In the doctrine of biblical hermeneutics, the ‘Law of First Mention exists. Essentially it means that the first time a word or a concept is mentioned should go on to determine the way it needs to be understood throughout scripture. It is a guiding principle more than anything, and a good one at that. The Book of Genesis, being the first book, is a blessed repository for many of these ‘first mentions.’
In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah.
Abraham has tied up his son on an altar to offer him as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s direction (v. 2). This is faith being tested to the ultimate extreme. And Abraham shows us how to enter in.
“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”
This is the law of the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.
It sets the singular tone for all the scriptures on this subject. I guess what is interesting is there were no musical instruments involved. There were just these needful things:
- a knife,
- and Isaac, (the would-be ‘lamb.’)
When the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ was used for the first time; it is interlaced with the idea of an incredible sacrifice. Abraham is the first ‘worship leader’ and he has no guitar. No piano, or drums either. No musical instruments whatsoever. No overhead lyrics to speak of.
Just a handmade altar, and a knife.
In the end, as Abraham raises that knife, he is stopped suddenly, to the relief of us all. His faith has withstood the test, and he has genuinely ‘worshipped.’
“But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
There really can’t be worship without sacrifice.
Recovering this truth concerning worship would be beneficial. It seems we delegate ‘worship’ to a select few who are talented and gifted. We probably don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes we feel it makes a better presentation. We all want to look good, even Christians. (Perhaps this is more substantial then we know.)
The first worshiper didn’t use a guitar, but a knife.
This difference keeps the idea of sacrifice in its definition. There isn’t worship without sacrifice. The knife thrust he was ready to wield wasn’t backed up by drums or piano. Yet Abraham understood worship every step to Moriah with the knife in his belt.
“The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work.”
Ultimately, we must realize our sacrifice is the Lamb of God. It’s His blood on God’s altar for our sin. As believers, our faith firmly rests in this spiritual fact. We of all people have cause to really worship.
“So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.”