“You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”
( Sam. 17:33)
Does fear of what is around us somehow make us strong? Fear, as in being terrified, never enhances the strength of mind and body needed to accomplish things. Instead it creates a fight or flight response. This is born out in both God’s Word and within our own lives. There is not a lot of room left in fearful responses for thoughtful obedience.
Occasionally it is useful to rid ourselves of clutter and to simplify things. In English, many consider that the word reverence comes closer to capturing what it means to fear God. Reverence is defined as an attitude of “honor or respect that is felt for or shown to someone or something,” a “deep respect filtered with awe or veneration” (Merriam-Webster). Yet the meaning of the primary Hebrew word for reverence as used in the OT simply means to “fear” (per The Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon). And the only other word used in the OT for the fear of God is translated “to reverence or to fear.” That shows that fear of God and reverence for God are synonyms in the simplicity of the original languages of the scriptures. It is a useful idea to set our focus on understanding what God is telling us through the words we have been given.
James wrote to believers in 2:19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and tremble.” Demons hold God in awe; and James wrote that they “believe.” They know who He is. But then he said they do something more. They shudder. They know they are not on equal footing and exist only as God allows them to or has purpose for them. We are but little different. A tremor or chill out of respect to the God of heaven and earth and to his faithful Heir is warranted. For Christ is… “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Eph. 1:21).
That might do us some good to ponder in an age where many things are seen through an unfiltered light. It is fear that alerts us to the weightiness of a situation or to the source of things whether suspected, known or unknown. Most soldiers, police and firemen know what fear is.
Fear of God cannot be a fear of the unknown. And fear and reverence are traits we must hold before us if we seek, “to worship Him in reverence and godly fear (He. 12:28).” The first word translated here means fear, and the second: a suitable reverential manner (properly or respectfully). Let us not look so deeply for nuance where none may be warranted.
We should recognize – we should know. God is in control; and we are not and will never be. We must trust in Him. We should have a healthy respect for outcomes with reverence, or dare we say it – with a good dose of fear. We must both honor and revere God, and approach him in the manner he has prescribed because of who He is. Or, we should learn to tremble as the result for getting it wrong. That is reverence and godly fear. To respect something that I see as clearly superior to me in every way and yet to fully trust in Him and his Word as my strength and shield – as my foundation and my protection. His Word, His understanding – not mine. That is what young David understood as he walked out on that field that day.
So, I should hold The Father in awe. I must fear Him and his authority and power. And as He has given all authority to the Christ until judgment. Therefore, Jesus is my King and I must recognize Him and his authority and power, as long as I cling to Him for life and support. Without the Lord, there is no solace – no peace. Without my seeking His will there is nothing good that will come of anything I do.
We should tremble.
The question remains: do I trust in God because every fiber in me seeks out His Word and to honor Him, leaving out any fear of what may happen otherwise. Or am I thinking and doing something else.