Fearing God or Afraid of God

October 4, 2021

Exodus 20.18-21

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “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.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

People have fears.  People with no fears are rare, and the lack of fear is often seen as something to do with other mental health issues.  Things causing fear is just normal.  The question is what we are afraid of. 

The people have this fear of God.  Not the fear of God that we hear called for by the prophets and the Psalms.  A fear of hearing God speak to them.  They wanted Moses to act as mediator so that they could have some distance.  Moses even tells them not to be afraid in this way, but to have the fear of God that will keep them from sinning.

They are called to have fear of God, not to be afraid of God.  To put it a little differently, not to be scared of God, but to have fear in terms of reverence and awe.  Knowing that God is greater than all, but yet also knowing that God is good and gracious to us.  The fear was in the wrong place.

It is healthy to have fears that keep us away from dangers.  Staying away from things that will harm us is wise.  Yet the people’s fear was of God himself.  God is bringing his actions of grace into our midst, into all of our world.  We receive the things he offers in grace as good and as those things that bring life.  We receive his blessings of life and give him thanks.

SongPsalm 34


Lord God, help us to seek you above all else.  May we see your ways of grace in life and hold on to the ways you lead us in that grace.  Heal us, and all of your creation from our sins, brokenness and all that keeps us from your grace.  Amen.

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