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The Fear of the Lord

Is it possible that we who are believers treat God and His holy name too lightly? Have we become overly familiar in handling divine realities? We speak so much nowadays about the love of God that one has to ask, have we forgotten about the fear of the Lord? Do we understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Hebrews 10: 31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We sing, “Our God is an Awesome God,” but do we understand awesome as in the modern slang of “Awesome, dude!”—or do we know this word in its original etymological sense of “respect combined with fear and wonder”?

Moses with the Tablets
of the Testimony

Fear is not a popular word in contemporary Christian circles but Moses, the great Jewish prophet and lawgiver, understood the meaning of fear from first-hand experience. That is why he wrote in Psalm 90:11-12,

Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Moses knew the terror of the Lord, and even felt the ground shake beneath his feet in the presence of God! He saw God face to face, as few men ever have, and begged the Lord to grant him “a heart of wisdom.”

Compared to Moses, might we Gentile Christians be too quick to think that we are already wise, we who have never seen God? We freely air our opinions on religious matters, and spout our personal theologies. We too often preface our views with the words, “Well, I think…,” and speak of things we comprehend partially at best! As Leonard Ravenhill wrote of one contemporary Christian theologian in Revival Praying (p. 18), “He has a right to his opinion, but that does not make his opinion right.”

We justifiably criticize the Jews of Jesus’ day for substituting their own thoughts and traditions for the plain sense of the Word of God. Yet do we not do the very same thing with our multiplicity of traditions, theologies, and denominations? In Jesus’ words from Mark 7:6-8,

Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you
hypocrites; as it is written:
“These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
You have let go of the commands of God
and are holding on to the traditions of men.

These are very strong and even offensive words, but we must keep in mind that they were spoken not only as a reproof to the Jews, but also as a warning to Gentile believers. Are our hearts also far from God? In genuine revival, people clap their hands over their mouths in astonishment at just how far off the mark their religious opinions were. Suddenly, God’s Word appears to them to be just as simple, true, and unchangeable as ever it was! God’s people also discover that passages from the Scriptures that once seemed to apply only to other people, actually apply to them as well.