One of the Greek words translated as “worship” in today’s English bible is proskuneo. It means “to kiss the hand as a statement of submission.” It’s what happens when a commoner comes face to face with the king – he lowers himself to finger level, puckers up and kisses the royal ring. That kiss says You are my king and I am your loyal subject. Do what you want with me.
But this word has an even more severely humbling meaning buried in it. Proskuneo is made up of two parts: Pros means toward. And kuneo evolved from the more ancient root word kuon, which means dog. Toward plus dog. Huh?
Now, go with me here, this is about to get a little weird for some of us. You, are a dog. So am I. When our Master comes near us we’re supposed to roll over and kiss/lick appreciatively, submissively. It’s the way we dogs say You are my Master. I am your dog. Do what you want with me.
Proskuneo is surrendering all illusions of competency, all rights and all demands. Its foundation is the realization that back to back with God, freshly showered and shaved, with all my memory verses from vacation bible schools tucked away in my gray matter, with my Sunday clothes on, with my diplomas on the wall, with my list of good deeds stacked up under my feet for extra height, on my best day and on my best behavior, I don’t measure up. I’m short – far short. I have nothing and God is everything. So I roll over.
Proskuneo is this man. This man lost his home and his children in hurricane Katrina. See the desperation on his face? His eyes are swollen. He blubbers in front of the camera, snot dribbling through his stubble, begging strangers for help. He doesn’t care what they think of him. He’s hopeless and helpless on his own.
Proskuneo is this man. His house, his wife and kids and grandkids, his home and furniture, all gone. Bombed into oblivion. His arms are spread and he cries out to God or anybody who’ll listen. He’s hopeless and helpless on his own.
Proskuneo is me sitting beside my son’s hospital bed a few weeks ago. For a few hours the doctors had no idea what was going on with Gresham. And for a few minutes, while my wife stepped out to get some air and sunshine, I laid my head down on the edge of his bed and prayed like I seldom have before. I held his hand and sobbed, trying not to wake him up. God, please don’t take him! Please don’t take my boy!
I was hopeless and helpless on my own. I rolled over, feeling smaller than ever before. I was suddenly, and maybe for the first time, very aware of how all-powerful God is and how powerless I am. I didn’t make this kid. I can’t fix him. I can’t make the pain stop or my own worries lay off for a minute. I can’t even pay the bill. Help, God. You’re all I have.
I was nothing without God.
Truth is I always am. I just need to be reminded.
Isaiah sure was. As his eyes took in all that God is, he saw all that he wasn’t. He rolled over and lamented, “Woe is me a man of unclean lips!” Translation? I’m a dog. You’re the Master. Do what You want with me.