It’s audio devo day!
What if you got to know the heart of God so well that you became stunned by His goodness? What if your personal experience of His kindness to you left you amazed? And what if exactly that kind of intimate knowledge of Him is a key part of the fear of the Lord? Join me today as we discuss these delightful questions!
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Today we continue our journey together exploring the fear of the Lord. Last week we talked about how fearing Him means to be in awe of how much bigger He is than any enemy we might face in this life. I shared with you how this became a critically important revelation for me during one of the most intense, scary seasons of my life. When fear threatened to overwhelm me, I learned that the antidote to the spirit of fear is the fear of the Lord. Anchoring my soul in the awe of His majesty would send fear packing during those difficult years.
After that, the Father decided to take me further into the depths of His truth on this subject. Again, what He showed me began to change my life. This time, He added on a new facet to my understanding. As He so often does, He initiated this new chapter by dropping a question into my heart. I’ve noticed, He likes to provoke my curiosity about a subject, and then answer the very question that He got me thinking about. (I’m curious, does He do that with you, too?)
So the story I was chewing on was the one where He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. You are familiar with it? Of course, Abraham obeyed Him, all the way up to the point of lifting the knife above his son’s body. Then God stopped him and said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Gen. 22:12, NKJV).
The language there struck me. “Now I know that you fear God.” It got me thinking, and I asked the Father, Why the word choice of “fear God?” Why didn’t You instead say, “Now I know that you love God?” It seems to me like Abraham was showing his ultimate love and devotion to the Lord through this act. You know, like when God Himself loved the world so much that He gave His only Son. Abraham was doing something very similar in this story. Ultimate sacrifice, ultimate love. So I don’t get it. Why did God pick the words, “Now I know that you fear Me?”
The Father didn’t answer me in that moment. But I knew He would before long. I have learned that whenever I ask Him a question, He will soon be answering, so I am to be on the lookout for His communication. I didn’t have to wait much for Him to continue the conversation. Later that same day, I came across a post by a new blogger friend. The title of her post was what immediately caught my eye. It was “Fear the One You Trust” (you can read it here).
Holy Spirit’s light bulb went on in my spirit as I read it. The author quoted this Scripture: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord…” (Prov. 3:5-7, NKJV). Ahhh… Trust in the Lord with all your heart… fear the Lord. Never before had I noticed the connection between these two ideas! Suddenly, I understood. God’s heart was so smitten in the Genesis 22 story – why? Because Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac demonstrated deep, deep trust. And what is trust? The very foundation of friendship with God.
Trusting God and fearing Him, then, go together inextricably. But where does trust come from? How does it develop? Is it not the case that the more faithful and reliable that we find someone to be, the more we come to trust them? Could it be, then, that the fear of the Lord is about discovering how trustworthy He is? Could it be that what overcame God’s heart in that moment on Mount Horeb was how well Abraham had come to know and trust His character?
It was all coming together for me. Soon after that, Holy Spirit dropped in another piece of the puzzle. As I listened to one of my favorite preachers, he quoted this verse: “They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days” (Hos. 3:5, NKJV). Wow! In the last days, people are going to actually fear the goodness of the Lord! Notice, now, it doesn’t say, they are going to fear His judgement. It doesn’t say, they are going to fear His wrath. No, it says they are going to fear His goodness. What in the world does that even mean?
Could it be that the fear of the Lord is also about discovering how good He is? Absolutely! Consider this verse too: “Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it” (Jer. 33:9, NKJV). Again, wow! Here God is telling us that He is going to pour so much goodness out on us His people that the entire world will spontaneously experience a response of fear and trembling.
Trembling even! Have you ever physically trembled? Though it’s rare, I have experienced this. I have only trembled when I have been absolutely overcome… whether it be by tiredness, or by extreme emotion. Either way, trembling is the physical manifestation of being overcome. Could it be that the fear of the Lord is about being utterly undone by His goodness?
Look at how the Message renders this verse: “They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her.” And the NCV: “They will be surprised and shocked at all the good things and the peace I will bring to Jerusalem.” That’s right. Shock, surprise, and awe at His goodness. All of this goes into fearing God.
You see? Fearing the Lord does not mean being afraid of Him. I will add, that His enemies should indeed be very afraid of Him, and they are! Satan and all his hosts of darkness tremble and flee before the majesty of His presence. Ironically, the ones that have legitimate reason to be afraid of Him do not operate out of the proper fear of the Lord. To fear the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13), and His enemies instead love it. We can conclude then, that being afraid of God, and properly fearing Him, are mutually exclusive. They do not go together. They are polar opposites, in fact.
When you do fear the Lord, it’s because you have gotten close enough to Him to discover how good He is. You have also walked in intimacy with Him long enough absorb into the depths of your spirit how much mightier He is than anything else that exists. As we talked about last week, you have come to be far more impressed by Him than by anything His enemies could do.
This is what had happened to Abraham. He had walked intimately with God for decades. He had learned by personal experience how deeply God loved him. His promise-keeping God had fulfilled the longing of his heart and given him the son that he had waited for all his life. In amazement, he had also beheld the miraculous power of God bringing forth life from a womb that had been long dead. From what his own eyes had witnessed, Abraham was able to proclaim, “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: ‘Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love’” (Ps. 62:11-12, NIV).
He knew that his God was infinite power and infinite love, and that He kept His promises. He could safely obey Him and offer Isaac on the altar. If need be, his loving, faithful, covenant-keeping God would raise his boy from the dead and give him back to him. Abraham had truly become the friend of God. He had grown up into the fear of the Lord.
This stole God’s heart! So much so that He made sure to emphasize Abraham’s place in His affections, in both the Old and New Testaments. Can you hear the overflowing tones of tenderness in His voice when He speaks of “Abraham My friend”? (Isa. 41:8, NKJV).
So when God said to His dear friend, “Now I know that you fear Me,” it was because Abraham had been completely overcome by His goodness. The knowledge of it filled his heart and fueled his actions. In those words, God was also saying, “Now I know that you love Me.” To fear God is to love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. When you really come to know Him intimately like Abraham did, love and obedience is the spontaneous response. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NKJV).
When we discover His love firsthand, it will shock us. It will fill us with awe. We will long to love Him back the way He deserves. Our spontaneous response will be to give Him everything, just as Abraham did. And we, too, will become the intimate friends of God.
In your own life and experience, how do fearing the Lord, and trusting Him, go together?