Behold Your God
Gracious Father, Almighty Sovereign, and Loving Lord of life, my heart overflows with praise to You.
Read Exodus 20:18-26
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Do not be afraid. God is giving you a taste of himself so that this memory will stick with you to keep you from sinning” (Paraphrase of v. 20 by Peter Enns). This is the fear of God that leads to obedience. It is something we all need.
Fear is part of the human condition. It can protect or paralyze us. Fear, when we are out of our depth or out of control, is natural. It is good to recognize our limitations, though sometimes we can push them further back or shatter them altogether. Fear, however, when we behave inconsistently through peer pressure or cultural coercion, needs to be fought. While encouragement can help and the support of others is a key, sometimes the best way to be rid of one fear is to replace it with a bigger one. “The fear of the Lord” is repeatedly seen in Scripture as a gift to help us in the choices we make and the values we hold. Indeed it is the beginning, or first principle, of wisdom (Prov. 9:10).
The backcloth to the giving of the Law emphasized that these words were not uttered casually to be discussed, but with conviction to be obeyed. The response to the setting was that the Israelites trembled with fear. That fear was given to keep them from sinning. However, they wanted to use it to justify keeping their distance–but the further we are from God the easier it is to drift, as Israel often found out. Moses called on them to trust God, but they reserved their options.
We know that moods pass and feelings change, so the Lord sought to reinforce and confirm their response. He established the way they should worship, by animal sacrifice on an altar of rough stones. The God of the wild mountain is not to be domesticated. The raw, stark desert setting is never to be reduced to a pretty scene or an impressive monument. There is to be no room for performance or theatrical displays that might backfire. Get to the heart of the matter–when God is present, all else is irrelevant.
What is your understanding of “the fear of the Lord”? Is it debilitating? Is it a healthy fear, leading to obedience (20)? How should this passage impact both public and private worship?
Mighty God, as Jesus said, You are “Father” gently caring for me, Your Child. Yet You dwell “in heaven” beyond me, and are Sovereign Lord of the universe. I love You and bow before You.
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