We hear God is our loving Father yet we also hear we should fear Him because He condemns sinners to eternal torment. As if, we fall in line, or else. Naturally, this may cause us to struggle with thoughts like, “I’m afraid I’m not good enough.” and “I fear the despicable things I’ve done disqualify me in God’s eyes.” How did fear of God become such a factor?
Separation from God Results in Fear
God created Adam and Eve to initially live in the earth as physical and spiritual beings. Natural senses would keep them aware of natural processes and experiences. Their body came from the earth, and was always intended to return to dust (a). Physically they were designed to interact with the processes of: day and night, left and right, positive and negative, pro and con, life and death.
Infused with spirit from God (b), spiritual senses enabled them and every descendant, to sense God’s presence and perceive His guidance through this life (c). Each person’s awareness and interaction with both sources of life develops each of us into ‘who’ we are as natural and spiritual beings!
When the couple chose to ignore God’s leadership and seek wisdom from ‘the other’ source (d), they lost clarity. While the word ‘fear’ is not in the text, their effort to cover-up and hide from God makes it obvious (e). Separation and a dreadful fear were the initial results of that choice.
Separation and a dreadful fear were the results of Adam and Eve’s choice to ignore God’s leadership.
Complements or Contrasts
By choosing the tree of ‘good and evil’ as their go-to source of wisdom (f), our first parents’ perceptions became tainted with fear. Incorrectly assuming God would harm them, fear gripped their minds, impaired their understanding, skewed their emotions, took root, and has remained ingrained in human consciousness ever since.
God created the ‘productive and destructive’ variables of nature as complementary processes. Fear caused Adam and Eve to no longer understand this. Viewing the variables through fear, they began to see the complements of nature as contrasts – opposites. Instead of one and the other, they became: day or night, right or left, positive or negative, good or evil, live or die.
Likewise, a contrasting perception of God developed. As fear tainted their spiritual senses it confused their view of our heavenly Father. Many Believers today remain confused because Scripture seems to support this incorrect perspective.
Scripture seems to support a confused perspective of our heavenly Father.
How Scripture Fuels the ‘Fear Factor’
You may recall a few Scriptures that say: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…the beginning of knowledge… instruction for wisdom…is clean, enduring forever”(g). Thus, it can appear that fear is an appropriate approach to God. However, most of our translations of Scripture hide the truth these verses seek to reveal, fueling the age old ‘fear factor.’
Two very different Hebrew words are translated in our Bibles as ‘fear.’ One is pachad which means a ‘dreadful fear’ and the other is yirah which means a ‘reverencing awe.’ The difference is easily observed when we see Israel had a fear (yirah) of God (h) while those who fought God’s purposes had a ‘dreadful fear’ (pachad) of what could happen to them (i).
Seeing this difference, we realize the above noted scriptures are not telling us “a dreadful fear of God is…” but “a reverencing awe of God is…” What a difference! Think about it!
Hidden truth in Scripture: “A ‘reverencing awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Fear God: Truth or Incorrect Perception?
Fear is a feeling, a sense, and perception that results from a conscious decision to ignore God. This was Adam and Eve’s first opportunity to experience repentance – acknowledge error and turn from it. Redeeming forgiveness was in the heart of God (j). The fear factor could have been removed, quickly restoring intimate fellowship with God.
Unfortunately fear has remained ‘a great motivator’ throughout history. Sadly, religious systems even utilize fear. And, the natural mindset of ‘either / or’ continues to skew many perceptions of God. We struggle with: God ‘loves me or not.’ We insist ‘you either are or are not.’
Our Gospel even appears confused; God has unlimited love (k) yet if we do not fall-in-step, to hell we go. How can we think God loves us unconditionally but if we mess up, we are damned; in essence, believing God’s love is limited and resembles our natural ‘either / or’ perspective? Can God unconditionally love yet disdain, as if He is similar to the infamous fictional Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide?
With unlimited love, God beckons us to approach Him in reverencing awe, not fear.
Jesus Counteracts Fear
Jesus Christ is the real exception to our ‘fallen’ fear-laden perspective. He promoted the love of God which has no contrasting fear, as the main motivation to turn to God. God’s love for us overflows with forgiveness, even while we are not reconciled (l). Truly amazing love!
Remember the overriding truth that is core to God’s very essence, He ‘is’ love (m). Our heavenly Father’s love is not reserved for the lovely or the saintly. He produces no shadow of turning, as if His love for any of us could be conditional (n). God’s love is greater than our type of love, it is absolute and without fear (o). “Do not fear, for I am With you!” (u)
He beckons each of us to approach Him as the Scripture really says: “The reverencing awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…the beginning of knowledge… instruction for wisdom…is clean, enduring forever” (p).
a) Ecclesiastics 12:7; b) Genesis 2:7; Job 32:8; Psalm 32:2; Proverbs 20:27; c) Hebrews 5:14; Romans 8:5; d) Genesis 3:6; e) Genesis 3:8; f) Genesis 2:5; 3:6; g) Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; 2:5; Psalm19:9; h) 2 Chronicles 19:9; i) 2 Chronicles 20:29; j) 1 Peter 1:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; k) Romans 8:35, 38-39; l) Romans 5:10; 1 John 2:2; m) 1 John 4:8, 16; n) James 1:17; o) 1 John 4:18; p) Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; 2:5; Psalm19:9; u) Isaiah 41:10, 13