fear of God

Unshakeable

Growing up and living in Southern California, I was accustomed to the occurrence of earthquakes. In a strange way, it became somewhat normal if that's really possible.

But you can't anticipate or adequately prepare for an earthquake. They can be predicted to some extent but they hit without immediate warning.

A Dark Mountain

The value and purpose of fear is usually misunderstood. The absence of fear is often touted as a good thing, as a sign of bravery or courage. But those acknowledged for their bravery and courage speak of moving beyond their fear. It wasn't absent, it was overcome.

There are two broad categories of fear—a fear of respect and an anxious fear. An anxious fear produces worry and muddled thinking. A fear of respect heightens awareness, brings alertness and clarity to our thinking.

Anxious fear paralyzes a person whereas a respectful fear tends to motivate. The flight or fight response illustrates this distinction in fear.

When it comes to God, people tend to mix the two together as if it's all the same. This brings confusion and misunderstanding. When both types of fear are dismissed, it's as if God doesn't exist. Both responses are unwise.

Scripture

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness, to gloom, to a storm, to a trumpet’s blast, and to a voice. When your ancestors heard that voice, they begged not to hear it say another word.
They couldn’t obey [bear] the command that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”
The sight was so terrifying that even Moses said he was trembling and afraid.  [vss 18-21]
(Hebrews 12:18-21 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

You have not come to something that you can feel, to a blazing fire, to darkness...

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are the images of the scene described here? What is this leading up to?

  • Who is spoken to and what are they told? Do you understand why?

  • What is Moses' response to all of this and why?

  • How would this apply to believers then and now?

Reflection...

The fear of God is often misunderstood. It is typically viewed in one extreme or another. Either abject anxious fear or a humble respect.

This scene and several other places in the Bible describe the fear of God as an overwhelming awe. A realization of who God is which made Moses tremble, yet also drew him up the mountain to meet with God.

It is at once, a sense of how personal and powerful God truly is.

This reminder of the scene before Moses received the Law on tablets of stone reinforces how different the Old and New Covenants are (Heb 8:8-9).

It is a solemn warning of how important and necessary it is to hold firmly to the truth of the New Covenant (Heb 8:10-12) of grace through our relationship with Jesus as both Lord and Savior.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Are you familiar with this story? If not, it's found in Exodus Chap 19.

  • How does this relate to all that's been written in the book of Hebrews up to this point?

  • How is it related to what's been Jesus and His atoning (redemptive) death upon the cross?

  • Have you experienced the difference between paralyzing and motivating fears, and the fear of God?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Things We Can't Understand

It's said that curiosity killed the cat. Perhaps. But curiosity is a driving force in life and for scientific discoveries.

If we never risked looking beyond the obvious and status quo, there would be no significant progress in what's important to our lives now.

Still, many things remain unknown and beyond our grasp to understand. Could this be intentional on God's part? If so, why?

Scripture

When a sentence against a crime isn’t carried out quickly, people are encouraged to commit crimes. A sinner may commit a hundred crimes and yet live a long life. Still, I know with certainty that it will go well for those who fear God, because they fear him. But it will not go well for the wicked. They will not live any longer. Their lives are like shadows, because they don’t fear God. [vss 11-13]

There is something being done on earth that is pointless. Righteous people suffer for what the wicked do, and wicked people get what the righteous deserve. I say that even this is pointless. So I recommend the enjoyment [of life]. People have nothing better to do under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy themselves. This joy will stay with them while they work hard during their brief lives which God has given them under the sun. [vss 14-15]

When I carefully considered how to study wisdom and how to look at the work that is done on earth (even going without sleep day and night), then I saw everything that God has done. No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun. However hard a person may search for it, he will not find [its meaning]. Even though a wise person claims to know, he is not able to grasp it. [vss 16-17]

(Ecclesiastes 8:11-17 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 8]

Key phrase—No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun

[bctt tweet="No one is able to grasp the work that is done under the sun"]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What seems to be the result when there's no consequence to a crime?

What is said to be the benefit for those who fear God over those who don't?

What is recommended as a break from hard work? Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

What will remain beyond the understanding of the wisest people? Why?

Reflection...

I'm thankful for people who were curious for the benefit of all humanity. Think of the things we use every day that didn't exist fifty years ago. How about 500 years ago?

It's hard to comprehend the rapid advance of modern technology over the past few decades. Most of us can't keep up with it all. Yet with all these advances, humanity has not solved the problem of violence and evil in the world. Theories exist for resolving these problems, but they go unchecked in many parts of the world today.

Some things remain beyond our understanding, like how to cure cancer or HIV/AIDS. Other things seem to defy solutions, such as human evil, violence, and hatred.

Why would God allow this?

If no mystery existed, most everyone would be complacent and apathetic about such things. We would have no wonder or awe. We would see no need for a relationship with God.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

How do you view injustices in the world? Do you see them as humanity's problem, or God's neglect or indifference?

Have you ever suffered wrong or injustice? If so, how did you handle it?

Are you able to disengage from work and the problems of the world to enjoy life?

When you can't understand things in life, are you able to trust these things to God?

From One Extreme to Another

Life is full of ups and downs. Some of these can be extreme, but most are not. I'm thankful for that.

I'm also thankful for the hills and valleys of life. It would get pretty boring and monotonous without these, like an unending treadmill to nowhere.

Still, some people seem to experience triumph to tragedy cycles of mood swings. They seem stuck on a never-ending, emotional rollercoaster. Then there are those who exhibit extreme attitudes and behaviors. All these extremes create tensions that can't be sustained for long.

Life is a lot harder when you go from one extreme to another.

Scripture

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. It is an advantage to everyone who sees the sun. Wisdom protects us just as money protects us, but the advantage of wisdom is that it gives life to those who have it. Consider what God has done! Who can straighten what God has bent? [vss 11-13]

When times are good, be happy. But when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one time as well as the other so that mortals cannot predict their future. I have seen it all in my pointless life: Righteous people die in spite of being righteous. Wicked people go on living in spite of being wicked. [vss 14-15]

Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? Don’t be too wicked, and don’t be a fool. Why should you die before your time is up? It’s good to hold on to the one and not let go of the other, because the one who fears God will be able to avoid both extremes. [vss 16-18]

(Ecclesiastes 7:11-18 GW) [Context– Ecclesiastes 7]

Key phrase—Wisdom is as good as an inheritance.

[bctt tweet="Wisdom is as good as an inheritance."]

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

What are we told about wisdom? Why is it valuable?

In what way do good and bad experiences keep us from predicting the future?

What are we told about the righteous and wicked? Does this seem unfair to you?

What would help us avoid being too virtuous or too wicked? How does this help?

Reflection...

Religion and philosophy are often taken to extremes. In a philosophy class, taking a thought to an extreme point happens a lot. Sometimes this is exercised as if it was an olympic sport.

Religions are filled with radicals—people who take a belief well beyond its original intent. Of course, what's seen as radical or fanatical by one person is acceptable to another. Even Jesus was branded as too radical by the religious leaders of His time on earth.

How can we keep from going to extremes? We need a center point. We need something to ground and guide us. This is the benefit of godly fear.

When we see God for who He is—all-knowing, ever-present, almighty, and eternal—we gain perspective. It keeps us humble and wise (Proverbs 9:10). It will also help keep us from going from one extreme to another.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

Does your life seem like a treadmill or rollercoaster? If so, have you discovered why this is so?

How do you handle the ups and downs of life? How much does it bother you when things don't go as planned?

Does it bother you when some people seem to get away with wrong doing, while others who seem innocent and good suffer?

What's your understanding of the fear of God? Does God fill your heart with awe and wonder?