When Moses brings back the 10 Commandments, the Israelites witness a light show on the mountaintop. Thunder and lightning and smoke follow Moses as he descends to give the Israelites the Word of God.
How did the Israelites respond when God gave them the Law?
They were terrified!
The Law, which Jesus said first and foremost was designed to teach us how to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, struck the Israelites with fear instead.
(We talked about fear of the Lord when we saw the midwives defy Pharaoh; they feared God more than him and so they kept the Hebrew baby boys alive.)
If the Law was designed to teach the Israelites how to love God, should they have received it with fear?
And its interesting what Moses says, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”
It’s almost like we’ve got two types of fear. First Moses says don’t fear, but then also God comes to test you so His fear will be before you.
There’s a negative fear, a kind that would have turned the Israelites around and led them away from God. Moses says don’t have that kind of fear and don’t spread it.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (1 Timothy 1:7)
We can focus so much on our fears that we forget the hope we have. We’ll preach so much on hell it’s almost like we’ve forgotten there’s a Heaven available to us all! That fear, just like for the Israelites when they focused too much on the doom, gloom, and destruction, can lead us away from God and straight into the devil’s arms.
But God did come to them and bring a healthy kind of fear, a fear that would keep them from sin. This fear was necessary for them to be able to love God.
Fear is the right response to have when you stand in front of an Almighty Judge and for Christians this righteous fear should put the confidence we have in Jesus in perspective! There is a certain amount of fear needed for us to know the consequence of sin. If we don’t, why would we be transformed in our hearts to not sin? But because of the grace of God where fear is natural and right, now we stand boldly!
Fear and love are not incompatible. In fact, in this case they are inseparable.
You cannot fully love God unless you fear Him, because if you don’t fear God, you don’t really understand Him.
He is the All-Powerful Creator and Judge! He is worthy of healthy fear. If we don’t really understand that about Him, how can we truly love Him? You can’t love something you don’t know. Instead, you’d just be loving your idea of Him.
God struck fear in the Israelites because fear would keep them from sin and by keeping away from sin, they could come close to Him.
“Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)
To love God, fear Him with a holy fear.