“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD your God...”
- Deuteronomy 10.12, 14
It is when full of charity that one is holy. He walks in charity. Every evil fears him; every good loves him. He has honour upon earth; he has glory in heaven. Love God: everyone will love you. Fear God: everyone will fear you.
- Colman mac Beógnai, Aipgitir Chrábaid, Irish, 7th century
We don’t hear much about the fear of God these days. People fear many things, it seems: terrorists, the faltering economy, losing their jobs, being found out in some sin or shortcoming. But I don’t see much evidence of the fear of God.
What is the fear of God, anyway? Some will say it means to reverence Him, to be in awe of Him and to admire Him in a worshipful manner.
OK, that’s true as far as it goes. But we should fear God for Who He is, and if we really knew Who He is, believe me, we would fear Him.
As evidence of the fact that we don’t really know God as He is, consider the still-popular praise song, “El Shaddai.” What a sweet, lilting, soothing melody in a song professing love for God.
But which God? Why, El Shaddai, of course. “Shaddai” comes from the Hebrew verb that means “to ruin or destroy utterly.” The God we “honor” with this trivial ditty is the God Who is capable of dispensing utter ruin and complete destruction on all who, by their unyieldingly sinful ways, deserve every bit of wrath He has to pour out.
Fear God Who could ruin you in so many ways it could make your head swim. Fear Him so that you tremble in His presence, hoping against hope that His grace is as real as His wrath, His comfort as strong as His clout, and His mercy as close as His menacing mien.
And when, in the presence of God, you experience that kind of fear, then relax. Because the One Who so bears down on you with the full weight of His wrathful glory, loves you, just as you are, in spite of all you are, for His own sake, and not for yours. He loves you because it brings Him great glory to love you, who, like me, deserve nothing but His wrath.
So in the crush of the fear of God, love Him, love Him with all your might. When you fear and love Him like that, you’ll walk in His commandments full of gratitude and joy – and believe me, others will notice.
Psalm 22.23 (Darwall: “Rejoice, the Lord is King”)
All you who fear the Lord, now praise His holy Name!
You children of His glorious Word, declare His fame!
We stand in awe of our eternal God, and on His mercy call.
Teach me to fear You, Lord, or else I will never learn to love You.