Worshipping God is the highest of all religious obligations-and experiences. We are commanded to worship God. This is the solemn obligation which God has placed on every man. We ought to consider worship our most important duty toward God. It ought to be the very heart and center of our life. We must worship the Lord in holy fear. Especially must it be, evident that we are a god-fearing people by the attitude that we have toward the worship of God. We must say with the Psalmist, “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.” We as Reformed people believe that God is absolutely sovereign. A sovereign God is One to Whom belongs all worship. He is One to Whom belongs all praise and honor and glory and adoration.
In past articles we have considered the fact that the proper fear of God is the heart of true Christianity. But there is today very little fear of God among men. Sadly this fear of God is absent also from many Christian churches. We too must ask ourselves whether we truly fear the Lord. If we are indeed a people who fear God this must be evident in our worship of God.
To worship God means that we come consciously into His presence and bow before His feet with fear and trembling. When we worship God we acknowledge God as the Sovereign Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all they contain. To worship God means that we stand in awe of His perfect holiness and righteousness. It means that we receive in our hearts and souls a profound impression of who and what God is and that we exalt and praise His great and holy name. To worship God means that we give unto Him wholehearted praise and thanksgiving for all of His wonderful deeds and mighty works. It means that we acknowledge Him as the source and fountain; of all blessing and as the only sovereign God of our salvation.
We are commanded to worship the Lord. This is not merely something that man may take a light attitude toward; it is not something which he does according to his whim and fancy. It is the command of the Lord God Himself. The first commandment of the law commands us to worship the Lord. “It is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). We are commanded to worship God because He is the Lord our God. We are the creatures of His hand. In Him we live and move and have our being. In the worship of God the Psalmist says, “Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3). We are commanded to worship God because He is Jehovah the Sovereign God of our salvation. He says in His law, “I am the Lord thy God who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt out of the house of bondage.”
We must worship God with fear and trembling, with holy reverence and awe. We fear before Him because we know what a great and terrible God He is. We fear before Him because we know what He has done in days of old and what He continues Ito do as the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. We fear before Him because we know that He is holy and therefore a consuming fire to all workers of iniquity. We worship Him with fear, knowing that He demands that men love Him with all their heart and soul and strength and mind. We know that God hates any deviation from His holy law. We worship God with great fear for we know that His salvation is entirely of His sovereign grace and mercy alone. Nothing whatsoever can we ourselves bring into His presence. We worship God in fear because we know that by nature we are worthy only of the wrath and displeasure of this great and terrible God. It is only of His mercy which faileth not, that we are not consumed. We worship the Lord with fear because we know that none can stand in His presence save those who come through the blood of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. To worship the Lord in fear means that we stand trembling at the foot of the cross, we dare not enter into God’s holy sanctuary save in the shadow of the cross.
With a deeply spiritual attitude and disposition we must worship God and not with the carelessness which is so characteristic of much of the worship of our day. We must worship God in Spirit and in truth. We must not worship God out of mere custom or form. God abominates mere form worship. It is hypocrisy which is stinking to His nostrils. Only that which is true spiritual worship and holy is acceptable unto the Lord. Only that worship which is in harmony, with the Word of God is acceptable unto Him. All our thoughts and actions in the worship of God must be controlled by what He has revealed of Himself in His Word.
We must worship the Lord with fear and trembling, especially in His house on His holy day. Indeed we must also worship Him in our homes at His altar. But especially are we commanded to worship ‘the Lord in His sanctuary. We are commanded to do this. That is the main reason why we must go to church from Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day. If we are god-fearing we will consider it a very serious matter when our seat in church is empty. To stay home from the worship services, for a reason less than that God in His providence keeps us from going there, is a refusal to worship Him and a manifestation of a lack of the fear of God.
We go up to the house of the Lord there to dwell in the holy sanctuary of the Lord, in His presence. God dwells in His house in the cloud of His glorious presence. No, this does not mean that God dwells in temples made with hands. There is no special holy significance to the church buildings in which we worship. The Lord is pleased to dwell in the midst of His people through His Word and Spirit. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name there I am in the midst ‘of them.” There is indeed a real spiritual presence of God with His people on the Lord’s Day. We must be profoundly conscious of this as we worship God in His house. We must worship God in fear and trembling as He is pleased to manifest Himself among His people through the means of the preaching of the Word and the use of the holy sacraments.
We must be profoundly conscious of the fact that the Word which is preached on the Lord’s Day is not the word of men but the Word of God Himself. Of course, the preacher must be earnestly faithful, that he come as a true spokesman of the Lord and not with his own words. But also when we in the congregation hear the Word, we must be like the saints of Thessalonica for which the apostle Paul gave thanks. “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believeth.” When the Word of God is preached in church we must do as the words of Habakkuk 2:20 tell us. “But the Lord is in His Holy Temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him.” To keep silent before the Lord means that not even the slightest inclination against the Word of God arises in our hearts. It means that we say with our whole heart, “What the Lord says, that we will do.” When we hear the Lord speak to us through His Word we rejoice at the wonderful God of our salvation. We give thanks unto Him and exalt His name for all of His wonderful greatness and goodness.
To worship the Lord in fear means that we attend carefully unto the law when it is read. We do not listen to it as merely a necessary, routine, formal part of the worship service. Each time the law is read we allow our hearts to be searched and all our sins to be discovered. In fear and trembling before the holy God we acknowledge and confess our great sin in His sight. In fear we repent in deep humility. In fear we make a sincere godly resolve to walk in a new and holy life.
The god-fearing man is evident in the offerings that he brings unto the Lord. He is deeply conscious that the Lord sees him and knows his heart when he brings his offering. The god-fearing man knows that he cannot in any way repay God for all His benefits. But he knows that God is sore displeased when men bring niggardly offerings unto the Lord, when men have great abundance and give only precious little. The god-fearing man knows that God loves the liberal and cheerful giver.
The god-fearing man can be heard in his singing. That does not mean that he can necessarily formally sing more beautifully than the man who does not fear God. It does mean that he sings to the Lord with zeal and with the heart. He does not merely mumble the words in a laborious way. He sings with the heart to the Lord in praise and exaltation of His great and holy name.
The god-fearing man can be seen in his prayer unto the Lord. He bows in deep humility unto the Lord, pouring out his heart and soul unto the Lord with exaltation and thanksgiving, supplication and confession. He prays earnestly with and for the people of God. The congregational prayer is not a time for his thoughts to wander to the cares of this world. Rather this prayer is a time when he is knit together heart to heart with his fellow worshipers and when he has close and dear fellowship with the Lord his God.
If we truly worship the Lord in fear it will be manifest in all our actions and all our attitude about worship. It will be manifest even in things which are in themselves small yet important. It will be manifest in our seriousness about preparing to come to the house of the Lord. We will indeed spend time in serious prayerful preparation. When Israel came to the mount of the Lord it was commanded of them that they should sanctify themselves lest the wrath of God come upon them. When we come to the house of the Lord we sanctify ourselves through faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fear of the Lord ought to cause us even to prepare ourselves physically and mentally that we might be alert to hear the Word of the Lord. In the fear of the Lord we come to His house with expectancy to hear His Word. The fear of the Lord brings us to the house of the Lord in time for us to spend time in prayer and meditation before the worship service. The fear of the Lord makes us attentive to the preaching of the Word. Surely we do not fall asleep under the preaching of the Word for we know that this is a most dreadful affront on the name of the God Whom we worship. A more total ignoring of the Word of God and more godless attitude in the worship service than sleeping in the presence of God is hardly imaginable. In the fear of the Lord we teach our children also to sit still in church and to listen to the preaching of the Word. We teach them that, according to the promise of His covenant, God is the God of His people and of their children. Even our dress is an expression of the fear with which we come into the house of the Lord and the, high reverence and honor we pay unto our God.
Is it indeed evident in things small and great that we are truly god-fearing people when we worship the Lord in His holy tabernacle? Surely the Lord is honored only by such a spirit of worship.