“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul . . .” (Deuteronomy 10:12).
IF WE’RE LOOKING FOR THE THINGS OF BASIC IMPORTANCE, IT WOULD BE HARD TO FIND A CONCEPT MORE BASIC THAN GODLY FEAR. In the text above, Moses asked what it was that God required of Israel, and answered the question by saying that God required them to fear Him, to obey Him, to love Him, and to serve Him with their whole hearts. The fear of God is the first thing on the list, and this is more than a mere coincidence. Many years later, Solomon would say that this is the very heart and soul of what it is to be a human being: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This statement should summarize our deepest and most fundamental attitude toward God.
Why is our faith today so superficial, our spiritual discipline so ineffective, and our way of life so powerless? Given the disappearance of godly fear from our religious practice, it is hardly surprising that we are weak. We can’t expect to do as our spiritual forefathers did if we’re not moved as they were. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
There are different kinds of fear, of course, and some are not to be desired. Any sort of fear that is inconsistent with love has no place in our relationship with God (1 John 4:17–19). But reverent fear is not inconsistent with love. Indeed, a popular dictionary describes reverence as “a feeling of profound awe and respect and often love.” It is the blending of love and godly fear that transforms our seeking of God into a diligent seeking of God. If it is godly fear that moves us, we’ll take with utter seriousness every syllable of His revelation to us in the Scriptures (Hebrews 12:25–29). And taking this truth as our guide, we’ll be eager, in both awe and adoration, to draw near to the living flame of His Presence.
“The fear of God is to be united with the love of God; for love without fear makes men remiss, and fear without love makes them servile and desperate” (Johann Gerhard).