I have shared in the past about fear. We all have them. It might be death, dogs, spiders, failure; whatever. All of us have things we do not want to face in life. With the current pandemic, we see how people are reacting to the current situation. Many are afraid. Older people or those with health issues are at risk. Over time we have seen more and more young people getting the virus and many even dying. With schools reopening, many parents are afraid of what may potentially happen. That is many churches have continued to remain closed out of fear and concern. I think for some, going back to church or any larger public gathering will not happen until a vaccine is proven to work. This kind of fear is not new. It has been something passed on to each of us since the Fall.
Generally, fear is seen as a negative thing. Many of them are seen as irrational. But one good thing about fear is it protects us from danger. But there is another fear that is good, yet rarely is it talked about and that is the fear of God. In Jeremiah 36, we read an account that shows how not having fear in God is bad. In this story, God gave Jeremiah and his scribe a message for the people. But the problem arose when the king found out what God’s message for the people, he was upset. Instead of respecting what God had commanded, he had them burned as they were read out to him.
In the end, God’s judgment came against Jehoiakim. It was not simply because he acted foolishly in burning the Scriptures but because of the condition of heart which that action revealed. This is given to us in one flaming sentence in Verse 24 says, “The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” These men had lost the fear of God. And when a nation or a people or an individual loses the fear of God, they are on their way to destruction. Where does the fear of God come from? The fear of God is based upon the sovereign power which He exercises in life. It comes from what we see in Creation and what we experience in life. These men were shown to be stupid and senseless men who had lost their sense of reality entirely because they had lost the fear of God.
There is one great fact everywhere revealed — in Scripture, in history, and even in nature — which has been called the law of retribution. People today will often call it “karma.” That is, there is an inevitable consequence for doing wrong, and there is no way to escape it. It is like getting caught in one of the city’s speed trap cameras. The picture is in the mail and there is no way out. Even an atheist, who does not believe in God at all, must admit that when he examines the laws of nature he is faced with the conclusion that you either obey the laws of nature and live, or disobey them and die.
And we are helpless to change that. We are in the grip of forces greater than we are, and everything on every side testifies to this. That is why we learn respect for the laws of electricity. You do not fool around with 10,000 volts of electrical potential, thinking you are going to make up the laws as you go along. You had better find out what they are first, for you disobey them to your peril and death. Sticking a fork in an outlet has consequences. Doing things for the sake of “fun” without concern for consequences often leads to hearing things like, “I told you so” from somebody.
Most of us have this kind of caution is in most of us, but we have been conditioned to fight against it by our culture and society. It starts with, “God, who?” What ends up happening is we ignore laws and potential consequences for the hope of fun and an adrenaline rush. It is like trying to play with a rattlesnake when it is rattling and getting bitten and asking ourselves, “What happened?” It is foolish and utterly stupid if we ignore the facts that are presented to us.
So where does the fear of God come into this? All through the Bible, we read that God requires of every nation, frankly every person, that there be the recognition of God’s sovereign hand over all and that there are consequences to our actions. History has testified repeatedly that God always accomplishes what he says he is going to do. God rules in the affairs of all people. The fear here is not about being afraid, rather it is about respect to the One who created all things and holds all things in His hands. Nobody is above God.
Napoleon Bonaparte, at the height of his career, once very boldly said, “God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery.” Now, this was his cynical answer to someone who asked if God was on the side of France. Then came the Battle of Waterloo, where he lost both the battle and his empire. Years later, in exile on the island of St. Helena, chastened and humbled, Napoleon said, “Man proposes; God disposes.”
One of the classic stories about the fear of God is when Jesus was crucified. While on the cross, there is a conversation between the two criminals being crucified with Him. Read Luke 23:32-43. In the end, the one who feared God was welcomed into Paradise.
This is the lesson with which life seeks to confront us. God is able to work His sovereign will — despite us. Therefore the basic, elementary knowledge of life with which everyone ought to start is the fear of God. Fearing God leads to putting our trust in what Jesus has done on our behalf and this will result in obedience and transformation. And this produces in us the courage to face whatever challenges we may face in life and comfort in what we do not understand because we know the God who is over and above all.