The Bible on many occasions commands us to fear of the Lord. (Proverbs 1:7 ; Proverbs 8:13 ; Matthew 10:28 ; Job 28:28 ; Ecclesiastes 12:13 ; Psalm 33:8 ; Luke 1:50 )
To many modern day Christians, fearing the Lord seems incompatible to their image of a loving, kind God, who sees mankind from a distant cloud, hoping that they will be good...
That raises the question, should we fear God ? And if so, why ?
What is fear
Fear, according to the modern dictionary is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.” Simply put, fear is an emotional response to a threat. In order for fear to come up, we must see the threat as very real and as having a great impact.
We can be fearful of things which are real threats, and we can be fearful of things which are nothing to be afraid of.
Fearing that which poses no threat is called a phobia. There are many phobia’s; fear of spiders; fear of colours; fear of crowds… man in his unbalanced state can fear anything he deems fearful, even to the point of the grotesque.
While a phobia is an expression of an unhealthy state of the mind, fear of real danger is a natural mechanism, designed to keep us safe, to warn us of danger and change our path accordingly.
Fear entered the world through Adam
When Adam fell to sin, fear first entered the world. Adam was created perfectly, he had no need to fear anything. Fear was unknown to him, for he was without sin and all things around him were made very good.
But all that changed when Adam disobeyed God and with his fall, all of mankind fell with him, because we are all children of him. Adam hid himself from God out of fear ( Genesis 3:8 ), knowing that he had sinned and that death was the accompanying wages. (Romans 6:23 ) Likewise, all of Adams offspring, that is all of mankind hides from God even in denial of His existence, fearing that which will surely come (Psalm 14:1 ; Romans 1:21 ).
Every human, as a child of Adam, is born with a sin nature and with that nature comes fear. Fear of a great looming danger, the fear of judgement, the fear of death. For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God and the wages of sin is death. ( Romans 5:12 ; Romans 3:23 )
With Adam all of creation fell with mankind, under the curse. This is why we see so much suffering fear and anguish in the natural world. As Paul wrote: "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" ( Romans 6:23 ; Romans 8:22 )
A Fearful God
In our day, God is often portrayed as an all forgiving celestial power, who lets all who do good deeds, enter into heaven. Although the modern vision of God is based on love, which is a true characteristic of God, we should realise that His attributes of Holiness and Righteousness, and His Omniscience and Omnipotence are just as true and just as determining. ( 1 John 4:7-21 )
God’s Love is always in complete unisons with His other attributes. His Love does not overrule His Holiness and Righteousness. That is why the plight of mankind in his natural state is so dire. (Deuteronomy 32:4 ; Psalm 97:2 ; Psalm 9:8 )
God cannot accept sinful man, although He loves them with a great love, because the Holiness and Righteousness of God demands that sin is punished and wrath is satisfied. ( Psalm 5:4 )
The Greatness of God gloriously encompasses all of His attributes. He is the creator of all that is seen and unseen. He knows all things perfectly and is all powerful. We cannot hide from His gaze, nor withstand His power. ( Hebrews 4:13-15 )
Knowing that we are all sinners, for we all sin, and understanding that each sin deserves its proper wages, which is death, it is evident that we are under the wrath of God, rushing toward the judgement of our evil nature. (Romans 3:23)
It is a fearful thing, for sinful man, to be under the wrath of such an All-powerful, All-knowing Judge. (Hebrews 10:31)
The fearful cross
As I mentioned before, God will always uphold His attributes in perfection. He will never negate one to favour the other. To be more precise, God will never abandon His Righteousness in Judgement, For His Great Love.
Sin must be judged and the wages of sin must be death. For God to do anything less, would mean that God is an unrighteous Judge and if He was ever to be unrighteous, all hope in creation would be lost. (Romans 6:23)
Nevertheless, God did pass over the sins of many, forgoing judgement and forgiving terrible things, even before Christ Jesus came and walked among us. (Acts 17:30)
David and Bathsheba
In the story of David in the book of Samuel, we can read that David sinned, by sleeping with a married woman named Bathsheba. Then as if to add insult to injury, when she was pregnant with his baby, he had her husband Uriah murdered.
David was an adulterer and a murderer… Something which should have resulted in his death. But God told David that He had passed over his sins… Was God at that point unrighteous ? Or did God have a different plan for the wages of sin to be paid in full ? (2 Samuel 12:13 )
On the basis of the story of David and Bathsheba, we can see that God forgives even very heinous sins, if we ask Him with all our heart. But how does that work ?
Surely, if I commit murder today, I would be arrested and sentenced (and rightfully so !), regardless of my plea of mercy toward the judge.
Is the worldly judge more righteous than God ? By no means !
What then ? How can God be loving and Merciful and yet at the same time, maintain His perfect Holiness and Righteousness ?
The answer to that question reveals the great mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the good news that we all need to hear.
Holiness, Righteousness and Love, displayed fully in Christ Jesus
For God passed over the sins of David and countless others, before Christ came to us, because they looked to God to make a solution, to provide a way out, to redeem man and free him from his slavery to sin. ( Hebrews 11:10 )
This God did at the appointed time, by sending His own Son from heaven, to live as a man among us and to serve as a propitiation for our sins, paying the price for our sins in His blood, out of His Great Love toward us. Thus satisfying Godly wrath, in complete righteousness. (John 6:38 ; Galatians 3:15-15 )
Jesus Christ walked the earth. He taught us about this Good News and then died on the cross in our place. But now look deeper at this event. The Holy Son of God, Truly God and Truly man, flogged and spit on, cursed and wearing a crown of thorns, whipped through the streets of the Holy City, carrying a rugged wood beam to the place of His death. See the nails pierce His hands, see them hammer in the iron through His feet. See Him now lifted up for all to see! (Isaiah 53:1-12)
See the Glorious Son, full of goodness and kindness gasping for air, then a last gasp, a cry and then lifelessness…
See Him descend in the lower parts of the earth, through the gates of hell. See all the demons and devils shout in victory over Him, as he is lowered among the transgressors. (Ephesians 4:9 ; 1 Peter 3:18-22 ; Matthew 12:40 ; Romans 10:6-7)
When God made a way for us, by giving His Beloved Son as a propitiation for our sins, so that we would be reunited with Him, He did not negate His anger, His wrath, His Holiness and His Righteousness. All of God’s terrible anger and wrath and punishment was poured out on Jesus Christ and He took all that we should fear and suffered our punishment on that old rugged cross. ( Isaiah 43:16 )
What remained was the Good news, which we now proclaim. The cross, an ominous instrument of death by torture became a symbol of God's unfailing Love and Holy Righteousness. ( 1 Corinthians 2:2 ; 1 Corinthians 1:18 )
Forgiven and in Awe
We should never forget that we are all sinners, but God has chosen some, who by His Grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, are made right with God. Being now made right with God, we who believe, are thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. ( Ephesians 2:8 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 )
This also is a form of fear, not fear out of imminent danger, since we are no longer under wrath but under Grace, but a fear in reference and awe, inspired in our hearts by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:9 ; 2 Timothy 1:7 ; Isaiah 11:2-3 )
It is written that God has made witnesses of Himself in creation. We can see a glimpse of His Greatness in the vast expanse of the Universe and we can feel a hint of His Power, when we are hit by the brute forces of nature, in a thunderstorm or hurricane. When we behold our God and His wondrous Height and Depth, His Wisdom and Might, we stand in speechless Awe… that too is a form of holy fear. ( Romans 1:20 ; Psalm 19:1-14 ; Isaiah 45:7 )
It is that Holy fear which keeps us on track, that keeps us humble and obedient. It is that Holy fear which keeps us sober, knowing what punishment we deserved, and realising how great the price was that was paid for us. (Job 28:28 ; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 10:27 ; Proverbs 14:27 ; Proverbs 19:23 )
Let us therefor lay aside all remaining works of darkness and strive to enter into the narrow gate. Let us remind ourselves daily of the price that was paid for us by the All Powerful God and Righteous Judge, who not just loves us, but greatly loves us.