[Feb 22]--Fear Versus Being Afraid

Psalm 33:16-22

I was planning on talking about the concept of the fear of the Lord yesterday, but in my research I found so much material that I felt I couldn’t even begin to do it justice. As we mentioned yesterday, Moses told the Hebrews that God’s terrifying display was so that “the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” If you read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, you’ll see a lot of references to “the fear of the Lord” or some variation. What does this term mean? Are we supposed to be afraid of God? Is he looking for frightened subjects, people who obey his commands because they’re afraid of punishment?

All you have to do is take a cursory glance at the biblical passages to know that this isn't the case. Of course, there's a major element of obedience to God’s instructions and teachings here. The term is first mentioned in Genesis 20, in which Abraham excused lying to Abimelech because he claimed that “There is surely no fear of God in this place” and he feared for his life. In other words, the fear of the Lord was supposed to cause moral behavior. You can find several other passages in which the concept is linked to obeying God and avoiding sin: Deut 6:2, 31:12, 1 Samuel 12:14, and Job 1:8 among many others.

However, there's an element of intimacy as well. The fear of the Lord is linked in Scripture with loving God, seeking the Lord, rejoicing in God, praising the Lord, hoping in his unfailing love (today’s reading), and seeking his favor. The person who fears the Lord delights in his commands. Eugene Peterson describes it as “a fear that pulls us out of our preoccupation with ourselves, our feelings, or our circumstances into a world of wonder." Ruby Shelly says that it is “Not dread but astonishment. Not terror but reverence. Not shaking-in-your-boots panic, but enraptured-with-love fascination.”

Therefore, there's all the difference in the world between the fear of the Lord and being afraid of God; in fact, you could argue that they’re polar opposites. Being afraid of God would drive you away from him, while the biblical fear of the Lord will drive you towards him. My personal definition would be: reveling in both his immanence and transcendence. That the Lord over the universe, who keeps the planets and suns in their orbits, wants to be as close as the breath on my lips--this should drop me to my knees.

I suggest that you look up Isaiah 57:13 and use it as a springboard for your prayer.

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