Reverence filled love of God gives wings to our worship to help us soar on to new spiritual heights providing us with God’s perspective on expressing His love towards others.
Fear or Love God
The command from God to love the LORD is preceded by the command to fear the
Lord your God. This was not limited to the then present generation but for
their children and future generations so that they are blessed with long life
by God. God is love and all His works are display of His great love for us. God
is a loving Father who does not want to terrorize His children but to teach
them reverence and obedience.
Why are we always filled with dread? –
Origin of the feeling of dread is from disobedience of God and its
consequences. God declared the resulting outcome of their sin to both. To Eve
that her desire shall be her husband and he shall rule over her and also sorrow
and her conception and pain of child bearing. To Adam it was about mortality,
hard work and about the outcome of that toil to also carry obstacle and pain of
‘thistles’ (Genesis 3:16-19). The fear of the unknown future started and
mankind can never be sure of what to expect as the result of their labor. Cain
killed his brother Abel and then complained about the punishment that he was to
suffer, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear’ (Genesis 4:13).
the Garden and later Cain, did God actually curse them? – Hebrew word
‘avon’ is translated as ‘inequity, guilt, punishment for inequity thus carrying
both ends of the coin in itself. Punishment is thus contained in the sin itself
and God only revealed to them what the result would be. That is why the
question to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ (Genesis 3:13. Cain became
afraid of being killed by anyone for his sin after committing it and was not
afraid of anything before that. Fear is a result of sin and when this fear gets
ignored after continuous sinning it results in hardening of hearts. Hebrew word
‘yare’ means fear, revere or stand in awe’. Fear thus has two aspects, one is
the fear of consequences of sin or the unknown while the other is awe or
reverence for God.
Fear of God is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible and it is misunderstood as
fear to flee from God or to avoid His presence. Moses’ command about fear of
the LORD is repeated thrice and it is then followed by the direction ‘to love
the LORD with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength’
(Deuteronomy 6:2; 13; 24 & 4). This fear is a disposition, reverential awe
and respect toward God combined with obedience to His will. Fear of God is
always combined with wisdom; ‘fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge’
(Proverbs 1:7) and also with true life, ‘fear of the LORD is the fountain of
life’ (Proverbs 14:27 & 19:23). The more we know God the more will be
reverence for Him in our hearts. God’s prophesy regarding the Messiah lists
fear as one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and this fear is about
becoming aware of who we are in the eyes of God, who is love, and also about
our responsibilities towards God’s kingdom (Isaiah 11:2-3).
God is about spiritual awareness and being awake and all believers are ‘sons of
the light and sons of the day and not of the night or darkness’ and are
required to be sober and vigilant ((Thessalonians 5:5-6). Fear
itself as an emotion is given to mankind by God to make them react to defend
themselves and to revere Him. Scripture commands us that if you do the seven
things listed first; receive my words; treasure my commands; incline your ear
to wisdom; apply your heart to understanding; cry out and lift up your
voice for discernment and understanding; seek her as silver; search her
as for hidden treasures. Then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find
the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5).
Getting deep knowledge of God instills fear, awe and reverence for God since
His might, His love, His mercy and grace and all the gifts from Him are
available in nature. In that we gain knowledge and then we cry out like Apostle
Paul did, ‘Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has
known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?’ (Romans
11:33-34). Reverences of God turns to fear so that we may not go astray and
thus lose out on God’s mercy and its resultant blessings. God does not create
fear in our hearts but we do, like a child’s fear of his loving father.
God appeared on Mount Sinai to the Israelites with
thundering and lightening, thick cloud and a very loud sound of the trumpet.
The people trembled and ‘said to Moses, ‘you speak with us, and we will hear;
but let not God speak with us, lest we die’ (Exodus 20:18-19). When we compare
this with Moses’ request to God to ‘show me Your glory’ and that ‘if Your
presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here’ (Exodus 33:15 &
18). When we get to know God self condemnation on realization of God’s presence
in the Temple sets in and we see His Divine glory in comparison to our personal
sins. Instead of self condemnation when we keep listening to His voice we get
an opportunity to be readily available to volunteer for God’s work. He has
innumerable options to get His work done but there is none other for me (Isaiah
6:5 & 8). King David gazed at the wondrous creation to see God’s glory
reflected therein and felt a deep longing to be close to and know God (Psalm
19:1-6). His cry of ‘My soul thirsts for God, for the living God’ (Psalm 42:2)
brought in the realization of self worth to exclaim ‘What is man that You are
mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him’? (Psalm 8:4).
‘Chesed’ or love and mercy of God and ‘gevurah’ or judgment of God equal the
two parallel reactions of love and fear in us. Love is the desire to
expand or broaden self through knowledge and closeness to God while fear is the
mode of contraction into the realization of His overwhelming greatness.
Thus Love and fear are two wings on which our worship of God soars up to
heavens since worship without feeling and understanding falls flat and
motivation through love and awe makes it live.
do love and fear, being opposites, work together? A bird cannot
fly with one wing though one can hop around on one leg for a while. To achieve
spiritual greatness both must work together in a person. Jews believe that the
first five books of the Bible contain 613 commandments from God and these are
called mitzvah and it is about performance of a good or religious deed within a
religious duty. Every mitzvah is a bond between God and man. The attitude of
man towards the commands of God and our deeds must relate to both these points
– man must find himself in the command and must also find God in the mitzvah.
Love is the way of finding oneself in it and fear or awe is the mode of finding
God in it. When I demonstrate love for the command I express the sense of my
personal fulfillment in doing that and I find an element in that command that
speaks to me and urges me to obey thus adding to my persona. My inner drive for
self-enhancement leads me on to get enriched through this obedience.
Awe or fear on the other hand is awareness of something greater than self in
the mitzvah and it does not distract to disobey but results in appreciation of
its content. Love gives appreciation and fear gives higher awareness of that
and then love urges further, thus setting up a continuous chain reaction. Love
and fear are mirror reflections of chesed or grace of God and gevurah or His
judgment. We love God for His grace and mercy. Judgment on the other hand
demands accountability and truth to make us realize that what we have is not
ours and we become aware of God’s Omnipresence and our insignificance before
Him. As God reveals Himself to us through His character trait of love and His
strength or power, we react with love and fear and our actions in these two
emotions become the two wings which help us soar into His Divine presence. As
we see kindness and power to be the fundamental actions of God so too love and
fear on our part are reactions to God’s deeds. These two are visible in God’s
first actions of God in creation so too are love and fear two basic essentials
of worship. Thus the command in Deuteronomy 6 in first five verses about fear
and love for God combines both chesed and gevurah.
and rejoicing in love and fear – ‘Serve the LORD with fear, and
rejoice with trembling’ is King David’s idea of worship of God. A
believer must fear God from love and not love God from fear. That is why
the two commands are together, ‘you shall love God, your Lord’ and you shall
fear God, your Lord’. Lord Jesus warned ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the
body but cannot kill the soul, rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy
both soul and body in hell’ (Matthew 10:28). This is about fear of the devil
also. Hell or the word ‘gehenna’ is used 12 times in New Testament and 11 of
that by Lord Jesus. He also spoke of the ‘Day of judgment’ and ‘to shake off
the dust from your feet when leaving a town that does not receive the Gospel
and that town will suffer more than even Sodom and Gomorrah’ (Matthew
10:14-15). ‘Every man must die and after that is the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27).
Hell is identified as the place where ‘there worm does not die and the fire is
not quenched’ or there is eternal burning or punishment for committed sins
We talk about nuclear holocaust which is only a possibility but not about hell
which is a certainty. How do we approach the ‘Day of judgment with confidence?’
The way is defined by Apostle John that ‘Herein is our love made perfect, that
we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in
this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear; because
fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love’ (1 John 4:17-18).
First are the three things of verse 17 – Perfect love is revealed in verse 12
above that, ‘No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us
and His love is perfected in us’. It is about outpouring of God’s love in our
‘thoughts, words and deeds’ towards others. This perfection is not about no
defect but about completion as the Greek word used is ‘teleioo’ which means
‘finished, completed or accomplished. Thus verse 17 would be rendered as,
‘In this, that is in your love for each other, God’s love is put into action
and so reaches its appointed goal’. It does not remain at the imperfect stage
of mere talk but reaches the stage of action. This gives us confidence for
through this we reflect our being part of God’s family by being transformed
into the image and likeness of Lord Jesus.
The next verse 18 reflects the opposite of this that ‘he who fears is not
perfected in love’. Love is not about being flawless but about coming to
fruition on ‘the Vine’ through our deeds and this is faith in action.
The first part of the verse says, ‘there is no fear in love, but perfect love
casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment’. When our love is like the
love of God expressed in His grace and mercy, there is then no fear and there
is confidence through faith in the forgiveness of sins. ‘When we walk in the
light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the
blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). It is then that
we worship in awe and rejoice in His love.
When we walk and dwell in the light of God’s love and in belief that we are
cleansed of the darkness of our sins, we are filled with the fear of someone
missing out on this due to lack of effort on our part. This love filled fear
then guides us towards others to reach out with the message of God’s love
expressed and revealed in and through His Son. Then all our thoughts, words and
deeds reflect this!