Free to Fear God?
What does it really mean to fear God?
In the last gem, we saw that we as humans have many needs, and that only in our creator and redeemer can those needs be truly satisfied. We saw that when God fills our life with his presence, our fears are removed and our needs met.
But now we're digging into this idea, that we should fear God.
"To fear God" you say! That sounds like an oxymoron, how can that be when God is love? And when the Bible says:
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." - 1 John 4:18
Yes! perfect love removes fear! But why then does the Bible say:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man." - Ecclesiastes 12:13
How can this be? Love removes fear, yet it is our duty to fear God? Let us allow the Scripture to sweep away this apparent contradiction.
"And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul" - Deuteronomy 10:12
Here the Bible says we should fear the Lord and love him at the same time! Obviously there's something here that we're missing. Let's go a little deeper.
Firstly, there are multiple definitions of the word "fear". God's perfect love casts out fear, being "A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger." This is the kind of fear that makes us alarmed or terrified. God's love removes this, and gives us perfect confidence in Him. When our sins are forgiven, and guilt is removed, we have perfect peace, freedom from fear!
But now what does it mean to fear God? Obviously a different fear to the fear that gets cast out by love, seeing that ought to love God and fear him at the same time. We get a lot of clues in Proverbs and Psalms. Speaking of a rebellious people Solomon says:
"For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:" - Proverbs 1:29
So we see that to fear the Lord is a choice. Here's another verse which compares our two choices.
"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe." - Proverbs 29:25
The opposite of fearing man would be what? Fearing God, right? The above verse explains that fearing man brings a snare, and then gives us the opposite which rather than bringing a snare, keeps us safe. But rather than saying whoso fears the Lord shall be safe, Solomon uses different words to explain the same idea, and says "whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe".
I hope you were able to follow that. We must wrap our minds around God's word, and with the aid of the Holy Spirit we can understand these gems of truth.
Okay! Let's just shelve these thoughts for a moment. We'll take a look at a few more verses, and then bring all the pieces together into a beautiful picture.
"The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom" - Psalms 111:10
"The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge" - Proverbs 1:7
"The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil" - Proverbs 8:13
"In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence" - Proverbs 14:26
"The fear of the LORD [is] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death" - Proverbs 14:27
What is the idea that you get from the above verses? If I were to ask you "What is the Fear of the Lord", based on these verses, what would you say? Perhaps something like:
"The fear of the Lord? That's the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, it's when you hate evil. It gives you strong confidence and is like a fountain of life, to get away from the snares of death."
Yes! That is all true! But it seems to only tantalise us, dancing around the real definition, and rather showing us the result of fearing the Lord. When you fear God, yes you will have wisdom, knowledge and will hate evil. It will bring you strong confidence and is like a fountain of life.
(Interesting Note: In the verse above, the fear of the Lord helps us to depart from what? The snares of death! What is that snare? Prov 29:25 "The fear of man bringeth a snare...")
Okay, to summarise so far. Fearing God is a choice, it brings us strong confidence, a hatred towards evil and is like a fountain of life giving us wisdom and knowledge. It is opposite to fearing man which brings a snare, ending in death.
Now let's bring all this together.
Let me ask you... What is the fear of man? That brings a snare?
We've all experienced it, and it can be simply summed up in two words. Peer pressure. It is when we are afraid of what people are going to think of us. I'm the worst at this. I mean, it's so easy to do the right thing when you're around the right people, but then it's so easy to be influence to do the wrong when we're with the wrong crowd. If I'm with a bunch of friends, it is a strong temptation to please them and do things to fit in, even if it means sacrificing principle. Why? Because I'm afraid of what they will think of me. I might lose face.
This is the fear of man. If we are governed and controlled in any way by the fear of man, we're in a trap, a snare! Satan will use this to lead us into the paths of death.
What is the fear of God? It is simply the opposite. Notice carefully these powerful verses.
"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God." - Proverbs 2:1-5
Notice with what intensity of desire we are to seek for this experience? We must cry after it, and lift up our voice in prayer to God for this understanding. We should seek for it with the same zeal with which we would seek for gold or silver! What are we desperately seeking for? To find the knowledge of God, and to understand the fear of the Lord.
Don't miss this! We are striving for what? A true experimental knowledge of God. A connection with God, a friendship with the almighty one! This is it friends! And this is what it means to fear God. It means that you have a real deep friendship with God, and are so close to him that the peer pressure between you and your friend Jesus is stronger than the peer pressure between you and any earthly friend. You are more afraid of what Jesus will think of you, than what your friends will think of you.
This does not need to be faked. We can have this experience. Jesus can become that real to us. But we must cry, lift up our voice, seek after this experience. Be in earnest, and you will know God as a friend.
Once we have this deep, genuine connection with God. It is easy to see that yes, we will hate evil, we will have strong confidence, we will have wisdom and knowledge, and we will have a fountain of life inside of us, Jesus abiding within!
When we learn to fear God, we will fear no man! That is a powerful life my friends. That is a life not influence by the transitory, temporary things of this world, and not influenced by the changing fashions and passions of man.
A couple more verses that fit in so nicely.
"Let not thine heart envy sinners: but [be thou] in the fear of the LORD all the day long." - Proverbs 23:17
"Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart" - 1 Samuel 12:24
Dear reader, is this your experience? Why not give Christ all your heart now, and find some quite place to pour out your soul to Him? Be in earnest, understanding your eternal destiny is at stake. God's promises are sure. You will find a true knowledge of God, and understand the fear of the Lord. He will become to you a constant friend and companion. Only seek after him with all your heart, hold back nothing, and you will be rewarded with treasure.
"We must be much in communion with God. Prayer in secret, prayer while the hands are engaged in labor, prayer while walking by the way, prayer in the night season, the heart's desires ever ascending to God--this is our only safety." - That I May Know Him, Ellen G. White