In Genesis 20, Abraham’s excuse for pretending that Sarah is his wife is because he thought there was no fear of God in that country. He modified his actions because he thought there was no appeal to God. Without appeal to God, he assumed there would be some kind of lawlessness. The irony is that, by the end of the story, the working of God in the life of Abraham leads to the fear of God spreading through the region. The fear is based on the potential of judgement and death. King Abimelech would have entertained the existence of Abraham’s God along with others in his personal panoply. He would have believed that any god, no matter how supreme, could have threatened his life. However, God is benevolent because he warns Abimelech and also heals him. The disease or uncleanness that had visited Abimelech’s household may have seemed unpleasant, but even that may have been a blessing because it stopped Abimelech from incurring God’s wrath.
God does as he wills and he has the power to do so. He is not tame, but he is good (cf. Lewis). It is right to fear him. It is not a fear of chaos and disorder but it is a fear of good and right. I fear the police in the USA. They seek to do what is good and right in most cases. They uphold the law in their villages and towns. Because of the power and authority they carry I always speak to them politely, with reverence, when they walk up to the window of my car. The lack of a fear of God, though, means the lack of ultimate authority. As God has been marginalised from public life more and more, I am less confident that society has the motivation to police itself. Recently the police have been questioned about their treatment of different races. Many movies show the police as crooked and out to make a buck. This corrodes trust in the authorities. Paul once wrote of Caesar that Christians should submit to the governing authorities because they have been placed there by God. However, when God is removed as the ultimate authority, our reasons for submitting become increasingly relative and experiential.
When the fear of the Lord is intact but the police are absent obedience to law and order still occurs. This is one reason why getting Roe versus Wade or recent Supreme Court decisions reversed is not the primary focus for people of faith. If we submit to God we will deal with these issues as part of our quest for holiness. Our values will be communicated by our lives and not our politics. I am also skeptical of our prioritizing of issues in such a way that neatly lines up with Republican or Democrat. For my close friends who focus on abortion, is social justice and caring for the poor a secondary issue to abortion? Perhaps these issues are connected in ways that we deal with by categorization. Does the environment take second place to same-sex marriage? Perhaps the destruction of God’s creation needs to be reversed and people will have open hearts to hear the message when we help preserve the planet.
The fear of God disappearing can be connected with an increased fear of man. As we seek first the Kingdom of God, all other seems seem to fall into their right place.
Teach us today the Fear of the Lord. Let us bow the knee and proclaim that you are holy.
- How have you cultivated the fear of the Lord?
- How does schooling cultivate the fear of the Lord or its opposite?
- Why do people today seem to deemphasize the fear of the Lord?
- How are children best raised in the fear of the Lord?
- What would happen to the USA if the fear of the Lord were increased?