Fear is healthy. Fear of heights keeps you from getting too close to a ledge (or fear of the sudden stop at the bottom, one or the other). Fear of water keeps us out of frothing rapids in the spring-time. Fear of bears convinces you to store your food properly when you are camping. Fear of being mugged keeps us out of dark alleys at night. Fear of losing our job keeps us working diligently and productively. Fear of being alone keeps us seeking productive and healthy relationships; and encourages us to seek peace and reconciliation in our relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely negative sides to fear and the Bible mentions earthly fear as something we are freed from (Romans 8:15-16).
But the Proverbs insist that the fear of God is essential for knowledge (1:7) and the beginning of wisdom (9:10) and for long life (10:27).
Fear of God has been watered down a bit in recent years. We focus so much on God as our friend and saviour that we forget that he is eternally sovereign, perfectly holy and the righteous judge. Fear of God means not just reverence, although that is part of it; it means actual terror. That may not seem very appealing, but think about it for a moment. Even in our cleansed state because of the blood of Christ, you and I are not worthy to stand in God’ presence. His eternal holiness would shatter us in an instant. Consider all that we have read so far in the Old Testament and how people react when God shows up on the picture. They are terrified. Not because God is scary, but because “when confronted with the blazing glory of God, they were terrified in their unworthiness.” (J.D. Watson, A Hebrew Word of the Day, pg 64).
I love that phrase: “blazing glory of God”. It is very vivid and descriptive. Revelation 1 describes Jesus this way:
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sunshining in all its brilliance.”
What is John’s response to this visitation by Jesus:
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last.”
Terror. Hebrews 12:28 encourages us: “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”
Fear of God is like all of those other fears that I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it keeps us safe and humble in the face of something bigger than ourselves. Fearing God keeps us from disobeying Him and His Word, both of which lead to dangerous consequences.
While God is our friend, saviour, comfort and guide, we must also remember that he is eternal, sovereign, holy and radiantly glorious.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Proverbs 13-15