Question: Do you fear God?
There are two basic definitions of the word fear:
a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. Synonyms: foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.
reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God. Synonyms: awe, respect, reverence, veneration.
It's funny--I couldn't help but notice that the first definition is so much longer than the second one. And what words! Trepidation, horror, panic! Most of the time, I'm bound to the first definition of fear. Panic attacks run in my family, so for no reason at all, I can all of a sudden be gripped by an intense, all-consuming fear--and most of the time, that fear really has no basis at all. Fear is a crazy thing. And did you notice the part of the definition that says, "whether the threat is real or imagined" (emphasis mine)? We can be panicked out of our mind over essentially nothing!
But look with me at the second definition of fear. It's so short. And there are basically only four words that describe it: awe, reverence, respect, veneration. So when asked, "Do you fear God?", these are the words that should come to mind.
Have you ever noticed that when you are caught up in the presence of the Lord, whether immersing yourself in His Word, worshipping with abandon, or listening for His voice in prayer, you just feel a sense of ... awe. And often the word awe is paired with the word wonder. You feel as if you have looked into the face of God, and you think, "Wow ...." Yes, complete speechlessness is a common symptom. It's like, "Ah! God! You're amazing!" And in that moment, nothing in the world can penetrate the walls of the tabernacle you have created to worship God.
It's a shame we have abused the word "awesome." We go around all the time saying, "Oh my gosh, that's awesome!" It's our immediate go-to word. But when we look at it closely, the word "awe" is in there. Awesome literally means "inspiring awe." It is an overwhelming feeling of reverence! I cannot think of anything that deserves the feeling of awe like our great God.
The two definitions of fear are inversely proportional to one another. When you are gripped with the anxious kind of fear, you fear God less--or rather, you forget who He is and lose confidence in His character. When you fear the Lord, however, the other kind of fear dissolves. Perfect love casts out fear, as John says in 1 John 4:18. And guess how John defines love? "God is love." I John 4:8 When we become lost in the character of God, when we recognize His greatness, how faithful He is to us, how He delivers us out of every tribulation, we are caught up in the fear of God. And we lose the other kind of fear completely.
I was reading in Daniel this morning, chapter 3. You all know the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refuse to bow down to the giant idol that Nebuchadnezzar sets up in his backyard. Why? Because they feared the Lord God. And you remember what happens when they get thrown in the furnace. A fourth person walks with them in the midst of the fire, causing Nebuchadnezzar to proclaim, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him ..." Daniel 3:28, emphasis mine.
Some of you may know that when Angel is capitalized, it usually refers to Jesus Christ Himself. I happened to be reading in my brother's super cool study Bible, and I looked up the cross-references in the margin for the word "Angel" mentioned in that verse. The first one it gave me was Psalm 34:7-8, which states, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them." Ok, that's pretty amazing, I thought. I couldn't help but notice that the word "encamps" was also a word for cross-reference; it took me to 2 Kings 6:17.
Let me set up the context of this verse. So, the king of Syria was planning an attack on Israel, but there was a spy, a "man of God," who kept reporting where the king of Syria would set up camp. Funny thing is, the spy never had to leave his own location. He was a prophet. Yep, that spy was none other than Elisha, and as one of the king's servants described him, "Elisha ... tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom." So the king panicked and sent out a massive army to find Elisha so he could stop him for good. So his army "came by night and surrounded the city." (verse 14).
Well, Elisha's servant woke up early in the morning to find a crazy huge army camped right outside the city: horses, chariots, the whole enchilada. So he runs to Elisha and freaks out, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" (verse 15). I think I'd do the same thing. But Elisha speaks very calmly to his servant in the next verse and basically says, Eh, I wouldn't worry about it. There's more of us than there are of them. Um, excuse me, Elisha? What's that supposed to mean? How do we possibly outnumber them?!
Here's the kicker: verse 17.
"And Elisha prayed, and said, 'Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."
Bam! Ah! That is so cool! I don't know about you, but I flipped out when I read this verse! It's ... it's ... awesome! That's because our God is awesome. Yes, "the angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him," and this is the picture that God gives to describe that. His angels watch over us all the time. And we have the greatest Angel of all to protect us: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Yeah, we'll still freak out every once in a while. We're human. One human trait, I think, that we all share is forgetfulness--especially when it comes to things of God. We become fearful when we forget who God is and all He has done for us. That is why we need to constantly remain in His presence, praying, spending time in His Word, saying once in a while, "God, thank You for who You are. I love you." When we fear the Lord, and behold Him with awe and wonder, He "drives the dark of doubt away," of fear, of anxiety. The fear of God is a beautiful thing.
Do you fear God?