Fear of God

Every seven years, Israel was to celebrate a Sabbath. In that year, the land was to rest, to lay fallow. And something else, quite extraordinary, and under-emphasized, was to take place – The Seventh Year National Education Campaign. According to Deuteronomy 31:10-13, Israel was instructed to gather during this Sabbath year, in a national assembly, a special gathering, to again read and hear the Word, the commandments and the covenant. Israel, as far as we know, never once celebrated a Sabbath year or held such an assembly. Increasingly, they even resisted the celebration of the Sabbath day.

The purpose of this Sabbath year was to break the routine of life and give themselves to a season of revisiting the words of the covenant, “…that they may learn to fear the Lord.” If they became too detached from Scripture, they would lose their respect for God, and when they ceased to see God as unique and exceptional, they would drift toward idolatry. Sadly, they never tried God’s way, and they became like the nations around them.

The writer of Hebrews warns, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left [us] of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it …” (Hebrews 4:1-2). The loss of the fear of God is the root to a loss of respect for everyone and everything else. The moral descent of the modern church is without a doubt associated with the absence of an appropriate fear of God. It affects our witness as well, since it is difficult to appropriately represent a God who we do not deeply respect. Jerry Bridges observed, “There was a time when committed Christians were known as God-fearing people. This was a badge of honor. But somewhere along the way we lost it. Now the idea of fearing God, if thought of at all, seems like a relic from the past.”

When Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me … I am undone!” It was a heightened sense of moral consciousness in the presence of moral purity and excellence. John Calvin urged that his followers be “empty of all opinion of our own virtue, and shorn of all assurance of our righteousness – in fact, broken and crushed by our awareness of our own utter poverty.”  Jesus called the ‘blessed’ life one in which we were ‘poor in spirit.’ This is a recognition of our moral and spiritual poverty before God. The church today attempts to stand on their own merit; the ancient saints were wont to fall humbly before God’s excellence.


  1. Great insight and a lesson for the learning. If “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10, then maybe our biennial assemblies should concentrate more on the covenant and commandments and less on the finances and folderol.

  2. Thanks for the Arkansas camp meeting. Joe and I love hearing your teaching and it drove me to get away this week with The Lord. I am hungry after his love to engulf me so I can be filled up and touch the one I come in contact with. I love Gods word and am almost thru again this year! Been going thru the material that I got from you. I pray for you and your wife as you go to different places. Shirley

  3. My grandmother felt that seeing we were made of the dust of the earth and the ground was left fallow that if we fasted one day a week it would be as the ground laying fallow and we would be resting the land that we were made of.
    Because of what she said, with rare exception, I fast one day a week and feel that I am resting the body that God had given us of the ground to more ably work the work of God.
    I’ve always felt since coming to Christ that you don’t have to have your life torn apart with the fear of not knowing where you are, if instead of trying to get away with things, we are more concerned about pleasing the Father that gave His very own Son that we not only make right choices but the Father gives us the power to do so, so why not submit to that One that loved us that much.

  4. Several weeks ago the Lord asked to me to tell him what I “see” within our congregational gates. Your article summed it up – ultimately, it is a lack of respect for our God and idolatry! On this date (6/16/14), by the direction of the Holy Spirit, I am leading our congregation on a 40-day journey of spiritual renewal. We are humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may raise us up to be a people that fear the Lord. Thank you for this timely article.

  5. Not later than this morning, though it was not in my ‘line of meditation’,I was checking out some verses of the OT on that very important subject; THE FEAR OF THE LORD. Little did I know that this early evening, I will ‘fall’ on that same subject again…tells me that the Spirit’s on the move, even as I connect to the internet! Thank you so much, Bishop Small, for this Word of God. I pray for His protection and provision over your life and that of your wife, as well as your ministry, as you continue in the work the Lord Jesus has entrusted you with. JBU. (Jean L. Marivel- Missionary with the COGWM in Rwanda)

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