Have you noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fear of the Lord these days? There was a time in our nation that even those who didn’t serve the Lord at least had a degree of respect for Him. Today people can kill babies and then talk casually about selling them while eating a salad. Even in the church, people will trash a pastor without thinking twice about it.
Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so what does it really mean to fear the Lord?
Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor falsehood but I love your law. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, O LORD, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you (NIV).
Psalm 119 is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, with every eight verses beginning with the subsequent letter. The above verses each begin with the letter shin, whose ancient pictograph resembles two front teeth or two flames of fire, both which carry the meaning of “consuming.”
Shin is the first letter of the words Shaddai (Almighty), Shabbat (Sabbath), shalom (peace), and shekinah (glory). This letter represents the awesome and consuming power of the almighty presence of God.
For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Look back at the Psalmist’s understanding of God. His heart trembles at God’s Word, but he knows that peace comes to those who love God and His laws. The fear of the Lord is the reverence and awe with which we consider Almighty God. He is all-loving, but He is also all-powerful. He is equally a God of compassion and a God of judgment. He loves His people, but He hates sin, and so should we.
It seems that in our attempt to draw people to the God of mercy and grace, we have created a politically correct god of our own making who is without judgment and wrath. I’m sorry, but our Lord does not need to be politically correct. He is spiritually correct and perfect in all of His ways.
We fear God, not because we are afraid of Him, for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and His love is perfect. But we should fear being separated from Him by our own sin. That is the reverent fear of God that should drive us to our knees.
I love Jesus more than anything in this world, and I know that He loves me. He is jealous for me. He desires to know me. But I also fear and respect Him to the point that I want to please Him in all I say and do. I’m reminded of the prophet Isaiah in chapter six when he went into the temple and saw the Lord surrounded by seraphs, who were flying and calling out:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3).
The very presence of God caused the temple to shake and be filled with smoke, and Isaiah was convicted of his sin and the sin of his people. In the presence of holy God, Isaiah repented, worshiped, and was ready to go and do anything the Lord called him to do. That is the response each of us should have in God’s presence.
Our churches should be filled with believers who know and understand the fear of God, who fall to our knees in His presence, and who are willing to say, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”
I’m not talking about a religious spirit that reveres tradition and church politics above Jesus. I’m not talking about a Pharisaical spirit that values rules over relationships. I’m simply referring to a holy reverence and fear of the Almighty that will bring us to our knees in worship and service and love.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the Spirit that I believe will draw others to Christ.
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth–to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water” (Revelation 14:6-7).
Fear God and give Him glory. That’s true wisdom.