Exodus 20

Knowing God + Fearing God = No Sin

“Don’t be afraid,” Moses said, “for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power. From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning! Exodus 20:20 NLT

The fear of God. Not a hot topic in most evangelical churches today. We prefer to talk about the love of God. Fearing God is SO Old Testament. Our God is a god of love. Yet there is an aspect of the fear of God that is desperately needed today. God has not changed. His Word has not changed. His might, power, holiness, and righteousness have not diminished. But many of us suffer from a kind of fatal familiarity with God. We feel like we know Him so well, that we no longer fear or respect Him. We have become too casual in our relationship with Him – almost flippant. Yes, He loves me and sees me as His child, but He still expects me to honor, respect, and yes, even fear Him. A healthy fear of God’s power and might, His holiness and purity, can help us turn away from sin. If we really know and fear the One whom we say we worship, we will be more careful with the way we live our lives before Him.

The best analogy I can come up with for the fear of God is that of electricity. We all know that electricity is a powerful force. But it is also extremely beneficial. We use it to light up our homes, to power our TVs and DVRs, to wash clothes and cook our food. We enjoy the benefits of electricity every day of our lives. When we walk into a room, we expect to flip a switch on the wall and see the lights come on. When we wake up in the morning, we fully expect the water to be hot for our shower and the coffee maker to turn on. Most of us are not afraid to plug in a hair dryer or the charger to our cell phone. We don’t walk by the wall sockets and tremble. But we also wouldn’t take a fork and stick it into the wall receptacle. We wouldn’t attempt to dry our hair while sitting in a tub full of water. Why? Because we FEAR electricity. We understand it’s power. We comprehend what it can do FOR us and TO us.

I love to do things around our home. I see myself as a fairly successful handyman. But the one thing I am most reluctant to work with is electricity. Because I fear its power. I know it is not something to mess with. When working with it I take a lot of precautions. Because I know what it can do. I appreciate its benefits, but I fear its power. The same should be true of my relationship with God. I should appreciate and love all the benefits that come from a relationship with Him, but at the same time, I should fear His power. I think it is interesting that Moses told the people of Israel, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to show you his awesome power. From now on, let your fear of him keep you from sinning!” (Exodus 20:20 NLT). Do you see it? He says, “Don’t be afraid.” But then he also says, “Let your fear of him keep you from sinning.” Fear not. Be afraid. What a minute! Which one am I supposed to do? Both. See, the people of Israel were petrified of God. They had just experienced His power as He spoke from Mount Sinai. “When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the horn, and when they saw the lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear” (Exodus 20:18 NLT). Their response was to tell Moses, “You tell us what God says, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us. If he does, we will die!” (Exodus 20:19 NLT). They were so afraid that they didn’t even want to have God speak to them directly. Their fear of God was keeping them from having a relationship with God. But Moses told them not to fear. God had revealed His power in order that they would fear Him in a positive way. God wanted them to understand just how mighty and powerful He was so that they would honor, respect, revere, and yes, fear His potential for wrath. God wanted this display of His “awesome power” to motivate them NOT to sin.

God wants us to have that same fear of Him today. He wants us to comprehend His might and power. He wants us to never forget who it is we are dealing with. We are never to become so familiar that our familiarity breeds contempt or complacency. The following quote sums it up well, “To live in fear of God means that we live before God and the rest of reality in such a way that there is never contempt within us. We take nothing for granted, everything as a gift. We have respect. We are always poised for surprise before the mystery of God, others, and ourselves. All boredom and contempt is an infallible sign that we have fallen out of a healthy fear of God.” —Ronald Rolheiser.

Father, I want to learn to fear You, not so that it will drive me away from You, but to You. I want to understand more fully your power, might, and majesty. I don’t want familiarity to cloud my understanding of just how holy You are. Never let boredom or contempt replace my fear of You. I never want to take You for granted. I am blown away that You have chosen to have a love relationship with me. May I never lose sight of the mystery and majesty of that reality. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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