Quiet Time, Thinking Biblically

Insufficient Fear

Recently, I was packing up some books in anticipation of our eventual, though at this point not exactly imminent move.  (Where?  Good question!)  The packing has been slow-going, partially because we do not have a moving date (or a buyer!), and we still need the majority of these items on a daily basis.  But, honestly, I am really to blame for the slowness.  We have a lot of books.  Anyone who has helped us move over the past several years will attest to that.  We both love our books, but most of them are not necessary for day-to-day living.  So, I was attempting to get a bit of a head start on the packing, by packing up anything that isn’t absolutely essential.  The problem I face in packing the books is that I have a tendency to decide that very moment (literally, as I am placing them in their boxes) would be the perfect time to do a little re-reading…always interesting, but very inefficient!  

The other day, during one such “packing” endeavor, I picked up John MacArthur’s book, Twelve Extraordinary Women, and the accompanying workbook. Typically, I don’t like to use workbooks when I read, so I don’t have too many of them. Maybe it reminds me too much of my elementary school “reading group”…or maybe it was those science workbooks from junior high.  Either way, I usually prefer to just read the book, and draw my own conclusions and applications.  Workbooks always seem to ask the same type of questions, looking for a particular type of answer or application – and just incase you can’t figure out where they are going, they all have the answers in the back!  (This one included.)  I don’t know, including “the right” answers in the back sort of seems to defeat the purpose of personal study, reflection, conviction by the Holy Spirit, which should then lead to application.  But, my girls’ accountability group decided to read the book, and go through the workbook, a while back, so I have both.  I hate to say it, but I was not overly impressed (with the workbook – I loved the book).

But, before I placed it in its box, I flipped through the workbook. When I came to the chapter on Rahab, I found a few selections that I had highlighted.  In a section on healthy fear, the workbook points back to where Rahab told the spies that the whole country was “fainthearted because of what they had heard about Israel and God’s dealings with them.” (pg. 58)  The residents of Jericho had heard of Israel’s escape from Egypt and Pharaoh. They knew about the drowning of the Egyptian army, after the nation had crossed the Red Sea.  They also knew about Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.  But, MacArthur notes that, “aside from Rahab herself, the people of Jericho do not seem to have been sufficiently fearful of Yahweh’s power or Israel’s military might.” (pg. 58)

There were several questions that caught my attention on this point:

  • What is the difference between having a healthy fear of God and being so scared of God that you don’t want a relationship with Him?
  • Have you ever been overly afraid of God? 
  • Have you ever been insufficiently afraid of God?

As I looked at these questions again, I realized that I know people who seem to be in constant fear of (or afraid of) God, but, for myself, I usually fall on the other side – being insufficiently afraid of God.  I have never seen God as One to be “feared” (in the sense of being afraid of Him).  Respected, absolutely.  But, afraid, or scared of Him?  No.  I cannot remember a time when I was truly afraid of God. 

The Twelve Extraordinary Women workbook goes on to offer the following thought:

“In this day an age, when our society seemingly desires only a God of love and mercy and not a God of justice, many people do not seem to be sufficiently fearful of the consequences associated with disobeying God’s commandments or being disrespectful to God.” (pg. 44)

I know that in the past I have drawn a connection between the parent/child relationship, and the relationship between us, as believers, and our Heavenly Father.  But, once again, my thoughts immediately went to Hannah.  We have been working to help her understand that “delayed obedience is disobedience.”  She is capable of verbalizing, and understanding the consequences for her wrong behavior.  But, I wonder, though she may comprehend the consequences of her actions, if she really fears them.  She is capable of obedience, but, she is struggling to choose to do so immediately when asked (or told) to do something.  

And, I have noticed that I have (unintentionally, of course) encouraged, or contributed to this behavior by repeating instructions, instead of requiring “first-time listening,” and immediately dealing with the issue, and allowing her to experience the consequences of her disobedience, disrespect, or defiance.  Perhaps in an attempt to show patience, grace, and mercy, I have lulled her into falsely thinking that disobedience, or defiance are acceptable, and not actions that are deserving of discipline and correction. 

In God’s family, we, as His children, often behave the same way.  We may be capable of comprehending, and even verbalizing the consequences for our sin.  But, because we prefer to focus so much on God’s mercy, love, and compassion, we have developed an insufficient fear of Him.  We forget that he is also a holy, righteous God who hates sin.  And, that our sin is, in fact, deserving of His discipline and correction (Heb. 12:6)

I know many people who view God as a “divine disciplinarian,” sitting on His heavenly throne waiting for His children to mess up so He can “zap” them.  Every trial, every difficulty, is viewed as coming from the hand of the Lord as punishment for sins - great and small, known and unknown.  While I think this view takes it too far, I think there may be something to consider.  If my daughter truly understood, and feared the consequences of her disobedience, I am sure it would have an impact on her response and her behavior in the future.  In the same way, I think our behavior would be impacted if we viewed our sinful hearts, attitudes, and actions through God’s lens of holiness, and were sufficiently afraid of the consequences of our disobedience.