I remember a time I the early days of married life when I had an encounter with two huge spiders. My husband was out … which is an important factor because he would be my hero and rescue me from such creatures. Both these spiders were in the bath, and in our bathroom was our toilet … and I needed to go! I was so freaked out by these critters that I couldn’t be in the same house as them. Then there was a time, when I had worked a little on my fear and had been able to trap a spider under a glass in our hallway … but every time I walked by my senses would go crazy, so I covered the glass with a tea-towel so I didn’t have to look at it. Sadly, my hero had thought I had gone a little mad and picked up the towel and glass that were weirdly deposited in the hallway WITHOUT catching the spider. I did not have a good night’s sleep that night. Now, when my girls declare there is a spider in their room and my husband is not around, I have to face my fears and deal with the arachnids.
I was afraid. I know it isn’t rational, but fear is like that.
I have reached the page where GOD’s people are at the foot of the mountain. GOD has given them the ten commandments and thundered. Their response is being afraid.
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not let God speak to us or we will die.’
20 Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21
It must have been an incredible experience. The thunder, lightning and smoke, the prospect of meeting with GOD. It is understandable that there was a reaction to stand back from GOD. They were only doing what Adam had done back in the garden when GOD came close. They trembled with fear and stayed at a distance. They were afraid of GOD.
It is interesting that Moses then says to them to not be afraid and yet they should have the fear of GOD. How does that make sense? Having a fear of GOD is not the same as being afraid.
Afraid – have an unpleasant emotion caused by threat of danger, pain or harm.
My reaction to spiders has changed because (in the UK) they are not a threat to me. I don’t like the way they move and I wouldn’t choose to hold one, but I’m not going to run from my house just because I have seen one. My ‘afraid-ness’ has diminished with time and experience.
The Israelites have been rescued from Egypt, experienced the protection from the plagues, walked through a sea, had supernatural food and water … yet they are afraid of GOD. Is their reaction rational? GOD has done nothing but good to them. He has shown His power and authority but has been kind, careful and loving to His people. Why do they now feel under threat and danger?
Moses instructs them to fear GOD because they would then keep from sinning. Was their ‘afraid-ness’ sinning? I think that it was. Their ‘afraid-ness’ meant that they withdrew and they ultimately put themselves and feelings in a higher place than GOD.
Fear of GOD – a specific sense of respect, awe and submission.
When we fear GOD we put our perspective of Him in the right mode. We know what GOD could do, can do and what He has done, then ensure that our response to Him is respectful, submitting and full of awe.
On my page, I have thought about these two contrasting fears – being afraid and having the fear of GOD. If we are afraid, either of GOD or other things, we are ultimately rejecting the offer of relationship with GOD and what He has done for us. He has made a way for us to be rescued. Being afraid leads to death because we turn our backs on a loving Father, do our own thing, submit to something lesser than GOD and just keep on sinning. We choose death. I think we can all think of areas in our lives where we keep sinning … perhaps just take a moment and think about how different that area would be if you responded with the fear of GOD. Would it change? Of course it would! When our perspective moves to the fear of GOD, why would sinning even be an option?? Having the fear of GOD means that we don’t withdraw from GOD but approach Him knowing that we have nothing to prove, nothing to give, nothing to make Him love us … but He lavishes all His goodness on us anyway. Having the fear of GOD enables us to worship at the mountain even though there is thunder, lightning and smoke. GOD will not destroy us but brings us life.
For me, fear of man has always been a battle. I would crumple under rejection and failure. Perhaps my reaction to such things would be anger and grumbling, or hiding and having no voice. But in contrast to that, when I fear GOD I find that I am secure. He thinks about me, never overlooks me, doesn’t squash me when I make mistakes. He is trustworthy and all powerful. Choosing to live in the fear of GOD is life giving and empowering. I no longer want to sin because in Him I find all the things that I need.
What about you? If you were standing at the foot of the mountain, what would be your perspective? What side of the line do you stand on – it is the thing that means death or life. (Check out the little people at the bottom of my page … ) Will you choose to be afraid or have the fear of GOD?