If I am going to be completely honest, I have found it very hard to be motivated to study the bible and pray like I should over the last two to three years. It’s not like I never do but I don’t feel as though my life is devoted to learning more about my maker and being more like Him like it should be. It is only when I start to feel guilty for not having done anything ‘spiritual’ or certain that every bad thing in my life is happening as a punishment that I make myself do something. Studying worship in the bible got me thinking deeply about what my motivation is to worship God and I have realised that I have been worshipping out of fear rather than love so this concept is what I have been focusing on for this study.
Do you worship out of fear or out of love?
For this topic I have found it useful to look at the life of Job. I believe that Job was initially worshipping God out of fear, at least partially anyway. There are several verses that suggest this:
Job had offered sacrifices for his children just in case they had done anything wrong – “Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (chapter 1:5).
In chapter 3:25 Job says, “For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me”.
In chapter 31:23, he lists the good things that he had done saying, “For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty“.
I don’t think that worshipping out of fear is entirely a bad thing. If there were no consequences to our sins, and no fear of death, then it is unlikely that we would ever worship God so I think the things that we have to fear are, in part, there to draw us to Him. But if you only look at it that way (and I must admit, this has been my mindset at times in the past), then you are probably going to view God as an angry God, threatening people with death if they don’t worship Him and you will be completely overlooking the real reason that God wants us to turn to Him.
In Jeremiah 7, God wants the people to worship Him and not other gods because He knows that those gods can’t do anything for them, not just because He just wants to be praised. Really these people are only hurting themselves: 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame?
In Deuteronomy 30:20 it says, “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
God wants the best for us even though He is the only one truely worthy of all good things. He wants us to live forever and inherit the land, how could we not praise Him for that?! I have found that remembering this while doing this study has made worship come naturally, rather than by force and I believe that true worship is a natural response to understanding that God’s commandments are in place for our own good and for the good of others. 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome”. It is so hard to worship God properly when we are only doing it because we don’t want anything bad to happen to us. As 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”.
1 John 4:23-24: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”