I’m not afraid of God.
So why are Christians commanded to “fear the Lord”?
God is my Father, he is loving and generous and kind beyond comparison and far more than I deserve. There is nothing about that to be afraid of. And yet all through the Bible we see references to the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7, Ecc 12:13, Luke 1:50, etc). That can be a hard thing to pinpoint a definition to. The more I read the Scriptures, the more I start to think that maybe it’s not God we’re supposed to be afraid of. As I’m growing in my relationship with God and walking through the process of sanctification, I realize more and more the weight of my sin. It’s like, the more I realize how good and lovely and perfect and holy God is, the more I realize how grossly inadequate I am. I’ve come to this place in my life where the knowledge of my sin and the destruction that it brings to my relationship with God terrifies me. It’s not my Savior that I’m fearful of, but it’s the idea of being without him that scares me. Now, I know I’m saved and I don’t question losing my salvation, but as God reveals his character to me, I understand more deeply how much I need him.
The reason I think we need the “fear of the Lord” is because all too often we don’t see the problem with our sin. I don’t see the problem with my sin. I become complacent. I start to think that I’m doing okay, and that’s when I know I’m really bad. Once I heard it stated that the sin we most defend is the one we should be most worried about – and I can attest to that from personal experience. So often I catch myself thinking that I’m fine, I’m doing ok, I’m not that prideful, I’m not that selfish, so on and so forth. And it’s in those times that I find myself the most susceptible to sin and the farthest away from God.
In Exodus we see the nation Israel stuck in slavery to Egypt. There was nothing they could do to get themselves out of it, and it was only by God’s great power and mercy that they were delivered. They realized that they couldn’t do life without God, they needed him desperately (and not just for deliverance from slavery, but for everyday life – such as getting manna from heaven when there was no food in the wilderness). There’s no room for complacency or self-sufficiency when you’re stranded in the wilderness for 40 years with no food. Israel was to be a nation completely dependent on God as their Creator, Savior, Redeemer, and Provider. In Exodus 20, Moses is given the 10 Commandments for Israel to follow whole-heartedly. This wasn’t just a bunch of rules, but God’s way of allowing his people to be close to him. They shouldn’t kill, they shouldn’t steal, they shouldn’t lie, etc, because those things would separate them from him.
“[…] if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).
Still today Christians are called to be set apart from the world and to fear God. I do not think that we are supposed to be literally scared of God, but I do think we should seriously consider the consequences of not being with him. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death” – that’s what our sin does to us, it kills us – “[…]BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ”. Our choice to have a relationship with Jesus will save our lives, but it will also require that we walk away from our old lifestyles and serve him whole-heartedly. Understanding the fear of the Lord doesn’t just serve to make us moral, upright, righteous people while we’re on earth. It allows us to have a real relationship with God (beginning right now), one that continues on into eternity and saves us from ourselves, in order that we can spend eternity with our Creator, Father, and Friend.
“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin”’ (Exodus 20:20).
The fear of the Lord causes us to run from sin, and draws us closer to God. Therefore, fear sin in a way that makes you flee from it, and cling to God, who loves us and gave his life for us.