For many people, the fear of God sounds more like an enemy than a friend, “Fearing God? Surely this is something that we are trying to get away from, something we are trying to get rid of!” It sounds more like a dysfunction than a sign of spiritual health.
But the Bible presents the fear of God as a friend; a friend who will do us a great deal of good:
I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:39)
God is speaking to his own people, a people who are in a covenant relationship with him. Look at what he says: “My people will fear me. If they don’t fear me, it will mean trouble for the next generation.”
Then God says, “This will be for their own good and for the good of their children, and this will be forever.” That means there will never be a time on earth or in heaven when God’s people will not fear him in holy wonder and reverence and awe.
I want to do what I can to dispel the idea in culture that there is a God to be feared in the Old Testament and a God to be loved in the New Testament, and that the fear of God is therefore not for us.
The Wonder of God’s Love
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:4)
The fear of God arises out of our knowledge of the grace, mercy, love, forgiveness that leads the person who receives it to fear the Lord.
You see the love of God and how much it cost on the cross and you say, “How could I sin against love like this?”
Andrew Bonar writes, “It has been much impressed upon me that, if convinced of sin at all, I must be so by the view of it in Christ’s love.”
I’ve adapted a description of the fear of God from an old writer called John Brown, who wrote a massive commentary on the first book of Peter, where we have the command to fear God (1 Peter 2:17):
To fear God is to love Him so that His frown would be your greatest dread and His smile would be your greatest delight.
Can you see now why Jeremiah speaks of the fear of God as something that lasts forever? Because even in heaven God’s people will fear him as we love him and love him as we fear him. A person who fears God is one who has seen something of his glory, his judgment, and his love.
Heaven will be filled with the splendor of his glory. The pure in heart will see God, and when we do, we will fall on our faces casting any crowns before him in awe and in worship.
Heaven will remain a happy and holy place forever because of God’s judgment on unrepentant sinners that goes on forever in hell.
Heaven will be full of the knowledge of his love. Glory, judgment, and love – forever we will fear him; forever we will love him. “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever” (Jeremiah 32:39).
We live in what I’m going to call the “OMG culture.” We are awash with reality shows where people invoke the name of God to express their surprise when the reveal comes at the end.
It strikes me as a symptom of how far our culture has gone from the fear of God, when you think how the Jews held God is such high esteem that they would not even pronounce his name.
In our culture, people pronounce the letters G-O-D and have absolutely no idea of the glory, the judgment, or the love of the One of whom they speak.
If you are a Christian I challenge you to make this resolve: To demonstrate that you know something of the glory, the judgment, and the love of God, so that whenever you speak the name of God, or Jesus, or Christ, you speak his name in a way, different than the culture around you, that shows that you know him, you fear him, and you love him.
Will you make that resolve as part of your Christian testimony?
Three Applications for You
1. The blessing
Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always. (Proverbs 28:14)
How is the one who fears the LORD blessed? First, fearing the Lord will give you wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Second, fearing the Lord will keep you from sin (Exodus 20:20). And third, fearing the Lord will motivate you in evangelism (2 Corinthians 5:11).
All kinds of good will flow into the life of the person who fears the Lord.
2. The promise
I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (Jeremiah 32:40)
Notice what the Lord says here to his people: He will put this godly fear in their hearts. Why? That they may not turn against him.
The clear implication is that without the fear the Lord, believing people might easily turn against the Lord. This is part of the promise of the new heart. God is able to give this to you.
God says, “I will put the fear of me in their hearts.” This is a wonderful promise! If we feared God more, we’d sin less. If we had a greater sense of the reality of his judgment, we would do more to advance the gospel. And, if God carried more weight in our lives, we’d make wiser decisions.
3. The prayer
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)
Lord, my heart is pulled in all kinds of directions. Unite my heart to fear your name!
Put more of this fear of you that arises from the splendor of your glory, the reality of your judgment, and the wonder of your love in my heart!