He ended his sermon with these words: “You know the Lord can come tonight before you get back through the darkness to your cabin in the woods. Are you prepared to meet him?”
These words were enough to scare a little naïve thirteen-year-old into walking down the aisle of a camp chapel and agreeing to give her life to Christ. Not only did she have a fear that she would be among the few who were left behind in a camp in the dark hills of Pennsylvania, far away from New York City, but also a fear of being on the wrong side of divine power. She was scared God.
I know we don’t like to think of Jesus as someone to be afraid of, but consider His words: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). There is only one person who can destroy both soul and body, and that is God Himself.
A study of the Bible shows that there is more to God than just someone who has the capacity to punish; His very presence on the earth in the person of Jesus Christ is evidence of another facet of God, which is that He is loving and kind. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish buy have everlasting life (John 3:16 KJV).
Ever since the Garden of Eden, God has been reminding people just how much He does love them. After Adam and Eve did exactly what He told them not to do, in love, He fixed their nakedness. After the children of Israel disobeyed Him again and again in the wilderness, He still led them to the promise land. And let’s not forget, when we were still enemies of God, Christ died for us (Romans 5:10).
Fearing God means more than just being afraid of His power and judgment. One fears God or stands in awe/amazement at His love.
Psalms 130:4 captures this idea quite well: “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore, you are feared.” David is saying, I am in fear of you because you have extended forgiveness to me, something I did not deserve.
This is the kind of fear that astronauts John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin experienced when they walked on the moon in 1969. One of their first acts was to take out a Bible, cup, bread, and wine, and conduct communion. John Glen is credited with saying, “To look out at this kind creation and not believe in God is to me impossible.” These words reflect an awe or fear of God.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to go on a cruise to the Bahamas. The most memorable moment was when I woke up at the crack of dawn and peeked out the window to see the sun creeping toward the horizon. I viewed the most stunning scene of beauty and power: a darkened, milky, flat ocean, separated from a stunning and bluing sky by a band of burnt orange, gold, and yellow. I was in awe. As Rev Keller, a minister, would say, a scene such as this causes one to experience “a wonder-filled, bold humility.” Humankind against the massive spectacle of color renders us rather insignificant and unworthy of the beautiful spectacle of love. We stand awestruck. We stand in the fear of God.
Our fear of God has two meanings: being afraid and being in awe, the former because of His might, and the latter because of His love.
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