Fear is a feeling I’m all too familiar with. When I was a little girl, it was darkness. Into my pre-teens, it was the fear of dangerous criminals. As a young adult, I feared being alone or being taken advantage of. And now that I’m an adult, I struggle with fears that my children will be harmed, fears of failure, and fears of growing old and not mattering to society. Just to name a few.
I’ve studied fear, both in my life and in the lives of others. A few years ago I decided to study what the Bible has to say about fear. And lo and behold, fear is everywhere in those pages. If you’re anything like me, you don’t need anyone to teach you about fear of failure, fear of disaster, or fear of death. But we might do well to learn about the fear of God.
One of my favorite passages that demonstrates fear of God is Isaiah 6:1-8. Isaiah sees God sitting on His majestic throne, the robe of His train filling the temple. Seraphim cry out in worship, and the foundations of the temple shake and tremble. Then Isaiah describes himself: “And I said, ‘Woe is me!” After seeing this beauty and glory and power, Isaiah can’t do anything but try to hide. He recognizes his smallness and sin so plainly in that throne room.
Fear of God includes three aspects, two of which we see clearly in this passage in Isaiah. First, fear of God consists of reverence – seeing God correctly. Second, fear of God consists of humility – seeing ourselves correctly. If either of these aspects is neglected, we cannot fear God rightly.
Let’s talk about reverence. We only give reverence to something we highly value and see as greater than ourselves. I remember going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington D.C. when I was 13 years old. There were probably 200 people there to watch the changing of the guard, but I don’t remember ever being so deafened by the silence. Not a sound could be heard except the footsteps of the soldiers as they walked past the tomb. Even though I didn’t really understand why that tomb was there or what all the fuss was about, I wouldn’t have dared make a sound. That’s reverence.
I’m going to state the obvious here – we cannot see God rightly unless we actually look at Him. In order to have a healthy fear of God, we have to be in His presence over and over again. We have to examine Him from every possible angle. In this examination, we will naturally respond in reverence, just as Isaiah did.
As we see God rightly, we will naturally begin to see ourselves rightly as well. You can’t help but feel small when you’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. So humility consists of looking at ourselves with the beauty of God casting light into our darkness. He is beautiful – we are not. He is glorious – we are plain. He is holy – we are sinful. When I’m struggling with pride, it’s always a reflection of my lack of vision for who God is.
We’ve said that fear of God consists of reverence and humility, and now we come to the third aspect – worship. When we see God rightly and then see ourselves rightly, we are compelled to worship. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for worship literally translates “to bow down.” In our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations, are we bowing down in reverence and humility toward God? In what ways do we choose to stand upright and ignore who He is and who we are in comparison?
As you can see, this concept does not apply only to women. All of humanity is called to fear the Lord alone. As women, we may be prone to certain types of fear in lieu of a fear of God, and we’ll discuss this in our next post. But everyone, regardless of gender, understands fear. Let us pray that we grow in a rightly-directed fear of God and turn loose our fears of other things.
Questions for Reflection:
- How does your culture influence you toward pride and self-exaltation rather than reverence, humility and worship of God?
- In what ways do you cultivate reverence, humility and worship in your daily life? How might the Lord be prompting you to grow in these areas?
Passages to Study: Philippians 2:12-13, Jeremiah 32:36-41, and Psalm 139.
Want to study this topic all week? Click below for a homework guide, including study and reflection questions.