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The Fear of God

Exodus 20:20 (ESV) -- Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

Most people do not fear God as they should. This is true of Christians as well. We often think of God as like us, comfortable with sin and rebellious actions. The average person is both ignorant of God’s holiness and expectations, and desensitized to how sinful we truly are. This leads to a lack of fear of God.

We see Moses addressing the people of Israel about fearing God in our passage today. Moses has led the people out of slavery in Egypt. They are God’s people. He’s freed them from their oppression. Now God is about to instruct them on His expectations for how they should live. Moses meets with God on Mount Sinai. Clouds, thunder, and lightning unleash as God’s presence descends. God’s voice booms out and the people are fearful. Moses says to them, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”

Moses told the people not to fear. Is he contradicting the fear of God we are commanded to exhibit? No. They feared for their lives in the presence of God’s power. And while it is not an unnatural response, Moses told them not to fear that. God displayed His power to them to test them. He wanted the fear of Him to be in them so that they would not sin. The fear God wants in them is a reverence for God’s commands and expectations. God desires their hearts to fear Him enough so that they do not sin against Him. The purpose of this fear is to spur our obedience. 

This isn’t wrong. In fact, this is the role parents, especially fathers, play in the lives of their children. Children ultimately obey their parents, not because they are naturally obedient, but because they fear the repercussions of not obeying. They fear their father’s discipline. This is healthy. We should not disobey God. The fear of Him helps us to walk in obedience. We don’t want our Father’s wrath against us. We do not want to be under His discipline. 

Remember today that our God is holy. He holds the universe in His hands. He sees all things, knows all things, and has the power to act whenever and however He chooses. This should stay with us over the course of a day to remind us of our duties and responsibilities to God. We owe Him our lives. He deserves our devotion. The fear of Him helps produce it.

The fear of God is a great thing. Not sure why? Find out more:

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Reflection & Journal:
- Why does God want His people to fear Him?
- What is the distinction made in this passage between the two fears mentioned?
- How should this passage help us to think about sin in our everyday lives?

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