The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1.7

God loves you. God wants the very best for you. He has a wonderful plan for your life.

These are just some of the ways that we try to describe God to people.

We tell people to respond to this character of God with love and joy. We assure people that we can come to our loving Father boldly, because we are His children.

I think that we’re missing something in the exclusive use of this kind of language. I don’t think we get a complete picture of who God is when when we focus exclusively on this calm, safe language about God’s character.

When we look at the Old Testament language that describes how we should respond to God, we see dozens of verses like the one above, with a word that we don’t often teach.

Fear.

When we see in Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” and compare that with all of the commands in the Bible to “fear the Lord,” we begin to get a more complete picture of God.

Even the most loving of fathers needs to discipline his children from time to time. The whole of Israel’s history is filled with God punishing His children when they disobeyed.

But the story doesn’t end there. God is indeed a loving father. He wants only the best for His children. When Israel returned to God in humility and repentance, God forgave and restored them. When we see God in this light, we can truly understand and appreciate His love, because we know He actually cares about what we do.

In this consequence-free society that we see around us, we often get caught up in the image that God doesn’t care what we do because He loves us. But love without consequence isn’t love – it’s apathy.

A loving father cares if his kids are hurting themselves or others. He punishes his children for their disobedience, and he forgives when they repent.

An apathetic father doesn’t need to forgive, because his kids ‘haven’t done anything wrong.’ An apathetic god wouldn’t need to send his son to redeem his children, because they wouldn’t need redemption.

I think it’s perfectly healthy for a child to be fearful of punishment for doing wrong. But that child also needs to know that the punishment comes from love and concern, and that forgiveness is always available.

The fear of the Lord may be the beginning of knowledge, but it’s certainly not the end.

When have you felt the ‘fear of God’?

For more on this topic, check out Francis Chan’s BasicFear God DVD

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