Friday, March 9, 2012

Holy Fear

What is your worst fear? I’m not asking, “What’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you?” But what in this world causes you the most anxiety when you encounter it? It’s amazing the kinds of things that people fear. A man named Fredd Culbertson has been collecting data on fear for over thirty years. He has a website,, in which he lists 500 fears that have been mentioned in reference books and medical papers. Some are just bizarre, like Peladophobia, the fear of bald people. Or Entheraphobia: the fear of your mother-in-law. Or Pteronophobia: fear of being tickled by feathers. Or my personal favorite, Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- Fear of long words. And yes, in case you’re wondering, there is a fear of sermons. It’s called Homilophobia. So if you’d like to be anywhere else but in Westbury Baptist this Sunday listening to me, at least now you know what to call your condition.

In Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Moses tells the Israelites that the most important thing they can do, the key to their becoming successful in the Promised Land, is to fear God. Does that seem odd to you? After all, God loves us, right? He wants for us to spend time with Him, right? My own personal worst fear is a fear of heights. As a result, I don’t enjoy climbing ladders or working on the roofs of houses. Rock climbing, bungee jumping, skydiving, hang gliding…these are not hobbies that I am tempted to take up. In other words, I avoid that which I fear, as much as possible. Would God want us to avoid Him? As you continue reading the Scriptures with us this year, you will find that this a very common command. The fear of God is mentioned all through the Bible as something we should cultivate. Those of you who are church-savvy will quickly say, “This is nothing to worry about. It just means having a sense of reverence.” Okay, but again, when you read the Bible, you see something different. You see that everyone who ever came into personal contact with the One True God either ended up flat on their face, like Moses, Elijah, Job, Isaiah, Paul, and John—just to name a few—or they ended up dead. Just a few chapters before our text for today, Moses told the Israelites, The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Dt. 4:24). There is a risk, a danger to God that we must take seriously.

So how do we reconcile the love God feels for us with the idea that He is dangerous and must be feared? Why is the fear of God such an important key to living well? And how do cultivate the fear of God? It's my job to answer to those questions this Sunday. In the meantime, you might check out the following Scriptures, which we'll be exploring as well: Exodus 20:20, Proverbs 1:7 and 15:16, and 2 Samuel 23:3-4.

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