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In the Gates

Fear the Lord

The Worldview of God’s Law: Spiritual Discipline (1)

Spiritual discipline begins in the soul’s attitude toward God.


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…” Deuteronomy 10.12

Knowing the Lord and enjoying the blessings of His promises are first of all a matter of the soul, and, in the soul, a matter of the heart. We cannot expect to enjoy the Covenant God has called us to unless our hearts are as they should be before Him.

But what is the most basic disposition of the heart which God requires? We shall have to look to Him for this, and, when we do, we learn that the Lord requires that we fear Him. This will seem strange to contemporary believers, for all the emphasis these days is on the loving the Lord. And, indeed, we must love Him also, as we shall see.

But the logic of our text suggests that there is a way to learn love for God which follows a particular path, and that not merely as a starting-point for love, but as an ongoing matter of how we relate to the Lord. We cannot love the Lord unless we fear Him. For only when we fear the Lord do we indicate that we truly understand Who He is and who we are before Him.

The fear of the Lord is just that – fear. Reverence, awe, wonder – all the ways we might like to water down the essential meaning of fear, these are included, but not in the first instance. God calls us to fear Him, for, when we do, it signals that we understand that He is holy, sovereign, unswervingly just, and able utterly to destroy those who stand in the way of His holy and righteous and good will. Pharaoh did not fear the Lord, and if Israel was to avoid the plight he endured, they must learn first of all to fear the Lord.

The fear of God does not come naturally to us, for we are naturally inclined, because of indwelling sin, simply to turn away from Him and follow our own chosen course in life, as if no adverse consequences would ensue. God insists that we train our hearts to fear Him, knowing Who He is and what we actually deserve at His hands, and trembling at the thought that, at any moment, He could withdraw His steadfast love from us, and we would cease to exist.

The way to the love of God begins in the fear of God, and the fear of God begins in contemplation of His holiness, justice, and power, and in the knowledge of our own puniness and sin. If we will not fear the Lord, we shall never move on to knowing Him truly.

For a more complete exposition of the promises of God, order a copy of T. M.’s book, I Will Be Your God, from our online store. For more on fearing God, read T. M.’s Crosfigell message, “Love, Fear, Faith.”

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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