It has been a long-standing debate in the evangelical circle (and to be frank, within most church walls) whether God is to be feared. John Bevere is a famous "christian author" whose books are more than likely on most bookshelves today. However, with authors like Bevere, they have grossly misinterpreted the fear of God, passing God off as merely one that does not need to be revered, even for the Christian, almost as if He has no wrath or judgment. This post will take a detailed look at the characteristics of the fear of God and walking in holy reverence.
Characteristics of the Fear of God
Roughly ten Hebrew verbs describe fear in the Bible, ranging from mild uneasiness to terror, depending on the context of the situation. Fear is defined as "dread, or terror," however, it holds a duel meaning in reference to God. The dual interpretation of fear based on contextual evidence in regards to God is "awe, worshipful respect." So, the question now to be answered that has become so perversely translated among churches is "is God to be feared?" The answer to this lies in the text of the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament. Most proclaimed "Christians" today believe in a tall tale fantasy that "only God can judge" (while this is true, they do not use it in within correct context, giving God respect, rather challenging Him to act against their sinful lives) or "God isn't to be feared." I was always told as a child that God is on every "beckoning call" where God has become a mere butler catering to people's happiness rather than molding them for eternity (which includes the painful trials of this life).
"When Israel saw the great power which the LORD had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses" (Exodus 14:31 NASB).
"When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear" (Luke 1:12, NIV), in reference to Zechariah seeing an angel of God.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10, NIV).
Society's Perversion of the Characteristics of the Fear of God
Fear has a dual usage. God gave this emotion to humans to keep them from indulging in sin (the fear that is felt when an illegal action is about to be carried out or is carried out and results in running). Fear can also be used by Satan to be a hindrance. The perversion of fear lies in what is being worshiped. For example, if the opinion of men (mankind in general) is idolized above God, then man is feared (feared in the general sense and in worship) more than God and this is sin. Authors today suggest that God does not need to be feared, that He is all loving, and does not need to be approached thoughtfully. Scriptural evidence suggests the contrary, in every sense. In order for God to be loving, He must hate what is evil: sin. In hating sin, He must either judge the unbeliever or discipline the believer when sin is indulged in. Solomon warns in Ecclesiastes to not speak foolishly in God's presence since God is in Heaven and sees every thought of man.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise" (Psalm 111:10, NIV).
"You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!" (Psalm 22:23, NIV). This verse details that knowing God (having a personal relationship with, being truly converted) will lead to a healthy fear of Him.
"The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate" (Proverbs 8:13, ESV).
The counter argument to these verses suggest that God is conflicting since He says not to fear in some instances and to fear in others. The below scriptures are commonly taken out of context.
"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV).
This verse is talking about the freedom in Christ to the Christian. Christ does not give a spirit of confusion or fear. Examples: nightmares, anxiety, fear of man. Through the Holy Spirit's power, the Christian can rest assured that they are not alone through life's perils.
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18, ESV).
Similar to the above scripture passage from 2 Timothy, this passage is outlining sinful fear (the kind that is used by the enemy to cause fear as a hindrance from God's plan or purpose, i.e. being afraid to witness to someone out of fear of rejection).
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).
This passage from Isaiah is mentioning Israel's enemies. God is instructing His people to not be afraid for it is He alone who upholds them. Everything is permitted by His instruction. This is not suggesting to not fear God.
"So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6, ESV)
This scripture is stating that since God is the helper of the believer, what can man do? Where is man's power since God is eternal and commanded all of creation into existence? It is a call to action so to speak for the believer to hold fast in the Lord.
The Beginning of Wisdom: Walking in Holy Reverence
If perfect love casts out fear and fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then it is human folly to believe in anything other. The beginning of wisdom lies in confessing God is lord because God is Lord of all, whether man wants Him to be or not. Simply denying fact doesn't make it any less of a fact. This wouldn't hold up in a court of law and much the same, it does not keep God from being God.
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