To Love and to Fear God

Sunday, October 11

The book of Deuteronomy contains Moses’ last words to Israel before a new generation, the one that will finally enter the Promised land. But before they do, he has some very clear words and instructions for them.

Read Deuteronomy 31:9-13. What does it mean to fear the Lord?

God was intentional about the ways that He imparted His law to Israel. He made every provision so that His laws would not be forgotten. In this way, God is a longsuffering educator. He teaches and repeats and sends prophets and uses His servants to impart His message. And He did it again and again. Indeed, isn’t so much of the writings of the Old Testament nothing but God seeking to teach His people to follow the way of life?

Notice in these verses how Moses stresses the importance of future generations’ learning the law. Moses describes it as a two-step process. First the children will hear the law, and then they will “learn to fear the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 31:13).

First, they hear, and then, they learn to fear God. That is, learning the law presupposes that fear will not be a natural outcome of knowing the law. The process of fearing God must be learned. Moses implies that knowledge and fear are a process, not an immediate cause-and-effect relationship.

Also, what does “fear God” mean when the people are also told that “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)? Perhaps we can compare it to the way a child loves and fears a good father, a father who reveals his love and care by showing that he says what he means and he means what he says. With such a father, if you do wrong, you will indeed suffer the consequences of that wrongdoing. Yes, we can, and must, love and fear God at the same time. They are not contradictory ideas. The more we learn about God, the more we come to love Him because of His goodness; and yet at the same time, the more we come to know about God, the more we can fear Him, too, because we can see just how holy and righteousness He is and how sinful and unrighteous we are in contrast, and how it is only by grace – undeserved merit – that we are not destroyed.

How do you understand what it means to love and to fear God at the same time?

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