“The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?” He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure” (Isaiah 33:14-16 ESV).
Those who make the decision to ignore or reject Jesus truly have something to fear. And in reading the Old Testament and portions of the Gospels and Acts perhaps those of us who call ourselves Christians may have reason to fear as well. But if we are truly in Christ, do we have nothing to fear?
God is our Father. He is Abba, or Daddy. For some people this raises feelings of safety and security. It makes them feel loved. For others it spurs hatred, anger, violence and fear. And we are commanded to fear the Lord.
“And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24 ESV). “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV)? “Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack” (Psalm 34:9 ESV)!
But scripture also tells us that we should not fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18 ESV).
So which is it? Fear or don’t fear? I think the answer lies in semantics. Fear can mean terror of judgment, as in 1 John 4:18. But it can also mean reverence and respect, as in the verses from Deuteronomy and Psalms.
When I was in 5th or 6th grade my family was walking on the beach, my Dad holding my sister’s hand. Suddenly a wave that didn’t follow the pattern hit us and nearly pulled my sister into the water. I’d always heard that you should respect the sea, and never turn your back on it. This helps clarify the fear of the Lord in my mind. We should keep the Lord ever before us and never turn away—not because He wants to do us harm, but because He wants what’s best for us.
We who believe need not be afraid of judgment. But we should respect God as we would a good Father. When we honor and respect Him by walking in righteousness and speaking good things, we become fireproof. That is to say we are enabled to dwell with the Consuming Fire.
Blessings on your weekend!