For those of you who are reading this and are familiar with the title’s saying, you know what it means. It was usually used by parents who were exasperated with their children and told them that if they didn’t obey, they would put the fear of God in them. It was an ultimatum that obedience better be the next choice or else.
As a child, I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew that I didn’t want whatever it meant and would obey whoever was giving me the saying. The saying came to my mind when I was reading from the bible this morning. I will get into that in a moment. I did decide to look at the present day resources to see what they had to say. In the dictionary.com, it says that the saying seeks to convey a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc, whether the threat is real or imagined. It connotes a feeling or condition of being afraid or anxious.
As I was reading the bible, I came across a passage in Exodus 20. The backdrop involved Moses being the leader that had led the nation of Israel out of Egypt and was in the process of leading them to the promised land. They had stopped on their journey and God called Moses to the mountain to give him the Ten Commandments. Once they were given to Moses, he came to the people and said, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exodus 20:20
The first thing that I see is that God, speaking through Moses, didn’t want the people to be afraid or fear. The fear of God is not for the purpose of making people afraid, but of being in awe and reverence of a God who is able to protect and lead His people to the promised land irrespective of what they encountered. Wherever the nation of Israel was to go, God wanted those who came in contact with Israel to be in awe or respect who He was. The fear of God with us is a two-pronged perspective. He wanted us to have an awe and respect and reverence for God but he wanted those who came in contact with us to have the same fear of God.
The last piece of this passage spoke to me is a preventative piece. If we had the fear of God (awe, reverence, and respect) with us, that perspective would keep us from sinning. It would prevent us from making bad choices or having bad attitudes when we come in contact with others. It would cause us to control our tongue and not say things to others that we would later regret. What I see in this passage is that the fear of God was actually a wonderful perspective to have to keep us on the right track, encourage others whom we come in contact with to see the God we worship, and give us the power to keep from sinning.
On this journey, it might be helpful to see the fear of God as a helpful resource in your walk with God rather than a concept that brings fear and anxiousness.