Friday, 31 October 2014

Fear God

How do we approach the notion of fearing God? Does it line up with the experience of those in the Bible who encountered God? Thanks to Francis Chan's 'Basic' series it's something we've discussed in our young adults group recently, and what I am preaching on this Sunday.

Now I know the Greek word for fear, 'φοβέω', is also synonymous with respect and is used in both contexts in Scripture... however, do we too quickly just read 'fear' as 'respect' because the idea of respecting God is much easier to comprehend than the idea of fearing Him.

Chan, in his video, speaks about how what he heard about the fear of God just didn't seem to line up with the actual experience of people in Scripture who were said to be fearing God.  In Scripture the fear looks like real fear... in fact, a terrified realisation that God is so awesome and holy that they are completely out of their depth and in danger of their lives when they are in His presence.
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips,
~Isaiah 6:4-5
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double- edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
~Revelation 1:12-17a
As soon as people see God, they fear Him.  Isaiah states "I am ruined", I am dead; done for; hopelessly situated before the perfect God as a sinful and ruined human.  John's reaction is even more stark... on seeing Jesus John drops... just drops, like a dead man.  The sight of the resurrected Jesus sitting in authority is simply too much, he is so fearful John simply cannot bear it.

That's the real reaction people have when they come before the throne of God - that goes so much beyond just explaining away fear as respect doesn't it??

In each case God, on the person's realisation of their fear, extends grace, mercy and peace in some way - but He only offers that after each person realises their fear.  That's where I wonder if we glaze over it in our current church culture.  We present a loving God, a kind Father, dear brother, friend who wants a personal relationship... and all those things are true - but it should all start with a healthy fear of the powerfulness of God and His supreme might over us.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
~Psalm 111:10
We begin with fear, because the truth of the matter is when we see God we will fear Him.  It's the only natural response of a creation before the might of their Creator. But that is just the beginning, but for a true understanding of who God is we need to start at that beginning.

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