By Melissa McLaughlin
What is one of your greatest fears? I have quite a few. Spiders top my list, followed by extreme heights and playing piano before large crowds. However, something that is more soul-shaking than these is my fear of being rejected. I think most of us like to be liked. We like to fit in, to feel affirmed by those around us, to be included. Rejection separates us from others and leaves us feeling alone.
For many years I never understood the idea of fearing God. Why should I fear the Lord? Isn’t He a God of love? Didn’t He send Jesus to save me from my sins? Isn’t the Lord gracious and compassionate? I regularly skimmed or skipped over sections of scripture in order to avoid these words “fear of the Lord.” I was too busy underlining the verses I grasped and loved.
However, we cannot escape some very basic and foundational verses regarding this issue.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. Psalm 19:9
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13
As believers in Jesus, we believe in the truth of His Word, the Bible. Therefore, it is important to take in the whole counsel of scripture, viewing each verse in context and as part of God’s bigger story, revealing His glorious redemption plan from Genesis to Revelation.
So, how does the fear of the Lord fit into this grand story?
Knowing ourselves, begins with knowing our Creator. We did not create ourselves. We can only continue or perpetuate all that God has created and set into motion. We can give birth to children and plant seeds in the ground but we cannot create even one human living organ or one living plant cell.
We were created by a God who is far beyond anything that we are. In the same way that my husband’s painting on the wall could never capture the fullness of who he is as a human being, so God’s creation grants us only a tiny glimpse of His enormity.
Some years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. As we approached the lookout area, our pulses raced in anticipation of what we knew would be spectacular. However, once we stood on the edge of that vast cliff, gazing out over miles of mountainous rock and staggering patterns of rugged beauty, it stopped us in our tracks and took our breath away. People from all nations, ages and backgrounds paused side by side in reverent silence. Looking. Just looking at something so imposing, so mighty, so magnificent that it defied words.
Though the Grand Canyon is truly great, God is greater still. When we ponder the magnitude of His power, majesty and supremacy, as displayed in His creation, we stand in reverential awe. We have a rightful fear of One whose hands could form something so immense. We remember for a moment that God is God.
Yet the fear of the Lord involves another element. Something more than simply recognizing God’s greatness. The fear of the Lord is also marked by a recognition of God’s holiness.
God’s standard is high. God’s standard is perfection. Perfect truth. Perfect goodness. Perfect justice. Perfect righteousness. Perfect judgment. Perfect love. God is absolutely perfect.
To allow for anything less in His presence would mar the perfection of His kingdom. And so, we simply cannot be near God, in our earthly state, for our sinful nature plagues our every step.
But for Jesus. A perfect God loved the people He created, though wracked with sin, so He sent His own Son to redeem us. To suffer the punishment we deserved. To exchange His perfection for our imperfection. His glory for our sin. That we could be made pure, righteous and holy by His blood. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ’s blood shed for us. By faith, His spiritual blood now runs through our veins and we are made holy, too.
Contemplating God’s greatness and God’s holiness stacked up against our finite, fragile, sinful nature, gives us a soul-gripping awareness of how deep God’s love is for us. How vast beyond all measure. As endless as our endless God.
This reverence, or fear of the Lord, enables us to worship the Lord with a humble heart, overflowing with love and gratitude. Flowing back to Him, the One who first loved us.
May we consider these words of Jesus:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
An unbeliever should fear the coming judgment of a holy and powerful God. These warnings are recorded all throughout the Bible and are clearly confirmed by Jesus. If people have rejected Christ, they will face hell, which is eternal separation from God. Not that He rejected us, but that we rejected Him. That separation should be humankind’s weightiest fear by far. That will be an aloneness like no other.
In equal and opposing measures of joy, a believer in Jesus can rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We maintain a fear of the Lord, in the form of a deep reverence, appreciation and awe, as we recognize the depth of our desperate condition and the depth of love God spent for us.
We no longer fear the evil within or the evil without, for we are covered in the blood of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. Fear God and then you have nothing else to fear.
Is fear of the Lord a good thing? I have finally come to the conclusion, the answer is, “Yes.”
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
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Psalm 33:8
My husband’s sunflower painting, that hangs over the computer where I write. This photo pales in comparison. Literally.