Fearing the Lord Wrongly

June 21, 2021 at 12:43 PM 3 comments

This past Sunday I taught an adult Sunday school class and the subject was “The Missing Key.” I deal with aspects of the fear of the Lord and the video/audio can be watched/heard at this link: The Missing Key (and includes the written transcript).

Wrong Fear
It is extremely enlightening and interesting to have begun to understand the concept of fearing the Lord. A grasp of it helps shed light on numerous passages of Scripture, that seemed somewhat confusing, thereby clarifying them. From Exodus where we read about the Israelites encounter with God at Mt. Sinai (and them no longer wanting to hear God because the prospect was too fearful), to the slothful servant of the New Testament who hid his talents in the earth due to him thinking his master was a hard man. It’s becoming very clear and I’m thankful to God for it!

When I was young, I was afraid of both my parents, my dad especially. I realize now it was because of that inordinate fear, I never really felt close to my father. There were times I sensed his favor on me, but those times were short lived. Much of the time, my father was moody and broody. His temper was not that far underneath the surface and it did not take much to set him off. My fear of him, though it kept me on the correct path most of the time, never allowed me to approach him knowing he truly loved me. I’m not complaining. I’m not going “woe is me.” It is what it is and because of that fear, even when he was in the hospital dying of stomach cancer at 69 and I was married and had two young children, I still recall shaking in my boots as we went to the hospital to visit him. What would his reaction to me be? Would he be angry?

As we went into his room, he had just come out of surgery. We had brought him some clothes that we bought on the way so that he wouldn’t have to hang out in a hospital gown while he recovered. We were standing by the side of his bed as he came out of sedation. He looked up and saw that we were there (it had been a number of months since we had talked or seen one another and our parting had not been on the best of terms). As his eyes focused on me, he began crying like a baby! It was unnerving and I really did not understand his reaction until much later.

I acted like he wasn’t crying and just started telling him about the clothing we brought him, etc., and he continued bawling loudly. Eventually, he calmed down. But the strangest thing was that I was still scared of my father! It was really weird.

We visited him over the next few weeks in the hospital. He had experienced a stroke so his speech was pretty much gone. The surgeon was fairly confident he had gotten all of the cancer and his chances of surviving were good. He actually began improving and he seemed more like his old self in spite of his inability to talk. He understood things very well, but simply could not voice anything.

However, over the next week or two he began to decline. We lived three hours away and had to get back home. My wife and I were both public school teachers and we had subs covering our classes but we needed to get back. A day or so later, we returned home. My mom kept a vigil at my dad’s bedside and kept me informed.

One morning, Mom called to tell me that my dad had passed. I was sorry I had not been there but the hospital did me a special favor and after returning to the hospital, allowed me to see his body in the cooler one more time. It was an odd experience.

My fear of my father had never not been anything but being afraid of him. My relationship with dad never matured. He was always a bit scary and had a very strong personality. It tended to make its presence known. I really wish I could have known my dad better and watch our relationship grow but it never did. I was too afraid of him even as a young man with my own wife and children. It’s still weird to think about.

But I often consider the fact that this is what many Christians do where God is concerned. There are at least two ways that we can have the wrong fear of God. Either we simply fear God based on our perceptions of Him, which tend not to be based on Scripture, or we do not fear Him properly, from a biblical perspective. There are gradations in-between those two extremes, but I’d like to simply talk about the one extreme where we have an inordinate fear of God that keeps us away from Him.

Mt. Sinai
Mt. Sinai is a defining moment for the nation of Israel. They had been led out of Egypt by Moses and Aaron after God pouring out ten judgments against that nation. The final straw for Pharaoh was the death of his firstborn son. Finally, Pharaoh, out of grief, realized what he was up against and allowed all the Hebrews to leave. Before they left, they actually ended up taking spoils from the Egyptians, who gave the Hebrews gold, jewels, and other things to leave their presence.

We know the story. Shortly after all the Hebrews left, Pharaoh realized that his workforce had left for the Promised Land so he went after them. This proved to be his ultimate undoing at the crossing of the sea when the Israelites went across on dry ground and the waters flowed back over the same area when the Egyptians tried to cross.

Miracle after miracle was performed by God to prove to the Israelites that they were favored by God, not for themselves but because God had chosen to create and use them for His redemptive purposes. It led them to the foot of Mt. Sinai where God presented Himself in peals of thunder, dark smoke and earthquake. He also provided Moses with what became known as the Law of Moses. It was also during this time that God warned ahead of time He would speak to the Israelites, not just to Moses. He also warned (through Moses), that the people would need to be sanctified (separated), from the mountain. They could not step on even the beginning part of the mountain nor could any animal. Death would be the immediate result. Only Moses was allowed.

What is fascinating is the way the Israelites reacted when they first heard God’s thundering voice. They were beside themselves in fear. They could not handle hearing directly from God, so they actually went to Moses and asked him to ask God not to speak to them directly, but only to Moses.

We read about this in Exodus 19-20. At first, God warns Moses that the people should be careful. They should sanctify themselves (separate from all sin and dedicate themselves to hearing from God). As we read the text, we sense a good deal of tension, but it is a good tension because the people of Israel were going to hear from God and they should’ve been glad. At the same time, they also should have feared God in the good sense of the word (fearing offending God).

Instead, as we read in Exodus 20, the people were actually afraid enough of God that they went to Moses and said, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (v 19). It was good that their fear heightened their senses and made them think about God. The problem is that they feared God wrongly. While they were cognizant of their sin and depravity compared to God (a good thing), they failed to comprehend His love for them as seen in His willingness to meet with them and teach them.

Exodus 20:18 tells us, “Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.

This would alarm anyone, wouldn’t it? Yet, God was simply showing Israel His power and might. They rightly trembled at this show of power and force, but they failed to allow it to cause them to draw closer to God.

Verses 20-21 tells us, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was’.

I’m quite sure their hearts were in their throats even though they saw Moses approach the area (thick darkness) where God was “standing.” They should have seen that nothing bad happened to Moses, but they didn’t.

Moses even warned them saying “Do not fear.” That’s interesting, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to fear the Lord? Absolutely, but Moses was warning them to not indulge in the ungodly fear that was overwhelming them at that moment. In other words, yes, God is every bit as powerful as the thunderings, lighning flashes, sounds of the trumpet and smoke that they witnessed. Those things were simply symbols of God’s power. They were right to fear God because of His power.

However, the Israelites made a mistake in thinking that God’s power and might was all that He was when in fact, God has facets that include love, compassion, justice and forgiveness. These they could not see because of their spiritual blindness.

The majesty, power and might of God was overwhelming to the Israelites and they did not want to hear from God again. Instead, they wanted God to speak only to Moses and let Moses tell them what God said.

This is the wrong way to approach God. It is actually very similar to the parable of the talents, as told by Jesus (Matthew 25:14-30). Focusing on the third servant who hid his money in the ground, we see that he essentially feared his master. The servant feared his master because he really had no clue as to the real master he served. To the servant, his master was petulant, unwavering, and even someone who tended toward cheating others (sowing where he had not sown). This wrong picture of the master created an inaccurate picture that caused the servant to simply be afraid of doing anything wrong where the master was concerned. Who knows how that error was developed but it’s clear that the unwise servant built his reaction to his master on this error.

An inordinate fear of God that skews the biblically-revealed understanding of who God is, is ungodly. We often spend too much time being afraid of God, which keeps us from drawing close to Him.

It is one thing to have an accurate picture of ourselves and because of our sinful nature, can realistically say that we are “vile” as we stand before God. Of course, knowing that the “righteousness” we have as Christians exists only because it has been imputed to us through the New Birth proves that we, in ourselves, are vile. That will not change until after this life when God removes our sinful nature.

But understanding that we are “vile” should still – if accurately seen within – allow us to draw close to God as Job did in chapters 40-42. We too often have a very high opinion of ourselves and that needs to change. Our fear of God should be relegated to a true, growing, profound fear of ever offending Him in our thoughts, words, or actions.

Next, we’ll talk about not having any real fear of God and the dangers there!

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Demonic, devil worship, eternity, israel, Judaism, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

Harsh Love Dearth of Discernment?

3 Comments

  • 1. Jen b  |  June 22, 2021 at 9:33 AM

    This was a wonderful teaching, Fred. Thank you for sharing your own personal account of your relationship with your Father. I don’t mean to get psychological, but the truth is our earthly father’s represent God to us as very young people, do they not? Because they are imperfect sinful men, they often err in ways that we carry on into our perception of our Heavenly Father. It seems to take years of abiding in Christ Jesus, in order for us to grow in understanding all the facets of our Lord’s character.

    The way the Israelites were afraid of God is something that can happen today, and is almost an insult to Him. When I reflect on how good He has been to me, and how far He has brought me from when He found me, I am ashamed that I fall into fear of the world and man…and further see how I am distorting His character. That is the whole point of us being here is it not? To be living testimonies of His goodness and mercy as well as to grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Him, which should move us to a proper fear.

    May you and your wife be blessed greatly today in the knowledge and Grace of Him.

    Like

    • 2. modres  |  June 22, 2021 at 9:35 AM

      Thank you, Jen. I sometimes think we don’t deserve dogs. More importantly, we do not deserve God’s love and forgiveness.

      Like


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