I don’t typically rush to theaters to watch horror movies, but when I have gone to see the latest in scary cinema, I’ve found the times to be memorable.
Once, in college, my buddy Kevin and I went with a group of friends to see the season’s latest frightening film. I remember our excitement as we made plans and convinced others to join us. I remember our anticipation as we all sat down in the dark theater. I remember thinking about how great an idea it had been to go see a movie with friends. Then the movie started. Before the film was over, Kevin and I were both tensed up, jumping at the intense moments and questioning our decision-making skills. Granted, it was still a fun night. But in that moment, we were freaking out.
The Bible speaks of a fear that surpasses the kind of fear my friend and I felt that night. In Proverbs, we read,
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
I’m studying this fear at the moment, and I’m finding some interesting things. First, I’ve found that I’ve long been a bit off in my understanding of this fear. For years, I’ve read this and replaced the word “fear” with a word like “awe” or “reverence.” I’ve tried to soften the idea, but I’m learning that’s not exactly right. The fear talked about here does include reverence and awe of God, but it does not lose the sense of holy terror, of righteous dread. When we fear the Lord, we do revere him, but we don’t lose the sense of fear.
Second, I’ve found that such fear is related to right living. Later in Proverbs, we read,
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
I think Paul has a similar idea in mind when he tells the church in Philippi to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). This fear leads to action. Far from simply frightening someone, the fear of the Lord motivates the believer to live out the life God has brought about in him.
This leads to my third observation: to fear the Lord is to be in a right relationship with him, seeing him clearly and walking with him. When Paul writes out a list of Old Testament passages in Romans 3 to describe those who are under sin, he concludes with a passage from Psalm 36:1, writing that, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). One defining mark of an unrighteous person is a lack of fear of God.
As Halloween season comes to a close, horror movies will stop filling the evening movie slots on tv. Tombstones and skeletons will be taken down from people’s front yards, and zombies sightings will be reserved primarily for Sunday evenings at 8 pm. People will move from a focus on fear to a celebration of thanks. But as believers, let us never move away from this focus on fear. Let our lives be defined by the fear that eliminates all other fears in our hearts. And let us worship our great God, inviting all around us to see him for who he is.