Do me a favor and please read Psalm 111.
Now that you’ve read Psalm 111 please go ahead and read Proverbs 1:7. The reason why we read the Proverbs text is because this psalm is that type of declaration. To know the Lord IS to fear him. God is great while we are not. God is mighty and strong while we are weak and frail. God is forever while we will all come to an end. Is this to be feared in God? Yes…but no. Yes in that he can snuff us out with a thought but No because those who love God and obey him have nothing to fear. Because just as God is above all and in all, just as God is THE only thing that is above all else…the no comes to us as a reminder that his love also knows no bounds and his grace endures forever.
I’ve been staring at this text for quite some time – longer than normally and I’m stuck because I just cannot comprehend “fear” of God. I’ve heard it my whole life, read it in countless texts, but how can you fear someone you love so much? How can you fear a God who died for you? How can you fear a God who fills you with his Spirit and encourages, guides, supports, dwells in, challenges, sends, comforts, and loves? Every time I think of what love looks like and feels like its endpoint is God. So how can I fear that in which is everything to me? Well… the word “fear” is complicated for us.
I remember when I was a kid that when I got hurt and scraped a knee the first thing I would do (after crying) is go to a parent. I knew with them there would be love and encouraging words as well as a person who could stop the bleeding and address the wound. And inevitably, after those soothing words of comfort and to get me to stop crying, my Mom would take me to the bathroom sink, rinse off the wound…and then the torture duo would appear. Hydrogen Peroxide…a wad of TP…and a washcloth. The wound had to be disinfected (which always stung) and then scrubbed (which hurt even worse). Not padded…not cleaned around it…but scrubbed. The dirt, the rocks and anything else needed to be removed so infection wouldn’t set in and healing could begin.
I think fear and love for the believer is like that. We fear that which is painful and yet we know it’s the best thing for us. We know what God expects and the fear we have is that we don’t measure up to those standards. We have fear in how God is feeling about our failed love, our harsh words, our faulty grace, and our inability to simply be salt of the earth and hope for many. So when we understand those things I think we can begin to feel what the psalmist declares and all the plethora of texts (like the Proverbs text mentioned as well as Psalm 33:8 and Prov 14:26-27).
We fear that which is scary…which is rightly so but let us not fail to understand and remember that fear is also knowledge. To “fear” God is to know God. How would you believe in God, know God, or understand his works if you didn’t fear him? Because if you don’t know God then you don’t know that you SHOULD fear him. And if you don’t have a fear of God then you obviously don’t know him. It’s circular…and possibly confusing, but it’s the truth.
Everything we are is based off of God’s love and imparting wisdom and truth into our lives. We love and serve others not only because of his love and service to us but because he reveals and bestows those things upon us…and he does that because we know him, worship him, adore him, and believe in him. So what happens when I break a law of his? What happens if I commit adultery, murder my neighbor, or abuse my wife? In any situation of sin we are allowing Satan and his work to become prevalent and cloud our relationship with God. In those situations we are not allowing the knowledge of God to come through. We are focused on sin instead of Him and when we focus on sin instead of God we fail to receive any knowledge FROM HIM to be passed through. Fearing the Lord allows knowledge and grace from God to pass through.
I’ll apologize now for this really interesting, possibly incorrect, analogy…but it makes sense in MY head (as if that helps you at all). Think of a drain and faucet. If the drain is not taken care of and maintained, if we don’t watch what goes down it and how much of it does (outside of water), if we’re not being aware of what comes in then it can get clogged and fail to allow to function and allow much water from the faucet through. We need Drano (or a “snake” works) to be poured down and allowed to unclog the clog. Fear of the Lord is like that (can we call it “Drano of the Lord?” – probably not). In order to receive from God (from the faucet) there has to be a clean path into our minds and heart (through the drain) and that doesn’t happen when we’re living in so much sin that that we are refusing to know and follow God (clogged drain). And receiving the goodness of God cannot happen when you’re so clogged that you cannot receive the water he gives. So enter Drano…or fear…or something like that that allows you to take all in who He is.
So do you fear the Lord? Do you fear the power and expectations he has and our failures to do them? Do you fear just how beautiful his grace and love is and how overpowering they are to our sins? Do you fear his providing of his covenant (vs 5) that was poured out for you in Christ? Well, you can’t “fear” them if you don’t know them, and you can’t “know” them if you do not fear him in all its many ways. So fear away!