I’m not fond of the taste of that word on my lips. When I say it, feel it, think it, or react in it, the implications are hardly positive. For me, fear has everything to do with areas of bondage, insecurity, hopelessness, and a slew of other unappetizing derivatives. Thanks, but no thanks. Fear is something I loathe (although I often frustratingly find myself clinging to it).
Ironically, fear is something I fear.
But… then there’s this little phrase: “the fear of the Lord.” I’ve a feeling that these words will be a treasure trove for me, that perhaps the fear of the Lord is the one essential kind of fear that will set me free from every other plaguing fear.
… the fear of the Lord.
I want to get a handle on it, search out its meaning in the Scriptures, and let it soak in me for a while… I get the impression that doing so will be good for me. Really good.
I’m thinking I’ll do this “fear of the Lord” study several observations at a time. I’d rather linger over it than storm through it in a blaze. The longer it can permeate my mind, the better.
So, first things first: two non-Scripture references to fearing God that catch my attention:
“We fear men so much because we fear God so little.” -William Gurnall
“I shall feel rather nervous meeting a lion,” said Susan.
“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there is anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking they’re either braver than most or just silly.”
“Then He isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “Who said anything about safe?! Of Course He isn’t safe. But He is good. He is the King I tell you.”
-C.S. Lewis “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
(The second quote centers on Aslan, who is a representation of Christ… I love that He is good, but not necessarily “safe” in all the acceptable, tame, pleasant ways that we might subtly demand. A healthy dose of fear is involved. Christ (Aslan) is the King, the good King, the King who freely carries out His excellent will, whether we find it safe or not. The fact of His Kingship alone, no matter how “unsafe” and inscrutable, demands and woos our allegiance.)
Now to the Scriptures… Several references in the Psalms pique my interest with their handling of the fear of God…
“Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” -Psalm 2:11
… So interesting to see this delicate balance between rejoicing and fear. Somehow the two are linked. There is this terrible, awe-striking, gloriously jaw-dropping power of God… and there is also an intimate rejoicing that causes us to tremble. I see it this way: the magnitude of God’s wrath, judgement, and hatred of sin are terrifying to say the least… the very earth shakes before His presence. Yet, His thundering power is paired with the tender invitation of a Father yearning for His beloved child. He longs for us to draw near. Psalm 33:28 reads:
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in His steadfast love.”
Fearing God is paired with hoping in His steadfast love. He remains the jaw-dropping, thunderous, universe-shaking God, while simultaneously pouring out a steadfast love upon His children. One arm rules the nations of the world, and the other gently cradles His beloved ones.
That makes me rejoice with trembling… fearing God’s awe-striking power and justice should never drive us away from Him, but rather to Him.
More thoughts to come…