Whatever it is you most fear—you are giving that thing, that aspect of your life,worth. You are saying it is worth your time, it is worth your thoughts, it is worth your worries, it deserves your energies, your planning, and your deliberations. It is worth giving large swaths of your life over to serve it in your mind.
I speak this line to people all the time: “Fear is a function of worship.” And without fail, I get much the same response. They look at me with a side-turned head: “Okay…?” some of them say. Or, “I’m not sure what that means”, others reply. Still others quickly nod, not understanding, and proceed as though I’ve not said a word. And yet this concept, that fear is an aspect of worship, is a profound reality at the foundational level. Lest you too, dear reader, turn your head sideways or click away without understanding what is being said, please allow me to explain.
Fear Is a Form of Worship
In Deuteronomy 10:20, Moses tells God’s worshiping community: “You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear.” God’s people are called to fear the Lord and fear him alone. The people are to have no other gods besides the one true and living God—he only deserves our fear. The next verb in that verse is the word “serve”, which can mean work or labor, but also is translated “worship” in the Old Testament. So we are beginning to see God making “fear” and “worship” a parallel concept. What is more, notice the other words even in this verse, and how they carry with them the idea of wholehearted devotion to the Lord “hold fast to him” and “swearing by his name”. These are worshipful and reverential concepts, friends!
If we were to examine the larger context, though, the notion becomes even more apparent. Deuteronomy 10 is all about obedience to the Lord, serving the Lord with a whole heart, circumcising one’s heart unto the Lord, and to fear him alone (cf. Deut 10:12-13, “what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord”). Clearly, fearing the Lord is a part of our larger devotion to God—fear is a function of worship.
Fear Parallels Worship
If Deuteronomy 10 leaves room for confusion, Deuteronomy 6 clarifies. In verse 13, notice the same idea, but perhaps stated more plainly: “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” Do you see the parallelism Moses is highlighting for us? Fear God alone, worship God alone. Fear is an aspect of our worship.