As I studied this psalm of David I wrote a question down in my notebook. What does it mean to fear the Lord? This is something I spent a long time struggling with in my life, as I never quite understood how I was supposed to look at God as my loving father and fear Him at the same time. The following verse in this Psalm really jumped out at me.
Psalm 31:19 Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
There are really two sides to the idea of fearing God. The easier to understand side of it comes when we’re unbelievers. An unbeliever should fear God because God is the one who will pass judgment on them at the end of their life. For someone who doesn’t have a relationship with God or any real knowledge of who He is, that’s scary. In that situation, fearing God means knowing that you’re living wrong and if you continue to do it, God’s going to meet you at the end of your life and dispense to you the eternity you deserve.
For the believer, fearing God is a little bit different. I know for a fact that I’m going to heaven, so I don’t fear God’s judgment and sentencing to eternity. So then, what does it mean for me to fear God? As I really studied this and consulted different guides and websites, everything I read lines up with recent teaching I’ve heard on the subject. For the believer, fearing God is knowing who He is. It’s acknowledging His bigness, being in awe of His magnificence and His power, having reverence for all that He is, all that He does, and all that He can do. I think also that fearing God is acknowledging and knowing what He can and will do to unbelievers.
Let’s say your dad is a championship boxer and the best man you’ve ever known, a man of character and strength and morals and right and wrong. If you were out with your dad, and the two of you saw a mugger punch an elderly woman and then start rummaging through her purse, two things would happen. First, you’d know that your dad was going to do something about it. Second, you’d have a certain level of nervous anticipation over the punishment you know your dad can and very possibly will give to this mugger. God is all about right and wrong. He’s a God of justice. Yes, He’s love, and we exist in an ongoing period of His incredible patience and mercy as He draws as many people to salvation as possible. But He’s not only capable of handing out righteous punishment, His very nature demands that He do so. If you don’t have a tiny bit of wide eyed awe over what God’s going to hand out to wicked people who refuse to accept Him, then I don’t think you know enough about hell. Because hell is real, and it’s the worst place in existence. And there’s no exit, it’s not a prison sentence that ends someday, it’s an eternal torment. God doesn’t want to send people there, and in my opinion He actually doesn’t send people there. I think people send themselves by refusing to accept Jesus. Knowing and believing what He can and will do to the wicked is a form of fear of the Lord.
It’s funny that I’m writing about this, because it was only a week or so ago that I was talking about judgment and here I am doing it again. It’s really not my usual cup of tea, but I also know that ignoring it like it doesn’t exist is doing a disservice to God. He is a loving father, He is the Lord of peace, He is my comfort and sanctuary. He’s also the God of right and wrong. The gift of His salvation is so freely given. All you have to give up is stress and fear and shame and confusion and accept who He is and what He did for you. You lose bad and gain good. The God path can look like a set of strict rules and routines from the outside, but once you’re on the inside you come to see them for the incredible comfort and blessing that they are. They aren’t a list of rules to choke the life and fun out of me. They’re guidelines and tenants that keep me happy, keep my soul healthy, keep me productive, keep me joyful, keep me defended against my enemies, keep me equipped for life’s battles.
I’m a little off track here, so let me get back to fear. If I was attacked by a giant monster in a dark forest, I might be afraid. That’s not what the Bible is talking about when it talks about fearing God. I’m in awe of God. He’s a universe maker! I have a reverential respect of God. He’s done so much for us and continues to do so much for us! I have a desire to please God. He’s done so much for me, I want to live in a way that honors Him! These are ways in which I fear God. As believers, we’re not meant to cower in fear from our Lord. If that’s how you’re looking at God, you’ve got something twisted. He is a God with arms wide open, ready to sweep us up into a giant, loving hug. He’s also a universe shaker, a planet spinner, a comet thrower. The fear of the Lord is understanding His magnitude while also accepting His love.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, I come before you today with the idea of judgment and the need for salvation just heavy on my heart. It’s not the fun side of your word, it’s not the side of your word that people always want to hear, but I just know that it’s so wrong to ignore it or pretend like it doesn’t exist. Several times recently you’ve put the idea and truth of impending judgment on my heart, Lord, and I just pray that people can hear about this and read about it and accept it for what it is. You aren’t threatening people, you’re lovingly warning them. You’re calling out to them and reminding them that there is a better way, there is a safe haven, there is an eternal life with an eternal God. Lord, I pray right now that those who don’t know you continue to be drawn to you. Work miracles in lives, move supernaturally, please God, do whatever it takes to draw the lost back to you. And for those who are already with you, I pray right now that you embolden us to not shy away from any aspect of your word. When we refuse to talk about judgment, when we pretend like hell isn’t real, all we’re doing is playing a small role in sending people there. Don’t let me ever again put someone’s soul on the line because I don’t want to face an uncomfortable conversation, because I might have to risk hurting someone’s feelings by asking about their salvation, because I’m going to have to go outside of my comfort zone. I’d lose every friendship I have if it means saving one soul from hell. Give me the boldness I so sorely lack to confront those who don’t know you, to show them lovingly who you are and why they need you, but for me to not shy away or skip over the hard truths about what eternity awaits those who deny you. Grant your people wisdom in these days. Help us always know the line between denying hell and judgment and standing on a street corner screaming about damnation to all who pass. Grant us divine wisdom when it comes to the ways to talk about these difficult aspects that people don’t always hear very well. Let us always show love, as that is what you are, Lord. You aren’t the God of doom and gloom, you’re the God that delivers from doom and gloom. I pray for boldness and wisdom for myself and fellow believers as we share you with those who need you. Let us never forget that bringing others to salvation is the most important thing that exists, let us never put anything ahead of that, Father God. You know my heart. You know my desire to avoid confrontation and difficult conversations and uncomfortable situations. I ask right now that when it comes to sharing you, especially with someone who may not be saved, that you obliterate those things in me. There’s no higher purpose than helping bring the lost to you, God. Please never let us forget that truth. I pray all of this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.
The blog is on something of an odd schedule right now. I’ll be doing four posts this week closing out my look at the first 35 Psalms. Then, the blog will go dark for two weeks as I’ll be offline for the first two weeks of January. I’ll be doing tons of Bible studying and Bible writing during that time though, so I’m certain that when things resume in mid-January there’s going to be a lot of great blog posts to share.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that everyone is safe and sound. Here in Texas we’ve had some nasty, crazy weather so if you’re a local friend I pray that you and your loved ones are safe right now. I hope everyone is getting back into the swing of regular life now that the holiday season is coming to a close. Remember that God is with you and that He loves you deeply and dearly.