There are two types of fear in Scripture.
- Terrified dread: In Isaiah 2:10, 19 and 21, rev 5:15 is about the fear of an unrepentant sinner before the justice of God. The original Hebrew word is pachad, which indicates a terrified dread.
- Reverence: Fear of the Lord is a reverential awe of God; a reverence for his power and glory, designation of true piety (Prov. 1:7; Job 28:28; Ps. 19:9). It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not a slavish dread, but rather filial (relationship) reverence.
The Wrath of God?
Spiritually abusive churches use the fear of the Lord term to intimidate people. We get left with an idea we have to work harder to earn God’s love.
They portray God with a nasty temper, looking down on his inferiors, always ready to remind us of our mistakes and focusing on our faults and weaknesses; just sitting around waiting to whack us for disobeying him. (See Two View of God’s Wrath)
This breaks my heart!
Do You Want Your Children to Fear You?
If you are a parent, do you want your children to be afraid of you? Do you want your children to do their chores because they are afraid of a spanking, or because they love you?
Do you think God wants to bully us into obedience? God wants us to obey him because we love him.
Jesus pointed. out over and over that our motivation to obey should be love:
- “If you love me, obey my commandments.(John 14:15)
- “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love”.(John 15:10)
- “And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him (John 8:19)
This is why Jesus told the Pharisees to wash the inside of the cup. (Matthew 23:25). People with the wrong type fear of God are focused on the outside of the cup–fearful obedience–not loving obedience
Hebrews 8:10 says I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
We are convicted of sin because we know the Word of God. We know that there are consequences to our actions. We know that sin is displeasing to God. Jewish New Testament Commentary explains Romans:
To stress the priority of deeds over head knowledge of the Torah or status as a Jew, Sha’ul [Paul} pointedly speaks of Gentiles, who by definition don’t have Torah but nevertheless do naturally what the Torah requires, as being for themselves already Torah because their lives show that the conduct the Torah dictates is “written in their hearts.” The quotation from Jeremiah 31:32(33) speaks of the “new covenant” which Adonai is to make with Israel, when he says, “I will put my Torah in their inward parts and write it in their hearts”
Jesus Explained God’s Character
Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son for us to see how much God loves us –while we were yet sinners!
Jesus’ parable is about who God is and what God is actually like, about the way God thinks and God acts toward us. It is about the Father’s heart and joy. Baxter Kruger explains in Parable of the Dancing God:
Jesus paints a picture of God standing on the balcony of Heaven, watching, searching the horizon for the least inkling of a shadow of His son’s return. And once He sees him, this son, Jesus has the Father running and embracing him and commanding a great party to be thrown on his behalf.
What a picture of God! I tell you there is no greater statement about God in he whole Bible than verse 20:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed and kissed and kissed him”. He was absolutely thrilled to see him.
Father God, YHWH, is not an abusive father or a paranoid leader. He is a loving God described by 1 Corinthians 13.
The reverent fear of God comes from the knowledge of God. In Proverbs 9 the writer writes about wisdom and the importance of knowing God. The wisdom is the knowledge of and relationship with God. As we grow in our relationship with God, we stand in awed respect of His power and majesty.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
We are sheep, we have a wonderful Shepherd ready, willing, and able to lead us. However, some sheep focus so much on the fences or the wolf they ignore the loving shepherd who only wants the best for them.
Fear and faith are opposites. We cannot operate in a spirit of faith and a spirit of fear at the same time. Fear paralyzes, but love will free you to come to him, even in the midst of your worst failures, knowing that he loves you enough to change you. John said:
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Fear makes you work harder to prove your worth to him (outside of the cup); love teaches you to trust his work in you (inside of the cup). Worry and fear exhaust the power. God’s Word says:
- Fret not—He loves you (John 13:1)
- Faint not—He holds you (Psalm 139:10)
- Fear not—He keeps you (Psalm 121:5)
Ed Rothman from Seed of Abraham Messianic Congregation, discusses the fear of the Lord in this podcast
The bottom line: if you don’t love God, you should fear him. Once, however, you learn what it really is to love Him, and understand Jesus paid it all–you respect Him and want to honor Him in obedience because He first loved us. He has written His law on our hearts.
You don’t need to question God’s love nor whether you’ve done enough to earn his affection. You can rest in his love.
- God is a loving God described by 1 Corinthians 13.
- God is sensitive to your needs, feelings, fears (Matthew 18:10 and Colossians 3:21.)
- As we grow in our relationship with God, we stand in awed respect of His power and majesty.
- Focus on the loving Shepherd–not the fences or the wolves.
- Quit worrying about the outside of the cup and allow God to clean the inside, then the outside also will be clean.
- Nothing in all the universe can separate you from the love of God. Nothing!
Do you fear God? Are you recovering from fearing God? Tell me your experience.
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