The Joy Of Fear

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We tend to think of fear as bad thing.

As something to be avoided. We don’t want to live in fear. And when it comes to the fear of the Lord, we tend to think of it in negative terms as well. We tend to think of the fear of the Lord as fear that he will punish us for sin. A dread that if we get out of line he’ll backhand us or hurl a lightning bolt at us. But the fear of the Lord is a wonderful, amazing, positive, desirable blessing that God gives us to produce joy and gladness in our lives.

The fear of the Lord is to delight in God’s awesomeness. To marvel at his majestic power and glory. To contemplate his infinite might and breathtaking holiness. To fear God is to love him and take great pleasure in obeying and serving him. When we contemplate the beauty of the Lord and taste and see his goodness, we will hate sin and filth and impurity and anything else that robs us of our delight and joy in God.

Here are a few verses to contemplate:

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! PS 33:8

To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of him. To marvel and be amazed at his glory and power.

Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! Ps 112:1

The Psalmist tells us that fearing the Lord isn’t so much a fear of punishment for breaking God’s commands; rather it is positively delighting in God’s commandments.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Pr 14.27

Fearing God brings life, joy, satisfaction, contentment. It is a fountain of life – a constant source of refreshing and fulfillment. Because we delight in and stand in awe of God, we turn away from sin, which brings misery and death.

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” Dt 10:12

God tells us that to fear him is in reality to love him and serve him wholeheartedly.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Prov 19.9

The fear of the Lord is always positive. It is clean. It endures forever. It has to do with loving God’s true and righteous laws.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

The fear of the Lord has infinitely more to do with loving God than fearing his punishment. We are not to fear punishment from God, because he punished Christ in our place. Rather, because of all God did for us through his Son, we should love God and delight in him with all our hearts.

So fear God today. Love him. Delight in his awesome, infinite power. Contemplate his sovereign rule over all the angels, over every demon, over every nation. Marvel at God’s providence and wisdom in directing all things from galaxies to lightning bolts. Praise him for his steadfast love and his mercies that never cease. As you drink from the Fountain of Delights, you’ll hate the putrid waters of sin. You’ll hate the snares of death that rob you of joy and satisfaction in the infinite beauty of the Beautiful One.

Making Our Greatest Fear Our Greatest Strength

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What is your greatest fear? Whether you’ve been asked this question directly or not you have certainly asked it of yourself. Or maybe you refuse to ask it because, well, you fear the answer. Is it heights? Is it spiders? Is it the flu? Is it death?

I am not a big fan of any of those, but none of those is my biggest fear. They’re not even close, really. My biggest fear is people, more specifically people’s opinions. I fear what people think, how they perceive me.

I am at all uncommon in this. Most of us fear people more than anything. The only reason they don’t admit it is because . . . they fear people. As in all other fears we avoid expressing or discussing it because doing so brings us face to face with it. We act as if fear has no power over us if we can pretend it doesn’t exist, but by doing so we are actually being guided by fear

We are motivated, energized, and paralyzed, aggravated, and enervated by others’ perceptions of us. We wear what we wear, write what we write, and say what we say because of what others think. We even think what we think because of other people. The power of popular opinion is the greatest man-made force on earth.

We are slaves to people because we are terrified of them. We are all slaves to each other because everyone is afraid. Each of us resents and admires those around us, and it’s like a duel with much repositioning, parrying, and ducking. We want to be ourselves yet we want to please others, so we are bound.

In this reality I see some of what it means to fear the Lord. “Fear the Lord” is a challenging phrase to wrap our minds around because fear, as we know it, isn’t a good or happy thing.

But if we feared God like we fear people we would wear what we wear, write what we write, say what we say, even think what we think out of God-fear. We would find the duel to be a dance with Him in the lead. Yes, we would change to please Him, but with no residual resentment or fear of condemnation. Instead of feeling like we must change who we are to please Him we would find who we are changing as we please Him and becoming more of who we want to be.

And that would be a good and happy thing. It would be good and happy because, unlike people, God isn’t afraid of us. He has no insecurities with which to respond to ours. He isn’t enslaved by our opinions of him. To fear the Lord is to turn our greatest fear toward the One who we can be certain feels no compulsion to respond in a hurtful way. God has no fear of man, and so we can safely fear Him.

photo credit: guilmay via photopin cc

What Does It Mean To Fear God?

His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Ps 147:10-11)

I have a friend whose describes his grandfather as a cantankerous old man who would sit in his chair all day and thwack him and his cousins with his cane anytime they walked in front of him.  Is this what God is like?

God commands us to fear him and says that he takes pleasure in us when we fear him.  Why?  Does he enjoy us being afraid of him?  I know I don’t want my children to be afraid of me.  I want them to love me and enjoy being with me, not to be afraid of me.  So, in what sense are we to fear God?  The “fear” that brings God pleasure is not our being afraid of him, but our having a high and exalted, reverential view of him.

To “fear him” means to stand in awe of him: “Let all the earth FEAR the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world STAND IN AWE OF HIM!” (Ps 33.8).  To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of his majesty, power, wisdom, justice and mercy, especially in Christ – in his life, death and resurrection – that is, to have an exalted view of God.

We humans tend to be in awe of worldly power, talent, intelligence and beauty.  But these things don’t impress God because “His delight is not in the strength of the horse (mighty armies, worldly power) nor his pleasure in the legs of a man (human strength).”  But God delights in those who fear him – those who stand in awe of him –  and instead of trusting in their own human abilities or resources, “hope in his steadfast love.”

By way of contrast, the wicked person doesn’t fear God – he doesn’t stand in awe of God.  The wicked has a low view of God:

Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.” (PS 36.1-4
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The wicked person has such a low view of God and such a lack of awe for God that he doesn’t think God can find out his sin or hate it.  He doesn’t act wisely or do good because he doesn’t view God as holy and just and serious about punishing sin.  He trusts in his own wits and strength.  Obviously, the Lord doesn’t find any pleasure in the wicked.

So let us fear God – stand in awe of him, take refuge in him, and hope in his steadfast love. For it brings the Lord pleasure when we trust in him for strength and help, not our own wits and resources.

photo by oscar alexander