“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1 Pt 1:15-17)
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the fear of God and learning about the importance of acknowledging God’s glory in our fear of Him.
To see God as He is and His majestic glory is essential in our relationship with Him because that’s what inspires reverence and awe in our hearts. In other words, what prevents us most from fearing God is not to see who He truly is.
We talked about some cases in which God’s people exchanged God’s glory for other things. The Israelites trembled with fear when they saw God’s majestic presence at Mount Sinai, but after a few weeks, they lost their fear and indulged themselves during worship because they exchanged God’s glory for a mere golden calf and called it ‘Yehovah’.
The gospel of John said that even though the Creator of the universe came into the world, the world didn’t recognize Him and His people didn’t receive Him.
Paul said that even though people knew about God through general revelation, such as nature and their conscience, they didn’t glorify Him but became fools. They “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Rm 1: 23)
I think this is the main reason that Christians have lost the fear of God in many churches today. We’re surrounded by cultural concepts of God, which make us create our own image of God that isn’t based on what the Bible reveals about who He really is.
As a result, we’ve exchanged God’s glory for other things and worshiped a God that we’ve made the way we feel accustomed to or comfortable with, not the way He deserves.
We’ve lost the fear of God. And, as a result, God doesn’t receive the honor and reverence He deserves, and those who say ‘I believe in God’ don’t really look like His people. Jesus died to recover God’s image in us, but we don’t care about it. How Christians live now is no different from how non-believers live.
Because we’ve lost the fear of God, we’ve indulged ourselves in not only worship, but also our daily lives. That’s the result of exchanging God’s glory.
So, to recover our faith and the fear of God we must have godly sorrow. We must be able to face where we really are spiritually before God in light of the Scriptures and repent of our wrong thinking and wrongdoings.
Just as the people of God repented of their sin in the Old Testament, ripping their clothes and beating their chests when they realized their sin, we need to have godly sorrow, which will lead us to true repentance and salvation.
God’s Judgment and the Fear of God
Today, I want us to talk about another important attribute of God that inspires fear of Him—God’s judgment according to His righteousness.
As I said before, who we think God is is very important in our worship of God and our relationship with Him. What do you first come up with when you think about God? If your friends come to you and ask you to explain who God is, who will you introduce Him as?
There are some titles we use to call God—Creator, Redeemer, Father, and more. Among such titles, Christians probably use the title ‘Father’ most. There’s no problem with that. The Scriptures clearly state that God is our heavenly Father and we are His children. That’s one of the most amazing and exciting facts we discover in the Scriptures.
The title ‘Father’ explains how much God loves us, takes care of us, provides for us, and wants to have close relationships with us. I really love to call God ‘Father’ and I do think that it’s a privilege to call Him Father. So, I always use the title whenever I think about Him and pray to Him.
However, we should still keep in mind that God is not revealed only as a Father in the Scriptures. Father is just one title that reveals specific facts about Him to us.
In the Bible, we can find many other titles that allow us to know who He truly is. By calling God the Creator of the universe, we profess that He created all things with His word and power. By calling God ‘Redeemer,’ we acknowledge the fact that only He can save us from our sins and remember what He has done to deliver us from the slavery of sin and death.
By calling Him, ‘the King of kings’ and ‘the Lord of Lords,’ we admit His sovereignty that takes effect to the ends of the earth and proclaim that He is the true King and the Lord of everything in the world including our lives.
So, to know God only as a Father is to see just a part of Him. Despite the importance, if we only call God ‘Father,’ we can actually reduce and even distort His image.
Therefore, it’s always important to accept all the images of God revealed in the Scriptures to understand who He truly is. Unless we do so, we can’t really worship Him the way He deserves, nor can we establish a proper relationship with Him.
Today, I want to introduce one of the very important titles of God that is closely related to the fear of God. God is the Judge who judges everything and everyone with His righteousness and punishes evil with His wrath as a consuming fire.
Let’s read Psalm 7:11-13 together.
“God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. If anyone does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.” (Ps 7:11-13)
When I read this passage, I was a little bit embarrassed. I knew God as Judge, but I’ve barely been able to imagine God sharpening His weapons and stringing His bow to judge me. But He is.
Because He is so holy and righteous, He can’t put up with sins. He never ignores sins that aren’t repented or forgiven. Even though He endures our sins and gives us chances to repent with His mercy and love, His patience doesn’t last forever.
God won’t relent forever. There will surely come a time when God judges everything and pours out His wrath on evil according to His righteousness.
That fact makes us aware of every sinful thing in our lives. To remember God as Judge should make us tremble before Him and fear Him. And that recognition should make us repent of our sins and stand in awe before God.
In the Scriptures, we find many cases in which God judges His people. Even though God reveals His glory and gives many blessings, His people turn their backs on God and disobey Him. Irreverence and disobedience are met with God’s severe judgment.
In the creation story, God created the world for six days and once the garden was prepared, God formed a man and a woman in His image.
The blessings they experienced were indescribable. The garden yielded fruits without having to be cultivated. The animals were in harmony. There was no sickness, disease, or poverty. But best of all, they had the privilege of walking with God in His glory.
Even though they enjoyed amazing blessings, the fall came. God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but he chose to disobey God. He showed irreverence through his disobedience and severe judgment followed immediately.
The fallen couple were driven from the garden where eternal life was. They could no longer have a close, intimate relationship with God or enjoy His blessings in the garden of Eden.
Last Sunday, we talked about how the Israelites disobeyed God and showed irreverence before Him by making the golden statue and calling it ‘Yehovah.’
Even though God revealed His glory and gave them many blessings by delivering them from slavery in Egypt and making a covenant with them at Mount Sinai, they exchanged God’s glory for a mere image of a calf. Here, too, God’s severe judgment followed immediately.
Even though God didn’t destroy them all because of Moses’ earnest prayer, many of them died there. And this cycle continued throughout the history of Israel in the Old Testament and in the New Testament as well.
The Glory of God in the Tabernacle
Let’s talk about one more example of God’s severe judgment in the Old testament. At Mount Sinai, God instructed Moses, “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” (Ex 25:8)
God was very specific on all points about who was to build it and who was to serve in it. These instructions were detailed in their materials, measurements, furnishings, and offerings. In fact, the specific instructions fill many chapters in the Book of Exodus. It was that important.
Moses faithfully followed every detail of the instructions. He did everything just as the Lord commanded him. Finally, the tabernacle was set up and every furnishing including the ark of the covenant was brought inside.
And when everything was ready, Exodus 40:34 says, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” (Ex 40:34)
When the tabernacle was completed, the glory of the Lord filled it. It was so glorious and intense that even Moses couldn’t enter. The people of Israel saw the glory of God manifested in the pillars of cloud and fire and began to follow it.
God’s glory brought tremendous blessings to the people of Israel. There was provision, guidance, healing, and protection in His glorious presence. The cloud shaded the Israelites from the heat of the day and the fire provided warmth and light at night. They didn’t lack anything they needed in the wilderness because God was with them.
However, even though they experienced God’s glory and His blessings, they soon turned away from Him again. When God instructed them on how to build the tabernacle, God told them who would serve in the tabernacle. He said,
Nadab and Abihu’s Fire
“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.” (Ex 28:1)
These men were set apart and trained to serve at the tabernacle. With everything in place, their ministry began. Now, let’s read what two of them did after the glory of the Lord had been revealed in the tabernacle.
“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command.” (Lv 10:1)
The New King James Version says, “Then Nadab and Abihu… offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.” (NKJV)
Nadab and Abihu offered unauthorized, profane fire before the presence of the Lord. The definition for “profane” is showing disrespect or contempt for sacred things.
It means to treat what God calls holy or sacred as if it were common. These two men grabbed the censers that were set apart for the worship of the Lord and filled them with the fire and incense they chose themselves, not the fire prescribed by God.
They were careless with what God had called holy and exhibited a lack of reverence. They came with irreverence into the presence of the Lord.
Look what happened as a result.
“So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Lv 10:2)
These two men were instantly judged for their irreverence. They sinned by serving in the tabernacle the way they personally chose, not the way God commanded. They didn’t take their service very seriously because they had become too familiar with God’s presence.
And, this is what God said to Aaron, the father of the two brothers, through Moses, right after their deaths,
“Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” (Lv 10:3)
This verse shows the connection between God’s judgment and His glory. It may seem like God’s punishment was harsh, but I think God needed to set an example to uphold His holiness and glory.
God had already said that irreverence could not survive in the presence of a holy God. If He hadn’t punished them severely, the people of Israel wouldn’t have taken going before God in reverence and awe that seriously.
The example of Nadab and Abihu teaches us about what kind of mindset we must have when we stand before our holy God.
It’s no different today. We should never become too familiar with His presence. He is the same holy God. So, we can never expect to be admitted into His presence with an attitude of disrespect or irreverence.
When we go before God, we should keep reminding ourselves of the fact that He is not only our Father, but also our Lord and Judge. He is different from false gods who have eyes but can’t see and have ears but can’t hear.
Even though God doesn’t have a physical form because He is Spirit, He indeed sees us and hears us. Then how should we go before Him in reverence and awe?
We need to recover fear before God. To do so, we should make every effort to know who He truly is. Then, we’ll know how we should stand before Him and worship Him, giving Him the glory and honor that He deserves with all our hearts.