Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fear and Trembling pt 2

Hmmm... are you sure?
     To recap last time, we established the centrality of the concept of the fear of the Lord in Scripture (we'll explore some specific examples soon) and distinguished between the two basic types of fear described: one of terror and dread and one of honor and veneration.  Today I hope to carefully assign these two categories of fear to the two basic types of humanity: the regenerate/converted and the unregenerate/unconverted. 
     First our favorite:  sheer bowel-loosening terror.  As a side note, I am convinced that the reason Americans have a fascination with horror, in movies and in other forms, is that we do not understand what it is to be afraid.  In our protected, pampered country, insulated from the vast majority of humanity's basic ills (invasion, famine, disease, etc.), we don't have much to terrify us.  This was not the case with the peoples of Bible times:  along with their vulnerability to these ravages, without exception, Israel and its neighbors were intensely religious, if we can, for the moment, overlook the false targets of their religious affections.  So, when war or pestilence came along, the ancient man instantly wondered:  "What have we done to anger our god(s)?"  I believe this is a common grace reflection of the first type of godly fear;  the link between calamity and God's displeasure is a good reflex to have.

A fear of gravity is healthy!

    So to quote our tutor, Albert N. Martin, speaking of feeling dread:  "There is no virtue in this fear of God by itself..."  That's right;  it doesn't take a special work of grace opening the eyes to figure out that hell isn't a nice place and that you'd rather not go there.  Even more appropriately, when unbelievers witnessed the mighty, supernatural judgments of God in the Bible, they more often than not responded in a manner to avoid further affliction.  The Egyptians said "No thank you!" to an 11th plague and hurried Israel to their borders.  Why?  The previous 10 had rightly frightened them.  How did the folks in Jericho feel about Israel coming to visit?  "And as soon as we we heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any courage in any man, because of you;  for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above and in earth beneath." (Josh 2:11)  Ditto with the Gibeonites (Josh 9:24), and who could forget how David's neighbors felt about his intimacy with God?  "And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations." (1 Chr 14:17) 
     OK, so of course, those dirty heathens should be afraid of God... they've got it coming!  But we're under grace, covered by the blood of Christ!  Surely a Christian need not fear his Abba, right?  The completion of the Martin quote is "...though there is no evidence of grace if you have this fear, it's doubtful if you have any grace if you don't have this fear."  Pastor Martin then goes on to reference many men in good relation to God, justified by grace through faith, but when confronted with the Presence of the Almighty, they break down and quiver.  He speaks of Isaiah and his lament (6:5), Peter after the greatest fishing day ever (Lk 5:8), and John when granted a vision of the glorified Christ (Rev 1:17).  I am reminded of Daniel's reaction to the derivative glory of the angel (10:6,8) and Habakkuk (3:16).  This is why Christians are commanded to fear God and are motivated in Scripture by His fierce punishments.  No mere human was more spotless in God's sight than Adam before the Fall, but he is motivated to obedience with a threat of the consequences of disobedience!  Why does anyone threaten someone?  To make them afraid...  so Christ tells His flock to fear the God who throws people into hell (Matt 10:28), the Hebrews are strenuously warned of God's wrath (10:31, 12:28-29), and Peter portrays the final burning of all things to exhort us toward holiness (2 Pet 3:11-12).
Prison is an effective deterrent... People are AFRAID of it.

     This is probably a good place to take a break... to conclude for now:  despite all our culture proclaims, fear can be a good, healthy thing.  Anyone with a firearm at home fears his kids getting ahold of it, so he locks it up.  Anyone crossing the street doesn't want to get run over, so he looks both ways first.  Anyone considering sin needs to call to mind a vivid picture of the damned, writhing in agony, so he runs from sin like Joseph escaping from Potiphar's wife.  We'll explore veneration next.

Photos courtesy of Ed 37, Dar

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