Last week I wrote about God’s amazing promise in Jeremiah 32:40: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them.”
But the second part of this verse is equally amazing: “And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.”
You’d think we’d naturally fear God. I mean it makes sense. God is infinite, awesome, knows our every thought, word and deed, and promises to punish every sin. He guarantees we won’t get away with anything. He’s holy – Nadab and Abihu mix up their own incense instead of God’s formula, offer it, and next thing you know they’re smoking corpses (LV 10.1-2). Uzzah reaches out to keep the ark of the covenant from falling off a cart, touches it, and God strikes him dead (2 SA 6.3-6). You’d think we’d fear God.
But in our natural state we don’t fear God. Romans 3:18 says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” As sinners under God’s wrath, we should be terrified of God. Yet because we don’t fear God, we sin with impunity every day. We party while a sword hangs over our heads.
But God changes all that when he saves us. He injects the fear of himself into our hearts.
What a gift from God! Now we don’t need someone to tell us to fear God – it’s embedded in our hearts, releasing its blessings continuously. The fear of the Lord causes us to hate sin. We know God will discipline us and expose us sooner or later, so we turn away from sin (PR 3.7). The fear of the Lord leads us to know God (PR 1.7), prolongs our lives (PR 10.27), gives us confidence and brings blessing to our children (14.26), gives us wisdom (15.33) and peace (19.23) riches, honor and life (22.4).
And the greatest blessing of all is “that they may not turn from me.” Israel’s lack of godly fear led them to an endless cycle of turning from him. God would bring judgment, they’d be miserable and turn back to him, he’d have mercy, they’d forget and turn away again.
The new covenant ended all that. Jesus’ blood purchased an abiding fear that keeps us from turning from God. This doesn’t mean we don’t ever temporarily fall or stray. But the fear of the Lord will bring us back. It’s like a spiritual sheep dog – we begin to wander from the flock and along comes the fear of God nipping at our hearts to get us back in line.
I’m so grateful for the fear of God. It’s not a slavish fear, but a freeing joy-producing fear that draws me to God. And I’m so glad it’s not up to me to keep me from turning away – God’s put his fear into my heart.
O Gracious Father,
Thank you for putting the fear of you in me
Thank you for keeping me from turning from you
Thank you Jesus, for all you suffered
To purchase this wonderful fear.
Help me to hate sin and flee temptation
Help me to be humble
And fear you all my days.