Monday, January 11, 2010

What Does the Bible Mean By "Fear the Lord"?

"Guys, I was watching the news the other day...anybody made the mistake of doing that lately?...I think they are required to depress you...somebody got shot...people are getting poisoned...a puppy was burned...the bird flu is coming..." There's so much fear floating around isn't there? Beginning his series, "Know Fear", Johnson Bowie addresses our perceptions of fear.

If it's not Satan, it's our parents or others. They should just start out the news saying they're surprised we made it through another day! We've even named our fears. Johnson looked up a few; acrophobia - fear of heights, arachnophobia - fear of spiders, aeriophobia- fear of flying, ecclesiaphobia- fear of church, dentaphobia- fear of dentists, glossaphobia - fear of speaking in public, turnaphobia - fear of being tickled by feathers. Aren't we all surprised to have made it through Y2K?

A lot of people carry around fear. Fear of death, rejection, harm, bankruptcy or of being single forever. We're on this journey of trying to recover our ancient path, but one of the humongus hurdles for us is fear. Fear is the prison of the heart.  2 Timothy 1:7 talks about how God did not create us to be afraid. We have power, love and a sound mind. God doesn't want us to be afraid, but to be more than a conqueror. We are to live life to the fullest. But so often, fear steals that away from us. We have to know the fears that are in our lives or we are going to be knocked down again and again. We can't always sleep with the TV on to kill the night time noises. We can't always drug, medicate or counsel our fears away. We have to call our fears out to a high noon and then whoop their butts.

For every thought plaguing our mind, God has a Word against it. He has a plan for our lives that is a billion times better than Satan's. More than 60 times in the Bible, God says, "fear not". If someone thinks they have no fear, they are called to help others not to have fear. God wants to drop kick our fears away. BUT....Not all fear is bad. God wants just a little fear in us; the fear of the Lord. In Proverbs, it says that the fear of the Lord is "the beginning of wisdom". Many of us have heard that before, but how many of us really understand it? Why is it that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom? Johnson doesn't presume to answer that for all of us, but he wants to try and share what he feels God is showing him. If fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then shouldn't we spend a lot more time on it? If we don't know the fear of the Lord, then where are we? At square one? If we can step back a little from how we're accustomed to viewing God, then we can see a little better.

Who are we to be in His presence? After God set the Israelites free from Egypt, He led them to Mt. Sinai. He gives Moses the Ten Commandments and then it says God came! This wasn't a stretch limo, God came down with trumpets, lightning and thunder, earthquakes, fire and smoke. The people were terrified, but Moses tells them to "Fear not". But, in the same sentence, Moses tells them to fear God! As the people stood in the distance, Moses approaches the black cloud. But doesn't it seem to be contradictory that he told the people not to fear but to fear the Lord. The word for afraid here is "yah rae" which means "to dread or to be frightened". But the word used for fearing the Lord is "year rah" which means "reverence". So, Moses is saying not to fear because God is testing them so that His reverence would be with them to keep them from sinning. He separates the fear of the Lord from being afraid of God.

The love of God is for us. There's a differernce. Being afraid of God makes us draw back from Him, but fearing God makes us press into Him. Sin cannot stand in His presence. God has two unchangeable attributes. 1 John 4:8 says God is Love, but Hebrews 12:29 says God is a consuming fire. God is love, but God will burn your socks off!! The God of all creation loves us, but He is also an absolutely terrifying inapproachable light. Yet He says that if we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. Philippians 2:12 says we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. He is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. We can't truly love God if we don't fear Him. These are two things that go hand in hand.

Johnson went to the Grand Canyon not expecting much. But when he saw it, it was amazing. It was a little bit like what God might be like. Or maybe God is like what you see in the Hubbell telescope. Every time we invent a new telescope, we see more stars. It keeps going... Revelation 20:11 says God is so terrifingly great, but there is no where for anything to hide from Him. He weighs the oceans in his hands.

Johnson was in Nicaragua last year and he took a twenty minute drive to the top of this volcano. When he went to the top of it, it was amazingly huge. Steam was coming up from the middle and there was a sign that said, "Warning, this volcano can erupt at any time." This sign said to hide under his car if it erupted!! But that's the last thing he would do. He would speed to the bottom! Looking at the volcano, he knew he was in the midst of something that could destroy everything within many miles, but here he was looking into it. He wasn't afraid, but he was respectfully awed. This was probably a glimpse of what it is like to be before God.

St. Augustine wrote many books and one of the first autobiographies. Over 1,000 years ago,he lived and there is this part in his autobiography which describes his death. He was slowly dying in his bed and his relatives were watching him peacefully drift off. Then he sits up and shouts, "I've seen the Lord. All that I have written is but straw." In Revelation, it talks about this massive throne with terrifying seraphins circling and shouting the holiness of God. The entire throne is shaking. Revelation 1 talks about how John is describing a terrifying God, with a sword in his mouth and fire in his eyes; a man holding stars with white hair.
Jesus is the terrifying, but loving son of God. This is the same God where people would not even write His name or speak it in ancient times. In Exodus 3, when Moses saw the burning bush, God asks him to take of his shoes because he is on Holy ground. Then He sends Moses back. Moses asks who he should tell the people is sending him and God says to tell them that "I AM" has sent him. This comes from four letters in Hebrew "YHWH". It's the inefible name.

Orthodox Jews won't even spell "God". They write G-d out of fear of Him. When men would write His name in the Bible translations, they would throw the pen away every time. Exodus 20:7, God says that we should not us the name of God in vain. Profaining the name of God means to make common. It's as simple as saying, "Oh God!" Take "I swear to God" out of our vocabulary! Why do people do this with God or Jesus? Why don't we say, "Oh Buddha?" In Matthew 6:9, Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray and one of the first things He says is, "Hallowed be thy name". This translates to "May your name be kept holy". His name is not holy in many of our minds. We pay money to hear people defame the name of God in movies or to comedy acts! This is the same God with the seraphins crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy". The fear of the Lord is what keeps us from sinning.

Some people think that delayed judgement means there is no judgement. Where is the fear of the Lord? Sometimes, it seems that people think that Jesus came to make God less scary and less intimidating. But what Jesus did was, he became the door to give us access to this amazing God. This is the same God of the Old Testament. Don't fear men, fear God. We're called to realize that God is love and a consuming fire. 1 John 4:16 says God is love and that He can wash away all of our fears. He is for us and not against us. If our sins have been forgiven, then there is no fear of judgement. If there is no fear of judgement, there is no fear of death. If there is no fear in death, what do we have to fear in life? This is the beginning of wisdom. Fear God.

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