Today: Proverbs 14:25-35; Acts 8:4-40; 2 Samuel 20 & 21
Proverbs 14 – Fear of the LORD
“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:26-27
I recently had an interested conversation with a man of faith about the “fear of the LORD.” I’ve been meditating on it ever since. He said that people today try to explain away this bothersome Old Testament phrase… they argue that it means “to have awe and respect for God” rather than to be scared (like you would feel if you encountered something dangerous like a bear in the woods or someone who wanted to hurt you). I have made this very same argument in this very blog on multiple occasions…
But no, he said, it really does mean FEAR, terrified, heart racing, pee in your pants FEAR (okay I added the “pee in your pants” part; the gentleman I was speaking to was way too polite to say that).
In the Old Testament, every time someone encountered God, they were terrified. They usually fell on their face, quaking in horror. I think he’s right. “Fear of the LORD” really means FEAR OF THE LORD!
Yes, God loves us. Yes, God sent His son to save us. Yes, God forgives us through the blood sacrifice of Jesus. Yes, God desires to have an intimate relationship with us. ALL of these things are TRUE.
But God is also the Almighty, All Powerful Creator of the Universe. He is the absolutely righteous judge who requires perfection, who could send us all to the eternal hell that we sinners deserve. He is a God who says that “vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” (Hebrews 10:30) Have no doubt, “it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
God is BOTH of these things simultaneously. When we focus only on the happy, love, kum ba yah side of God and discount the equally true wrathful judge side, we get a distorted view of God. He IS our loving father… the one who can kill us with His righteous pinky. We should beware of getting too chummy with Him without also understanding the awe, respect, and TERROR that His true character should invoke in us.
God is complicated, way more intricate than our dumb human brains could ever really comprehend. But I want to try to get as close to Him as my dumb human self can possibly get. I dive into the love and forgiveness side of God with fervor. His companionship gives me deep comfort and joy.
But the terrible righteous judge side is JUST AS IMPORTANT. “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence.” The fact that He is a terrifying omnipotent, all powerful God actually makes His loving forgiveness side even MORE remarkable.
The earliest Christian church was quite amazing. The stories in Acts should give us such inspiration. The same Holy Spirit that filled, guided, and empowered the disciples fills us as well.
In Acts 8, we see another disciple completely transformed by the Holy Spirit. Philip had not been one of Jesus’ rockstar apostles. We hardly hear about him at all until Acts. But Philip really shines in Acts 8. He brought the gospel to all of Samaria, then to Ethiopia (through the Ethiopian eunuch he converted and baptized on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza), and many other cities all the way to Caesarea. The Holy Spirit worked in such miraculous ways through Philip, setting up divine appointments, giving him detailed directions, and whisking him around to different places like a holy transporter.
Immediately pride and greed began to insert themselves into the early Church when Simon the sorcerer attempted to to purchase the apostle’s power. Every time God begins to move, in every season of revival, Simon the sorcerers will inevitably appear on the scene to get some of the action for themselves. Ever since the earliest church, people have tried to use the name of Christ for personal gain. Be careful who you follow. And examine your own hearts. Let Peter’s response to Simon the sorcerer be a lesson to us all:
“Your money perish with you, because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Acts 8:20-23