Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Six short words sum up the whole duty of man. Simple, but hardly simplistic.
FEAR GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS
The idea of fearing God has been relegated to the heap of old-fashioned Christian platitudes that are good for adding some nostalgia to a sermon but hardly useful in everyday life. In fact, the idea of fearing God has been discarded with even greater fervor because it is now considered “unloving” to promote the idea of fearing God.
This is a by-product of a misunderstanding of what it means to “fear God”. The common definition of this is a deep respect and fear of judgment. While it certainly encompasses these ideas, this is only a surface understanding. The fear of God is a mixture of all-consuming awesomeness, fall-on-your-face reverence and blessed security.
It’s a shame that the advertising industry has watered down all of our powerful descriptive words. In a never-ending attempt to make something new seem better than the existing, more and more exaggeration is needed until the latest bubble gum is now “bursting with awesome flavor”. It seemed to all start back when bread wasn’t just good anymore, it became “Wonder” bread. Let’s look at the idea of God being Awesome.
inspiring awe or admiration or wonder;
an overwhelming feeling of wonder or admiration;
an emotion variously combining dread, veneration,
and wonder that is inspired by authority
or by the sacred or sublime
Well, I can tell you pretty confidently that a new bubble gum flavor hardly results in the a feeling of dread, wonder or anything sublime. The same would be true of soda pop, music releases, clothing brands, bathroom cleaners and the latest car models.
Lest we be hypocritical, we are guilty in the Church of adopting this same worldly method of exaggerating: we have awesome praise & worship; awesome Preachers, awesome youth events and awesome “experiences” on a regular basis. Very things that happen regularly and routinely will hardly ever deserve the true label of “awesome” (maybe salvation and births, etc). It could be argued that NOTHING related solely to human experience is awesome by definition. God’s presence is needed to produce something truly awesome.
The military uses the term “shock and awe” to describe an unparalleled and paralyzing bombardment of firepower that leaves the enemy in such fear that they will quickly resign to defeat rather than face further destruction.
The greatest shock and awe possible
by an earthly military doesn’t begin to compare with the
Lord God Almighty King of the Universe!
Let’s try to recapture some of the sense of the fear that is the natural result of God’s presence by refreshing our understanding of Awesomeness.
Psalm 47:2 For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. (NKJV)
- Dread: to fear greatly; to regard with awe; to feel extreme reluctance; to meet or face; to be apprehensive or fearful
The holiness, greatness and power of God is infinitely greater than anything we can imagine. Try to imagine the simultaneous detonation of every nuclear bomb, every explosive devise and every military weapon on the entire earth. The dread felt would pale in comparison to the dread a Holy God would produce by His presence. His is a power so great, so unfathomable and so consuming that the common response of all who have been in his presence is to fall flat on their face, try to find some place to hide and wish they were dead rather be in His presence.
Isaiah 8:13 The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread. (NKJV)
- Veneration: the profound and consuming fear produced by the presence of Deity.
The presence of God allows us to be anything but comfortable or casual (not to be confused with security). Christianity today is full of personalities who claim far too casual a relationship with the Almighty and the Lord Jesus. The frailty and sinfulness of man causes us to wither and recoil in the presence of the Holy God who knows no sin and cannot tolerate its presence.
Job 23:15 Therefore I am terrified at His presence; When I consider this, I am afraid of Him. (NKJV)
- Wonder: having full attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.
Beginning with “Wonder Bread” we have lost the entire idea of true wonder. God is so far beyond our comprehension, so holy and so magnificent that to meditate on even one aspect of His nature SHOULD leave us gaping in amazement. We can begin to get a glimpse of the appropriate response of wonder by examining our feelings of earthly experience: a Space Shuttle launch, the eruption of Mt. Saint Helen’s, the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest. These produce a wonder and amazement in those who see it but it is insignificant compared to the wonder that God will someday produce in every single person who has ever lived.
1 Chronicles 16:24 Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. (NKJV)
- Sublime: to elevate or exalt especially in dignity or honor; to render finer (as in purity or excellence); to convert (something inferior) into something of higher worth.
The presence of God should render us “finer”, transforming us into something of greater purity and excellence. I would venture to say that there is not a desert or shampoo that is actually capable of doing either. When we are in the presence of God and observing His holiness, it transforms us into the image of Christ for His glory.
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (NKJV)
The fear of God originates in the AWESOME nature of God – His power and greatness is so overwhelming, it consumes us. How do you ever approach this true understanding of God? By spending time in His presence; by asking Him to reveal His nature to you; by meditating on different attributes of God.
This is the conclusion of the whole matter: FEAR THE AWESOME GOD (obeying His commandments comes quite naturally if we can get that first part!)
Awesome Holy God, O that we could get a glimpse of the true power and wonder of You! We pray for that glimpse and the transformation it will bring to our lives. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Have you fallen victim to the watering down of our great descriptive words such as “awesome”? Do you think the diluting of our vocabulary was on accident? What is your definition of awesome? Is “fearing God” beginning to take on new meaning for you?
Application: To understand the Fear of God is going to take some mental reprogramming and meditation on your part. Write down your definitions of “awesome” and “fear” so you can see how they change as you grow in your understanding of the conclusion: Fear God and keep His commandments.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?