In part 2 of the Theology of Worship series in the Trumpet, Dr. Tan Loe Joo wrote an insightful article about the meaning of worship and why it is not found in this world. He based his essay on the vision of Isaiah who saw the worship of God by His angels in heaven.
What a sight and experience it must have been for Isaiah to see the Lord, to hear the seraphic voices and to feel God’s very presence! I believe this is the kind of worship that the church should experience when believers gather to worship every Sunday.
Dr. Tan also compares Isaiah’s vision to a musical in a theatre, with one key difference. “In a musical, after the curtains are lowered, the show is over, and the audience leaves the playhouse. However, for a vision, after the curtains are lowered, the reality continues behind the curtains.” As such, we really need to have eyes of faith to see through the ‘curtains’ and see God on His throne being worshipped by the heavenly hosts. This fact should bring us to the realization that even before the ‘curtains’ are raised, God is already seated on His throne. At the same time, we must also realize that our earthly worship is only a faint reflection of the true worship in heaven.
In the words of Dr. Tan, “our earthly worship simply does not match up to the true worship that is taking place right now in heaven.” If worship of God in heaven has already begun even before we arrive at church on Sunday, then, in a sense we are “perpetual latecomers” to worship God in His house! If this is the case, we may be discouraged and may even stop attending church worship altogether.
However, our earthly worship does serve an important and spiritual purpose. It is a means to bring us to participate in the heavenly worship and to bring us into the very presence of God! What a privilege we have! We should never underestimate the true purpose of our earthly worship. Therefore, we should not ask, what have we gained from worship this morning? Rather, we should ask, have we entered into the heavenly worship like Isaiah, through our Sunday worship?
Let’s keep the lesson of Isaiah’s vision before us so that we would not be distracted by the earthly surroundings but that we may have eyes of faith to see our God high and lifted up and worshipped always and forever.
Rev. Mark Tay
*Adapted from the essay by Dr. Tan Loe Joo, “True Worship Isn’t Found in This World,” in Trumpet (Aug. 2016): 6-7.