There is something in the Old Testament that remains unresolved. The Psalmist declares that the wicked will not be remembered and the righteous will be. This is a common theme. Yet, when we look at scripture, and we look at the world around us, we rightfully question that. So, what is going on? Perhaps we ought to question who is doing the remembering. Both Old and New Testaments are testaments of God to humanity. In other words, humanity is the object of the story (the Bible), God is. Scripture tells the story of the imperfect revealing the glory, holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, grace,…love of God. Humanity is just the target of all of that. Since we tell the stories, we confuse being the tellers of the story with being the subject of the story.
There is another tension in both Old and New Testament: fear of God. The psalmist talks about teaching the fear of God to people. How does that match with this loving God we tell people about? First, of course, is our language. That is the start of the problem. There is also an automatic opposition to the word fear. Fear is bad. Except when it is not. When driving to work, one cannot be overcome by fear (you’ll never leave the driveway). Yet, defensive driving (a form of fear) is very wise when driving with all the other people that are obviously not as good of drivers as you are.
The opening verses of Job tell us that fear from the perspective of Scripture may not match our own. We read that Job makes sacrifices on behalf of his children, for he fears they might have sinned. In support of Job, God (proudly) declares that Job fears him (God). What? How about the insight from Satan (how’s that for weird), that of course Job fears God, for God has protected him and blessed him with property and family. Fear? Well, fear must not mean…fear.
Our last insight comes from 1 John, with fear and love being polar opposites. And this is that final insight. Bad fear, the fear that we should not have toward God, is the fear of punishment. Which leaves us with good fear, which is having the right perspective of God. God is almighty. God is love. Right fear is the fear that we are not in fellowship with God, but God so loves us that he pours out his grace and mercy upon us, so that we need not fear punishment, but are devastated by God’s disappointment.
1) What about God do you fear?
2) What about people do you fear?
3) Why does true love cast out (bad) fear?
FD) When you think of God, which is a stronger emotion: fear or love? Why?