So I was not prepared for the nurse to put a helmet on me that completely covered my face, stuffing it with dark gray foam to keep my head still. In about 5 seconds I was clawing at it, grunting, “off, off, off, off, off,” increasing in volume and speed as I went. She took it off immediately. “Are you claustrophobic?” she asked.
Yes I am. One of the worst parts about many of the procedures I have had to go through with these sick eyeballs is the sheet over my face. The only way I manage is to prepare beforehand, then steel myself all the way through the procedure for as long as three hours at a time. But in this case no one had warned me so I was not ready.
I remembered that episode recently when I was studying 2 Cor 5:11. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men… Lately it has been anathema to talk about fear and God in the same sentence. “Fear” has become “reverential awe,” or the even more mealy-mouthed “respect.” “God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him,” pops up in every conversation on the subject. So I decided to check this word out.
As I often do, I checked several translations. The King James gave me a big clue in the above passage. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord… Somehow “terror” does not easily lend itself to the idea of simple respect. After that I looked up the word in a concordance. “Fear” in the Greek is “phobos.” Do you see it? We get our English word “phobia” from that one. The definition in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words is “that which scares you enough to make you run away. In the gospels it is always associated with dread and terror.” Do you have a real phobia? Would you call that horrible feeling that turns you into a whimpering coward, “respect?”
Next step in study--how else is it used in the Bible?
Matt 10:28--And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.
Matt 27:54-- Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. If you suddenly figured out that you had just killed the Son of God, would you be feeling respect or terror?
And in the Septuagint?
Psalm 55:5--Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.
Isa 19:16-- In that day shall the Egyptians be like unto women; and they shall tremble and fear because of the shaking of the hand of Jehovah of hosts...
I found many, many more passages that clearly show the meaning of phobos. So when Peter tells us to “fear God” in 1 Peter 2:17, the fact that the word is the same one, helps me to understand that real fear, the kind that makes you run away and hide, is an appropriate reaction to God, even from His own people.
Yes, God does want a relationship borne of love as motivation, but there is nothing second rate about the fear motivation. Just in case the love is not enough, for the times when temptation is strong and we are weak, remember the fear. Paul did in the passage we started with. He knew the terror that awaited those who do not know God and it motivated him to preach. Are we any better than that great disciple?
If you do not “get it,” if you do not understand who and what God really is-- our Creator, the most powerful Being, the one who, with one thought, could cause you to cease to exist--you will never really have the proper respect either. It most certainly is not the same respect you have for your earthly father. Even your “reverential awe” will be incomplete, and you will certainly never understand how amazing it is that such a Being could ever love us like He does.
A man that has set aside the law of Moses dies without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, do you think, shall he be judged worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that said, Vengeance belongs unto me, I will recompense. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, Heb 10:28-31.