Summary: The fear of God is the one fear that removes all others; reverence for God is our highest priority in worship and in all of life.
"The Fear of God"
Chaplain (LTC) Robert Leroe, 69th ADA Bde, Giebelstadt Army Airfield, Germany
I was sitting around with a few other chaplains, and our conversation focused on war--ministry in a combat environment. One of our small group was a chaplain who had served in Viet Nam. We asked him, among other things, "Were you afraid?" He said what I’ve heard from many combat veterans, "Of course--only the foolish were not afraid."
Fear serves as an important alarm system, warning or preparing us for impending danger. Yet fear can also paralyze us, causing us to freeze when we should fight or flee. There are 2 categories of fear> beneficial and harmful. In other words, fear can be friend or foe!
There is one kind of fear God wants us to have. In Deuteronomy 5:29 the Lord exclaims:
"O that their hearts would be inclined to fear Me and keep all my commandments".
The fear of God has been grossly misunderstood by many…
Before his conversion, Martin Luther was so petrified by God, he nearly grew to hate Him. Luther had a picture of God that was distorted—he could only envision God as the wrathful Judge; he later saw God as the loving, merciful Father as well.
Jonathan Edwards’ famous fire & brimstone sermon, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" had his congregation trembling, grasping the pews lest they tumble into the very pit of hell itself. Some appraise Edwards soley on the basis of this sermon and fail to see that he also preached on God’s grace.
To say we "fear" God does not mean we’re afraid of Him...
II Timothy 1:7 clarifies this, explaining that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline".
Definition> The fear of God is an awesome respect or reverence growing out of the greatness and power of God. To revere God as we ought, it is critical that we understand His nature.
In Job 37 we learn a basic reason why God is held in reverence--because of Who He is:
"God is clothed with awesome splendor and majesty. The Almighty--we cannot imagine His power. He is great in justice and abundant righteousness in His dealings with men. No wonder men everywhere fear Him!"
I’ve had the occasion to drive through southern Germany and northern Austria, taking in the inexpressible beauty of the mountains and lakes, feeling a sense of reverence and awe for our Creator.
Perhaps no one has captured the character of God better than C.S. Lewis in his Chronicles of Narnia, a series of 7 fantasy novels in which he portrays the Lord Jesus Christ as a lion, as John does in Revelation chapter 5. The lion is a figure fierce and powerful, yet tender. His splendor is dazzling. His wrath is terrible, yet His love and tenderness are infinite. To be in His presence was awesome. Quoting Lewis:
"As the Lion passed by they were terribly afraid He would turn and look at them, yet in some queer way they wished He would." Naturally one would be nervous meeting a lion! The question was asked to one who knew this Lion well, "Is He safe?" I find the answer both wise and startling: "Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course He isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you."
This is a message we need to hear today. How irreverently we treat God! The third commandment tells us not to take God’s name in vain. This means lightly, loosely, irreverently. There’s a difference between saying God is our friend and our "Good Buddy". I’m comfortable with my Brigade commander, but I when I go in his office I don’t put my feet on his coffee table and call him by his first name!
Our motivation for fear grows out of an understanding of Who God is, because an understanding of the character and attributes of God motivates respect and reverence. This Godly fear also shows itself in several areas:
a) Salvation--many people who turn to Christ are fearful of hell. Hopefully that isn’t the only reason, though it’s not a bad one. We tend to picture God as a kindly old grandfather who’d never send anyone to hell. This is the 20th Century God of sentimental love and not the God of the Old and New Testaments.
Hebrews 10:31 tells us that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, "Fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." (10:28)
The fear of God converted the shipmates of the prophet Jonah and later the inhabitants of Ninevah.
Paul discloses to the church at Corinth, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (II Cor. 5:10).