The year? 1974. The era? The Watergate frenzy peaked as people wondered if the Nixon presidency could survive the flood of revelations about the break in. Earlier in the day, I finagled a private tour of the Rhode Island State Capitol to see its charter—the first American colony to have full religious liberty, signed by the King of England himself.
As I looked at the charter in a back room, the nearby telex chattered—Nixon scheduled a major address that evening, called Vice President Gerald Ford back to DC, and reportedly would resign. In early evening I rode the Honda into Groton CN not long before the speech, and spotted “The Grotto,” a long, low bar. One that had a TV. Free. A wall separated the dark bar from the entry, so I turned right and peered inside. Kind of a redneck crowd, where a long-haired hippie biker might not be welcome.
So I turned back into the hallway as another guy did at the opposite end. Not wanting to cause trouble, I stepped to my left. He stepped to his right. Coincidence. Again I moved to get out of his way and he again moved in front of me. You can guess my thoughts. I repeated my evasive maneuver while trying to not challenge him by looking at his eyes. He responded, and my fear grew. Figuring I better make peace before getting pounded, I raised my hands palm up and said, “I don’t want any trouble.”
This guy also raised his hands and mouthed something. What I thought was a long open hall had a mirror just past the entry door, and I scared myself half to death with my own reflection.
Fear. Real or exaggerated or imagined. Now, here this post takes an unexpected turn. In life, we face many sources of fear, like I scared myself. But what might be the greatest source of fear? Let me suggest God.
We often diminish the concept of fearing God by calling it reverence or awe. Yes, those are part. But the word for fear means fear. If we’re in Christ, we have no fear regarding punishment. But I recall dating a gorgeous girl back in college, one far above me. She so amazed me I could hardly speak for fear of showing what an idiot I was. Multiply that by a billion or so to get a clue of how much God transcends us.
What are the first words of an angel when appearing to a human? “Fear not.” Why? Angels have a presence that intimidates us so much we need that encouragement to not fear. Now, how do the angels view God? “I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim (angels), each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying” (Isaiah 6:1-2). We can’t look at angels, and angels can’t look at God.
Using the search feature on Biblegateway, 82 passages come up with the words fear and God. Half deal with fearing life situations or people. The other half talk about fearing God, how important it is. Friends, fearing God is a huge biblical concept. An earlier post touched on this; let’s take it further.
Why fear him? One reason for today: fear combats self-centeredness. We look at our technology, our progress, our achievements, and pride fills us. We’re important. Until we see God, and we shrink into near nothingness. Until God’s love draws us back to him. Then, and only then, do we possess the balance we need.
Real reasons for humility, as we compare ourselves to God. Real reasons for confidence, as we see our importance to him.
Not often do we fear ourselves, like I did. But we ought to fear God, as the angels do. Ironically, that leads to greater intimacy and depth with him. I kinda like that.
Kick Starting the Application
Do you have any fear of God in regard to his transcendence? Do you think you should have more, or less? Why? What are some aspects of God that lead to fearing him? How much do you battle self-centeredness? Do you think fear would counter that? And, this week, ponder the role fear has in spiritual formation.