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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.

It is very bold to declare in six words the conclusion to the whole matter of life. Only God can get away with describing creation in 10 words, and life in six: Fear God and obey His commandments. As humans we want things to be plain, and that’s about as plain as it gets.

The enacting of that truth however is far from plain. To know what the Bible means by “fear God” takes diligent effort on our part to study, learn, seek, ask and experience. The fear of God is a mixture of several elements of our response when confronted with the reality of His nature.

God is truly awesome. His power and presence are overwhelming, and terrifying. It is impossible for us to fully comprehend. The awesome reality of God’s power would make us feel something similar to what the poor souls in the top of the World Trade Center must have felt the moment the tower started to collapse. The feeling of helplessness, insignificance and submission to the power of what was occurring had to be as tangible and intense as a human could probably ever feel short of being in God’s direct presence.

For those of us who weren’t there but experienced it through television, we can have an idea of that power, an intellectual observation of it, but no doubt it was real to the victims in a way we can never know. It was the close proximity to the source of power that brought true understanding. In the same way, the closer we are to God, the nearer we are to the source, the more real and tangible our understanding of the “fear of God”.

God’s power can represent
salvation or destruction
punishment or condemnation

Should we have a consuming terror and dread towards God? Yes, and no. It is certainly a natural consequence as the reality of His power compared to our helplessness becomes more focused. But God brings an element into the situation that was absent for those who experienced the Trade Center collapse personally. God is an awesome and terrifying power, but as His children, He’s on our side. His power is there for our safety and security!

Think of three elements that make up the fear of God:

  • His power compared to ours and the natural fear it produces;
  • the realization and true understanding that comes from being in close proximity to Him;
  • and finally, the security, comfort and joy we have knowing that power is on our side!

The nature of our relationship
determines the nature of our fear

In the presence of a force or person that has the ability to determine our fate, the nature of our relationship with it makes all the difference in whether our response is security or terror. Try to imagine yourself in each situation and the feelings you would have towards the presence of greater power:

  • You drive up and over a hill on the highway. Just over the top you spot a police officer tracking your speed. You see him and:
    • Situation 1: your stomach sinks, your foot goes to the brake and you hope for the best because your doing 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. Now your watching your rear view mirror to see if he “got” you.
    • Situation 2: you quickly glance at your speedometer to check your speed but feel comfortable with the law enforcement’s presence because you habitually and faithfully obey the speed limits.
  • A guy twice your size and much stronger has just tied you up and thrown you off the top of 100 foot tower. You are terrified:
    • Situation 1: and your life flashes before your eyes as you realize you are about to die. This man has long hated you and you feared something terrible was going to happen eventually.
    • Situation 2: but exhilarated. Your friend owns a bungee jumping company and you have been working up the courage to do this for a long time. He got you all safely secured with the harnesses and then for a little adrenaline bonus, gave you a “friendly” push off the tower. It is intensely scary but you know you are safe and in the end, it will be a thrilling experience.
  • A man with a knife has immobilized you is proceeding to cut you with it. You feel:
    • Situation 1: despair and panic because he broke into your house at night to rob you. Finding you awake, he tied you up and assured you of your death so there won’t be any witnesses.
    • Situation 2: apprehensive but safe. You are falling asleep under anesthetic and a skilled surgeon is about to perform a heart bypass that will save your life.

Our relationship to the greater power determines how we respond. We still feel the natural fear and insignificance that comes with being helpless and weak in the presence of greater power.

Whether the greater power is friend or foe
is the difference between despair or security

The closer our proximity to God, the more natural our feeling of respect, fear and helplessness. Whether or not we are in right standing with God will determine whether we feel relief and safety or guilt and condemnation. It’s the difference between fearing, and being afraid. There is a very real difference between the two and what you will feel in God’s presence depends on what your relationship with Him is.

Fear God: this is the whole duty of man. That Godly fear is a mixture of three things: understanding God’s infinite power and nature compared to us; having that understanding deepened as a result of proximity; and being in a right relationship with God so that His power is for security and blessing, not our destruction.

The current status of your relationship with Him determines whether you will fear Him or be scared of Him.

Fearsome God, we pray today that Your Presence will be comforting, not condemning. We ask You to reveal the true nature of our current status with You. Give us the wisdom to make the necessary corrections. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Are you scared of God because you know your relationship is not right with Him? Have you ever known a time when you feared Him but felt safe in His Presence?

Application: Your relationship with God determines the nature of your fear of Him. Imagine yourself face to face with Him today. If condemnation and guilt are mixed with your fear, take steps to get your current status with God corrected.

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?