“And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that his fear will be before you so that you do not sin.” And the people stood at a distance, and Moses approached the very thick cloud where God was.” (Exodus 20:20–21, LEB)
Do we today truly fear God? Do we stand in awe and wonder at His amazing works? Do we tremble at His majesty and power? Do we fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell?
I have heard sermons and read articles where both ideas are given weight over the other but the one that has the most weight depends on the position of your heart.
When the Hebrew people get to the mountain of God, He tells them to prepare for 3 days and before He descends upon the mountain to speak to them directly. God was going to test His people to see the position of their hearts. He needed to drive out the world they had known and replace it with a desire to live a life pleasing to God. A life that moves away from sin and toward their savior. The day comes and God descends upon the mountain…
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19, ESV)
The people trembled and were fearful of death. A people still struggling with sin, now stand before a Holy and merciful God, hearing His words and experiencing His presence. They did not yet have the full word of God to guide them into a proper relationship with Him yet. So, the people cry out for Moses to mediate between them and God. This was the fear of the one who could destroy both soul and body in hell.
But God did not leave them there. His desire was to dwell amongst His people. So, he provided instruction on how to live and love the God of their salvation and how to love one another. But it was not the words alone that would change them, but the position of their hearts towards those words.
The people still struggled, but God had a plan and descended again and took the form of a man. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He was crucified, died, and was buried. Then on the third day, He rose in fulfillment of the Scriptures and thus provided a permanent solution to sin and death. Paul would later pen these words….
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4–7, ESV)
Through Jesus we have life, and in that life, the fear of God has been transformed. We do not have to fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell, but that through Him our fear is transformed….
“““So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31, ESV)
Through Jesus, the salvation of God, our fear is transformed from being afraid and trembling into awe and wonder. Soloman, a man who wrote many wise things said it well…
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;” (Proverbs 2:1–10, ESV)
To me, this drives it all home. Receive His words, treasure them up within us, be attentive to the wisdom that God provides, turning your heart towards understanding, calling out to God for insight and understanding, seeking out all the God has given us like seeking hidden treasure “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:16–18, ESV)
Jesus is the wisdom of God, and it is through Him that fear is transformed!