“Fear” God. Really?

Last year a man came to a worship service I was leading because he was curious about this whole Christianity thing.

The next week he emailed me because something had bothered him. He had read in the Bible that we should “fear God.” This made him uncomfortable. Perhaps he had read something like Psalm 33:8a that says, “Let all the earth fear the LORD…”

We don’t usually like fear. We might fear war, violence or being abandoned…

But fear God?

I explained that “fear” as it is often used in the Bible has a certain nuance. The next part of the verse in Psalm 33:8 gives us some insight. In Hebrew poetry, the second line often amplifies or gives texture to the first: “Let all the earth fear the LORD, let all the people of the world revere him.”

In the Bible, fear is closely related to reverence, a kind of powerful and awesome respect. We know this not only because of the context of this (and other) passages, but because in 1 John 4:18 we are told that as we love God and others “perfect love drives out fear.”

I fear God. But not in the sense of being scared of him. I fear God in the sense that I am reverent toward him. I try to show him powerful and awesome respect. It’s the opposite of being flippant or dismissive.

Our God is unequaled in goodness, supremacy, love, holiness, justice, and truth.

With that in mind, I pray that I—and you—think, talk, act, and live in a way that honours the distinct privilege of being called one of his own.

By Matthew Ruttan

–This Sunday (October 13) I’ll be preaching about how we respond to trouble and persecution in our faith. (It’s going to happen more and more.) If you’re close to Barrie and don’t have a church home, you should come!
–“Up!” is published 5 days a week (Monday-Friday) and returns on October 14.
–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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