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Fearsome God

“God has done it, so that people fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14b).

The Bible is filled with references to the fear of God. When people see Him, they tremble in fear. When they worship Him, they fall down in reverence. Obeying Him is often equated with fearing Him. Everything God does is so that people will see Him, acknowledge that He is God, and fear Him.

The word “fear,” however, doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to cower before God, working desperately to be good so He won’t punish us. Rather, the Hebrew word carries the idea of being in awe of something. When we look at God, we shouldn’t see Him as just like us. We shouldn’t treat Him as we would another human. No, God is a divine Being, infinitely higher than us and totally incomprehensible to our finite minds. It is the height of folly to not live in fear—in awe—of the LORD God Almighty.

God shows us His power by the works that He does. The author of Ecclesiastes points this out, nothing that “whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it” (Ecclesiastes 3:14a). The reason for this is so that we will learn to fear God. Everything He does is for the sake of His name, to show us that He alone is God and that He has all power.

The prophet Elijah echoes this on Mount Carmel during his showdown with the prophets of Baal, where he asks God to send fire on his altar so that “‘this people may know that you, O LORD, are God’” (1 Kings 18:37). When God indeed sent fire from heaven, a fire so powerful that the water-soaked stone altar was completely burned up, the people fell down and worshiped God, knowing that He alone is God. They no longer feared their false gods, because they had witnessed firsthand the terrifying power of the one true God.

God’s desire is for His name to be glorified in all the earth. Our purpose on earth is to give Him that glory, to witness His might and fear Him, living in awe of Him forever and ever.

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