Pause for thought
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A phrase I don’t hear much in religious circles these days was quite common in my youth, “I’m going to put the fear of God in him”!

I don’t know what it’s like in your church, but certainly in mine, we are happy, joyous and cheerful worshippers.

Praise fills our thoughts, actions, and prayers.

We go as far as to sing the words of Bill & Gloria Gaither:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone!

And there is truth in those words, because the fear that is gone is that we would have to spend eternity outside of God’s eternal presence.

But there is a holy fear we should cultivate because it informs our perspective of who God is and our relationship with him.

I encourage you to perform an internet search of the phrase “the fear of the Lord” and you will find it liberally throughout the Old Testament, especially in Psalms and Proverbs that are a distillation of Jewish belief before the advent of the Messiah:

In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. Proverbs 14:26 KJV

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27 KJV

Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith. Proverbs 15:16 KJV

The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. Proverbs 15:33 KJV

…and many, many more!

And only once in the News Testament:

“The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.” Acts 9:31 NLT

We are comforted in our worship by the thought of Jesus as a friend and brother, (“What a friend we have in Jesus…”) and he certainly is those.

But he's not our "good buddy" or "co-pilot." His ways and thoughts are incomparably higher. We must approach God with awe and reverence. He came down to our level to identify with us, but we must remember that’s not his natural state. This is why not even Moses could enter the tabernacle when God's presence filled it.

I think the problem is with our word “fear”.

Fear in our experience is what initiates our “fight or flight” reflexes and usually reflects danger or dread, whether that is the imaginary monster hiding in our childhood closet, or the warning rattle of a venemous snake.

But the biblical word for fear is not usually used in that way. There it connotes awe, reverence, and overwhelming power and capability. It is that very power and capability that draws us into Him, rather than driving us away, because there is safety and security and serenity! Look again at the reference above in Proverbs 14:26 — the fear of the Lord provides refuge!

I often find myself explaining to others that the word “worship” derives from “worth” and “ship” and means to estimate how valuable something or someone is. To be “worthy” comes from the same source and means to have true value.

John the Apostle inspires G.F. Handel to set the words of Revelation 5:12 to music: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain — to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

Let us make sure that our praise and worship is infused with a proper measure of awe, respect, and recognition of the worthiness of the God we adore — in other words “the fear of the Lord”.

It’s the beginning of wisdom, and we might just find that Luke’s words in Acts 9:31 come true for us too!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at