By Jeff Foerster
The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
Re-la-a-ax. This is where I whisper soothing things into your ear and tell you that you needn’t actually “fear” our God. I’ll tell you to replace “fear” with “awe, reverence, and respect.” That way you can let out that tightly held breath and feel a calm drift over you … isn’t that right?
But can you divorce “fear” from “reverence”? Can you remove mystery from awe? Would you minimize the character of God if it made you more comfortable? Do you believe that He is different now than He described Himself in the book of Exodus? It was with thunder and lightning and great smoke upon the mountain, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin’” (Exodus 20:20).
Did you hear that? Do not be afraid … so that the fear of Him may remain with you.
No that’s not contradiction, but rather clarity begging to be birthed. This first “afraid” encompasses doubt and visions of grave harm; a fear resulting from an anxiety of impending doom. It lingers not on God and who He is, but focuses on self and what is lacking therein. The “fear” in the second half places eyes and heart on the God who made and sustains all things. Wonder, and awe, and yes, no small amount of trepidation in the presence of the Almighty.
Look also to Hebrews chapter 12 and you’ll find this: “… let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” Here we have reverence and awe, and this because of a rightly placed fear of God’s consuming fire. For the unbeliever this fire is eternal torment. For the child of God it is a refining fire, burning away all that is not reflecting Jesus.
Yes, the LORD God Almighty has made Himself known by the revelation of His incarnation through Jesus Christ. But don’t think you’ve got a handle on Him that He might fit within the confines of parameters you have developed through study or careful thought. No, He is much more than you can ever imagine.
Scripture is the beginning point to knowing God. Surely it is sufficient for all that we need to know about salvation and serves as a wonderful basis on how to live before God, our fellow brethren, and a witnessing world, but it cannot contain the enormity of our God! The Scriptures are a sliver of light to bring truth to our darkened world and minds, but God Himself is the source of that light, burning like a million suns, a million times over.
Who is He that you worship, O Christian? Come to Him with shortened breath and quickened heart. Approach Him knowing that there is not a word you can speak, even think, into eternity future that He has not already known in eternity past.
What will you impress Him with, O man? Will it be your great strength? Do you have enviable skill, which was gifted to you? Will you put on display your intellect? What will you bring before our God who made the galaxies His nook or who stares past the depths of subatomic particles?
First things first: Fear the LORD! Spend time being enamored with God. Find others who speak and sing His praises. Linger in His word. Meditate on His commands. Be still and know that He is God!