Do Not Fear, but Fear

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Fear is a funny thing. People seem to be afraid of everything: heights, spiders, clowns, public speaking, being without cell phone coverage. While our fears may vary, we each likely struggle with fear of some kind. We fear what we can’t control, what threatens our safety, what is beyond us. And while we might think of fear as a bad thing, it’s actually healthy. Fear warns us of danger, highlights what might affect us, and reminds us that we are not as powerful as we might assume. We may fear silly things sometimes, but fear itself is not necessarily bad.

Scripture speaks of a particularly desirable fear: the fear of the LORD. This fear is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), an aspect of the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and the manner in which Christians are to work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12-13). The Psalms even tie it to joy at times, calling out, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). If we accept the Bible as the Word of God and recognize its authority in our lives, we can’t ignore its emphasis on the importance and the goodness of the fear of the LORD.

But what is the fear of the LORD? While Scripture doesn’t explicitly define it, it does give us glimpses of this fear in practice, Exodus 20 standing as one particularly helpful example. There, the people of Israel have just seen God descend on Mt. Sinai in power and glory and have heard him speak the ten words concerning the moral code by which they were to live. They witnessed his self-revelation and beheld his glory. And they seemed initially terrified.

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
Exodus 20:18-19

They saw the signs, heard his voice, and felt the mountain tremble at his coming, and they were terrified. They stood far off and asked Moses to be their intermediary. And they weren’t wrong. They recognized the danger of a sinful people’s proximity to a holy God, understanding that they could not stand in his presence in their current state.

Moses, however, responded to the situation differently.

Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
Exodus 20:20-21

He saw the sights, heard the voice, felt the mountain shake. He, perhaps more than anyone else that day, understood the power and holiness of God. Yet he told the people not to fear. As they stood back, he drew near, approaching the thick darkness.

What’s the difference between the two parties? What makes one group fear for their lives as another boldly steps forward? The difference, I believe, lies in each party’s relationship with God. In spite of all the people had seen of God, from his power over Egypt to his provision in the wilderness, they seemed uncertain of their standing before him. Even in the face of his declaration to make them a kingdom of priests and a treasured possession (Exodus 19:5-6), God’s people were terrified at his appearing. Moses understood that feeling. He felt it too when he heard the voice speak from the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). But he continued to grow in his relationship with God, watching God fulfill promises and act for the good of his people. As he stood with Israel before the mountain in Exodus 19 and 20, he was witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promise that Moses would worship the LORD with the people on the very mountain where God revealed himself to Moses initially (Exodus 3:12). So he drew near in spite of the awesome sights and sounds because he knew who dwelt therein. Moses saw what the people saw, heard what they heard, and may have even felt what they felt. But he drew near because he knew the God of the thunder and lightning was his God.

While fear is a major theme in this passage, maybe fear itself isn’t the heart of the passage. Maybe the lesson isn’t about trying to grow in fear but rather seeking to know the LORD better. Maybe our fear, fear that draws us near to God in reverence and in worship, will naturally and healthily grow as we increase in knowledge of God and grow in relationship with him. This week, consider your relationship with God. Imagine that you stood with Israel before the mountain and ask yourself if you would stand far off in terror or draw near in faith. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid of God; we can keep the fear of him before us and walk in obedience. And may we walk in the fear of the LORD wherever he leads us.


Photo by Marc Wieland on Unsplash

Christ Above

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Christ above my heart’s desire.
Christ above my timing.
Christ above all I aspire.
Christ above my rhyming.
Christ above my greatest fears.
Christ above all pleasures.
Christ above my future years.
Christ above all treasures.
Christ above my past mistakes.
Christ above my glory.
Christ above all earthly aches.
Christ above my story.
Christ above all toil and strife.
Christ above whatever.
Christ above this fleeting life
Now and to forever.


Photo by Sebastian Molina fotografía on Unsplash

The Christian and Social Media: Christ-Like Etiquette

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James encourages Christians to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). A brief scroll through the average believer’s social media feed may suggest that we as Christ followers struggle to apply James’s teaching. We can be quick to anger when we read something disagreeable, quick to speak our mind on the matter, and slow to truly hear any alternate or opposing position. Our passions appear to be very much at war within the body (James 4:1), and the casualties of war extend beyond the church to the lost world watching us fight.

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The Plagiarists

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To take a thought, original and good,
And claim it as one’s own thought, own design;
To see another’s work and call it, “Mine,”
Accepting honor as the author should;
To speak until the people understood
The thief to be the writer of each line,
Scratching the author’s name off from the spine
Till truth’s uncov’ring be no likelihood–
Delusion tempts souls to these actions take,
Tries to erase the author, steal his place.
And do we not each make this fatal nod?
The author still is living and awake,
Yet we would rob his glory, slight his face.
Have not we all been plagiarists of God?


Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Glory

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Unmatched, unmarred by sin, unshaken, God
Maintains the utmost glory. ‘Fore his face
E’en angels hide their faces. In that place
Corruption is not suffered, cannot trod
The ground made holy by his presence. Hide
Your eyes; gain clarity. Be still and know
That he is LORD o’er all, above, below.
Fear fills us, fear fulfills us: terrified
In tenderness. Unknown yet known; most high;
E’er near; eternally enthroned above
All enemies, all not-gods, perfect love
Perfectly conquers all, never runs dry.
The sun is but a shadow of his light.
No darkness can present a worthy fight.


Photo by Roland Epple on Unsplash

Huge thanks to Brett Dickson for his invaluable insight and encouragement during the writing of this poem.

Humility

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My eyes, too weak to properly perceive
The face of beauty, found in God alone,
See clearly lesser things, and thus they leave
The truth of God for gods of self and stone.
And thus I grow to hold too high a place
In my own estimation. I forget
That any good in me is all of grace.
My ev’ry breath is evidence of debt
To God who is the giver of the breath,
Revealed in part, unknowable in whole.
He is, before my birth, beyond my death,
The maker and sustainer of my soul.

Adjust my eyes to greater glories see;
Thereby produce in me humility.


Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash