|"Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." - 1 Samuel 12:24 (NIV)
Who’s Afraid of a Great, Big God?
By Jennifer E. Jones
I was raised to believe that God is a loving God. He lives to bless His children. He certainly is good, so it never quite clicked with me that God is Someone to be feared.
I can’t even count all the passages in the Bible that talk about fearing God. It’s the beginning of wisdom and so forth. Many of our great spiritual forefathers were known for their holy reverence. The angel acknowledged Abraham’s fear when he almost sacrificed his own son (Genesis 22:12). Fear was an essential part of David's praise (Psalm 2:11). Not to mention John, a man in prison who wrote in Revelation 15:4, “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?”
The smart guys feared God and made it clear that others should too. Deuteronomy 8:6 reads, “Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him,” [KJV]… but do we?
When I read the Old Testament, I understand why God wiped out nations at a time. Back in the day, men worshipped idols and committed every kind of ungodly sin under the sun. Yet not much has changed in a few millennia. Humanity still does not fear God. We’re not even lightly spooked.
A friend of mine recently wrote in his blog: “I’m so tired of seeing the Lion of Judah in the petting zoo.” It was an image that stuck in my mind. We do this everyday. We don’t want a God who lets us reap what we sow nor One who will get in the way of our plans. We want a nice, cuddly God who never gets angry. So we strike back at Him when things go wrong. We obey only His principles that are convenient for us at the moment.
I know I’m guilty of it. I’ve gotten mad at God, made ultimatums, walked away as if God was a person I could manipulate into doing what I wanted. I’m lucky to be alive.
I don’t think we see God in His totality. We ignore the scary part of God -- the thunder and the lightning. After all, if He’s only but so big in our minds, He’s easier to manage. We’ll test the waters with God, completely ignorant of the fact that our next breath is literally in the palm of His hand. It’s like the first time you called your dad by his first name just to see if you could get away with it.
I can think of at least five views of God that are askew and pose as obstacles to fearing God the way we should.
- He’s a Genie. Or Santa Claus. Both are wrong. God’s sole purpose in your life is not to grant every wish you throw up to heaven. Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes He says wait. However, I believe He says no more often than we’d like to hear. He is sovereign. He may be moved by our tears and our sincerity, but nothing trumps His will.
- He’s My Buddy. One of the problems with growing up in church is that God becomes a bit too familiar. It’s easy to get lax and complacent in our faith – like God is the kid next door (or "the man upstairs"). Yes, He is our Friend and Father, but one should never forget that He is Lord. This relationship is not peer-to-peer, but God-to-man.
- He Never Gets Jealous. Joshua said that God is a holy, jealous God (Joshua 24:19 NIV). He wants no other gods before Him. Yet, we shove so many interests ahead of God -- our relationships, the opinion of our friends, even sleep. If we don’t learn to make God top priority, He’ll start chipping away at our list until He’s first in line.
- He Wants Me to be Happy All the Time. We shake our fists at heaven at the sight of hard times, yet Jesus explicitly told us that trials are inevitable. God never requires our comfort at every stage of life, only our praise. He gives us enough strength and grace to last through calamity and even come out better on the other side. So don’t ask God, “Don’t You love me?” every time a bad day comes around. His love is in that we’re not consumed.
- He Turns a Blind Eye to My Weaknesses. “God knows my heart.” Have you ever heard someone say this when they’re on their way to doing something stupid? Grace much more abounds, and surely Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross makes us all blameless in God’s sight. However, that doesn’t mean that God is not interested in holiness. You’ll receive lots of love, but love sometimes comes with seeing the consequences of sin.
We have to readjust our way of seeing God. We must see Him with fear. But what does that look like?
Recently in our chapel, a speaker talked about the word “awesome.” We use it quite flippantly, but Webster’s defines it as inspiring awe. Awe is an “emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” Other words used included dread and terror. So when we sing, “Our God is an awesome God,” we’re saying our God is great, mighty, and dreadfully frightening. That sounds like Someone to fear, reverence and obey.
Real fear begins with me treating God as if He is who He says He is – holy. “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2 KJV).
Jennifer E. Jones is the Media Center / CBNmusic Producer
who despises those "Jesus is My Homeboy" t-shirts for obvious reasons. Read her bio.
Got comments? Drop me a line.
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