Should We be Afraid of God?
You’re probably aware, that the old testament has a lot to say about fearing God. As a matter of fact, phrases like “the fear of God” or “the fear of the Lord” appear over 80 times in the old testament. The new testament doesn’t say that nearly as often, but it does say it at least another 10 times. And there’s almost countless times that the bible talks about fearing God, without coming right out and using those exact words.
For example; In the new testament, we’re told in Hebrews 10, verse 31; “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And I think the key word there might be the word “fall”. I sure wouldn’t be afraid to be “held” by the hands of the living God. But to “fall” into those hands, well, that’s different.
Just a few verses earlier, in Hebrews 10:27, it talks about “a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” It sounds like there is definitely something to be afraid of when it comes to judgment. But of course that verse is talking about those “who go on sinning willfully, after receiving the knowledge of the truth.” That’s a lot like the verse in James 4:17 which says; “Therefore, to the one knowing to do good, and not doing it, to him it is sin.”
If we have received the knowledge of the truth, whether it’s the truth about what we should be doing, but aren’t doing, or if it’s the truth about what we shouldn’t be doing, but are doing, then the bible says, we ought to be terrified about the outcome of that.
Remember what Jesus said in Mathew 10, verse 28? “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul. But rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul, in hell.” In this verse, fear means afraid.
So are we really supposed to be afraid of God? Is the thought of God supposed to scare us? I thought God was there to comfort us, and to give us rest and relief, and to save us, not to scare us. Isn’t that what Jesus implied in Mathew 11:28, when He said; “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” How can we come to Jesus, if we’re constantly afraid of Him?
When we read in Ecclesiastes 12:13, that the “whole of man”, or in other words, “the whole duty of man”, or “the whole purpose of man” is to “fear God and keep His commandments”, does that mean that God created us simply to be afraid of Him?
How about the verse in Proverbs 9:10; “The beginning of wisdom, is the fear of God. And knowledge of the Holy One, is understanding.” Does being afraid of God lead to us becoming wise?
Sometimes in the bible, the word “fear”, doesn’t mean to be afraid. Sometimes it means something else. Many times in the bible, the word “fear” means “respect and reverence”. In other words, “The beginning of wisdom, is the respect and reverence of God. And knowledge of God, is the beginning of understanding.” Now that makes a lot of sense.
How could you even think about understanding God, without knowledge of God? And how could anyone ever hope to become wise, without respecting, and reverencing, God Himself? It would be futile wouldn’t it? To think that you’re going to become wise, without viewing God and His word as the ultimate authority and truth that it is? To think you’re going understand the almighty God of heaven, without having any knowledge about Him?
The “whole of man”, man’s whole purpose, and what man is all about, is to reverence God. To respect our creator, and to do as He says. God gives us His word, for our own good.
We’re told in Philippians 2:12; “Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.” Do the works of God, so that you can be saved. Jesus said in John 9, verse 4; “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day! Night is coming when no man shall work.” Your bible might say, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me..” As if Jesus were referring to Himself alone. But that is simply not correct. The word is “We”, or “Us” It is stated in the plural sense. WE MUST work the works of God, if we want to be saved. It is necessary, it is imperative!
“Work out your own salvation”, and do it with “fear and trembling”. Do you work out your salvation by being afraid of God? No you do not. You “work out” your salvation, by obeying the words of God pertaining to how to be saved. You do it by fulfilling what Ecclesiastes 12:13 says. “The whole of man, is to fear God, and keep His commandments.”
If you truly respect and reverence God, you will “keep” His commandments. You don’t try to change His commandments, but you “keep” them, exactly as they are given. When you reverence God, and respect God; and when you “keep” His commandments, you obey what those commandments say.
Listen to all of Philippians 2, verse 12; “So then my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.”
“Just as you have always obeyed”, in other words, just as how you obeyed in order to become a Christian, keep on obeying, in order to continue being a Christian. Work out the continuance of your salvation, by continuing to obey God’s word. And do it with “fear and trembling”. Do it with complete reverence and respect for the word, and do it with “trembling”. In other words, be afraid of the consequences of NOT working out your salvation, through obeying God’s word.
We can’t work out our salvation on our own can we? It’s not within us to do that. That’s what the prophet Jeremiah said. “I know O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it within man who walks, to direct his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23.
So if we’re going to work out our salvation, we need to come to God, and learn His word, and obey that word. But we don’t come with fear, we come to God trembling. Hebrews 4, verse 16 tells us how we come to God; “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” We should never be afraid to come to God. We should be afraid if we DON’T come to God.
Hebrews 4, verse 15 tells us; “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
And 1 John 5:14 tells us; “And this is the confidence which we have toward Him, (toward God) that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Anything according to His will. That’s the key isn’t it? According to His will. We need to comply with God’s will, and then we’ll have confidence. And what does complying with God’s will imply? Doesn’t it imply obedience to His will?
When we come to God in prayer, we don’t do it with fear in our hearts, afraid that he won’t hear us. We come to God with the assurance that He WILL hear us, and that he WILL forgive us, and that he WILL grant us what we need.
It says in Job 28:28; “..Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. And to depart from evil, is understanding.”
Psalm 19:9 says; “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.”
Proverbs 19:23 says; “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, not visited by evil.” You can’t sleep very sound if you’re afraid. The “reverence of the Lord” is what leads to life.
And Proverbs 14:27 says; “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” Reverence for God causes life to flow through us. Remember what Jesus said in John 4, verse 14; “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall NEVER thirst; But the water that I shall give him, shall become in him, a WELL of water, springing up to eternal life.”
Proverbs 22:4 tells us; “The reward of humility, and the fear of the Lord, are riches, honor and life.” That’s the reward for our humility of ourselves, and our high respect for God.
And king David wrote, in Psalm 34:11 thru 22;
“Come you children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord. who is the man who desires life, and loves length of days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good. Seek and pursue it!”
“The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are contrite in spirit.”
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all! He keeps all his bones, none of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate righteousness will be held condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”
Those are the teachings of the fear of the Lord. In other words, those are the teachings of reverence for God, and obedience to His word.
And the writer of Proverbs has these words for us, in Proverbs 2, verses 1 thru 6;
“My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you; Make your ear attentive to wisdom; Incline your heart to understanding. For if you cry for discernment, give your voice for understanding. If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures, THEN you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
How could we really add any more, to what it means to “fear” the Lord, besides what those two passages of scripture have already said? to fear God is to reverence HIM, and His words. It’s to depart from evil. it’s to seek and pursue good! It’s to be humble, and contrite in spirit. It’s to cry to the Lord when you need to. It’s to seek wisdom and understanding as if they were hidden treasures, because they are treasures! And when we do those things, “THEN you will discern the fear of the Lord.”
But if we don’t do those things, and if that’s not our attitude, then we need to be afraid. THEN we’ll understand another kind of “fear of the Lord”.
But God didn’t put us here to have that kind of fear. He put us here to reverence and respect Him, and His word, and to have all the blessing that come with that reverence.
And if we reverence our God, then we’ll obey God. And we’ll believe His word, and we’ll repent of our sins, we’ll confess His name, and if we’ve never been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, we’ll do that; And then, we’ll keep on believing, and repenting when necessary, and we’ll keep on working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, but also with boldness and confidence.