“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, NASB).
“But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB).
Over the past week we have asked some questions about what it means to fear God, and whether it is contradictory to loving God. To be honest, I usually have a clear idea of where the week’s posts will take me, but I wasn’t sure what I would find when I started this on Monday.
Even after last week’s topic of wisdom, of which fear of the Lord is the beginning, I hadn’t really given the fear of the Lord much of a second thought. The Church today seems to be so focused on the love of God that fear of Him barely receives an honorable mention.
Tuesday’s post about the first instance of fear recorded in scripture was kind of eye opening for me. When Adam and Eve first dipped their proverbial feet in the waters of sin, they immediately realized that they had disobeyed God; and the result of that recognition was fear.
They had walked daily with God in the Garden, naked and unashamed. But now their fellowship with God was shattered; they were afraid of what God would have to say. So they tried to hide from Him. That has been a “go-to” reaction ever since. Unless we are mature and quick to repent when we’ve screwed up, we have distanced ourselves from God. Shame leads to fear, and fear leads to distance.
But like Eden’s dynamic duo found out, you can’t hide from God.
In the Older Testament, there are many examples of God strongly, and sometimes dramatically, judging sin. So it made sense that people would fear God. When you’ve been knocked down so many times, you begin to flinch before the blow is thrown. I could understand the mindset of obedience through fear.
But what of love? God demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross. The ridicule and abuse that Jesus endured both before and upon the cross was beyond what we could possibly suffer. And as bonafide sinners, we were the ones who deserved all that He went through. But because of His great love for us He took it upon Himself. Wow! He didn’t offer to pay the debt after we became a little more worthy. He paid it all when we were sin-saturated. That kind of God deserves our obedience through love!
It wasn’t until yesterday’s post that I came to a personal conclusion. On Monday I questioned the definition of fear as being reverence. I think my questioning was largely because of the word, “reverence.” It’s not really a word we use all that often. Google says that it means, “deep respect for someone or something.” And, yeah, I get it. It does mean that, but I don’t think that goes deeply enough. Dictionary.com comes closer to the “right” meaning—at least as I see it. It says that reverence is “a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration” (emphasis mine).
No one wants to disappoint their heroes or mentors. They carry “deep respect tinged with awe” for them. They hold them, and their opinions, in the highest regard. They fear their disapproval.
We all know that we fall short of God’s call to holiness (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 11:45, etc.). We all know that we are deserving of judgment (Romans 3:23). But we are loved! We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
So, my personal understanding of the fear of the Lord is that in our deep love for God, we grow in wisdom and holiness, learning to obey Him, and being careful so as not to leave him disappointed in who we are, but rather, proud of who we are becoming.
When we somehow think that we can “pull one over” on God, when it isn’t our hearts’ deep desire to please Him and make Him proud of us, when the only fear we have is getting caught, that is when we should truly fear Him. When, on the other hand, our love for God grows deeper every day and we desire to fulfill the duty that “applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 13:13, NASB), then even when we stumble and fall we can get back up confident that we will find God’s love and not His wrath.
Blessings on your weekend!