February 12, 2016

The right kind of fear

After Moses brought God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, he took them on a journey to the land God promised them. Part of that story includes God calling Moses up a mountain where He gave him the Ten Commandments. After this man came down from the mountain, the people were 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.” 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.” (Exodus 20:18–20)

“Do not fear” and “the fear of Him may be before you”? How can they not fear and yet fear? The first fright was the wrong kind. God wanted them to see His holiness and His great power so that they would be in awe of Him and not sin. Instead, they were afraid of God and didn’t want to listen to Him. I wonder what they thought He was going to say?

Chambers says we all fail to pay attention to God. Could the reason be our preconceived ideas of what He is going to say? The enemy would have us believe that God is a killjoy who does not want us to enjoy life. Is He going to put a clamp down on our fun? Certainly God knows that sin beguiles us into thinking we are having ‘fun’ but much of that ‘fun’ is destructive. It is not rational to keep doing destructive things, fun or otherwise.

Instead, God wants us to realize who He is, what He is like, and that He loves us. Knowing His love means loving Him in return. As He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” In other words, being afraid of what He will ask us to do is also irrational to anyone who knows and loves God.

Of those Ten, the first commandment is key. Loving God and having no other gods before Him makes keeping all the other commands possible. However, fearing God and refusing to listen to Him is totally crippling. I cannot obey God if I don’t put Him first.

Listening to Him is also vital. I can go to church or turn on the radio and listen to sermons from His leaders, but that is not the same as hearing God speak. The Israelites erred in being willing to listen only to Moses. This man was not their source of life; God was.

The Bible talks about man not living by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This “word” is not “logos” – the usual term for “word.” Instead, it is “rhema” which means God speaks a word that fits the need of the moment. These “rhema” words are conveyed in a personal relationship where God knows and speaks to my heart and my needs. For instance, this week I asked about my imagination and He spoke directly to my questions.

Those without a personal relationship with God are fearful of listening to Him. They don’t know how good He is or how He speaks to us according to our needs. Without that personal knowledge of God, some assume He is a tyrannical rule-maker.

That personal relationship is available through faith in Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father but by Him. He forgives our sin, gives us His own life, and lives with us forever. By Him we can live in awe of God, not in terror of Him. By Him, we are “sheep” who hear His voice and are only too happy to listen to every word that He says!

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