Monday, August 09, 2010

0 Caryl on Job: Worship and Fearing God

In Joseph Caryl's comments on Job 1:1-2 in his mammoth Exposition on Job, the author has some insightful and interesting remarks concerning the phrase "one that feared God". His words are sobering if taken seriously when we think about modern worship practice in the church.
"The fear of God is taken two ways. Either for that natural and inward worship of God, and so the fear of God is a holy filial affection, awing the whole man to obey the whole will of God; That is fear as it is an affection. Or the fear of God is put for the external or instituted worship of God. So that a man fearing God is as much as this: a man worshipping God according to His own Will, or according to His mind and direction. Now when as Job is said to be a man fearing God, you must take it both ways; He had that holy affection of fear with which we must worship God, (as we are taught, Heb. 12:28. Let us have grace whereby we may serve God with reverence and godly fear; and serve the Lord with fear and rejoice before Him with trembling, Ps. 2. Fear is that affection with which we must worship and serve God.)

And Job likewise did perform that worship to God which He required, that is called fear, and the exercising of it fearing God. Fearing God is worshipping God. As you may see clearly by two texts of Scripture compared together. In the fourth of Matthew, verse 10, Christ saith to the Devil, It is written thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only thou shalt serve; Compare this with Deut. 6:13, and there you shall have it thus expressed, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; That which in the one place is worship, in the other is fear." (p 27, vol. 1, Joseph Caryl, Exposition of Job)
I wonder what would happen to modern worship practice if we replaced "worship" with "fear", and understood the deep connection between the verbs? The tone of so much modern "worship" is SO far away from the concept of a holy fear of God that I shouldn't be surprised if someone would face immediate ostracism who suggested that fearing God was incumbent upon His people and that we should therefore worship Him with an attitude that is consistent with that fear. Yet this is what Scripture clearly calls us to in many, many places - to worship God in Holy fear. Where has fear gone in the average evangelical church?

When worship is described as "healthy and vibrant", it seems to me what is being described is an activity characterized primarily by happiness and joy. But these emotions are hardly the only ones fit for the presence of God in worship... and they certainly are improper if they are not always joined with a Holy awe, reverence and fear of the Most High God. I doubt most contemporary music fits the bill in this way - and most people whose key criterion in worship is that it be "vibrant" probably wouldn't want to worship in a church that had a "Lament Band" alongside their "Praise Band". Given that many of the psalms are just that - laments for the people of God - I would argue that a church that has a Praise band that plays only upbeat "vibrant" praise music is missing the boat bigtime. (for those more familiar with the range of contemporary worship music than I am, is there anything in the modern repertoire that comes anywhere near the lamentful songs of Ps. 80, 83, 85, or others of this kind???)

I don't say this in a snide manner, but in a sorrowful one. Yes, indeed, praise is fit for God - but that is hardly the only proper context for worship song, just as 'happiness and joy' are hardly the only proper emotions for His worshipers to have as they worship Him.



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