Worship in Fear, Love and Trust

“Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deut. 10:12-13)

This passage, which is the beginning of a more complete statement on worship in Deuteronomy 10:12-21, reminds me of Martin Luther’s admonitions in his Catechisms to fear, love and trust God in every aspect of life. Luther notes that the first of the Ten Commandments reads, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3).

As a professor of Old Testament studies, and based upon his reading of the first commandment, Luther saw that fear, love, and trust were based upon the character of the object being feared, loved, and trusted.1 To have “no other gods” besides the one God is a response of faith to the promise of God to be a Father to His children. Once this relationship is properly established, and believed in faith, the other commandments and the life of worship Moses is calling for (in Deuteronomy 10) flows from the love of Christ and love for our neighbors, rather than from the burden of laws and requirements.

The word fear refers to the recognition and awe of God in His greatness, but also fear in the realization that God is so great and His children so unworthy. It is not a condemning fear, but an understanding that we are utterly incapable of earning His favor and only stand before Him out of His grace and the work and righteousness of Christ.

Reflecting thoughts from Deuteronomy, the writer of Hebrews recognizes the importance of understanding God in proper perspective.  “Show gratitude,” he writes, “by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).  It is far from his mind that this should scare the believer, in that sense of the word fear, but it is in the writer’s mind that having the proper perspective on God’s holiness and righteousness should cause us to stop before making excuses for our own shortcomings.  We are to gratefully serve God for His grace and mercy, realizing that judgment is only averted because of His grace in the work of Christ.

Love for God is responsiveness to His love for His children. God’s provision of every need as our Father and the Preserver of all things comes to His children out of His grace, based upon no merit of their own. All that we have and call our own are gifts of our Father: self, family, friends, property, good government, employment, peace, health, good weather, etc. Everything within and without are from God and our response should be one of thankfulness.

Note that our love for God is interconnected with our fear of God.  Fear gives us the right perspective on what we deserved in judgment, and how far His grace and mercy has reached to redeem us.  Love is our responsive attitude of gratefulness, by which we rejoice in our lives by serving God in all that He has entrusted to us.  There are many ways in which worship can be described as a response, and these ideas are clearly demonstrated in these verses in Deuteronomy.

We are to trust in God as a child trusts a father. We are to find refuge and safety in Him and His provision.This faith, or trust, should have as its object the One that determines the core of our identity—it determines who we are. If this faith is misplaced, our identity is misplaced, but when centered upon God and His grace, then we have the gift of the right object of faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Trust is the inevitable outcome of fear and love.  We gain perspective through fear, respond gratefully in love, and find peace and rest in our trust of God’s unfailing care.  Although our circumstances in life may be difficult, and we may wonder how we will make it through another day, God’s faithful care for us supports and strengthens us.  And often, through us, His faithfulness is carried into the lives of others – because He has shown His faithfulness to us, we can encourage others in the midst of their difficulties (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

At a very basic and underlying level this fear, love, and trust of God gives us a complete perspective. And, it gives us a balanced perspective in every area of life. When we truly understand who God is, how He cares for His people, and how He loves and provides for us we also begin to understand who we are as His children. We are entirely dependent upon Him for all good things and owe Him our gratitude, our service, and our livelihood. In this complete and balanced perspective, the response of worship encompasses our entire lifestyle so that work, play, love for family and friends, corporate worship services, and everything else become an interwoven tapestry of worship and declaration of God’s glory.  It is this that we celebrate in our worshipping community each week.

Reference

See Luther’s discussion of the First Commandment in his Large Catechism. Also reference Paul Althaus’ chapter called “God’s Will for Men” in his work, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 130-140.

 

(Original Post on October 22, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/20609-worship-in-fear-love-and-trust)

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Posted on April 28, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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