Posted by: mikenicholsblog | July 11, 2010

fear as a beginning

What do you fear?  If it’s possible, hibernate your computer for a couple of minutes, find some quiet, and meditate on that question.  In the still, ask yourself, “What do I fear?”

<insert soothing, chamber-style hold music here>

Alright, so what were your answers?  In my own time of meditation, I came up with wildly different things.  Things as weighty and serious as, “something tragic happening to my family”.  Things as serious, yet temporal as, “losing my job or my house”.  And things as ridiculously trivial as, “being embarrassed”.

I am especially curious, assuming your complete candor and honesty, if anyone had “God” on their list.  Because if you are anything like me, and probably the church at large in the modern age, you lack a real sense of fear when it comes to God.   We can read the Old Testament stories and prophets (like Amos), and we can be quick to judge after natural disasters or acts of terrorism, but have we lost the personal sense of the fear of God?

I don’t pretend to fully understand what this fear should look like.  But I am pretty sure it is not just an extreme reverence or awe.  There are sufficient accounts in the Bible of those who have either personally encountered God or one of His angels, and exhibited something entirely different from reverence or awe.  Saul struck blind, Moses’ glowing face, John falling “at his feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17).  In Exodus 33:20, God says to Moses, “… you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”  None of these sound very awe-ish to me.

But having said that, I am also pretty sure that fearing God is not the “afraid” variety either.  The physical effects illustrated above might lead one to a physical sort of fear.  But I don’t believe for even a minute that God desires that we be scared of him.  He desires a relationship with us, so there has to be something more unifying about this fear.  As I began to search this out, I came across a specific passage and a specific character that I believe begin to put this fear into the proper context.  First, Proverbs 9:10 …

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

And then as someone who consistently showed a healthy fear of God, I submit for consideration, the great leader Joshua.  In reading the book of Joshua, and seeing what God did through him, I see a vivid picture of someone who properly and consistently feared God.  Read for yourself, and take note of his interactions and responses to God in leading the nation of Israel.  This is a man who I could learn much from in the pursuit of a real and genuine fear for God in my own life.

I have taken the first few steps in my fear journey, and I encourage you to begin your own.  However long it takes, this journey is paramount to truly knowing God, and is just the beginning, as Proverbs notes, of true wisdom.  With God’s Word as our first and last reference, inspiration, challenge and encouragement, we can live as a good and faithful servant possessing a true and genuine fear of God.  My prayer is that God can say of me, as He did of Joshua, that I am “a man in whom is the spirit” (Num 27:18).

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