God calls Christians to worship. All people were made to worship and give God glory with their lives. Worship of God is to be a central part of the Christians life. In John 4 a Samaritan woman asks the question of where one should worship and Jesus answers, “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”
What Is Worship?
The problem comes when one asks people what is worship or what does proper worship look like? Does the word “spirit” in the verse just mentioned refer to the human spirit or the Holy Spirit? How does worship in the Old Testament relate to that of the New Testament? Is worship only what you do when singing songs at church? How can worship be a part of your everyday life? What do service and blessings in worship truly amount to? The answer to this question has been heavily on this reviewer’s heart and has led him to a great book on worship called Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson.
This is David Peterson the theologian not to be confused with the outdoorsman and hunter. He is an ordained minister with the Anglican church of Australia and has been married for over 40 years now. He currently teaches at Moore Theological College in Sydney and was a principal of Oak Hill Theological College where he lectured in Biblical Studies and Worship for 11 years. He has written roughly 15 books and numerous articles, most involving the area of worship. Another popular book of his you might be familiar with is Hebrews and Perfection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).
He is an able writer and exegete who has a clearly solid grasp and theological understanding of worship. He deftly brings Scripture to bear on people’s views and practices, pointing to a more biblical view of worship. He does thorough word studies on specific words that relate to worship in the Old Testament and New Testament. In this work he tackles a hefty subject with clarity and great articulation. The organization made it easy to follow and understand the details of Scripture while he was building up the big picture of what worship is truly about. His clear definitions of specific subjects on worship and how we need to engage with God truly helps and aid the reader to understand what it is to worship the true and living God. Even though it is heavy with theological terms, it is easily seen that Peterson has written to aid any believer serious about understanding what worship is truly about. He gives chapter summaries and each chapter goes on to prove his main point about what worship is.
The book is 293 pages long providing a thorough examination of the topic. The only problem one may have is that there could have been more interaction on specific topics such as John 4:24, dispensations, and the gifts in worship. It was also desired that the index would have been more thorough for quick reference. Other than these couple of points, the work over all was a great read that greatly enhanced the reader’s understanding of the subject of worship. This reading will leave any reader with a greater comprehension of worship from the Old Testament to the New Testament and how it all comes together in Christ and its implications for Christian believers in the church age.
A Closer Look
The book starts out defining worship in the introduction as, “worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that the alone makes possible.” The rest of the chapters go on from the Old Testament to the New Testament to discover why this is so.
In chapter one with the title “Engaging with God in the Old Testament” he goes over the themes of revelation, redemption, the cult, the sacrificial system, the Jerusalem temple, and the future of God’s people. This chapter discovers the basis of how God rescued His people so that they may worship Him and how all things were provided for them to worship the one and true God. He clearly demonstrates this through studies of specific terms and events.
The second chapter Peterson goes deeper into specific meanings of words such as ‘worship’ and ‘service.’ He clearly brings out what worship was meant to be in the Old Testament. In the third chapter he discusses Jesus and the temple of the Old Testament and how they relate. The main point is that in the same way that the temple was the place of God’s presence and the center of worship, Christ is for us in the New Covenant. He continues through the rest of the chapters to define this concept of engagement with God as worship and continues to define how a huge part of worship is gratitude to God in the form of service to Him and others. He ends with an epilogue that challenges people to put energy towards the hard work of changing things at church to be more in line with true worship of a living God.
In conclusion this book is a great read for anyone seeking for a more theological foundation of what true worship is. This book is recommended for people that want to know more the overall picture of worship and what worship should be like practically and in application. If you want to get serious about worship, then this would be a good addition to your library.