Sunday, October 7, 2012

What Does it Mean to "Fear God?"

Brooke Owen age 4
Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. ~Psalm 34:11
Recently, I heard some parents arguing over the discipline of their children, when one yelled, "Are you trying to put the fear of God in them?!"  It seems this phrase has been used more as a chastisement to some bewildered parent who is trying to scold his or her child.  Given the fact that some parents are abusive and yell loudly in public places, it is understandable that one might think they are parenting by putting fear in their children.  The 'fear' often seen with this type of (incorrect) parenting is one of bullying.  I have yelled at my children, and in public places, too.  Yelling may cause enough fear for them to stop misbehaving for the moment, but does it reach their hearts and point them to the cross?  How are we to teach a wholesome fear of God, if by our actions, we are teaching them to fear us?   Do we really see this type of fear as the same 'fear of God?'     
What does the world teach us about fear?  It sells 'fear' by the billions during the second largest commercial holiday of the year and with horror movies that gross in the millions. Are we to have this same kind of fear, with screams of loud piercing sounds; one of trembling and fright, of our God in heaven?  The Bible says, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  Does God want to bully us into keeping His commandments?  Does he want to scare us so that we flee and respond with loud shrieks?  If not, what does it mean to 'fear God?'
To fear God means that we are to be in awe and recognize His majesty and sovereignty. We are to honor, respect, revere, worship, obey, trust and serve Him.  If we desire to please our Father in heaven, then we will have a wholesome dread of displeasing Him; a fear that demonstrates our recognition of Him as Creator of all; the One who has the power to create and the power to destroy.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear Him.  ~Psalm 103:11
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. ~Psalm 103:13
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children.  ~Psalm 103:17
He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. ~Proverbs 14:26
 The fear of God offers compassion and love. It provides a secure fortress and a refuge. The fear of God brings peace, "health to your body and nourishment to your bones!" (Proverbs 3:8)  I doubt the children, who have a bully for a parent, feel this kind of love and compassion. I doubt they feel their home is secure and a safe refuge. More than likely, children feel unloved and insecure because of an ungodly fear.  God is not a bully, nor is He a spooky being, dressed in a scary costume trying to induce fear with high-pitched shrills, causing little children to run and hide.
The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?  ~Psalm 27:1
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  ~Matthew 19:14   
Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.  The Lord Almighty is the One you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear.  ~Isaiah 8:12,13
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the Lord is kept safe.  ~Proverbs 29:25
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  ~Psalm 2:11
As a child, I hardly rejoiced with trembling when I toured a haunted house in the month of October.  I trembled, but it was with a desire to run away and hide from that scary thing (man-made) that jumped out at me!  God wouldn't want us to run and hide.  He doesn't want us to fear what the world fears.  He wants us, in humility to recognize who we are.  We are man, His creation, and He is God, Creator of all!  Whom shall I fear? Man? Objects created by man? Or, the one who rebelled and was kicked out of heaven? No, we are to fear God; the Alpha and Omega and Creator of all.
Isaiah is an example of one who understood the fear of God.  When he came into the presence of the Lord, "seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple," Isaiah was undone.  Isaiah, who was surely trembling with fear and awe, shouts, "Woe to me!" I am ruined (undone!) For I am a man of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."  Isaiah was very aware of who he was before God (a sinner) and he was very aware of Who was before him; the Lord Almighty!  (Isaiah 6)  Throughout the Bible, God's children have fallen on their faces when in the presence of the Lord.  I don't think I could bury my face in the dirt enough. It is the recognition of how mighty and powerful and amazing God is, and how unworthy and small I am!  And yet, as small as I am, He loves me so much, He gave His son to die for me!  How could I do anything else but fear the One who made me and died on a cross for me?  And yet, before writing this, I didn't really understand what it meant to 'fear God.'
When we have a high view of man, of ourselves, and of our culture, we have a subsequent low view of God and His word.  Instead of being made in God's image, we make Him fit into our (created) image; an image of a lesser god; one who is less powerful, less frightening, and less angry.  This seems to make us feel better, because who wants to think about a God who can wipe out an entire nation by the spoken words of His mouth?

We have a God with an unbelievable and mighty power.  My son is building a fort, and it is time-consuming.  When 'man' builds anything, it takes a long time.  God speaks and everything comes into existence.  He created life, light, small molecules, the heavens and the whole earth and everything in it; everything by the words of His mouth.  He is an enormous God!  And man is desperate without Him.

God tells us to fear him and He will offer you love and compassion, righteousness and safety; to you and to "your children's children."  He promises that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  God says, "Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (Deuteronomy 5:29)  To fear God is to think lowly of ourselves, and to think highly of Him.  Run to Him, not away, and there you will find shelter, peace, love and compassion from a God, who for as big as He is, loves little you!

Questions for my children:
1. What are you afraid of?
2. What does it mean to 'fear God?'
3.  Is God a bully?  Is He scary?
4.  Has mom or dad every bullied you into obeying?  How did it make you feel?  Does God want us to parent this way?  Does God want you to fear Him that way?
5.  What are the attributes of God?  In other words, who is He?  (Psalms is a great place to start)
6.  What are some examples in the Bible that show of His mighty creations?
7. What are some stories in the Bible that demonstrate His power to destroy? (Noah and the flood may be a familiar one to discuss with young children)
8.  Does God destroy because He is mean, or do these stories show a righteous, patient, merciful and loving God who cannot tolerate sin?
9.  Based on all you have learned, whom will you fear and why?
10.  Aren't you glad that our God is righteous and just and that in Him, we have hope, salvation, and eternal life?

Blessings to you on this 'Life Lessons' Sunday!

Sources: NIV Bible;;  Pastor Mark Driscoll
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Anonymous said...

This is terrific. Chock full of truth and wisdom. Great post!

Just a little something from Judy said...

Wow! What a powerfully shared post! You stated so beautifully, the awesome and sovereign God that we serve. I think this is one of the best pieces I have seen on defining the "fear" of God, especially in reference to our little ones. Well done!

I always enjoy my visits here.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful study! I will reread it many times and pass it on to friends. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Great visit today.

Thank yu.

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