Fear of God (Pt. 3) — Who God is and who we are

We can never forget who God is and who we are. We are God’s creation, made in His image, and He has a special care for us because of that relationship. But that relationship has been marred by the Fall, and we now are condemned to die and deserve the unmitigated wrath of God as a result of sin. We can never forget this or take grace for granted.
Even more important is remembering who God is. As C. S. Lewis says of Aslan, ‘He is not a tame lion.’ Even when we know that we are on His side and He is fighting for us, the element of unpredictability can be a fearful thing. We never know what He might do next. When the disciples expected Him to usher in a new kingdom where all would be well, instead He lays down His life, and their world is turned upside down in a different way. Even if we know that He is for us, it is still scary to face the unknown.
Sheer power inspires fear. God speaks and things happen (Psalm 33:6). He simply blows a puff of breath and we are destroyed (Isaiah 40:24, Job 4:9). No one can even stand in His presence (2 Chronicles 5:14). We can’t look God in the face without protection — God had to hide Moses in the cleft of the rock to let his see just a little of His glory (Exodus 33:22)

When I really think about God, it kind of blows my mind… I have gotten used to thinking of Him as my Father, who loves me, understands me, sacrificed for me — He is the only constant that I can trust. But when I think about Who this is that I have this amazing relationship with, I’m astounded — speechless.

Let’s never forget that ‘fear of the Lord’ is good and right — power must always be respected, and yes, even feared. Our God is thrice Holy… and being in the presence of Almighty God is rightly overwhelming. Abraham fell down before God (Gen. 17). Isaiah saw the Lord and cried out:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

 

 

 

Fear (Pt. 2) — Our God is ‘To Be Feared’

One of the neglected names of God appears in Psalm 76:11 — maybe it is not one of the hyphenated names, but it is an accurate representation of His character and was a primary way that Israel identified the God that they worshipped.

 Psalm 76

In Judah God is known;
His name is great in Israel.
In Salem also is His tabernacle,
And His dwelling place in Zion.
There He broke the arrows of the bow,
The shield and sword of battle. Selah

You are more glorious and excellent
Than the mountains of prey.
The stouthearted were plundered;
They have sunk into their sleep;
And none of the mighty men have found the use of their hands.
At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob,
Both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep.

You, Yourself, are to be feared;
And who may stand in Your presence
When once You are angry?
You caused judgment to be heard from heaven;
The earth feared and was still,
When God arose to judgment,
To deliver all the oppressed of the earth. Selah

10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise You;
With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself.

11 Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them;
Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared.
12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes;
He is awesome to the kings of the earth.

And what is the main reason for fear before Him? He has the power over our eternal destiny. Others may harm us physically and temporarily, but He is the one who can destroy body and soul eternally (Matthew 10:28) Without this sobering reality, we can never fully appreciate the gift of grace we have been given.

Fear (Pt. 1) — The Beginning of Wisdom is … What??

Beginnings are important. How we begin can determine whether we wander around in the wilderness for 40 years or take the direct route to the Promised Land. A good start can save us lots of backtracking, and a good foundation means that our work will have much greater longevity. So shouldn’t we build on the most sure foundation? And that foundation is the Fear of the Lord!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,                                                         But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

We are far too quick to dismiss or explain away ‘fear of the Lord.’ It sounds old-fashioned, and it’s not cool to preach fire and brimstone anymore. We have decided that love and gratitude should be our only motivations, leaving no room for godly fear. Never mind that there truly is a day of judgment coming and we would do well to flee from the wrath to come! (Matthew 3:7)

I remember a small group meeting where we were discussing the parable of the Prodigal Son, and someone remarked how sad it was that the son returned groveling rather than confident in his father’s love. I thought about it a little and said that I thought the son had just the right attitude and that his feeling of unworthiness was very appropriate. Stunned silence  ensued– they looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears and finally continued the discussion without comment. I had attacked a sacred cow. But I still think that the son did have faith in his father’s love and mercy. He believed that his father would receive him, but he also knew what his actions deserved and that he had no real right to expect any kindness or mercy. I still think it would have been the height of presumption to come back announcing, “I’m home!” expecting all to be forgotten.

Skipping the foundation of repentance and fear keeps us from appreciating the fullness of our heavenly Father’s love and mercy — freely given, though totally undeserved. It is only in comprehending the depth of our sin and its dire consequences that we can truly experience the forgiveness He wraps us in as we run to His arms. God would be holy and just and good if He took one look at us and pronounced judgment, consigning us to the fires of hell. This is the God we are approaching — the God who can ‘destroy both body and soul in hell.’ (Matthew 10:28) Jesus tells us to fear this One, so when we approach this God, it is better not to waltz in rejoicing with no thought for our offense against the One who created us and gave all for us. Instead, we should come as the Prodigal did, humbly taking the lowest place. And that is just the person God exalts to the highest place. (Luke 14:7-14) God humbles the high and exalts the low.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount ends with the advice to build our house on the Rock. Look to your foundation, and make sure that you do not find yourself before God hearing the horrific words “I never knew you, depart from me, all you who practice iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23) Begin with wisdom — build your house on the Rock — and let the winds blow and the rain pound. Your faith will stand, and no flood will be able to carry it away.