Fear

As a kid, I often heard that I should fear the Lord. It was a difficult concept to reconcile. Wasn’t God my Father? Loving and kind? Why should I be afraid of Him?

Then I learned to differentiate the fear of God from being afraid of God. Fear of God is a holy reverence. Honour. Respect.

OK. I know the difference now. But how do I do that?

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and love many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:11-14 (ESV)

Of all people to speak on the fear of the Lord, I trust David.

We try to make things so complicated when it comes to fearing God, but this breaks it down into simple actions: watch what you say, turn away from bad things and toward good and peaceful things. Really, how hard is that?

Fearing God is not just knowing Him, it is pursuing Him. David, above all, knew what that looked like. He is forever known as the man who chased after God’s heart. That’s what the fear of God is – pursing an intimate knowledge of Him. And when we know Him, we will be more like Him.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35; Acts 22

Only Fear

Are you afraid of God or do you fear God? Is there a difference?

As kids, many of us were afraid of the dark. Afraid of the monsters under the bed. Afraid of spiders (and maybe still are).

As kids, many of us feared our parents. Feared our teachers.

How do we differentiate the two? And how do we teach fear with out teaching fear?

I often go back to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary for reference. He was a man of God and, as often as possible, used scripture to back up his definitions.

FEAR: A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger.

This is what it means when the lights go out, when the bed squeaks, when you walk through the unseen web.

FEAR is the passion of our nature which excites us to provide for our security, on the approach of evil.

In scripture, fear is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience. This is filial fear.

This is what it means to have a healthy respect of and reverence for those in authority over us.

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

1 Samuel 12:24 (ESV)

Samuel, after anointing Saul as king over Israel, admonishes the people to cease from turning against God. He’s not telling them to be afraid, to run away cowering from the Lord. God chose them, after all, and led them out of slavery into a good and fruitful land. Why should they be afraid of a God who has only shown them grace and mercy?

Samuel encourages Israel to fear the Lord as a matter of honour and respect.

If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not revel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well.

1 Samuel 12:14 (ESV)

A promise follows the command to fear the Lord. Honour God. Respect him. Be faithful in service to him, and it will be well.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 13:22-35

Believe

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”

Mark 4:40-41 (ESV)

This verse has always baffled me. I’m sure that Jesus knew what he was doing when selecting his disciples, but it’s verses like this that make them look less than intelligent.

These are the same men who, up to this point in scripture, would have heard of Jesus’ baptism – and the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved Son.” They witnessed men being set free from demons. They saw Jesus touch people and they were healed. They’d been walking with him and listening to his parables and the explanations thereof. And yet, when Jesus calmed the storm, they were afraid and asked who he was.

With this in mind, I ask a question that has been presenting itself with increasing frequency – do we really believe Jesus is who he says he is and that he can do what he says he can do?

I’d like to say yes, but then where are the signs that Jesus said would follow us if we believe? And if we do happen to see miracles, why are we, like the disciples surprised and afraid?

So I ask again, do we really believe Jesus is who he says he is and that he can do what he says he can do?

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 7, Mark 4:21-41