“Be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24
What are you afraid of? What fills you with fear, makes your heart pound and sets your nerves on edge? Spiders, snakes, lion and tigers and bears? Oh my! Or a lonely life, financial hardships, sickness, or a wayward child? In our day and time we are fed a steady diet of fear by the media. Children are learning to be afraid of things I never even thought about when I was young. This world can be a very frightening place – so maybe I’ll just stay inside my house.
No one likes the feeling of fear, yet multiple times in the Old Testament we hear God saying to His people, “Fear the Lord your God!” Isn’t He known as the God of love and peace and joy? Yes, without question – God is full of love, peace, joy and so many other wonderful attributes, but the command to “fear the Lord” is not a contradiction. Let’s look a little closer at “fear” in the Holy Scriptures.
When God says that we are to “fear the Lord” it means that we are to regard Him with the reverence and awe that is due Him. He is worthy of every person’s respect and submission – He is God – high and exalted, seated on His righteous throne with the earth as His footstool. Psalm 95: 6 tells us “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God.” We owe Him reverence and worship because He has created us and He has redeemed us. When we give Him the honor that he deserves, we will find that there are many benefits and blessings for us.
Psalm 25:14 offers one of the benefits I love the most: “The Lord confides in those who fear Him.” The fear of the Lord opens the way for an intimate friendship, the kind that allows for confidential conversations. Note that this verse says that The Lord is the one who confides; He takes us into His confidence and shares wonderful truths with those who fear Him. God says in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” This means that He will reveal to us things we would never think to ask Him about. I don’t know about you, but I want to be God’s intimate friend and know what’s on His mind. Imagine that.
We also find that “those who fear Him lack nothing.” (Psalm 34:9) The Scripture is very clear in Psalm 111:5: “He provides food for those who fear Him.” Do you have a need? Come before God with humility and reverence and seek His provision. Out of His great abundance, He has promised to meet the needs of those who fear Him. And He has promised to meet more than just our physical needs; “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) He will give us everything we need the godly life He has called us to. As a matter of fact, God goes even a step further. Psalm 145:19 says “He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him.” He will meet the needs, and fulfill the desires of those who fear and reverence Him.
In Proverbs we learn that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom [and] knowledge.” (Proverbs 9:10, 1:7) Would you like to lead a wise life? Do you desire knowledge? These come as a result of reverence before God.
Fear of the lord is life-giving and life-enriching. Proverbs 19:23 tells us “The fear of the Lord leads to life;” Proverbs 14:27 says: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life;” and Proverbs 10:27 promises that “The fear of the Lord adds length to life.” When we life in the fear of the Lord who is Life, we are blessed with life.
One of the most important benefits of living in the fear of the Lord is found in Exodus 20:20, “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” One aspect of “fearing the Lord” that we fail to talk about today is fear of the Lord because He is holy, and His holiness is an awesome thing. You may be thinking of “awesome” as something dramatic and wondrous, but by definition it means to be afraid, be frightened, and be filled with dread. If we really understood the awesome holiness of God, we would be frightened as well as awed. Consider John’s account of Jesus’ arrest. “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am He,’ Jesus said. When Jesus said ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:4-6-emphasis added) The terminology used here tells us that Jesus’ arresters fell to the ground as if to die; for the weight of Jesus’ deity and holiness was thrown against them in those three words: “I am He.” The fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning, because we cannot bear the wrath of a God who is both holy and awesome that will fall on the unrepentant sinner.
What can we do, we who are steeped in sin? Are we doomed forever? Is there hope for us who live under the fear of the Lord? We look to the cross of Jesus, and here we find love, awesome love, divine love, perfect love. 1 John offers us this hope: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”(1 John 4:16-18-emphasis added) Jesus Christ took the full wrath of this God who is both holy and awesome, and gave us love instead – perfect love. This is why we no longer fear the awesomeness of God, but we regard this awesome One with reverence and awe. For He has cast our sin from us and bathed us in His blessed and pure, perfect love.
Holy, Awesome Lord God, in love You came and in love You gave, and by Your love I am saved. What more can I say but “thank You.” Amen.