Bow Down

By EXW Staff
June 05, 2024

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By Dr. Neil Chadwick

Often it has been said that as human beings, "we are almost helplessly self-centered." This of course is due to what we call "original sin". The "fall" of man was at the point of his deciding to go it his own way instead of God's way.

This self-centeredness is also found in our worship. We may be right as to the object of our worship - we all know that we are to worship the One True God, the Creator, the Father of All. But our self-centeredness still gets in the way, because we want to worship God the way we want to worship Him.

There is a simple invitation in the Bible which suggests to us the way we are to worship in respect to our position. It's found in Psalms 95:6 - "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

To worship is to bow down.

Right away, someone will respond, "It certainly doesn't mean that the only way to pray or to worship God is in the kneeling position! If I want, I can sit, I can stand, I can worship while walking, jogging, driving my car (with my eyes open, of course) - I can even worship while laying down." I once had an Indian friend by the name of Thomas Matthew - at the time I knew him he was serving as a Chaplain Intern in a state hospital. He said that if he ever would become a Pastor, he would program his answering machine to respond to late night callers with this message, "Thank you for calling Pastor Matthew. Unless your call is an emergency he should not be disturbed - he's lying prostrate before the Lord."

So no, we're not going to argue the point that the only possible worship is that kind which happens while we're on our knees. But the Bible does say it, "let us kneel before the LORD our maker". You see, the problem isn't so much that we don't do it, but that we don't want to do it. Perhaps we've become so used to singing the song "Just As I Am", that we've forgotten that He only accepts those who come to him "bowed down." It may not matter too much to God what our physical position may be when we worship, but He is very concerned about our inner posture.

Do you remember the story of the little boy who was told to sit down? After repeated commands, pleas and even threats, the boy finally sat down. And then he said, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but on the inside, I'm still standing up."

We need to say, "I may be sitting down (or standing) on the outside, but on the inside, I'm still kneeling down."

So what does this mean, to kneel before the Lord?

To "bow down" is to recognize God as the Sovereign, the King, and we are His subjects. Of course we don't have this system of government called "Monarchy", so for us this may sound strange. In fact, we've gone to the other extreme to say that we ourselves are kings.

The Great Reformation brought in by Martin Luther emphasized the point that we are all priests, and even royalty. This was based on two Scriptures. The first is 1 Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

The second is even more explicit, Revelation 1:6 - "(He) hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

In Martin Luther's time this corrective was needed, because even as they had during Jesus' day, the common people had been left out of meaningful participation in the Kingdom of God. But now we may have taken it too far. We now have a doctrine of equality. But notice that 1 Peter 2:13 goes on to say, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme. . . ." If we are to recognize that there are differences between men, some rule while others obey, how much more should we recognize the distinction between us and God?

The problem is that if we are all kings, then we easily forget that He is King, and if we're all priests, we forget that Jesus alone is the High Priest.

To help us understand this idea of bowing down as it has to do with the king, let's take a look at the story of Joseph. And remember, Joseph in the Old Testament is seen as a wonderful type of Jesus as revealed in the New.

Genesis 41:41-43

"So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.' Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, 'Make way [Bow Down]!' Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt." In the KJV it reads, "they cried before him, Bow the knee."

To show that they understood Joseph's authority, they kneeled before him. Do you remember the rest of this story of Joseph? It was certainly within God's providential care for Israel that Joseph had been strategically placed in Egypt in order to provide for the food which would keep his family alive during a great famine. Of course the path to that position wasn't an easy one. It all began when he was a young lad with large and strange dreams.

"Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, 'Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.'" ( Genesis 37:5-7)

When Joseph told this dream to his brothers, they became angry and ended up shipping him off to Egypt. Well, "duh"; no wonder they were angry - they were being told that Joseph believed that some day they would bow down to their little brother! But notice this, the dream came true, as we find in Genesis 42:6. "Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the one who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph's brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground." Joseph's brothers bowed down to him in fulfillment of the dream, and in accord with the custom of that day which required subjects to bow down before their rulers. There came a time, however, when it was understood that no one was to bow down to anyone but God. That's how Mordecai got into trouble.

Esther 3:2 - "All the royal officials at the king's gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor."

The New Testament Apostles understood this. Consider the story of Peter - when he came into Cornelius's home, he would not allow this man to bow down to him.

"As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. 'Stand up,' he said, 'I am only a man myself.'" (Acts 10:25, 26)

Paul and Barnabas had a similar experience on their first missionary journey. In that case, the local religious leader, a worshipper of Zeus, wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas with sacrifices. When this happened, the apostles protested,

". . . they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 'Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you.'" (Acts 14:13-15)

But when we read about Jesus, it's interesting to note that He did not forbid or rebuke those who kneeled down before Him.
One of the ten lepers healed by Jesus.

Luke 17:15, 16 - "...when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan."

Mary, the sister of Lazurus.

John 11:32 - "When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'"

Jairus whose daughter was sick.

Mark 5:22 - "One of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet."

The Syrophonecian Woman whose daughter was demonized.

Mark 7:25 - " soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet."

John on the Isle of Patmos.

Revelation 1:17 - "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'"

These people got it right - Jesus was God, and as such He should be worshipped by kneeling down before Him, and He did not correct them.
"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

You know the song, "He Is Lord"? Do the words come from the Old Testament or the New? Well, Paul does use the expression, "Every knee bow" - he uses it twice.

Romans 14:11 It is written: "`As surely as I live,' says the Lord, `every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'"
Philippians 2:10, 11 - "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

But it really comes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:

"By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear." (Isaiah 45:23)

But let's ask the question, "Is it wrong to give honor to people?" Actually, the Bible teaches that there are a number of people to whom we should give honor: Husbands are to honor their wives:

"Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." (1 Peter 3:7)

Children are to honor their parents:

"Honor thy father and thy mother" (Exodus 20:12)

We are to honor our elders:

"Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:32 - the KJV says "rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man").

We all must honor our governmental leaders:

"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (Romans 13:7)

Employees honor their bosses:

"Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed." (1 Timothy 6:1 - NIV - "All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered.")

Church members honor their church leaders:

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17)

In fact, all Christians, are to give honor to each other:

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." (Romans 12:10)

So the answer is, yes we do honor men, but we worship God.
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." (Ephesians 3:14)

So, when we pray, "let us kneel before the LORD" - let us bow down low before Him.

Standing before God represents demands and confrontations - kneeling is worship; "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

Sitting in God's presence suggests that we are passively waiting for Him to act - kneeling is worship; "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

Or, to put it in a more positive reference, when we sit we are like Mary who sat at Jesus' feet to hear His teaching - this is sitting at the table to partake of a nourishing meal. But when we kneel down, we worship. "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

When we stand we are like the soldier prepared for battle, clothed with the armor and like Paul writes, "having done all, to stand." But when we kneel down, we worship. "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

We can sing great anthems of praise; we can utter lofty phrases in prayer; we can clap our hands with delight; and we can shout the victory chant; but we have not worshipped until we have kneeled down.

"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker."

The little boy who says "I'm still standing up on the inside" is in rebellion, to be sure. But when we say, "On the inside I'm kneeling down", then we are in submission.
For more info on Dr. Chadwicks Sermons, visit

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