Tuesday, October 13, 2009


A couple Sunday's ago our pastor was preaching on the fear of God. Many Christians want to interpret the word "fear" as only reverence or awe for God. They say it cannot mean that believers actually are afraid of God. I used to be one such believer. I formerly concentrated on these verses to help determine my thoughts:

Romans 8:15
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
The pastor likened Biblical fear of God to our fear of the ocean. Not everyone has spent time at the ocean in their life. Here in the Valley we are drawn to go there and just watch it. It's amazing and powerful as you get close to witness it. But we have a saying about the ocean, and my pastor said it in his sermon too. I was told it from the beginning by my parents: "Never turn your back on the ocean."

His sermon was poignant. About a month ago we took a trip to Florence, Oregon. My family has always loved the South beaches and sand dunes. At low tide there's a treasure of sea material to pick over.

We've always had a general rule that no one ever stands in water that comes over the knees. This trip, I thought I was wise and was following this general rule. The water was at the highest of tides, and for several minutes the shoreline would recede, then all of a sudden it would reclaim about fifty feet of beach. I guess that's what threw me off.... I walked out a little too far and didn't keep track of how far the wet sand was. My mom and my two girls came out after I did. She was holding hands with them on her two sides. We all jumped over the first wave, which was only an inch high. Then another wave came, about six inches high. No problem of course. The final wave came (or so I thought). It came right at the knee for my mom and I. I glanced over at them and laughed with them, and even turned around just enough to smile at my dad, and then BAAM. I was hit in the back almost to my shoulder blades.

My mom and two girls were all wet and we were just fine for the moment. Except the girls were a little in shock from the cold splash. So they both started to pull my mom's arms to walk backward too fast for her and she fell down sitting in the water, then my eldest fell down too - her head completely submerged. By this time I was between them and the ocean and I pulled my eldest up on to her feet. I knew they were going to run up the beach, but I couldn't know if they would get out there fast enough before the tide reversed and began pulling them back out. My younger daughter is five and only weighs 38 lbs. I was terrified now, but Ben got behind them too and followed them out, so my dad and I took hold of my mom's hands to help her up. She was to her neck in surf. The tide was so powerful that even though my dad and I were using most of our strength, we could not help her to stand up. The two feet of ocean water traveling out was removing the sand we were standing upon. The wave receded enough finally and we lifted her up and got out.

That was my fault. I was dumb. I know I will always struggle at least in a small way when I remember how my confidence and assertiveness led my dear family to go out too far. In a sense, I just didn't understand. But now I can tell you what it is to be caught by what they call a "sneaker wave." You don't see how it is coming in the surf, until it is upon you.

My girls and I will never again merely laugh and run by the water's edge. I'm not so scared that I would refuse getting wet from this day forward, but, I am intimidated enough to heavily err on caution's side.

I would love to study the word "fear" in scripture. There's a lot to learn, but for now I'd like to look at a Psalm that has fear as a small part of a description on Godly wisdom. The translation of the word "fear" in this Psalm can be translated as "reverence." But, it could also be translated as "terror." God tells me He is far beyond my ways. Even when I understand right from wrong in the Word, I wonder if He uncompromisingly acts in a manner I will never completely anticipate?

Psalm 19:7-14
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
I might blog some more in the future on the word translated "fear" ....

1 comment:

Todd Saunders said...

Hello Sanc,
I share your interest in how the faithful are supposed to fear the Lord. Just the other week I revisited that question after a rather scary and unreassuring sermon. Although I did know at the time the sermon to be a little out of balance. The Conservative Mennonites can go there sometimes as a shorcut in teaching obedience to the gospel. It's much easier than teaching obedience from the heart. When you find a denomination that has it just right, let me know(...bewildered sigh).

Previous to the sermon, I had felt awed but not fearful. I had, in my understanding, stored the following passage away to remind me of the fear I should once have had; because of the punishment coming on those who walked as I once walked.

Eph 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.


...because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

This next bit here by Peter seems to be directed primarily at a scattered Jewish audience and contains encouragement that would sort of find it's way to their core vis. their past doctrine. But I'll let it find it's way to mine as well after a fashion.

1 Peter 1:17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;

But it's clear in those verses which you cited in Rom. and 1 John that if we've joined our hearts to the Lord through faith then we need only to fear ourselves and not the Lord; leaving a little bit of fear there for us after looking at a small slice of the subject anyway.

Love from the heart is not something we can generate out of fear or necessity to save us from God's disapproval or ultimate condemnation.

Mr 8:35 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

The indescribable gift of His love I believe is intended to caste out our fear when we allow it to by abiding in it.


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