5 Most Important Words in Worship
Renowned theologian David Allan Hubbard originally highlighted The Five Words of Worship; and long ago they were adopted and adapted to our mission at Worship Leader to focus on the biblical foundations for worship in its myriad expressions and especially in songs: past, present, and future. You’ll see these words matched with songs and imprinted on each Song DISCovery disc. What follows will be a refresher for some and for others “new stuff.” Although as any devoted Bible reader knows, there are many words connected with worship. Yet, understanding these five core words may change the way you read Scripture, relate to God, facilitate song selection for your set list, as well as inform and enlighten your song writing.
Each of these five words connect us to the rich and living vocabulary of worship and remind us who we worship, why we worship, how we worship, and the theological context of our worship. These are touch points for our communities and congregations, drawing us into God and his mission to, in, and through us.The point of these words is not to simply sprinkle them liberally throughout your service, but to live, worship, speak, write, and create from the reality they represent. In songs—as well as sermons and visual art—most often one of worship’s words will dominate, but it is possible to have elements of more than one “word of worship” in a single expression of worship.
1. Hallelujah boasts of the Lord and his attributes
From the Hebrew, Hallelujah is firmly associated with the book of Psalms—in the New Testament Greek, it is pronounced “Alleluia.” It is comprised of the imperative verb “halal” meaning “praise,” and “Y’ah,” a short form of Yahweh, the principal name of God in the Bible. Hallelujah, therefore, is properly interpreted as the command, “Praise Yahweh.” “Yahweh,” in turn, ultimately points to the name of Jesus, which in Hebrew is pronounced “Y’shua” and means “Yahweh saves.”
“How Great is Our God” By Chris Tomlin
Names of God (visual projection) By Camron Ware
“Holy, Holy, Holy” By Reginald Heber & John B. Dykes
2. Abba reflects intimacy and relationship with God
Abba, from the Aramaic, literally means “the Father.” There is a common misunderstanding that gives it the more informal emphasis of “Daddy.” Indeed, in modern Hebrew, Abba means just that, but in the Aramaic spoken by Jesus it was used by children not only to express deep emotion, warmth and intimacy, but also dignity and respect. Abba could more properly be translated as “Dear Father.”
To call God, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Abba, Father,” is to address the creator of the universe intimately and was unusually daring in light of Hebrew tradition. Yet, it is how Jesus modeled communication with the Father.
“How He Loves” Written by John Mark McMillan
“He Knows My Name” Written by Tommy Walker
Rembrandts, The Return of the Prodigal Son
3. Hosanna is a cry for or celebration of God’s deliverance
Hosanna (from the Hebrew) in its original Old Testament context, expressed the pain and despair of a people crying out to God for deliverance. It is a prayer for help and a plea for salvation, perhaps best expressed as, simply, “Save Us!”
In the New Testament, that prayer becomes a shout of praise, a declaration of the saving work of Jesus, the Messiah; because in him, God has acted, finally and decisively.
An imperative form of the Hebrew ‘ yasba,” the principal verb “to save,” essentially means “to make room” or “to give breadth and depth.” The word ‘Savior” also derives from “yasba,” denoting “one who liberates or sets us free from all that presses in.”
Hosanna is linked to Psalm 118. Sung after the Passover meal, with its prophetic declaration, “Blessed is be who comes in the name of the Lord” (v 26), it is echoed in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. From a call for help to a cry of joyful assurance, Hosanna constantly reminds us of the saving work of Jesus.
“Mighty to Save” By Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan
Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem by Gustave Dore
Jesus Healing the Blind of Jericho by Nicolas Pouissin
4. Maranatha celebrates Christ’s coming, his kingdom, and his return,
Maranatha (from the Aramaic) may be translated as both “Our Lord Has Come,” and “Our Lord, Come,” and encompasses a sense of Christ’s eternal presence with us. He came. He is coming in our present by his Spirit, through his body, in communion and community. And he will come again as King. It embodies confident faith, expectant hope, and awed reverence. It is the realization of the hope of salvation and a reminder of God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises.
Maranatha is not a word to be taken lightly. The return of the Savior as King will bring blessing to believers, but ruin and destruction to those who are enemies of the gospel.
“Revelation Song” By Jennie Lee Riddle
The Last Judgment by Michelangelo
The Gospel of John (Feature film)
5. Amen illuminates the finished work of Christ, and the Cross
AMEN is a word used by many cultures and religions, and in both Old and New Testaments. It denotes faithfulness, truth reliability, fidelity, agreement, conclusion, a “Let it be so” or “It is so.” The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus as the “Amen of Heaven” (Rev 3:14): He is the final word on our past present and future. His final utterance on the cross, “It is finished,” has become the great Amen of our faith, assuring us that His work is complete. The word Amen signifies that the sacrifice of the cross seals our covenant with God. It is thus appropriate that it is also the final word of every Christian’s prayer and a communal confirmation that what has been said is agreed to by every individual.
So much more than the period at the end of the sentence, Jesus forever reinterpreted “Amen” to mean Himself and His finished work.
“Glorious” Paul Baloche & Brenton Brown
“It is Finished” Bill & Gloria Gaither
The Transfiguration By Raphael