The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him,
in those that hope in his mercy. Psalm 147:11
The question has arisen about the meaning of the term fearing God. Some propose that the word means that we need to actually be terrified of God. If that were true, how could the person who is terrified hope in the Lord? In fact, how could he actually exercise love towards God? The actions perceived as love would only be fear tactics intended to avoid the fear of God’s actions toward him.
Many define fear as reverence. For me, the term reverence was difficult to understand. I finally figured it out through life circumstances. I fear fire, but I am not afraid of it. I don’t cower in terror of fire when I am exposed to it. I understand what can occur if I am not careful and I adjust my actions to its presence.
When I was an electrician, I feared electricity. I worked with it everyday and at the same time had a fear of it. Get hit by a few thousand volts and you will have the same attitude towards it. I knew what electricity could do to me. I acted in fear or I governed my actions in light of what I knew electricity could do to me if I violated safety precautions.
Years ago while worked in the steal mill an alarm would sound when a furnace of molten steal was either going to be tapped for a pour or to be opened to add addition scrape metal for the heat. When the alarm sounded a blood curdling sound tore through the building. There wasn’t any place where the warning sound could not be heard. When I heard the alarm, I had fear, but I was not afraid. My fear was that I immediately stopped what I was doing, checked to see my location in reference to the furnace being tapped and made the necessary changes in order to remain safe.
I fear the Lord. As I go through life, there are times when his spirit speaks to me. It is at those moments that I exercise the fear of the Lord. I hear his voice, stop and assess my situation and make any necessary changes in my behavior so as to avoid the catastrophe that sin may bring into my life. I am not afraid of God, but I do have reverence for him, his word, his power, and potentially his correction.
This fear does not hinder me from loving or even hoping in him. I don’t act in love because I am afraid of what he may or may not do. I act in love because by his love he has warned me of dangers in my life. I can hope in him because of his goodness and guidance.
Terrifying fear is a snare. You can never know if you are right enough, close enough, serving enough or obeying enough. Oh, there may be moments when God’s blessing falls upon your life and your heart experiences love towards him, but the remainder of the time you are like a hamster in a cage running on a wheel ever so trying harder and harder to perform so as to avoid the fear of God’s hand coming down hard upon your life.
Terrifying fear robs you of experiencing love, joy, peace, hope, and happiness. True biblical fear cultivates these experiences. Under which view are you living?