The Fear of God

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last and Living one.

— Revelation 1:17-18

When a man’s evil is burned away, that is when the man yields his self and returns to his lord and God; and that is when that which, before, he was aware of only as burning, he will feel as love, comfort, strength—an eternal, ever-growing life in him. If then any child of the Father finds that he is afraid before him, that the thought of God is a discomfort to him, or even a terror, let him make haste—let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, for shelter from his own evil and God’s terror, into the salvation of the Father’s arms.

When John saw the glory of the Son of Man, he fell at his feet as one dead. Why was he overcome with terror? Why was he, who had borne witness to his resurrection and suffered for his sake, afraid? The glory that he saw, the head and hair pouring from it such a radiance of light that they were white as wool, was but the radiant splendor of the Father, which should have taken from him all fear. “He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living one.” Fear cannot stand before strength; the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One! Oh, the joy, to be told, by Power itself, that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power. He told his servant Paul that strength is made perfect in weakness; here he instructs his servant John that the thing to be afraid of is weakness, not strength.


An Upward Trajectory
by Dave Roney

Everything God creates is, inherent in the making of it, set on an upward moving trajectory; by sin and sin's effects that trajectory is sent spinning downward; by Christ and the Atonement the upward trajectory is reestablished, for all things are not only from and through, but also to Him.  The declination, moving away from Him, is the counterfeit of creation from Him; now in progress of reversal, the entire cosmos is groaning and awaiting its final redemption at our revealing.

The image of an audio mixer, with its slide switches, which are used for changing the quality and the levels of various sound signals, by the control of their modulation and intonation, came to my mind while contemplating what I am about to write.  The voice of the flute is soft, that of the trumpet loud, if a human voice is showcased the sounds of all the instruments will be attuned to it.  God created all things, and is still creating, and man is the main voice from within His symphony; in the making He set all those things on an upward trajectory, everything after its kind, and He is also the great Mixer, having made every particular thing to harmonize with all the others.  In my mental image I see the Divine mixing board with its slide switches, but that there is no upward limit on any of them, that all things are by His will meant to find greater volume, greater harmony, as they eternally ascend in their upward trajectories of glory.

Sin and Death had entered into the great sound room and seized the audio mixer, and smashed the switches, had maliciously moved them from the Maestro's perfect settings to create a horrible cacophony of discordant, screeching, tortured, sounds.  The project was ruined beyond repair, the upward leading trajectory destroyed, the switches all sent plunging downward toward a steady state of complete silence, darkness, and death.  But then, at the right time, entered the Son of Man and of God into the chamber and at incredible expense to Himself began to fix the broken, to restore it all, to bring it back to what the Maestro had intended, and even to improve on it.  Now the upward trajectory has been renewed (though much of the discordant still lingers as an echo chamber); the Father is working and the Son is working even until now to finally, on a great coming Day, bring to fruition all which is their Will.  A Day when sin and Death are swallowed up, when the groaning creation finally sings, when the children of the Father rejoice, their tears wiped away, when gladness reigns throughout. 

Now, I submit the above, an imperfect analogy, to emphasize that all things are on a trajectory, that nothing is staid, that every particle and person in the cosmos is on a trek toward a destination; that in spite of the most severe brokenness the Lord is busy healing it, whether it is apparent or not, without regard to whether the sentient creature even recognizes or accepts it as so.  And if it can be grasped that all things are on a trajectory, then it follows that this pertains not only to the physical and mental but to the spiritual as well; and if the spiritual, then also to Scripture and man's understanding of it and, therefore, man's understanding of God Himself, the Author of Scripture.

One of the great themes in Scripture is the fear of God; it is emphasized abundantly, especially by the Old Testament authors.  If we read Scripture as though it is final, the entire word which God has to say to us, if we attempt to apply what was once said and believed by the ancients as though there were no progression, no trajectory, then we will be 21st century people relying on a primitive belief of peoples living in the distant past, not nearly as enlightened as ourselves.  We must realize that Scripture is incomplete, and that we are to take what its trajectory points toward and build upon it, go beyond what it says to continue the upward trajectory.  For instance, in Eph. 6:9 and Col. 4:1 the Apostle admonishes slave owners to be kind toward their slaves—yet he does not condemn slavery.  And for centuries Christians, ignoring the trajectory, not realizing that Paul was dealing with his culture in the best way possible, which was not ideal, used these very verses to justify owning slaves.  Scripture references such as these were not ideal, nor complete; where Scripture leaves off in the trajectory we are responsible to continue it, to carry what it intimates forward and upward.

In the same way, let us consider fear of God: From whence have men learned to fear Him?  I will draw from the example of the man Abraham to show what I mean.  For 75 years, a lifetime by our standards, Abram lived in Ur of the Chaldees, which is located in what is modern day Iraq.  The archaeologist's spade has shown from idols and temple ruins that those people worshiped demon gods and, as was common throughout the entire region, were given to making human sacrifices, including their children.  By the time a man is 75 years old, and has known nothing other than a heathen system of worship, those practices shall have become deeply ingrained in his mind.

Those pagan deities, though called gods, were more demigods than gods—I say this because all of them exhibited the worst of human traits as well as, in some instances, the best.  As to the worst, they were understood to be capricious, unpredictable, mercurial, easily angered and often hostile; people feared them rather than loved them; made their offerings with no assurance that the gods would accept their offerings, always with the trepidation that the gods might withhold blessings.  The gods were not, then, gods as much as supra-humans, even if they took the forms of beasts.  And this is the culture Abram was thoroughly initiated into and believed in; he as others feared the gods.

But then God called him, and he followed God out of Ur, and God renamed him Abraham and bestowed upon him the grand title of “the father of all who believe.”  Now move forward to that time when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac; this is the same thing the old pagan gods might command, and Abraham dutifully went about to do it.  I must speculate here because Scripture leaves many gaps to be filled in; I surmise that the old pagan influences built up for 75 years came to play, that God had not revealed all of Who and What He is to the man, and that he was still under the spell of fear.  When the Lord through His angel prevented Abraham from slitting Isaac's throat, he said to him ““Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God...”  I surmise that, had he known God better, had God revealed to Him what much later He has revealed to us in Christ, that Abraham very well may have said to God “No! I will not do it!  Nor would You command me to do it for it is evil, and not at all like You!”

From the moment he was called by God Abram's life was set moving on an upward trajectory, but God did not show him the entirety of the trajectory; and do you doubt my surmisal concerning Abraham?  If so, I will not contest you, you may be right and I wrong.  But let me ask you a pertinent question: Do you yourself fear God?  If your life is more your own than His you are well advised to fear Him; better that a man fear the Lord than ignore Him.  But I speak essentially to the devout, the righteous, those who love our Lord and seek with all their hearts to serve Him—do you fear your God?  If so, then you are not on a trajectory upward; you are stuck with the same fears, based on the old misconceptions, at the ancient stage of God's early and incomplete unfolding revelation of Himself, as those of the primitive believers from eons past.  If you still think Him fearsome, you do not know Him; for no one who truly knows Him as loving Father would ever do that which wounds His heart—and to think Him as at all similar to the old pagan gods is to bring His tears; you must arise, cast off the cloak of fear and run to your Father.

“If then any child of the Father finds that he is afraid before Him, that the thought of God is a discomfort to him, or even a terror, let him make haste—let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, for shelter from his own evil and God's terror, into the salvation of the Father's arms.”

Early on in the trajectory of life the fear men held for God is at least somewhat understandable, for fear of Him is predicated on lack of understanding of Him; those things unknown but potent, things possibly harmful or perceived as threatening, that which is recognized to have power but which men do not understand, they tend naturally to fear, to then approach cautiously if at all.  If one reads the Old Scripture with the right eyes, one sees dramatically that God never desired men to fear Him; when He sent His Son into the world He made it abundantly clear; our Lord embraced humanity and said “Fear not” to them, and His earliest followers told us that “perfect love casts out fear:” In fact those very words were penned by he who in fear “fell at His feet as though he were dead.”

In the epistle to the Hebrews we read that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and chief among those things witnessed is, in respect to what is our theme here, that God is not a God to be feared but loved.  For, adding to the ancient cloud is that of the New Testament with Love at its center, we are, then, those privileged to know more of God than those old prophets and saints, the trajectory having taken a dramatic up-sweep in the revelation of Christ.

In closing I would say this: Fear is to the diminishment of a man, while love is to his enlargement.  The greater the fear, the less of life a man has; the greater his love, the more of life is his.  For centuries God has been portrayed as a Warrior, dangerous, aloof, menacing, by those who teach Him as such, the roots of such teaching are, unwittingly, rooted in paganism and idol worship.  But:

“Fear cannot stand before strength; the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One. Oh, the joy, to be told, by Power itself, that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power.”

The thing the believer ought to fear is not Power, not God, not the Redeeming, Rectifying, Ransoming, Relational Trinity, not God—but weakness itself, which is fear; for the Power is made perfect in weakness when weakness gives way to the Power; not in our valor or strength or fortitude, but in surrender of life to that Majesty which is our great Father, and His Son, and that Spirit working within us to show the unspeakable riches of the love and mercy of God toward us.  I speak of the upward sweeping trajectory which leads along the grand staircase into the burning Heart above, that place of safety and security and comfort, the only place for which He, in love, created us His children to dwell.

Leave off fear now; you cannot do it by force of will, that will at best only make you brave.  The casting off of fear, which is darkness, comes about only the the introduction of love, which is light; and we know that the light dispels the darkness.  And how shall you love except to love as God Who is Light loves.  No lesser love will do...


The Casting Out of Fear...
by Dave Roney

In Galatians 3:24, we read that the Law was our “schoolmaster, tutor, guardian, etc.” to bring us to Christ: In similar manner, I think fear to be a tool used by God to bring us to Jesus and, having brought us thus far, He continues to use fear, as is sometimes necessary, to further bring us into conformity to the image of Christ.  Let us consider it. 

The first evidence of fear is that of the babe, whose mother is lost from his sight for even a moment; for, to the infant, his mother is life itself, and he intuitively knows he cannot live except by her supply of his every need, and that should she leave him he will die; the baby squalls though there be a room full of others present who love him and they, knowingly, assure the baby saying “Fear not, she'll be right back.”  But the babe does not understand the words, and even if he did, nothing could assuage his fear except to see the wonderful face again: to the babe his mother is Strength, which he does not fear; what he fears is weakness, his own, for he knows himself helpless. 

We are born into the world, not with fear but with the potential to fear, which can be triggered by any lack, or perceived need, of the essential; and fear is no sin in and of itself, but is the handmaiden, the constant attendant, of sin.  If sin be a dark shadow cast over the landscape of life, then fear is the shadow of sin's shadow, casting itself over the hearts of men as well as babes; fear indicates a break from the Good, which is Strength.

A man is beset by fear from two sides of his being, from things in the world around him, and from things which haunt his innermost self; the outer-lying sources of fear enter a man through his sense gates, those from within arise out of his heart.  The two sources often combine, as is the case when St. John saw Christ in the heavenlies.  The unveiled brilliance of the Lord entering into him through his eyes caused a terror; his inward poverty of understanding worked in conjunction with the Glory he saw to produce in him a phobic fear which rendered him prostrate, sapped of life, nearly dead; the Greek word describing his condition in this verse is the one from which our word “necrosis” derives; it is, in this case, death-life, a panophobia crowding out all other thoughts, memories, feelings.  The same fear that grips the babe at the absence of mother now gripped the Apostle at the presence of his Lord. 

What is the source of the sainted John's caustic dread?  He is approved of God and highly favored and knows, apparently vaguely, it to be the truth concerning himself; he must now see it and know it clear.  Why, then, does he fear the Living One he adores?  It could be by some unspoken evil dwelling within him; it could be for a lack of faith; it could be for several possible reasons, but I believe it was none of those; his fear arose from his lack of understanding, his ignorance of the depth of his identity with the risen, now ascended, now glorious Lord of lords.  He must in that moment come to know what he is not before he can know what he is, and to know that he must know what his Lord is not so he may begin to learn what He is.  Before the Lord can tell him to “Write therefore the things that you have seen,” the Apostle must truly see the things he is seeing, without illusion or distortion, with a vision elevated far exceeding his mortal and natural fear-tempted self; He must see and sense as does Christ Jesus.  The Lord, not One to be feared, is preparing His man for the task, does so by exposing Himself fully to the eyes of clay, thus exposing the man to himself, says to him in the Voice of thunder “Fear not!” and from that moment and those few words issuing from the Heart which is Love, all vapors of fear are dispelled.  The Apostle's strength is the Lord Who is Strength, and He is making the weakness of the saint into perfect strength.  St. John reaches out and finds his Lord's hand, and is lifted to his feet:

“If then any child of the Father finds that he is afraid before Him, that the thought of God is a discomfort to him, or even a terror, let him make haste—let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, for the shelter from his own evil and God's terror, into the salvation of the Father's arms.”

This quote has to do with the fear of the believer, “any child of the Father,” which is only one of two ways that God uses fear to conform His creatures to Christ: Just two days ago are the words “Although he loves them utterly, God does not tell them there is nothing in Him to make them afraid. That would be to drive them from Him forever.”  With those of His children who are still outside the camp, He puts in their hearts a dread of Him, specifically that dread which is for consequence of ignoring Him, and by that fear teach them that they must deal with Him; for it is far better a man fear God than dismiss Him.  The one fear is that of the Godly man, a St. John, who though loving the Lord with all his heart yet did not truly know Him as He is; the other case is of the man who does not yet love Him and is still disobedient to Him.  The one fear is to open the eyes, the other to repentance.

The dazzling Christ would always bring upon every observer a form of living death-terror except that the beholder know that God is on His side, is no enemy to him but Friend, is Comfort, is Safety, the far-reaching personification of Divine Love poured out in living flesh, the Lamb Who is our Brother, Sovereign, Savior, the Living One.  “Fear cannot stand before strength; the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One.”  Arise from your deathly pose, St. John!  Lift up your eyes!  Stand on your feet and look full into Love's beaming face; it is enough to burn your very eyes from their sockets, yet it is by seeing Him as He is that the scales fall away; His brilliance is the Consuming Fire, it is burning away the drossful scales that the true eyes may see!  He is not the God of the dead but the living; He brings you no harm, is contrariwise the source of Life Abundant for you.  You need fear never, except He should ever withdraw Himself from you, which He cannot and will not do.  The more the clay-bound eyes of sinners or saints see Him, as He truly is, the more terror is produced, yet the more those same eyes see, when a man becomes the true child of his Father, when he truly sees as Christ sees, the more his fears vanish; the Consuming Fire's facet which is fear, which once troubled his soul, then becomes the heart's hearth, the place of comfort, of refuge, of safety.

“Oh! The joy, to be told, by Power itself, that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power.!”  Our weakness is made perfect strength in Him; “ [our Lord] instructs His servant John that the thing to be afraid of is weakness, not strength;” and with the writer to the Hebrews we say, “Therefore strengthen your limp hands and weak knees.”  When the Daystar rises in your heart, you shall no longer flee in fear; fear shall flee from you even as the darkness takes flight at morning's first beaming...