Sunday, February 5, 2017

Why kneel in worship?

1 Kings 8:54 (NKJV)
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.

In the last few weeks we have explored various traditions that our elders have established to guide our corporate worship. As we have noted, every church has traditions – and those who claim they don’t are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It is important, therefore, that we regularly evaluate our traditions to make sure that they reflect and not undermine biblical principles – and it is this that we are doing with our exhortations.

Among the traditions we have as a congregation, one of them is kneeling when we confess our sins. In just a moment I will invite you to kneel with me as we confess our sins to God. Many people, visitors especially, find this practice uncomfortable or objectionable (physically challenging is okay!) – in fact, many have refused to return and worship here because we kneel during our service. The preaching is fine; the music is acceptable; the fellowship seems sweet – but why do you kneel?

This question often causes me to scratch my head and wonder what in the world is happening in the church. What is it about kneeling that bothers us? Some say it reminds them too much of Roman Catholicism. But, of course, if we were to reject whatever the Roman Church practices, then we’d have to eliminate Scripture reading, prayer, and public singing as well. So I’m not sure that’s the real issue. I think the real issue is deeper.

Kneeling is an act of humility; it is to bow before another and acknowledge that that other is greater than I, more important than I, and hence worthy of my respect and honor or even my adoration. Kneeling is also sometimes a visible expression of wrongdoing, a plea for mercy as it were. Hence, there are times when kneeling is inappropriate. Mordecai refused to kneel before Haman; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to kneel before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue; God reserved 7,000 in Israel who would not bow the knee to Baal. There are times when kneeling is compromise and sin.

But there are other times when kneeling is glorious: all Israel bowed the knee to King David; a leper kneeled before Jesus begging to be healed; a man kneels before his beloved and asks for her hand in marriage. There are times when kneeling is the right thing to do.

So what about worship? Is worship an inappropriate or appropriate setting for kneeling? Well, let us consider: we have entered the presence of Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, the High and Holy One – the One whose power governs all that occurs; the One whose holiness must judge all sin and wickedness; the One whose love compelled Him to send His only-begotten Son to bear the punishment that our sin deserved – how could we imagine that to kneel in this One’s presence is unfitting or inappropriate? Uncomfortable at first? Maybe. But inappropriate? Never.

So in our passage today, we see that Solomon – the Son of David, the King of Israel, and the wisest of men – kneeled before God to make supplication and prayer. And Psalm 95 summons us, O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! And note that this isn’t a summons to private but to public kneeling – O come, let us kneel ­– let all of us together bow before God for He is worthy! And so the four living creatures and the 24 elders in the book of Revelation fall down before the Lamb and they sing a new song saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!

So this morning, as we consider that we have entered into the presence of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord.