It is all too easy to convince ourselves that we are fearers and worshipers of God because we attend church and sing songs. Yet Scripture clarifies for us that external shows of worship do not always reflect the heart: “…this people honors me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).
Revelation 19:5: And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” (ESV)
There is something striking to me about the idea of fearing the one for whom I live. A moment’s thought leads me to consider that the fear of God is one way of describing the entire motivation for living for him in the first place. If there is a supreme reason for living our lives and an ultimate aim to which they ought to be directed, then it stands to reason that not living for him should strike the greatest fear in our hearts by definition. What could be more fearful than missing the entire purpose of our existence?
And yet, there is something positive here as well. It is not just that we fear the lack of God, but that we fear God himself. The fear of God is not fundamentally one of privation (“What if I don’t have God?”), but is intensely God-directed. It is not the absence of God that we fear, but God himself.
And not only that, but it is a fear that is marked not by servile subjection but by heart-filled praise. The fear of God is a wondrous thing! It is the first step in an entire economy or ecosystem of dynamics in the relationship between us and God, us and each other, and us and the rest of creation.
Fear and Worship
This train of thought, combined with continued meditation on this passage, leads me to something closer to the reason why fearing the one for whom I live is so striking: fear and worship are inseparable. This may not break new ground for many, but I have never explicitly drawn some logical inferences which now present themselves to me: if fear and worship are connected, then our fears and our gods are also linked. We cannot separate what we fear from who or what we worship.
Nevertheless, we do this often enough. We prefer to limit our conception of worship to lip service. There may be a root of motivation in laziness here. Worship is so intrinsic to our being and nature, so deep in the well of our hearts, that it takes work to draw it out and know it. Oftentimes, we prefer to leave our hearts on autopilot to taking hold of the controls and attempting to steer in the proper direction.