The New and Improved P&W

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In the Psalms, we read much about how we as God’s people are to praise and worship the LORD.

1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:1,2,6)

When my wife and I first visited the Philippines in 1983 after 7 years in the States, we were confused by something that we had never seen before: a 10-20-30-minute portion of the worship service allotted for singing interspersed with mumbling called prayers, and accompanied by waving hands, hip-swaying, clapping (and contorted faces). It was commonly introduced by a “worship leader” saying, “Now we will begin our Praise and Worship.” After the endless, repetitious singing, I realized that all of that was called “Praise and Worship.”

We were confused because we always thought that the whole time of assembly on the Lord’s Day is called a “Worship Service,” which includes reading and preaching Scriptures, praying, singing, an offering, and once a month, the Lord’s Supper.

P&W then consisted of sentimental, romantic music of the 60s-80s. Today, rap, hiphop, and rock are the staple of P&W, which got me thinking of the meaning of the acronym.

"The Worship of the Golden Calf" by Filippino Lippi (1457-1504) (click to enlarge)

The first meaning that came to mind is “Pagan Worship.” In a previous post, “Pagan Worship: Then and Now,” I described this kind of worship as instantly gratifying, idolatrous, sincere, sensual, worldly and creative. The greatest Biblical example of this is Israel’s worship service at Mount Sinai when they sincerely worshiped the golden calf, complete with sexual revelry.

The second meaning I thought of just recently is “Prostitution and Whoredom.” In a recent Facebook thread, I answered someone who was in favor of “Reformed Rap” (a loathsome insult to Reformed worship) by saying that God has a word to describe Israel’s lust for their Canaanite neighbors’ pagan worship: “prostituting (or whoring) after the Baals.”

What evangelicals don’t recognize is that way back before Israel entered Canaan, God already warned them not to imitate the pagan world around them:

“Take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deut 12:30-31).

Wow! This is exactly the abominable thing that evangelicals today are doing in worship, lusting after the pagan idolatry of the world, and incorporating it into the worship of God.

This inquiring after pagan gods and worship by Israel so they may also worship in the same way is not only called abominable by God. It was called by God in the most detestable way: “whoring.”

Judges 2:17: “they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.”

Judges 8:33: “the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals”;

Exodus 34:14-16: “You shall tear down their altars … lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice … and make your sons whore after their gods.”

“Whoring” means “prostituting,” and “harlotry,” which means committing adultery or fornication. This is how Israel was described when they worshiped the gods of their pagan neighbors.

In fact, this is what Israel did at their “worship service” at Mount Sinai before the golden calf. They celebrated “a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (Exod 32:5-6). The term “rose up to play” has the connotation of sexual revelry (Gen 26:8). The golden calf and sexual revelry were part of the pagan rituals of the Egyptians.

As Joshua and Moses were descending from the mountain, they heard the noise which Joshua thought was the sound of war. But Moses told him it was rather the noise of singing, dancing and shouting in their “praise and worship” (Exod 32:18-19).

So when a church today imitate and use the music, entertainment and creativity of the pagan world around them, they are called by God an “abomination” and a “whore.”

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