"Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom." Psalm 111:10
The Christian church has done its best to try and explain God. We have wrapped Him up in clever little sayings and heartwarming songs. We've used phrases like "Jesus is my homeboy" and "best friend" to describe a relationship with Christ in a way that is appealing and approachable to the world. I am not criticizing these attempts to present God to the world in a way that they can receive Him. All of our human efforts (including my own), regardless of doctrinal correctness or theological caliber, fall embarrassingly short of capturing God in the fullness of who He is.
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom..." 1 Cor. 1:25
However, I do believe that in bringing God to a level that we can understand and accept, we have done new converts (and life-long believers as well) a huge disservice. In our attempts to win people over to Christ, we have reduced the privilege of a relationship with the God of the Universe down to a simple "friendship". A casual buddy. In doing this, we have neglected and ignored one of the most essential traits of a true relationship with God- fear.
"But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love..." Psalm 33:18
You don't often hear people talking about the fear of God when they are witnessing. And that is understandable- how do you attract someone to a being that should be feared? As a young teenager, I remember reading about the fear of the Lord and quickly skimming over those passages and moving on. I didn't want to think about fearing God. I just wanted to think about the God who loved me and wanted to be my friend. I didn't want to think about a God who invokes fear.
But if we are really going to turn our lives over to this God who existed before time began and knows the end from the beginning, we must understand and embrace a holy fear of God. Without it, we are in danger of giving our lives to an "idea" or "version" of God, rather than the I AM Himself. (Which could be argued, is a form of idolatry.)
To understand the meaning of "fear" when it comes to God, we must be willing to look at the complete picture (or as best as we can comprehend it) of who God is. Job chapters 36 and 37 are a stunning picture of God. The visual images cast by the words of the author are hard to comprehend. But in reading them, they evoke a sense of wonder, awe, and reverence for Almighty God.
"At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. " Job 37:1-5
Yes, God loves us. He is a good God. He desires a relationship with us. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. But we cannot accept God for all of His benefits without acknowledging that He is powerful, just, righteous, majestic, and holy. He can create and destroy with His very breath. He can plant and uproot. He requires holiness from His people. And He judges the very hearts of men.
I have a wonderful earthly father. He is a tall man with a loud voice. I know that he loves me, but as a child he was very intimidating. As much as it was his responsibility as a father to love me, it was also his responsibility to correct and discipline me in love. He had rules. Expectations. And I knew that. If I did something I wasn't supposed to, I was afraid. Afraid of the consequences, and afraid of disappointing him. I knew he would never do anything to harm me. I wasn't afraid of him like I was afraid of spiders or the boogey man. I was fearful of him because I respected him as the authority over my life.
Our fear of God should be similar. We should never doubt that God loves us. Love is the motivation for everything God does. But because God loves us, He desires the best for our lives. He created the world and everything in it for His purpose, and our part in that purpose is His best for us. He will guide, discipline, judge and correct in righteousness to bring about that purpose in our lives. He is our authority- and His authority demands respect and reverence. Fear.
True wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. When we allow our view of God to include not only Jesus the friend, but I AM- the Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and King- we experience the fullness of knowing and serving a God who not only walks by our side each day, but gives us the very breath to live that day out in communion with Him. Our fear of God should motivate us to live according to His will. We should read His Word with an urgency to discern and know His expectations of us. And once we know them, we should apply them and honor Him with our lives. His grace covers our failures, and His righteousness covers our shortcomings. But grace and mercy should not be an excuse to undermine God's authority over our lives.
If we truly live in a relationship with God, we will fear Him. There should be a sense of awe when we come into His presence. He isn't just a buddy. He is the Great I AM. Be challenged to think about God in the fullness of who He is. And don't be surprised if a holy fear is the result as He reveals His glory to you. If it's not, we may have missed God entirely.