We just passed by Father’s Day and I was thinking about my Dad, who passed in January 2018. I have a lot of fond memories of my Dad, and I knew that he loved me and wanted what was best for me. I also knew to toe the line. He used to do this thing when I was little – when he ‘sent me to my room’, he stood in the doorway, pointing to my room, which forced me to push past him on my way. I dreaded this (he never actually did anything to me as I hurried past, hands covering my caboose!), and can honestly say it quickened the pace of my trip to my room.
We laugh about it now… it’s quite funny to all of us. I was fearful of the discipline that my Dad would apply to the situation. I wasn’t scared of him, but, when I knew that I was wrong, I was at the mercy of his disciplinary decisions, and I always knew that discipline was coming. In the end, this was for my good, and my father knew that he needed to hold me accountable for wrong actions or decisions.
Though not exactly the same, the ‘fear of God’ is similar. In Psalm 89:7, a “God greatly to be feared” is spoken of, and we need to rightly understand this concept. The Hebrew verb used here is “aras” (ah-RAHTS), which has a different meaning than the colloquial American understanding of fear. More directly, this means to regard or treat with awe, or to inspire with awe. You can see this echoed in today’s sister verse; Hebrew 12:28 where the Aramaic words aidos [(ay-THOSE) – awe or reverence] and eulabeia [(ave-LA-vee-ah) – caution, piety, reverence, discretion, or dread] are used. Many translations simply use the word ‘fear’ as the English translation.
This can be confusing for people. Many of us grew up being terrified of what God might do to us if we messed up! Pillars of salt, fire from the sky, plagues of insects and bodily sores are just some of God’s just punishments. How terrified might we be in the physical presence of the perfect, holy, righteous, just Creator of the universe? Particularly when knowing our own sin before Him?
BUT… God is, at the same time, loving, merciful, and near to the broken-hearted. We need to be in awe of God, because we know that He IS God! God saved us; He sent His one and only Son so that we may LIVE! Hallelujah! Jesus bore our sin and shame. God’s wrath FOR OUR SINS was poured out on the cross where Jesus died. As you travel through this series, remember that you need not be scared of what God might do … it has already been done! We need not be afraid of hard situations we encounter in our life; God didn’t cause them. The New Covenant ushered in by Jesus promises that faith in Him is all that is needed to overcome the world.