The Bible has a lot to say about fear. It tells us not to fear a variety of things as well what we are to fear. The most repeated instruction and discussion about fear is that as his children and followers of Jesus we are to fear the Lord. I have often been confused about this specific admonition because a surface and casual reading of “fear the Lord” seems contradictory to what the Bible teaches about our relationship with God.
A few years ago I came up with an acrostic that I thought was helpful in getting a handle on what it means to fear the Lord. (For those who may be interested, here is the link to that blog post from December, 2017: https://bobmmink.com/2017/12/06/fear-the-lord/).
I just finished a book published earlier this year that gave me significant additional insight into the challenge to Fear God. The title of the book is REJOICE & TREMBLE: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord and was written by Michael Reeves.
I especially like Reeves clarification that the fear of God “really does not mean being afraid of God” (p. 16). Reeves quotes Exodus 20:18-20 and explains, “Moses here sets out a contrast between being afraid of God and fearing God: those who have the fear of him will not be afraid of him” (p. 30).
In the 168 pages of the book Reeves says far more about this matter than I can include in this post. He suggests that properly understood our fear of the Lord “not only defines our love for God and our joy in God. It also prompts us to trust in God” (p. 66, emphasis added). On the next page he rang the bell for me when he notes “the fear which pleases him is not a groveling, shrinking, fear. He is no tyrant. It is an ecstasy of love and joy that senses how overwhelmingly kind and magnificent, good and true God is, and that therefore leans on him in staggered praise and faith” (p. 67).
Reeves highlights three aspects of our relationship with God as the foundation of our fear of God. “The first sort of right fear is the weak-kneed and trembling response to the fact that God is the Creator” (p. 70). Second, “Our wonder at the Creator’s magnificence—and our enjoyment of it—increases when we know it as the perfect magnificence of the kindest Savior” (p.75). And the third aspect is grasping God as our Heavenly Father. The fear of the Lord “leads us from knowing God as the Creator to knowing him as our Redeemer and our Father” (p.95).
I was especially comforted by Reeves discussion of God as our Father, what he calls our “filial fear.” He defines filial fear: “It is not the dread of sinners before a holy Judge. It is not the awe of creatures before their tremendous Creator. It is the overwhelmed devotion of children marveling at the kindness and righteousness and glory and complete magnificence of the Father” (p.101).
Hopefully these selections from Michael Reeves about the fear of the Lord will give you something to think about. Keep in mind the well-known wisdom from Solomon in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
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