STEP UP Devotions for January 26-February 2

Fear that Leads to Knowledge

The concept of the fear of the Lord has only relatively recently come into some disrepute and distaste. Somehow it does not find a comfortable seat at the table of our kind and gentle theologies where a grandfather God presides over the earth with benevolent indifference to how we respond to truth and where there are no harsh words or hard choices to be made.

That God that no one fears is benign and dispassionate.

At the same time, we pay $10 to be frightened by some grotesque creatures of the screen or fictional mass murderers and walk away commenting on what an enjoyable and relaxing experience it all was.

More legitimately, we are grateful when we have those life-saving wakeup calls with regards to our health, our safety, or our driving habits. We tell everyone that such experiences were just what we needed and that we were heading for disaster without their intervention.

We visit places like Yosemite and they take our breath away. We gaze into the deep canyons and are overwhelmed with awe. We stand and stare at the mighty waterfalls with admiration for their power, appreciation for their beauty, and intense awareness that we better not fail to take their dangers seriously lest we fall and, swept away, never return.

Yet we recoil at the notion of fear of a loving God who is powerful enough to have created all these natural wonders, just and able to preside over the judgment of all that harms humanity, and wise enough to outthink our greatest minds.

Solomon affirms in Proverbs 1:7 that, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

To take God seriously, or if one is not a believer, to at least take nature and its fierce forces seriously, is where one starts to gain knowledge and, from applied knowledge, wisdom. We wish that our children could learn the meaning of burning hot without ever being burned. We'd love for them to appreciate danger without ever having a cut or a bruise. We would be thrilled if they could learn social skills and respect for authority without ever having to be disciplined.

But it doesn't happen that way in the real world.

We must learn to reverence God and the mighty forces God has created by occasionally coming up against them and being overcome by their power. Thus we learn. Thus we grow. Thus our fear turns to something joyful and gratifying – the kind that the psalmist sung about with glee and gratitude. It is the kind that the wise embrace even as they embrace a kind and loving God who delights to forgive and invites mankind into intimate fellowship through grace.