Worship of God not only brings us into His mighty presence but also keeps reminding us about His Sovereign power and authority, thus lifting the veil of fear from our eyes. Through worship we move from self reliance and independence to humble surrender to His authority and feel the awesome might of His loving hand guiding and leading us through all situations. It does not become a hiding place from the realities of life but a helping hand to overcome adversities and then “All that is within me” starts praising and blessing His holy name without fear and without any expectation in return.
I have been receiving many prayer requests for help in overcoming addictions to various evils, bad dreams and evil thoughts seeking intervention of our Lord to overcome these. The Jewish Oral laws or Torah commentary in written form is called Tractate Shabbat and it contains detailed instructions about following the commands of the first five books of the Bible. As per this “If one goes to defile oneself openings are made for him; and he who goes to purify himself help is afforded to him”. Our prayers to take away sinful desires, thoughts or dreams from us is wanting God to take action to limit our choices of free will given to mankind at creation so that we don’t have to struggle with this possibility of falling into sin. God will never remove what wee will not deny for God given power to us is in our choice not in God overriding that choice. It amounts to a child asking his father to make him behave properly.
Obedience comes from overcoming real possibilities, not from being isolated from the same by God. Had God desired to do so He would have denied the serpent access to both Adam and Eve to avoid their being tempted? God did not stop His own Son from suffering repeated attacks of evil forces on Him from after the forty days of fasting right up to the prayer in Gethsemane Park. If I do not want to make efforts to stop or escape this temptation, God will not overrule my will and my prayer will become useless until I choose another way. Once we have made a decision to overcome and escape, God will make the path apparent and guide and lead us on that. The Holy Spirit guides us on the path to holiness through “convicting us of sin” by urging to stop before, during and after commission of a sinful act (John 16:8). We have been given both choices – the yetzer hatov the inclination to do good and second, yetzer hara to do evil and choice to adopt either way is left to us.
Fear of God falls essentially in three categories, where the first two have no basis. First is exemplified by Job, wherein he offered burnt offerings to God after his children had finished their days of feasting together that “may be my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5). This is a presumptive fear of likelihood of punishment from God for something they might have done. Second is fear of punishment in the next world after death but “God takes no pleasure in death of the wicked, rather they should turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23). Third type of fear is what the righteous carry in their heart, fear of the Sovereign God for “all are counted as nothing before God” (Daniel 4:35). This is what leads us to repentance and seeking forgiveness from Him for our deliberate or unintentionally committed sinful acts. This fear creates a sense of awe at receiving revelation about the mysteries of the Word of God and Prophet Isaiah felt in the presence of God in the Temple. This leads to self assessment and seeking help from God for transformation and is attained by human effort and affected by His love and grace. This self awareness causes fear of God and is the higher level of fear which shifts our focus from self to God as compared to the other two types of fears. Isaiah then hears what God says, though not addressed to him, and volunteers to be at His Divine bidding. Acting out of this fear removes the sense of unworthiness and focus having shifted from self to God, fear itself vanishes. The old cathedrals in various parts of the world create a sense of awe at their magnificence and also feelings of presence of God. Real worship then starts not from fear but reverence of the Almighty God.
How can real worship originate from fear of God? – King Solomon called a man who is always fearful and who does not harden his heart (Proverbs 28:14). The same Hebrew word, ‘yirah’ is translated as fear and reverence. Thus fear creates in us a sense of watchfulness, lest I do something wrong and fall from grace. It initiates a feeling of continuous care and concern for the will and welfare of the other which gets translated into love of God and also love of neighbor. Scripture defines “fear of the Lord as clean/pure, enduring forever, and judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:9). How can fear be clean or pure in any sense? The Hebrew word ‘tahor’ means pure or clean like the sacrificial offerings before God and utensils used in worship, and even the dress worn by the Chief Priest. Tahor also means as something that is revealed which surrounds to protect and the Hebrew word translated as forever is ‘omedet laad’ which means standing motionless for long periods. Thus clean fear is respect, reverence or awe before God and about His commands which are for our protection, is permanent and never changing. The LORD moved before the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead, protect and provide light during the night during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:21-22).
Only that which is pure can last forever and everything else must decay and get destroyed. Reverence for God in a fearful attitude of submission is true worship and God’s presence then becomes a protective hedge around us to protect us and lead us on the way of His Divine will. What was essentially fear in the initial stages turns to awe at being exposed to His statutes and love and brings happiness and peace. It was in such state of ecstasy that one cries out “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me bless His holy name” (Psalm 103:1). Then all of me including my fears, thoughts and my inner body parts rejoice and worship God by performing to the best of my healthy state. Lord Jesus’ command to love God with all my heart, soul and mind then becomes understandable when even in imaginations and ‘day dreaming’, God becomes the focus. It is then that one sees himself standing before the merciful throne of grace and mercy completely engulfed by the light of God’s glory like Moses experienced and reflected His glory. Lord Jesus has blessed us to be partakers of God’s glory through faith by becoming His children taking us into a state of oneness with Him (John 17:22).
Man and woman become one through union in marriage with one soul to share feelings and thoughts for their common good and good of their family. Oneness with God in like manner then leads us to do His will always and every time even when facing extremely difficult situations. God’s hand stays permanently on the head of those who love Him in reverence and every act of life becomes an act performed for His glory and is performed in excellence. The love song of a man and a woman – Song of Solomon – then becomes a prayer of seeking God and the fear of getting separated from Him and every word turns into a song of worship.
Should there be fear while in intimacy with God through indwelling Holy Spirit? – The coming of Lord Jesus as Lamb of God takes all believers into a new relational dimension that gets finalized through the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It will be finally concluded after our sojourn in this world ends and we get transported in to His presence. In the Old Testament the sheep died through sacrifice before the altar in the Temple for their shepherds while the True Shepherd died for His sheep on the cross to save them from damnation.
Lord Jesus accepted fear as a genuine emotion and categorized it into four types. The first is having no fear of God, as seen in the judge who is approached by the widow and the judge “neither feared God nor regarded man” (Luke 18:4). Second is God’s command to fear Him, whence we are commanded to fear Him who has the power to destroy both body and soul in hell for eternity (Matthew 10:28), rather than being afraid of man or demons. Even the angels get tasked to preach the Gospel to “those who dwell on the earth – to every nation, tribe, tongue and people” with the message to “fear God and give glory to Him” (Revelation 14:6-7). Third, God fearers, and these are the righteous people on earth who revere and worship God – Cornelius of Caesarea was one such person “who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:1-2). Apostle Paul in his address in Antioch in the Synagogue called out “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen” (Acts 13:16) for only those who fear and revere God will opt to hear a message about God. Fourth, fearing God an essential state for growth, and we are commanded to “submit yourselves to one another in the fear of God” so that God might cleanse and sanctify us (Ephesians 5:21). This fear and reverence is also essential “lest any of us may come short of receiving the blessing of His promise of entering into His rest” (Hebrews 4:1).
In Old Testament worship of God involved all five senses of an individual for God was external to mankind separated from them behind the curtain or in the ‘Pillar of cloud/fire’. An invisible God was worshipped through visible means for reverence and for seeking Him and Divine blessings. Thus sense of sight was used to witness the majesty of His Tabernacle/Temple and the beauty of the High Priests and other priests’ robes. The sense of touch was there in transference of sins of the one who offered the sacrificial offering and placed his hands on the animal’s head. Also people were anointed or blessed by placing of hands on the head and proclamation of the blessings by the priest. The sense of smell was activated in rejoicing in the fragrance of the incense burned before the Ark inside the Temple and the “sweet aroma of offerings on the altar fire” outside. The sense of hearing was active in the worshippers – Levites singing praises with musical instruments – and the priests’ reading of the Scriptures and proclaiming blessings on the assembly. The sense of taste was used in eating of the remainder part of the offerings as an act of thanksgiving and community participation.
In the New Testament Lord Jesus established a new pattern of worship through the sermon on the well to the Samaritan woman. The prophesy of Prophet Isaiah was fulfilled in the Messiah where Emmanuel came to live with mankind as Son of God revealing God the Father and His love. The invisible became visible for that period and while Simeon, Anna and the Magi worshipped the “Child” others revered Him as God’s Son during His ministry on earth. The God with us became God within us on Pentecost through the coming of the Helper Holy Spirit and a personal and intimate relationship came about. God restarted the process of establishment of His kingdom in the heart of men and through the Holy Spirit to empower to overcome desires. This changed equation of the worshipper with God also changed the pattern of worship for God is no longer external but is within each believer.
Worship in spirit and truth – The Samaritan woman questioned Lord Jesus about the different interpretations of place of worship among her people and the Jews. The Savior revealed the mystery of worship in the new era created by Him where God seeks true worshippers who must worship Him in spirit and truth – where truth being the Gospel reveals the new equation of mankind with God (John 4:23-25). Our spirit must worship the indwelling God who will then lead and join us in worshipping the Father and the Son thus internalizing the process where not the body but the spirit is active. It is in this state that one can “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks to God in every situation” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) without getting affected by the cares of the world. That is why Lord Jesus commanded followers to get isolated like He always did to pray to the Father in seclusion without getting disturbed by anyone. It is not the five senses that are active in man in such worship and prayer but the inner being “all that is within me” start worshipping, where physical appearances do not matter and the majestic dresses are no longer part of the dress code for the Priests – all believers. Corporate worship in the Church gatherings also becomes an act of individuality in plurality where all join together to offer individual and collective prayers.
Fear that is physical in nature then turns to reverence in the spirit and turns to fear of falling short of His love as an act of love for God. Out of reverence, man desires to be good lest he falls short of the expectations and attempts be “doer of the Word, looking into the perfect law of liberty, to get continuously transformed” (James 1:22-25). The freedom from fear and other hindrances of the soul is the result of faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Lord Jesus. In this state then “Faith must produce good works” as an act of overflow of love from the position of fullness (James 2:17). The indwelling Holy Spirit acting as a Guide and Helper continues the process of transformation to produce the fruits of good conduct and love towards others in joy, patience, kindness and self control (Galatians 5:22). Fear turns to reverence, reverence to love and love to worship and external expressions of this in loving God and the neighbor in like manner where this higher form of fear becomes ‘tahor’ fear and awe of God’s love shown through the coming of His Son. Somewhere along the way many believers have also lost that fear of God since even many preachers are facing conviction for sins on financial and other irregularities in the Church all over the world. God is a righteous judge and His hand of justice does exact a heavy price from the defaulters while rewarding those who revere Him and follow His commands and statutes.
“Then you will lay your gold in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks. Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will have your delight in the Almighty, and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayers to Him; He will hear you and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; so light will shine on your ways” (Job 22:24-28). The fear that Prophet Isaiah felt in the presence of God melted into love and reverence that he became acutely aware of God’s will and volunteered to fulfill the same. When ‘all that is within me praises God’ the bond becomes so strong that God answers the unasked prayers also.