The scriptures frequently tell us we are required to fear God.
Some of us try to explain that phrase away. They want the requirement that we are to “fear God” to mean something other than, well, to fear God.
The scriptural requirement to fear God stands in direct opposition to the popular idea in our church that God loves us so much that he isn’t too concerned about our disobedience. In fact, it is commonly believed in the true church that the atonement was done to accomplish precisely that – many believe that the atonement overcomes the need for strict obedience because God loves us so much that he needed a way to save us whether we strictly obeyed him or not. Thus the scriptural requirement to fear God is an unpopular idea that needs to be explained away these days.
If we find the phrase “fear God” confusing, we need only consider the case of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and the golden statue they were required to worship in Babylon. To fear God means you are more afraid to offend God than to offend anybody else. You would rather be tossed into a furnace, than to break God’s commandment and bow down to a golden statue. Even if everyone else already knows that you don’t really believe in worshiping idols, and everyone would understand that you are only bowing down because you are being forced to on pains of death, you are still more afraid to offend God by bowing down to the statue than afraid of what any man can do to you.
Interestingly, it was these men’s fear of God that pleased God so much that he delivered them miraculously.
We think we please God by not fearing him, thinking that we are putting a damper on our relationship with God if we fear him. We think to fear him is to fail to recognize his love for us.
But those who feared to offend God are those he blessed with power, and those who wrought mighty miracles by faith.
While those who feared him not excused their own misbehavior here and there thinking all would be washed white through the love of God. To them he gave no power.
We have long been thinking to ourselves that God doesn’t mind our disobedience if it would be offensive to men for us to obey. We work on the Sabbath any time a boss thinks it would be important. We are careful to let no truth about morality and chastity escape our mouth at work where others might hear. We have gone so far down this road that we actually think it is offensive to God when we offend a man. This is the opposite of fearing God, and has served us very poorly.
Like most deceptions, the farther we travel down this road, the more rigidly the deception binds us into belief and outright religious zeal towards itself.
These days we fear to offend men even with the least word. We let men determine what is offensive to them and will not stand for fundamental truth we know lest we offend. We would rather offend God than offend men.
But days of difficulty approach us, and we will have to learn once again to fear God in truth before we can be blessed with the power necessary to be delivered from the oppression of man. As we fear man in these days more than we fear God, God will leave us as men to deliver ourselves from our afflictions. And we will be unable to do it.
When we repent, and fear God in all that we do, then is when he will exercise power as he did for those who feared him anciently.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were captives from a conquered country. But they were more afraid to offend God than to offend man. And thus God delivered them by his hand instead of leaving them as men to deliver themselves.
We will need that power in days to come. Let us be quick to repent, lest God be slow to hearken in those days when “the righteous among us will cry unto the Lord day and night until deliverance comes”.