I have always loved the story of the midwives who refused to obey Pharaoh. Maybe that’s a glimpse of my rebellious spirit. As I have been reading the first few chapters of Exodus this week, I have thought a lot about the fear of the Lord.
You know the story … 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. That had to have been a challenging moment in Shiphrah and Puah’s lives – maybe even quaking in their boots, so to speak (sandals, of course). But their personal anxieties were not noted in the story – only that they were commended for fearing God.
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.
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!
Thread of Fearing God
God rewards those who have faith and 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 His heart’s desire, “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 Psalmist tells us that even the council of the holy ones fear God.
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.
- Unattainable, exalted, His power undeniable. The Israelites heard thunder, saw lightning and smoke coming from the mountain. They trembled and stood at a distance. When we consider God’s majesty, we experience a certain separation!
He 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. When Isaiah encountered God he 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.
- 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 and 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.” The word “hallowed” indicates holy, set apart. God is unique in His holiness. And for His name’s sake, He restores us to Himself. God’s holiness fills us with awe and prompts us to allow the Spirit of God 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 and attracted to know God, we are drawn to follow Him.
Father, We exalt Your name in every way today.
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.