Making the appointment felt like a death sentence. Admitting my shaky sensitivities to, of all people, a psychiatrist. An untrustworthy, over-confident, judgmental, intellectual. He was going to tell me how hopeless I was. Look at me like a weak old woman. Send me out limping on both hips. Feeling worse than when I went in.
It’s this kind of fear that kills us. Exaggerating our situation, assuming someone’s motivation. Drawing untrue conclusions. It’s so loud and proud we can hardly resist it. It speaks to the heart of who we are. Cowards. I say that in the most sympathetic way. Remember how the apostle Paul called himself the chief of sinners? Well, I am the queen of cowards.
“The fear of God is the death of every other fear;
like a mighty lion, it chases all other fears before it.”
– Charles H. Spurgeon
The first time I heard the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom, I didn’t question it. Why would I expose my ignorance? Tucking it away for another day, I filed it under what others said: reverence. (Then I went and looked up what reverence meant.)
Dictionary.com defines reverence this way: a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. But here was the line sending me back in time: a title used for addressing a member of the clergy.
I remember hearing adults refer to certain men as Reverend so-and-so. The blackest pants and shirts, bleach white collars were held in highest honor. Recall being introduced to, “his reverence” and lowering my ten-year-old head.
And it all made sense…
I feared God like I feared women and men. I was polite. Held my tongue. Did things I believed made God pleased with me. To my secrets of weakness and fear of disapproval, I turned a blind eye. Not that I was able to admit any dishonorableness. I only understood I was a lower form of humanness and would rather hide.
Fearing God the same way we fear anyone else holds us fearful of everything else.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. It’s the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, gives strong confidence, is a fountain of life. It brings riches and honor says Solomon. How opposite is the fear of the Lord to the fear of man? As contrary as spirit and flesh, as far as life from death.
So, I’m digging for what the fear of the Lord truly looks like. What does it mean to fear the Lord? Opening The Old Testament, I thought the burning bush could shed some light.
I was surprised. I missed it. Watching The Ten Commandments as a kid, reading Exodus again and again. Moses held my full attention. Thought the guy in front of Pharaoh, leading millions across the wilderness, delivering orders from the finger of God was the lone star to see. But Moses wasn’t the one who stood out to me. It was the midwives of Moses’ time. Shiphrah and Puah are shining examples of what it looks like to fear the Lord!
Let the ESV refresh your memory: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. But the more they oppressed, the more they multipled. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves.
Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, ‘When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.’ But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this, and let the male children live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.’ So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, ‘Every son that is born to the Hebrew you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.’” (Ex 1:8:22)
Wow! How painfully split the fear of the flesh is from the fear of the Lord! The new king got right to work comparing himself to those outside his circle. Obsessing over Israel’s growing power against his smaller number inflated his fears. Attacked by a scenario brewing inside his own head. The possibilities of what Israel might do to him, how they could ruin him must have kept him up all night. Acting on those fleshly fears only increased Pharaoh’s paranoia—leading to a chain of heinous events. The supreme ruler was afraid for himself! Pharaoh was the lowest form of power—Pharaoh was a coward! And cowardly fear succeeds in feeding one thing: death.
Shiphrah and Puah feared, not the schemes of evil, but the righteousness of God. They knew Who rained fire and brimstone on Sodon and Gomorrah, heard about the God who flooded the earth sparing Noah. These God-fearing women (who were likely midwives on account of their own barren wombs) understood Who owned Pharaoh.
Fearing God speaks to the heart of who we are in Christ. Conquerors. “Yet in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)
Willing to risk their earthly lives, they plotted to keep the defenseless alive. Unafraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul—they feared the One who has power to destroy both. And don’t miss what God gave Shiphrah and Puah: “He gave them families.”
The fear of the Lord breeds one thing: life.
“Something incredible happens when we shift our gaze. Like Peter on the water when we turn our darting and frantic eyes from the crashing waves to the Holy One, not removing our fear, but rather reorienting it, our feet land firm again. No more sinking. Held.”
– Katie Westenberg, I Choose Brave
We could learn a few things from the Hebrew women who feared God and couldn’t quit. Fixed on the God who gives—Jochebed (Moses’ mother) took bulrush, asphalt, and pitch, put her baby in it—and by God he lived.
Our hearts turn from yellow to purple when we fear the Lord and shun evil.
Easy to get the spirit and flesh mixed up, I love though how you put it’s like life and death.
LikeLiked by 1 person
All the ways we’ve seen this place are contrary to what we learn in the Spirit. Words like power, love, joy, fear get flipped on their heads as we seek and search the depths of God.💗