A Different Kind of Fear

Psalm 34:9

Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.

This notion of “fear of the Lord” has always struck me as confusing.  I get it, but I wish there was a better English translation for the word when relating it to the Lord.

On one hand, the Lord is more powerful than any of us could ever comprehend and his wrath is directed at the sin of the world.  However, as someone who has accepted his Son and has the assurance of salvation, I have no worry of being erased from the Book of Life.  Besides, we all know that God is loving and cares for us.

So what is there to fear?  For an answer, I’m going to let Wikipedia present some quotes from one of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis:

Rudolf Otto coined the term “Numinous” to express the type of fear one has for the Lord. C.S. Lewis references the term in many of his writings, but specifically describes it in his book The Problem of Pain and states that fear of the Numinous is not a fear that one feels for a tiger, or even a ghost. Rather, the fear of the Numinous, as C. S. Lewis describes it, is one filled with awe, in which you “feel wonder and a certain shrinking” or “a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant of or prostration before it”. It is a fear that comes forth out of love for the Lord.

To understand the concept, I try to picture how Isaiah reacted when confronted by the Lord.  He completely crumbled and declared himself a man of “unclean lips.”  I think the Lord only shows us as much as we can handle, because if we ever fully knew what the holiness of God really looked like, we would be undone with awe and grief over our own sin.

So practically speaking, this “fear of the Lord” stuff is a way of gaining the proper perspective on life.  If you could see Jesus himself standing beside you, you wouldn’t lie, cheat, steal, or sin in any way.  Yet God is everywhere and the Holy Spirit is in the hearts of all who believe in him.  So remembering to fear the Lord is the key to living a holy life.  It is the first step towards sanctification (which is one of those 10 cent Christian words that means “becoming more like Christ”).

Lord give me a holy fear of you and the proper motivation to be a better man.


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