In the last post, Holiness is for everyone we learned that the grace of God helps us to say No to sin. Today, I learned that something else is able to keep us from sinning: the fear of God.
…so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning. Exodus 20:20b NIV
What comes to mind when you think of the phrase, “the fear of the Lord”? Do you instantly think “…is the beginning of wisdom”? or do you think of the reverence and awe that we give to God?
The first time the phrase is used in the Bible is in Gen 20:11 and thereafter used many times in the bible. So let’s break down the fear of God into its fundamentals, shall we?
The bible says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14:1 NIV) and we know that the fear of God is indeed the beginning of wisdom (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). We also know that Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Putting these three concepts together: at the heart of the fear of God is an acknowledgment of God.
We know from our studies so far that God is a loving God who is intentional in his everlasting love for us. We have also learned that this same God is a Holy God and abhors any kind of sin because it is his very nature and essence to be free from any moral defect. His love makes Him a merciful God and His holiness makes him a just God.
So back to our working definition: The fear of God is an acknowledgment of the God, and having an understanding of who God really is, means we have a balanced view of the mercy as well as the justice of God.
Back in the bible days, the fear (acknowledgment) of God evoked actual fear in the hearts of people and at times it was recorded that people became like dead men. People were actually afraid of God and did not have personal relationships with God. Very few people understood this balanced view of God’s mercy and justice. People like Abraham, David, Job, they understood what it truly meant to fear God and enjoyed a relationship with Him. This fear was inherited from Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had always encountered the loving mercies of God in the garden of Eden until the day they sinned. The bible recounts they heard the footsteps of God and were afraid so they hid. God had come to talk to them many times. They had heard God’s footsteps many times. So what was different this particular day? Adam and Eve prior to the fall lived the Psalm 89:14 life:
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. NIV
Every time God came down to chat, love and faithfulness went before Him. But after they sinned, Adam and Eve experienced Psalm 85:13 for the first time:
Righteousness [justice] will go before Him to prepare the way for His steps. Berean Study Bible
And their response was fear. They were afraid because they saw their unworthiness to stand in the presence of His majesty. This was the expression of the fear of God Isaiah had when he encountered God. Look at what he said:
“Woe to me!” I cried. “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.” Isaiah 6:5 NIV
Fast forward into the era of grace and the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Now people are not afraid of God. The definition of the fear of God has evolved so much it is now relegated to just having reverence and awe for God. While having reverence and awe for God is extremely important, exclusively doing so without any acknowledgment of the justice of God is detrimental. We have overextended the love and the mercy of God. We are no longer afraid of this God that smote down a man because he touched the ark of God to prevent it from falling! Afterall, God calls us friends and He wants us to have a relationship with Him not to be afraid of Him. Right? WRONG!
Yes God wants a relationship but with only those who know him. And if you truly know God, then you will know that holiness means everything to God. Righteousness and justice are the foundations of His throne. Armed with this knowledge, you will not have an irrational fear of God but rather a holy reverent fear.
live your lives in reverent fear during your temporary stay on earth. 1 Peter 1:17 Berean Study Bible
God is a consuming fire. You cannot come close to God because of His magnificence. He dwells in unapproachable light. He has the power to destroy your life just as easily as he preserves it. And yet this God stepped into humanity so that you will no longer be afraid to approach him like Adam and Eve. He invites you to commune with Him daily. He listens to your requests and does your bidding. This is having a balance of the justice and the mercy of God. This is the fear of God. This is the beginning of wisdom!
So yes, you should be afraid of God. But this fear, in the dispensation of grace, should drive you to reverence and worship. It causes you to run to God not away from Him. It is this fear that causes you to be in awe. This is the fear that gives you wisdom and keeps you from sinning. Read this scripture carefully and let your heart understand:
Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.” Revelations 15:4 NLT
Grace empowers us to say No and the fear of God keeps us from sinning. Be intentional in your holiness walk.
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments so we can learn from each other. Sorry, this was a long post!