When we speak of worship, of what do we think? Singing, praying, sacrificing to God as He has sacrificed to us, communion with the Lord via the Lord's Supper - it is through these means that we prostrate ourselves in humility before our holy God. We usually include "preaching" in our list of "five acts of worship," but do we really see preaching as worship?
In worship, not only do we speak to God, but God speaks to us. That is the purpose of preaching. Now, I do not suggest that God is literally speaking through me as I preach. As Isaiah said, "I am but a man of unclean lips." What I do suggest is that when God's Word is read and properly explained - it is God who is speaking to us! When God is speaking to us, what else can we as His followers do but worshipfully listen and obey?
There are within religious circles those who see the Bible as just a collection of historical writings by good or holy men, but they deny that these writings are the actual words of God. As such, they say, while there are some core truths to be found in the Bible, it is not relevant to us today as the documents are ancient and outdated. Preaching done by such men is, therefore, not based upon the word of God, but upon mere current ideas and philosophies of men. Such "preaching" is not worship and is a waste of time in the context of drawing closer to God.
When the prophets preached what God told them, whether the audience chose to obey His Word or not, they knew it was God speaking and not the prophet. Those of fertile heart often wept at the hearing of God's Word when they understood that their lives were not in harmony with it. Those who respected God's Word often stood as it was read. On a day of worship described in Nehemiah 8, Ezra read the words of the book of God while the Levites, with the help of a few other men, "gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading" (Nehemiah 8:8).
When it comes to our worship today, we too must read the Word of God, give its sense and help to understand what God is saying. In Acts 2 it is recorded that on the very first day of God's church on earth the new Christians continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching. While this shows us that they were dedicated to following the teaching given by the apostles, I believe it also indicates the prominent place that the teaching of God's Word had in their lives and worship.
How are we affected when the Word is read and preached? Do we truly believe that God is speaking and that we will one day be held accountable to what He said? Are we moved to compassion when we see His compassion? Are we moved to repentance when He points out sin in our lives? Are we motivated to action when we hear His call? Or do we simply acknowledge that the preacher has to get his time in on Sunday and do our best to endure it? Whatever your reaction, or lack thereof, is, God knows.
"Let my cry come before You O Lord;
Give me understanding according to Your word.
Let my supplication come before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.
My lips shall utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.
My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness."
"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." James 1:21-25