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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gott

REVERENTIAL FEAR

“O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid …” Habakkuk 3:2, KJV

The word “afraid” refers to reverent awe and not irrational panic.  In this light, we consider Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” so it’s positive awe and a mark of wisdom.


We need such fear today.  It does not mean we are fearful of things and wring our hands in terror.  No, the idea is one of total reverence and complete respectful awe.  This leads to wonderful submission and then adoration before God and His actions in history, including our day.  “… he is more awesome than all …” (Psalm 89:7, NIV)


What is missing from us today? — Reverential awe and worshipful amazement.  The New Testament counterpart is found in these words, “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28, NIV).  That is very evidently absent and strangely lacking now.  That attitude has long disappeared, it’s gone, that sense of the almightiness of God and His majestic holiness that takes our breath away.  “… let all the people of the world revere him.” (Psalm 33:8)


Please don’t react and say it is too crude or harsh for someone to say:


“I would sooner expect a frog to sit down and play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata than to expect to see some of the slick preachers of this hour preach with an anointing that would cause godly fear among the people.”


Leonard Ravenhill


Is it not true—there is too much, far too much, easygoing familiarity with God?  He is not only the Most High to be feared—He is no longer the God of a consuming fire (read Hebrews 12:28-29), in many cases not even the God of holy smoke!  Remember, fire always purifies! (read Malachi 3:3)  We must return and then prostrate ourselves in true humility and come and adore Him high and lifted up (read Isaiah 6:3-5), and we need what Isaiah experienced, for the doorposts and the threshold to shake, a holy invasion from heaven.


Isaiah and other prophets were not chiefly concerned about their immediate grief but God’s glory, not their problems but God’s prominence which led to praise. Is it events in the world around us that is often our focus of concern, not the glory of the Lord God Jehovah?


Again, return to the word “fear” and consider the Puritan’s words, “I fear God, yet am not afraid of Him.”  Reverent fear of God often produces the living grace and loving mercy of God.  Is it not true that wholesome reverential fear of God means that we need not fear anything else but God?  Let me phrase it like this—always wisdom teaches us reverential fear of God and faith in God leads us to grateful trust.  Spurgeon said it like this:  “He who fears God has nothing else to fear.”


Study the people of God; none of them permitted themselves to get commonly “chummy” with God, because they knew there must be both awe with intimacy.  God said to Moses, “Do not come any closer” (Exodus 3:5).  Come to great intimacy, but “search your hearts and be silent” (Psalm 4:4)“Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.” (Psalm 33:8, NIV)  “No one who knows [God] intimately,” said Tozer, “can ever be flippant in His presence.”  This intimacy with God starts with wholesome, godly fear and trembling with the understanding that causes us to realize we are accepted only in the beloved. (read Ephesians 1:6)


It cannot be denied, there is personal application of this Biblical principle.  Each of us must face it with a heart searching.  We are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and examine our own hearts.  Peter said we were to live our lives in “reverent fear.” (read I Peter 1:17, NIV)  Jesus told us that obedience of God is a sure indication of our sincere love for Him, and, just so, our fear of God is an indication of our respectful awe of God.  One man who served the Lord faithfully has coined a lovely phrase, “affectionate reverence”—may we all have that spirit.


Is there a problem?  It is very human of us to look at the problem, in fact, blaming the problem instead of asking, “Is the problem in me, Lord, is it in me?”  It is in that moment when, instead of blaming the situation, I turn to the condition I am in, I am taking steps into the embrace of God.  It is correct to start, when things are going against us, to take a look at ourselves, in and with reverential fear.  We can say to God, even with reverential trembling and tears, “I place myself totally in Your hands now that I have examined my own soul.  I plead, remember mercy—I am at Your mercy.”


And we need to consider what Vance Havner said about this, “Nothing else under the sun can be as dry, flat, tedious and exhausting as religious work without the wonder.”  Let Him fill us with it!  We labor on with holy trembling and yet rejoice before Him.


Always it was the response of reverence that brought blessing, “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, [that] you will not ignore.” (Psalm 51:17, TLB)  That was the attitude of David, and it has been the spirit of all true people of God in every moment of real spiritual awakening.  Let it cause both of us to do the same.  The Puritans famously said, “Lay your life at Jesus’ feet in reverence, and He will take you in His arms in love.”

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