Who Or What Do We Fear Most?
Proverbs 9:10; Exodus 33: 12 – 23; John 14:27; Romans 3:18.
What do we consciously fear most in life? Is there a basis for fearing God? If we were honest, we might discover that like most sentient beings, our most significant trepidation has to do with man. How others view and treat us govern a large portion of our motivation in life, whether consciously or otherwise. Despite our addiction to what we can control, unmanageable circumstances and people will eventually test and conceivably frustrate our carefully engineered strategies. However, despite these constant challenges, we continue to persevere in self-preservation, sidelining the One who is both omniscient and omnipotent in our affairs. In fact, our Creator is used as a talisman of good fortune and insurance against unfortunate incidents, with some possessing the temerity to blame Him for their deleterious situation. It is ironic that generally, our reputation comes before God’s, and we fear God less than we do man. What makes God fearsome?
Perhaps Moses’ experience of Yahweh could enlighten us. Without a doubt, his faithful obedience to God formed the basis for his friendship that began with the incident at the burning bush on Mount Horeb (Ex 3:1-9). Following which he witnessed the entirety of God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people in Egypt and then in the Sinai, but he never saw the uncovered glory of God despite their recurring face-to-face meetings (Ex 33:11). When he was interceding for God’s recalcitrant people, we have a highly unusual exchange between a fallible man and the eternal Almighty. Apparently for Moses, perceiving God’s noteworthy supernatural acts could not make up for seeing God Himself in all His glory! His more than 40 years’ walk with Him would have profoundly instilled in him a fear of his God (c.f., Prov 9:10), but he naturally desired to put a face to Yahweh’s Name, despite His cautiously managed hiddenness from the sight of man. Moses knew that he was courting death by his impossible request. But God did not rebuke him for his daring aspiration, and because of their shared relationship over His people, He made it possible for Moses to see an unusual angle of Himself (Ex 33: 19-23), thus preserving his life.
Without exception, instant death is the outcome for anyone who saw God in all His glory (Ex 33:20), for His glorious holy presence expresses His limitless Personhood that encompasses the timelessness of the entirety of all creation. We have no concept of what we would be looking at or for, in a Person who is infinity and eternity Himself, with enduring immutability as His fundamental quintessence. Timothy described His presence as being cloaked in unapproachable light, but the earthly metaphor belies the fact that He is the Light Himself (1 Tim 6:16; c.f., 1 John 1:5; Rev 21:23). We can never fully grasp with our finite minds this God Whom we worship! Perhaps an imaginative mental picture of His glory, taken to heart, will be sufficient to instil awe and fear in us (c.f., Deut 10:17; Ps 8:3-4; Ps 147:5; Isa 40:28; Isa 55:8-9). Nevertheless, we wait patiently for the day when we will be able to see Him face-to-face (Rev 22:4).
That restricted mental image was Yahweh’s revelation of Himself to Moses, a disclosure at a finite level that did not threaten his very existence, as he related on human parity with the Alpha and the Omega (c.f., John 1:14; John 8:58). When God masked His infinite consuming glory from sinful man, we can be presumptuous in taking for granted the limitations of His self-expression, and we relegate Him to the peripheral of our existence. But to do so is to undercut the exceptionally precious self-sacrificial relationship initiated by Him (Luke 5:32; Heb 1:3) and to deny the core of our being as we represent Him in space and time (Gen 1:26). The fear of God is inimitably based on who He is – the I Am That I Am (Ex 3:14), the Be All and End All of all creation. Humbly draw near to God, and He will draw close to you (James 4:8).