Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with themDeuteronomy 5:29
and their children forever!
If only we could see God, talk to Him face to face – then we would be satisfied. Or if only we could see those mighty miracles described in Scripture – then we would be content. Do you feel this way sometimes? I admit that I have. Then I am reminded that what God wants most from me, He provides for me – faith! So today, my prayer is like that of old, “I believe, help my unbelief!”
While God does reward those who have faith, He also yearns for us to fear Him. In establishing the nation of Israel in the promised land, Moses recounts their history and rehearses the ten commandments. The people agree to obey. And God expresses the desire of His heart, “What I wouldn’t give if they’d always feel this way, continuing to revere me and always keep all my commands!”
God repeats this longing through the prophet Jeremiah’s words when he prophesies Jerusalem’s restoration:
I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.Jeremiah 32:39-40
The council of the holy ones fears God in heaven:
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.Psalm 89:6-8 NIV
We are urged to fear God today:
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”1 Peter 1:17 NLT
Fearing God is valid forever, proclaimed in the eternal message:
He had an Eternal Message to preach to all who were still on earth, every nation and tribe, every tongue and people. He preached in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory! His hour of judgment has come! Worship the Maker of Heaven and earth, salt sea and fresh water!”Revelation 14:6-7 MSG
There are at least five elements to understanding the fear of the Lord.
- God is majestic! Unattainable, exalted, His power undeniable. The Israelites heard thunder, saw lightening and smoke coming from the mountain. They trembled and stood at a distance. When we consider God’s majesty we experience a certain separation!
- God is greater! We are aware when we encounter God that we are but dust, unholy, unworthy, except that through the blood of Jesus we can draw near. Isaiah encountered God and immediately exclaimed, “Woe is me; I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” When we consider how God is greater, we are humbled in His presence.
- God is mysterious. Luke records the people’s reactions to Jesus’ ministry with these words, “A sense of awe came over everyone. They praised God, and were filled with fear.” When we see God’s amazing deeds, we realize He eclipses the ordinary, the familiar, and goes far beyond our imagination.
- God is totally other – unlike all that we know. Jesus taught us to pray, “Father, hallowed be your name.” That word, “hallowed,” indicates holy, set apart. God is unique in His holiness. And it is for His name’s sake that He restores us to Himself. When we think of God, we are filled with awe at His holiness, which causes us to search our hearts. “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.”
- God is intriguing, like a magnet drawing us towards Himself. Holy fear caused people to follow Jesus in fascination. Mark writes, “They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear.” As we are intrigued, attracted to know God, we are drawn to follow Him.
I have always loved the story of the midwives who refused to obey Pharaoh. Maybe that’s a glimpse of my rebellious spirit. Do you remember this story in Exodus 1? A new king was in power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He was worried because the people of Israel outnumbered them and were more robust than them. So Pharaoh asked the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill the newborn baby boys. Shiphrah and Puah refused to do so and lied about it. Scripture tells us the midwives feared God, respected God more than Pharaoh.
Fear of the Lord is not being frightened but being in awe. It is reverence, respect, obedience, and worship! When we search for wisdom, we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Father, may your name be exalted in every way. Your glory is never-ending and awe-inspiring. I praise you for your power, strength, mercy, and justice. You are more than worthy of my allegiance. Teach my heart how to fear you. I acknowledge your sovereignty in my life. Your love is forever and ever even though I am undeserving. I surrender all again today, King of my life. Amen.
*A former pastor, Brad Jones, wrote a book, The Greater Fear. His teachings have stuck with me for over 40 years. If you want to know more about this critical topic, check out his work!