Fear Too Much, Fear Too Little
Read Exodus Chapter 20
Ex 20:18 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 have 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.
I suppose that most of you will think I have lost my mind based on today’s subject. I must admit that sometimes my mind doesn’t work in normal ways. Anyway, stick with me and see what you think.
It is interesting to see the irony in this passage. The Israelites had every reason to be afraid when they witnessed smoke, thunder, and lightening on Mt. Sinai. If one of the mountains here in the Ozarks started that kind of action, I would definitely be afraid. Sometimes our first reaction to the things God does is fear. Sometimes we are afraid because we don’t know God is involved in what is happening, and other times we are afraid because we believe God is involved.
There’s not much doubt that God intended the Israelites to be afraid. Earlier, in Exodus chapter 19, God said this:
Ex 19:12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’
Despite the earlier warning, Moses delivered a word of comfort to the Israelites. He said, “Don’t be afraid.” There seems to be a contradiction on God’s message to the people. Yet, maybe there is not. Let’s think about our relationship with God, His word, and with man’s battle with temptation and sin.
We are admonished to fear God many times throughout the bible. Some of those times, fear means revere instead of the kind of fear we most often think of. On the other hand, it is natural to fear God in its more common meaning. The man who doesn’t fear (revere) God is headed for big trouble. The Christian who is not sometimes fearful of God can also get himself into deep waters. We must have a healthy respect AND fear of God.
And yet, God and Jesus often said to believers, “Do not fear.” How can we fear God and at the same time not fear God? Here are my thoughts. Feel free to disagree and come up with your own theory.
Those who do not fear God are the ones who have the most valid reason to fear. What they face in the future should bring them to a terrorizing sense of doom. Those who do fear God have no reason to fear God. Our fear of God gives us plenty of reason to lay our fears to rest. Because we fear, we shouldn’t fear. We know where our limits are. We know when we cross God’s line, so to speak. Because we are aware of that line, we can rest in peace.
The limits we know are there, in regard to SSA, keep us continually battling our weakness. We have enough respect and fear of our Lord that we have a desire to stay on the right side of purity. Further, when we cross over the line, we immediately know it, which eventually brings us to repentance. Therefore, our fear gives us the comfort in knowing we don’t have to fear.
Okay, call the men in white uniforms to come get me.
Prayer: Thank You for putting the “fear of God” into us. Because of that, we are much less likely to get ourselves into trouble. Because of that, we are much less likely to stay in sin when we stray away from Your precepts. You are an awesome Lord and Your ways are mysterious. We thank You for revealing truth to us and saving us from destructive ways.