My daughter-in-law visited Israel last year, the one thing at the top of my bucket list. As you can imagine, we were eager to hear about her trip when she came home. So, we met them at a restaurant and listened as she shared stories from her adventure.
Moriah told us about experiencing the actual places Jesus visited when He was baptized in the Jordan, shared the Sermon on the Mount, and prayed at Gethsemane.
Then with tears in her eyes, she said something I’ll never forget. Moriah told us that although it was really cool to walk where Jesus walked, the most touching and memorable experience for her was worshiping with other believers from all over the world.
She experienced that “wow” moment with the realization that Christ came to indwell believers. His presence is no longer just in the temple. His presence is within each of us, wherever we are.
For her, the opportunity to lift her voice to God together with other believers was the most touching part of her journey. And so it should be. After all, that’s what we were made for.
The Bible gives us many examples of women who worship, but for the sake of brevity, I just want to share three characteristics we can find in them.
Women who worship are focused on God and not themselves.
Two examples of this that stand out to me are Hannah and Mary. Both of them had similar songs of praise in response to what God had done in their lives.
Hannah had been barren, but God gave her the child she prayed for. After weaning the boy, she took him to the temple and dedicated his life to the Lord.
There she erupted in praise to God, but her focus was not on her son or herself. Her focus was on her God.
“‘There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.'”1 Samuel 2:2, NIV 84
Likewise, Mary, who had been betrothed but not yet married, received news that she would be with child and that He would be the “Son of the Most High.” Most of us would have fallen apart at such news, but Mary responded with worship.
“And Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name.'”Luke 1:46-49
At first glance, we may think Mary is focused on herself, but remember that she had been given news that could have led to her death under the law. Her focus here is not on herself, but on her God whom she trusted .
She went on to sing:
“‘His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.'”Luke 1:50-52
Mary gave all her praise to God, who fills “the hungry with good things” (53).
Women who worship aren’t self-absorbed and focused on themselves–their looks, their stuff, their entertainment, their own needs. They keep their eyes on the Kingdom and worship God for who He is.
Women who worship aren’t concerned with what others think.
Deborah was a woman before her time–a wife, prophetess, judge, and warrior all in one. She was so confident in leadership that her commander wouldn’t even go into battle without her (Judges 4:8).
When the battle was over and their enemies had been defeated, Deborah didn’t hold back from praising her God, no matter who was listening.
“‘Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.'”Judges 5:3
Deborah went on to recount all the God had done on behalf of His people. In a culture and time in which women were not usually respected nor followed, Deborah was one who commanded respect because of her confidence in God.
She listened to the Lord and followed Him; that’s why people, including men, were willing to follow her leadership. She wasn’t ashamed of her God. She was surrendered to Him; therefore, she didn’t worry about what others thought of her worship.
Her praise was for God alone.
Women who worship set an example for others.
In Exodus when God led His people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea on dry ground, Moses and the Israelites came out praising God on the other side. Then Miriam picked up a tambourine and led the women in praise.
“Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.'”Exodus 15:20-21
Miriam didn’t just follow Moses in worship–she led the women in worship as well. Our worship is always a witness to others.
And worship is much more than music and singing. Remember the woman with the alabaster jar? She poured out her worship on Jesus at great cost to herself.
She had lived a sinful life and was most likely looked down upon by society. But when she heard Jesus was at the Pharisee’s house, she had the courage to show up uninvited.
“When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”Luke 7:37-38
Don’t you think she knew that the pious religious leaders were going to berate her for even showing up, much less demonstrating such an extravagant outpouring of love and devotion?
“When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.'”Luke 7:39
Jesus knew what was in his heart, and rather than rebuking the sinful woman, he rebuked the Pharisee. The leader had not shown the normal acts of hospitality for Jews in that day–washing the feet of the guests, greeting with a kiss, or providing oil for His head. But she had.
Because she came focused on Jesus, not caring what anyone else thought, she set an example of true worship for all those in the room. And Jesus commended her faith.
Likewise, the widow who came to the temple to worship, putting only a small amount in the offering, caught the eye of the Savior.
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. but a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.”Mark 12:41-42
Can you imagine how she could have felt, following behind those who just “threw” in their large amounts of money? But the widow came with the right heart. She didn’t care what they thought of her worship.
“Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.'”Mark 12:43-44
That’s how we should bring our worship to God–giving everything we’ve got, not worried about what others think, with our hearts focused, not on ourselves, but on our God.
When we do, our worship will be commended by God, but we will also set an example for others that points to Him.
“‘In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.'”Matthew 5:16
This verse isn’t about doing acts of righteousness in order to be seen; Jesus goes on right after that to say that we should be careful NOT to do them to be seen (6:1). Letting our light shine means that we live a life of worship that points to Him, not to us.
Women who truly worship may erupt in praise like Hannah or Mary, but it won’t be about them. Their hearts will be focused on God.
They may be bold in their worship like Miriam, but they won’t care what others think because it’s not about them.
And their worship may sometimes seem extravagant like the sinful woman or not enough like the poor widow, but like Miriam, they will lead on anyway. Because their God is worth it.
What about you and me? Will we be willing to give God the praise He is due, even if it makes us uncomfortable? Or if it makes others uncomfortable? Are we willing to be extravagant in our worship, giving all that we have?
And are we setting an example of worship in spirit and in truth that will be a witness to those around us of our great God?
My prayer for you and me is that we will be women who worship, regardless of our own weaknesses, regardless of what others think, and regardless of how little or much we think we have to bring.
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.'”Hebrews 12:28-29
Let’s be women who worship–unhindered, unashamed, and undeniably in love with Jesus.