Do you fear God, or are you afraid of God, does His name cause a kind of terror in you, or carefulness, fright or reverence? Over the next few weeks I would like to discuss this issue with you, separating out the anxiety that many tend to have toward our Lord who has nothing but our best welfare in His thoughts towards us. (Jer. 29:11)
Thoughts of this loving God, this Sovereign Lord of all creation should invoke all of these emotions and considerations within us that are stated above, for he is both wonderful and terrible, loving beyond all possible comprehension, and judging righteously to eternal condemnation, He is both the still small voice and the massive earthquake, the pillar of smoke and fire, the one who paid the ultimate price in love, and the righteous One who will judge all of creation.
Human beings generally fear what they do not know or understand, and so it is my hope and prayer that through diligent study of the Word of God and serious contemplation in this series we will come to know our Lord and Maker much better in this area, in a way of wisdom, knowledge and spiritual understanding that only He can give to us. We are to study to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the Word of truth, so that we can always be ready to give an account of our faith, (2nd Tim. 2:15) and in a study that contains the word ‘fear,’ we must know what the Scriptures are saying clearly.
I in no way desire to be misconstrued here, but if there is one thing, one attribute that God cannot find within Himself, it is fear, for Almighty God fears no one or nothing. This does not mean that He does not understand it fully and completely, for did he not create us, does He not know every thought that we have and the reasons behind them. Should He not be trusted in every area that we can think of, in every moment, if we have trusted our eternal security to him, can we not trust the day-to-day struggles as well into His care.
Our first parents knew no fear, no trepidation in the terminology of alarm, anxiety or apprehension was part of their vocabulary or life in the garden that God had prepared for them, for there was absolutely nothing to fear. There has always been a debate within me on this subject of the garden of Eden, for if I understand the Word of God correctly this is where it all started, as it were, notwithstanding the fall of Satan recorded in the Book of Ezekiel. Was there a twinge that day, a momentary shift in Adams mind when he was told by The Lord not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, did his mind revolve around this word ‘die’ that His Lord, his Creator, his friend spoke, what did it mean. Was there what could best be described as fear, panic or distress within Adam and Eve as they walked in the garden past that tree or was the commandment enough to cause absolutely no shift in their demeaners, no curiosity whatsoever. “What He has said, this will we do.”
Fast forward if you will, past our adversaries entrance into the garden, past Eve’s first bite into the forbidden fruit, and look now on Adams face as he gazes first at his beloved wife, then at the fruit that is now missing a piece from it, then back to his wife, who’s visage has now changed, is subtly different, has become something he doesn’t quite recognize, yet still retains a familiarity, for he has looked into those eyes a thousand times. What does our unfallen, sinless at-the-moment father of mankind feel? I humbly suggest three possibilities; A lack of fear as we are describing it in the context at the moment, for his wife has eaten of the fruit and still lives; an incredible, indescribable fear that soon she will die, and he will do anything to join her in this death that is sure to come upon her; or three, that she did not die, and his love for this woman, flesh of his flesh, overrides any commandment that his creator has given him, she has in that very moment become more important to him than his God.
I know none of these for a fact, nor does anyone else alive today, but I can assure you of one thing, after he ate of the fruit, fear became a reality, and it first showed its terrible face in the form of shame. Be very sure of one thing, my friends, your sin will find you out. (Num.32:23) Because the knowledge of good and evil was now within them, the first thing that Adam and Eve did was hide, they hid their nakedness from one another, trust in who they were in front of each other disappeared, was replaced with shame, and doubt took its place deep inside of them. Shame caused fear, for now they also knew rebellion and hid from Him who had made them. The friend who had walked with them in the garden was now someone to dread, for they understood by the action they had taken that there were consequences for their disobedience, and it is a lesson we have been learning individually from that moment to this very day.
Out of all the different meanings of the word fear; terror, fright , afraid, dread, these are the ones that some who call the our Lord ‘God’ seem to dwell on, an innate thought process within some that seems to always be thinking that they need to be ‘good,’ never mess up, always obey, for God is just waiting and watching them from heaven, watching to see if they have made a ‘mistake,’ and then He will punish them, severely. I feel so sorry for you if this is the normal pattern of your mind, for this is not the mind of Christ. “Those He loves, He chastises.” (Heb. 12:6) Did you notice the key word there, loves.
For those of you that have had or are now raising children, did you beat them in anger every time they went against your will, breaking their spirts with dominating fear, or did you lovingly correct them, (Prov. 23:13) helping them to understand that there is a spiritual path that leads to life, that this path must be adhered to, and that there are consequences for our actions when we deviate from that path, both for parent and child. Hopefully that pathway is Christ-centered in your home, for a lifetime of sin will not gain anyone entrance into the Kingdom of God.
How many times can you find in the Scriptures the words “fear not.” This is one of the most beautiful phrases in all the Bible, for the words here mean “Trust me, I love you, and I always do what is best for you, for you are mine.” In the connotation of the word, if you have a fear of God, a dread or anxiety about Him, you do not trust Him fully yet, for “perfect love casts out fear.” (1st John 4:18)
The definition of “The fear of the Lord” is reverential trust,” a definitive, no questions needed, abiding love and trust in our Lord and all that He has in store for us. It is a fact, an indisputable truth, the perfect knowledge that no matter the circumstances we are experiencing, that He has allowed them, and though we may not understand the events as they unfold, nor is it necessary for us to, He is still and always will be worthy to be followed, for when He leads us, and we follow, we will never be led astray. “No evil will befall thee.” (Psalm 91:10)
The obedient, trusting, willing servants of the Lord Jesus Christ may know initial fear, moments of doubt, but never will they experience complete separation from Him, for these confess their sins, (1st John 1:9) they do not try to hide from Him who sees and knows all, for they trust in His forgiveness, they rejoice in His chastisement, because it means they are loved by Him.
There are many different avenues and examples of this word ‘fear,’ and over the coming weeks we will explore them in depth, because, and please excuse the dry humor, one of the emotions we are most afraid of is fear. We have no reason whatsoever to be afraid of God, but we do have a responsibility and should have a willingness to have the fear of the Lord in our hearts.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10) It is my fervent prayer that in this series we will all be blessed by Him with the wisdom He so graciously offers.