Pastor David B. Curtis

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Fearing God

Deuteronomy 5:29

Delivered 08/26/2001

In Deuteronomy, chapter 10, Moses is speaking to the children of Israel. They were near the end of a long journey. For almost 40 years they had been wandering about in the desert on their way to the promised land. He is preparing them for his departure and for their entry into the promised land - telling them how they are to live their lives as God's covenant people. And as he does, he teaches us also how we are to live our lives as God's chosen people.

If there is one thing that Moses wants to impress upon them and upon us, it is that they and we are to fear the Lord. He mentions that they are to fear the Lord 9 times in Deuteronomy.

He has been telling them what God has done and then he says this:

Deuteronomy 10:12 (NKJV) "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

How does the Lord ask us to respond to Him and what he has done for us? The response is to be one of attitude - we are to have a proper attitude toward God, an attitude that will affect all that we do.

This morning I ask you to consider your attitude; how you look upon God, how you respond to Him. The attitude we are to have is to fear the Lord our God. I ask you, "Do you fear the Lord?" Is it the fear of the Lord that is the motivation of all that you think, say, and do?

Revelation 15:4 (NKJV) Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested."

God desires that we should fear Him.

Deuteronomy 5:29 (NKJV) 'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

Certainly the fear of God is not characteristic of a pagan culture. Sadly, all too often a proper fear of God is not a prominent part of the Christian's life, either. Fear of God just isn't part of the culturally correct - which means mainly psychologically correct view of the healthy, satisfying religious life. Fear is viewed as harmful by our culture. Children have no fear of their parents. Citizens have no fear of lawful authorities. And yet the Bible tells us to live out our lives in fear.

This is a subject that isn't preached about much in our day, but it is still vital to the Christian's faith. We desperately need to recover a sense of awe and reverence for God in our day. We must begin to view Him in the infinite majesty that belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Sovereign of the universe. There is an infinite gap in worth and dignity between God, the Creator, and man, the creature. The fear of God is a heartfelt recognition of this gap.

The Bible teaches us that God is Holy and we are to fear Him. Would you classify yourself as a God fearing man or woman? As God dealt with the children of Israel, he continually stressed that they were to fear Him:

Deuteronomy 4:10 (NKJV) "especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.'

The fear of God is not strictly an Old Testament concept, it is very much a part of the New Covenant. Speaking of the New Covenant that was to come, Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 32:40 (NKJV) 'And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.

Paul and Peter both speak of "the fear of the Lord." Referring to those people who did not know God, Paul said:

Romans 3:18 (NKJV) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Speaking of believers, Paul said:

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Ephesians 5:21 (NKJV) submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Speaking to believers, Peter said:

1 Peter 1:17 (NKJV) And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
1 Peter 2:17 (NKJV) Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.Honor the king.

Speaking of Christ, Isaiah said:

Isaiah 11:3 (NKJV) His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;

If Jesus, in his humanity, delighted in the fear of God, surely we need to work on having this attitude in our lives.

The Bible uses the expression "fear God" 17 times; the expression "fear the Lord" 35 times; and the expression "the fear of the Lord" 27 times. As Christians, we are called to fear God. Do you?

If so much emphasis is placed on fearing the Lord, then I believe that we need to know what it means, and how we can go about doing it. Therefore, I would like to take a few minutes this morning and talk to you about fearing God. I believe that the Lord wants to teach us what this matter of fearing Him is all about. He wants you and me to grow in our relationship with Him and in our knowledge of Him; and the way knowledge begins is with the fear of the Lord.

What does the phrase "the fear of the LORD" refer to? When we think of fear, we associate the word with terror. Webster's Dictionary defines fear as: "a feeling of anxiety and agitation produced by the presence or nearness of danger, evil, pain, etc." For many, this would describe the feeling you get when you see a snake, go to the doctor or dentist, or when you find yourself in a time of extreme danger. It is dread of the unknown. Surely, this is not the sensation the Bible is referring to.

In our modern vernacular, the "fear of the lord" is often defined as "reverence" or "awe" - which is fine as far as it goes. But I wonder if this definition truly goes far enough. According to Paul, the "fear of the lord" should include a place for "trembling"!

Philippians 2:12 (NKJV) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Paul combined "fear and trembling". The Greek word for "trembling" is tromos, and means: "a trembling or quaking with fear". Just as one would likely tremble in the presence of one who could take our life, so Jesus taught us to fear the Lord:

Matthew 10:28 (NKJV) "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

What, then, does it mean to fear the Lord? When we truly fear the Lord, we will recognize that He is the Creator, and we are the creatures. He is the Master, and we are the servants. He is the Father, and we are the children. This attitude will manifest itself in our having a respect for God, and in our having a desire to do what He tells us to in His Bible. We can relate this kind of fear to that which a child has for his parents. If the right kind of fear is present, the child knows that his parents can hurt him if there is disobedience, but overriding that fear is the knowledge that disobedience hurts the parents, and the child loves and respects his parents and does not want to hurt them. To put it simply, the fear of the Lord is a deep seated reverence for God that causes men to want to please Him at all costs.

Fear of the Lord is always demonstrated in obedience to the Word of God:

Proverbs 16:6 (NKJV) In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.

This verse tells us that the fear of the Lord promotes holy living. The person who truly reverences and respects the Lord as he should will not do anything that brings disgrace, dishonor, or pain to the heart of the Lord. People who genuinely fear the Lord will flee from evil. And people who do not flee from evil do not fear the Lord, regardless of what they profess with their lips. Therefore, when we fear the Lord, there is an elements of dread at what His wrath can do, but there is also such a respect for Him and for His will that nothing else matters but doing that which pleases the Lord.

In scripture, wisdom is inseparably linked to fearing God:

Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV) "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

If "wisdom" and "understanding" are parallel in this verse, and I believe they are, then the "fear of the Lord" and the "knowledge of the Holy One" are parallel also. If we fear God, we will walk in wisdom; and if we know God, we will walk in understanding. To know God is to fear Him, and to fear Him is to walk in obedience.

What is wisdom? True wisdom, for man, is adjustment to and acceptance of God's revealed truth. It lies in seeing himself, the creature, in right perspective to God, the Creator, and in acting accordingly. To the Hebrew, wisdom is right living, responding correctly to life's situations. So, when you fear God, you will begin to live right, you will walk in obedience.

Would you describe your life as one lived in the fear of God? Does the dread of His wrath prompt you to holiness? Does respect for Him and for His will propel you toward obedience and godliness? If not, you must ask, how can we grow in our fear of the Lord? How can we learn more about God so we will come to fear Him?

THE "FEAR OF THE LORD" COMES THROUGH THE WORD OF GOD!

Proverbs 2:1-5 (NKJV) My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.

Just as "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17), the same can be said for the "fear of the Lord"! No wonder there is so little fear of God today among His people, it is because there is so little time spent in His word.

Deuteronomy 31:10-13 (NKJV) And Moses commanded them, saying: "At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 "when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 "Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 "and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess."

Notice that the children of Israel were told to gather every seven years to read and hear the Word... "that they may learn to fear the LORD". As you spend time in the Word of God, you will gain a healthy degree of the "fear of the Lord".

Have you ever felt an awe or fear for the Lord as you've read of His judgments in the Bible?

Leviticus 10:1-3 (NKJV) Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified [or honored].' " So Aaron held his peace.

What did they do wrong? The text tells us they didn't regard God as holy. This display of God's wrath is not an isolated incident. Do you remember what happened to Lot's wife when she looked back at Sodom?

Genesis 19:17 (NKJV) So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed."
Genesis 19:24-26 (NKJV) Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

God said to not look back, and Lot's wife disobeyed, and God turned her into salt! God is very serious about obedience, and our obedience is motivated by our fear of Him.

Jeremiah 21:3-7 (NKJV) Then Jeremiah said to them, "Thus you shall say to Zedekiah, 4 'Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the walls; and I will assemble them in the midst of this city. 5 "I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath. 6 "I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast; they shall die of a great pestilence. 7 "And afterward," says the LORD, "I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his servants and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence and the sword and the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life; and he shall strike them with the edge of the sword. He shall not spare them, or have pity or mercy."'

Zedekiah was the last king of Judah (596-586 B.C.). He was made king in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 24:17). When he rebelled, the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it.

Jeremiah 39:6-7 (NKJV) Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes in Riblah; the king of Babylon also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon.

The last thing Zedekiah saw was the execution of his sons before his own eyes were blinded. Then Zedekiah was taken to Babylon where he was imprisoned until the day of his death.

In 2 Samuel 6, Uzziah steadied the ark to keep it from falling, and God struck him dead! We look at the Old Testament and see God's judgement on sin and it causes us to fear Him. The Bible teaches us that God is Holy and He is to be feared.

In the New Testament, we see an ever-increasing fear of the Lord Jesus the more men came to understand who He is. The disciples feared when they witnessed the stilling of the storm:

Mark 4:41 (NKJV) And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"

Men became fearful at the raising of the widow's dead son:

Luke 7:15-16 (NKJV) So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen up among us"; and, "God has visited His people."

When Jesus healed the paralyzed man it caused those who witnessed it to fear:

Luke 5:24-26 (NKJV) "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"; He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." 25 Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"

When Jesus healed the demon possessed man, it caused all to fear:

Luke 8:37 (NKJV) Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.

The disciplining of Ananias and Sapphira produced a healthy fear in the church and outside:

Acts 5:5 (NKJV) Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.

The disciplining of the Jewish exorcists brought fear to those who lived in Ephesus:

Acts 19:17 (NKJV) This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

As we spend time in the Word of God, we will learn to fear Him. It is important to emphasize, however, that we must read ALL of God's Word. Some read only those portions that will reveal God's love and mercy, and have no "fear of the Lord". Others emphasize the "fire, hell and brimstone" passages, and know nothing of God's everlasting loving kindness and love. The one develops an attitude of permissiveness that belittles God's holiness and justice. The other develops a psychosis of terror that forgets God's grace and compassion.

To "fear God" is an instruction to stand in awe of God. I draw your attention here to Israel's crossing of the Red Sea. Once God had led Israel through the sea on dry land to the other side, and then drowned the stubborn Pharaoh and his army in that Sea, we read this response from the people:

Exodus 14:31 (NKJV) Thus Israel saw the great work which the LORD had done in Egypt; so the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD and His servant Moses.

This fear was not panic or horror or terror of God; this fear was rather awe, respect, reverence for God. On the far banks of the Red Sea the people stood in amazement at the wonderful things the Lord in wisdom had done for their deliverance. Do you stand in awe at the power and wisdom of God?

DIVIDENDS OF THE FEAR OF THE LORD:

The fear of the Lord is accompanied by tremendous blessing. According to the book of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord will produce certain benefits in your life and mine. When we fear the Lord, we will find certain things to be true:

It Prolongs Life:

Proverbs 10:27 (NKJV) The fear of the LORD prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.

Approximately 60% of human illnesses can be traced directly or indirectly to fear, sorrow, envy, resentment, guilt, hatred, or to any number of emotional stresses. Add to that the awful pain caused by alcohol (cirrhosis of the liver), tobacco, (emphysema, cancer, heart disease), and immorality (venereal diseases and AIDS), and we can see that a life lived in the fear of the Lord with obedience to His Word will result in a much healthier existence.

It Produces Satisfaction And Safety:

Proverbs 19:23 (NKJV) The fear of the LORD leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.

The person who lives in the fear of God will be a satisfied person. They will have one goal in life; pleasing the Lord, and it will have been met. Therefore, they will have all their needs met, and they will be happy. When we must have other stuff to make us happy, we never will be! When we learn to be satisfied with the Lord and with the privilege of walking in His fear, we will be permanently satisfied. Nothing will matter but the smile of God, and it will be upon our lives.

A life lived in the fear of the Lord will tell on you. If you fear Him, then you will want to honor him in everything. He will come first and His will will be paramount in your life. It is easy to see those who walk in the fear of the Lord. His House is a priority, prayer and the Scriptures are priorities, everything God says in His Word take priority and precedent over one's personal will and desires. The Lord's way becomes the only way.

To stand in awe of such a God, to respect this God highly on account of what He has done, implies automatically that one obeys His commands. To have high thoughts of God; to marvel at His greatness, His power, His mercy, His kindness, to stand in awe of this God on account of His works for us, implies that one has appreciation too for His instructions. It's certainly a contradiction to fear God on the one hand and to disregard His commands on the other.

The Bible teaches that God is holy, and that He is to be honored. We desperately need to recover a sense of awe and reverence for God in our day. Notice how John responded when he saw Christ in all his glory:

Revelation 1:17 (NKJV) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

Do you remember Isaiah's response to seeing God?

Isaiah 6:1-5 (NKJV) In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."

Whenever men in Scripture were in the presence of God their response was always fear. God is Holy, He is just, He is righteous, and we are to fear Him. As we study the Scriptures, we will see God in all His majesty and glory, and it will cause us to stand in awe of Him, which in turn will cause us to live in obedience. Solomon put it this way:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. >

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