I’m Sorry, So Sorry: Why We’re Commanded To Fear God

I am really good at apologizing to people I barely know and even better at apologizing to total strangers. I really am. Like if I bump into someone in a store or if my kid says something rude to a passerby, I’m all over it. With business relationships, likewise, if there is ever a misunderstanding or a difference in expectations that arise, I can be conciliatory, repentant, contrite, like you wouldn’t believe.

But when it comes to apologizing to people I know well, particularly those I love most, the words “I’m sorry” swell up in my throat like a bee sting. It’s because I believe that these people are safe and will keep me, through thick and through thin, with the best parts of me and the worst.

Which is why, my friends, we’re commanded to fear God. People hate being commanded to fear God – hate it. I mean, what kind of God, they wonder, would command his creations to fear Him? Having a loving relationship with God is understandable. Everybody wants love. But being told you have to fear someOne? It just seems messed up, even dysfunctional.

To try to understand this commandment of fearing God, we first have to understand what yira (the Hebrew word that is usually translated as fear) is actually about. In addition to fear, yira can also mean “awe” or “reverence” and is related to the Hebrew word liroat, which means “to see”.

The way that I understand this commandment is that first we must force ourselves to see, notice, and actively consider God’s greatness to the point that we are left with a feeling of awe. It’s an injunction to not take God for granted.

Then, once we have true feelings of awe, reverence, and respect, they can be mixed into our feelings of love perhaps to counter-balance them, as love alone (counter-intuitive as it seems) can lead to complacency, ingratitude, or even abuse.

Sorry, but true.

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  • Avatar photo Leah says on March 25, 2009

    Well said. The site looks amazing!

  • Avatar photo Dale says on March 26, 2009

    I often imagine a world where people were so awe struck and amazed by the creation that the creator of all it blew their mind.
    “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
    To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; the man he imprisons cannot be released. If he holds back the waters, there is drought; if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.
    To him belong strength and victory…” Job 12


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