(Running out of Superlatives)
By Larry White
(Originally presented in Eagle Point, OR. September 8, 1985)
One of the primary motivations in coming near to God is fear. But doesn't fear repel?
This is not terror (phobos) but (eulabeia): a reverence, respect and awe. The watchful caution you use around someone who is vastly superior to you.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon is relating how he searched for meaning and happiness and contentment in riches and pleasures and how, even his earthly wisdom fell short of satisfying his need for meaning. He concludes his treatise with what man really needs in this life.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.
Those who fear God and keep his commandments can find meaning and real happiness in this life. It's not to be found in wealth or fame or the pleasures of this life, or in this life's pride and arrogance.
I.) What does it mean to fear God?
Like we pointed out in the Greek words, this fear isn't something in which we dread or worry about God, but it's the attitude a person has when he stands before someone who is greatly superior to himself. So it's a respect, honor or reverence. One who comes to God must revere him and have a deep respect for who he is, and realize the one he stands before is greater than all.
Yet we know that one of the greatest problems in the world is that most people don't fear God.
Paul in Rom.3:16-18
Destruction and misery [are] in their ways: 3:17 And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.
One of the reasons for this is that people generally view God as being someone more or less like themselves. Therefore they don't stand in awe of him like they should. Or another reason is that for the sake of some ungodly or unrighteous activity that they refuse to give up, they reject what has been revealed to them about God.
Paul in Rom.1:20-25
And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
So people have rejected the truth about God for a lie; and what God has revealed about himself, they have rejected; the fact that he is not like man, but is far above man in every respect.
Kids have a slang term they use now: "Awesome", that which inspires awe, a mixed feeling of fear, reverence and wonder.
II.) What is awesome about God?
1.) God is OMNIPOTENT
The Bible word that tells us that God is much greater than man is "Almighty" In Greek it's Pantocrator.
It means, ALL powerful or omnipotent.
Man has found four forces that he knows about.
* The strong interaction in atoms.
* The weak interaction in atoms.
* The force of gravity.
In the powers that hold matter together, we can get an inkling of what that power is when we tear some matter apart, like in a nuclear blast.
Gravity is that force that holds us to the earth, and holds the moon captive, and the earth captive around the sun, and the sun captive in the galaxy. Very powerful.
Electromagnetism, or the power of light and electricity is a vast and enormous energy.
Albert Einstein, to the day of his death, was trying to find the common source of all these powers in his unified field theories. Scientists have not yet found it. But the Christian can cut right to the ultimate result of all of man's investigations.
It's found in Psa.62:11-12
God has spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power [belongs] unto God. Also unto you, O Lord, [belongs] mercy: for you render to every man according to his work.
God is the ultimate source of all power. He demonstrated it in the creation of the world.
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as an heap: he lays up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke, and it was [done]; he commanded, and it stood fast.
God created all things by Jesus Christ and it's by his power that everything stays together.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
So the power behind the nuclear forces that hold matter together is God himself through Jesus Christ.
In 2Thes.1:9 Paul says that those "who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power."
It takes great amounts of energy to keep this world going as it is. And in this we partake physically, to a limited extent, of God's power. If the total energy in a gram of matter (1/454th part of a pound) were released, it could lift a one million ton object six miles into the air.
God's sun that we enjoy (both saint and sinner alike) changes 4,500,000 tons of matter into energy every second. The amount of energy required to just allow us to live on this planet in the sight of God for one day is incalulatable.
God provides light and sustenance for every man alive, even though they rebel against him. He wants man to come to him and know him. So he provides for him.
For those who refuse to live with God - the sun being extinguished would be a small matter. Being cast away from all the glory of God's power is mind boggling. That's not to mention his love, goodness, peace, holiness, righteousness and mercy. God is ALL powerful. He is the unifier of all the forces.
God has power beyond what we can imagine. His power is unlimited. The all-powerful God of the universe is able to do anything. The angel who told Mary that she would have a child said in (Lk.1:37) that "nothing shall be impossible with God." Jesus said in (Lk.18:27) "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
The sophisticated minds of the world think they have a handle on what power is. But rather, they do, who with child-like hearts, stand in awe of Him, the incomprehensible greatness and power of the Almighty God.
2.) God is OMNISCIENT
Not only does he possess all power, but he is also all-knowing. What ever can be known; past, present or future; whether it is actual or just possible, is known by God. He has proved this in the writings of the prophets.
Remember the former things of old: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else; [I am] God, and [there is] none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times [the things] that are not [yet] done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
It was by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God that Jesus was crucified - and anyone who reads the account of that sacrifice will be impressed with the minuteness and thoroughness of what he knew was going to happen. Every detail is described in the prophets hundreds of years before - especially Psalm 22.
He knew what people were going to say before they said it and what they were going to feel and do before they did it.
David talks about what God can know in
O LORD, you have searched me, and known [me]. You know my down-sitting and mine uprising, you understand my thought afar off. You compass my path and my lying down, and are acquainted [with] all my ways. For [there is] not a word in my tongue, [but], lo, O LORD, you know it altogether. You have beset me behind and before, and laid your hand upon me. [Such] knowledge [is] too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot [attain] unto it.
So God knows what you're thinking and why, and he knows what you're going to say next. So when we say omniscient, that definitely means ALL-knowing. The hairs of your head are all numbered as Jesus said in (Mt.10:30). The average human head has about 140,000 hairs. But the words Jesus used indicate that they are not only counted, but each hair is assigned a number so that if one is pulled out, God knows which one is was and can identify it individually.
In this respect, God is much greater than man and he deserves our reverence and carefulness before him.
3.) God is OMNIPRESENT
He is ALL-present. Where ever you can be, he is.
Whither shall I go from your spirit? or whither shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend up into heaven, you [are] there: if I make my bed in hell, look, you [are there]. [If] I take the wings of the morning, [and] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yes, the darkness does not hide from you; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light [are] both alike [to you].
There isn't anywhere in the universe that you can go that God is not already there.
I was sincerely amazed when I was being examined over in Medford, OR about my belief in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, when several brethren asked me, "How can he dwell in you and in me at the same time?" A good answer to that would be, "How can he hear your prayers this morning, here, and also hear the prayers of the Christians meeting over in Wisconsin at the same time?" God created the universe. God created space. And since he created space, he must be independent of space. He told Jeremiah in (Jer.23:23-24) "Am I a God at hand, and not a God afar off? Do I not fill heaven and earth?"
Paul said, "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts.17) God is greater that what we - his creation can comprehend. All of mankind should stand in awe of him.
4.) God is ETERNAL
Time, is a convenience for our finite minds to which an infinite mind isn't necessarily subject. We can't make Kronos (time) and Uranos (space) into gods themselves, like the evolutionist does. But time and space are part of the creation which God has made and to which he is independent.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
In our alphabet he is the A and the Z. Alpha is that point in the concept of beginnings which the mind of man can conceive. Omega is that point in the concept of endings which the mind of man can conceive. He defines the boundaries of the extremities of our ability to grasp time and space.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you [are] God.
God never had a beginning - he has ALWAYS existed. He will never have an end - he will ALWAYS exit.
WAS............IS................IS TO COME This idea is expressed also in his name "I AM"
In the subject of time, this relation is described in
But, beloved, do not be ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
Here, God responds to the infinitesimal parts of time in a day in the same way he responds to the infinite eons of time. Someone has described this as the "Eternal NOW of God". In modern terms, a nanosecond, or 1 billionth of a second, to a being independent of time, could be the same as a billion years, and a billion years as one nanosecond.
Consider how great and incomprehensible the being of our God is, one who holds all power; who knows now, all that has been known and will ever be known, all that can be known; one who is independent of space and time, the one who defines and gives reality to those very concepts. He is more than superior - he can't be compared with anything or anybody - because he is the origin and creator of everything and everybody. Man can only, like Job did, put his hand over his mouth and stand in awe. For God truly is Awesome!
III.) What effect will this fear of God have on us?
1.) It will cause us to forsake sin and strive for holiness.
Because when we really respect the God of the universe, we'll be careful to be pleasing to him, and when we honor him, that will cause us to hate what is evil and false.
By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD [men] depart from evil.
The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
When we really respect God, we'll want to do what's right because we'll always be aware and remember his majesty and infinite glory. This is why God appeared to the Jews on the mount as a flaming fire.
And the LORD said to Moses, See, I come unto you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you for ever. And Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.
20:18-21 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw [it], they removed, and stood afar off. And they said to Moses, Speak you with us, and we will hear: but do not let God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said to the people, Do not fear: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, so that you do not sin. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God [was].
The reason a person's life will be turned around when they believe in God is because the person who truly believes in God, will recognize and believe also what God has revealed about himself and that will put the holy fear of God in his heart. The writer of Hebrews makes the same application.
For you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which [voice] they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a arrow: And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But you are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than [that of] Abel. See that you do not refuse him that speaks. For if they did not escape who refused him that spoke on earth, much more [shall not] we [escape], if we turn away from him that [speaks] from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he has promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this [word], Yet once more, signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God [is] a consuming fire.
Paul makes the same admonition in
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2.) It will cause us to keep his commandments.
Remember our text in Eccl.12:13, "Fear God and keep his commandments."
When we respect God - we will keep his commands.
And now, Israel, what doth the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command you this day for your good? Look, the heaven and the heaven of heavens [is] the LORD'S your God, the earth [also], with all that therein [is]. Only the LORD had a delight in your fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, [even] you above all people, as [it is] this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiff-necked. For the LORD your God [is] God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which does not regard persons, nor takes reward:
That's why you'll see members in this congregation who insist on a "Thus says the Lord" for everything we do and teach. It isn't because of a narrow mind or an undue focus on the words of scripture, but it's born from a healthy respect for God and a carefulness to be pleasing to him. So if we're having trouble departing form evil or in having respect to God's commands, then we need to remember who God is and reverence him.
IV.) What blessings will we have when we fear God?
1.) We'll be accepted of him.
Then Peter opened [his] mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is not a respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
We won't feel alienated from him and have that dread of the doom awaiting those who rebel against him.
The God of the universe, the Almighty, eternal, all-knowing, King and sovereign of all creation, accepts you in Jesus Christ - when you respect him with godly fear.
2.) We won't have to be afraid of anything.
It's a warm, secure feeling of being on his side, and come what may, you have a single, respectful heart toward the Almighty God. Nothing else can give us such confidence and honesty of heart.
God [is] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the middle of the sea; [Though] the waters thereof roar [and] be troubled, [though] the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
- To the person that fears the Lord, though his world be torn apart and every one turn against him - he can be secure in the knowledge: "The Lord is the defense of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psa.27:1)
What man [is] he that fears the LORD? him shall he teach in the way [that] he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD [is] with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Mine eyes [are] ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.
* We can't have peace unless we fear God.
* We can't love him like we should unless we fear him. (You can't love someone that you don't respect)
* We can't exalt and glorify and praise him if we don't reverence him first.
Contentment in life, the confident rest in hope of everything turning out all right, the joy and freedom and the excitement of faith, can only belong to those who reverently, humbly, respectfully stand in awe of the Almighty God and observe his commandments.
The lesson is yours.
The Psalmist said not only that power belonged to God but also mercy. He's not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. He's given up his only begotten son for you to have life in him.
If you want to come to God, he'll receive you and be a father to you. By your faith in Jesus Christ; repentance of your sins; and immersion into Christ for the remission of your sins, you can have that relationship with him today.