, some will do so grudgingly. The acknowledgment will come from a rebellious heart rather than an obedient heart. They will see Jesus as a judge whom they will face and be forced to acknowledge that his judgment is just. Even as they bend the knee, they will remain defiant in their heart. Others will do so joyously, recognizing that Christ is not just their king, but their savior, friend, and loving brother. For them, submission becomes an expression of their love for Christ and their gratitude for what Christ has done.
This holiday season, many of us will remember the birth of Jesus with nostalgic reminiscences of childhood Christmas pageants, presents under the tree, and feasts of scrumptious goodies. But fewer will join the Wisemen in humble submission and surrender to the one born King of the Jews. For the true measure of our worship to the Babe in the Manger is not found in what the carols we sing at Christmas, but in the manner we live the rest of the year. For this is the difference between remembering Jesus and genuinely worshiping Jesus. As we approach the Christmas celebration the most important question is not what gifts do we give or receive, but have we surrendered in humble submission to the one born King of the Jews?