“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you that you may not sin.'”
All right, just to make sure you get the context here, this is right after God gives his people the 10 commandments. Commandments about how to relate to him, and worshiping him alone, how to relate to others in a way that honors God, and the people are overwhelmed in this meeting with God, with fear.
And so, Moses says to the people, “Don’t fear, for God has come to test you,” so there’s an encouragement not to fear. But then right after that, in Exodus 20:20, the Bible says that, “The fear of God may be before you that you may not sin.” So, this is interesting. All throughout the Bible, we see the words, “Don’t fear,” but then we also see encouragement to fear God, so how does this work?
Exodus 20:20 Highlights our Need for Jesus
Well, it all becomes all the more clear and complete when we get into the New Testament, and we realize that none of us is able to obey the law, that we need Jesus to cover over our sin and our disobedience, and that’s what Jesus did at the cross. He paid the price of sin for us. He went as a substitute for us to the cross, died in our place, and then rose from the dead in victory over sin and death, so that we can be saved from our sins, not by our obedience but by our faith, by our trust in Jesus.
When we trust in Jesus to forgive us from our sins, we no longer need to fear the judgment of God. At the same time, our relationship with God is designed to be marked by love, reverence, and awe which leads us away from doing anything that would dishonor Him.
So in that sense, when we trust in Jesus to forgive us of our sins, we turn from our sin and trust in him, we repent and believe, we no longer need to fear the judgment of God. By the grace of God, we don’t need to fear death itself, because death has been defeated by Christ, and we’ve put our faith in him, and we know we have eternal life with him. “God so loved the world he gave his one and only son. Whoever believes in him will never perish, but have eternal life in him.”
This Verse Calls our Relationship with God to Be Marked With Love
So, we don’t have any fear in that sense. At the same time, there should be a fear of God in us that causes us to hate sin. That causes us to not want to sin. That the closest parallel, though it’s incomplete, the closest parallel I can think about in my own life is my relationship with my dad, who’s gone to be with the Lord. But I did not want to disappoint him. I did not want to disobey him. And whenever I did, oh, I didn’t want to tell him. I didn’t want him to find out. Not because I feared that he was going to cast me out of the family or anything like that, but just I feared doing anything that would dishonor him, because of the way I loved him. He was my best friend in the world.
And so then I think about my relationship with God. Your relationship with God is designed to be marked by that kind of love. That kind of honor. That kind of reverence, and awe, and respect, that we love God, in a far higher way than I could ever love my dad. And we love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. That we revere him. That we stand in awe of him. And in this sense, fear doing anything that disobeys his word.
Exodus 20:20 Reminds Us that God Soothes our Fears of Sin
So I want to encourage you today to live like that. Let’s live like that. Let’s pray like that. God, help us to fear you like this. Help us to fear you such that we might not sin. Help us to turn from sin in the fear of you and love for you, in awe of you, in reverence of you. God, may we not in any way treat sin lightly or casually in our lives. Help us to turn from it. Help us to repent continually.
God, help us, when tempted, to run from sin, not to flirt with it, to run from it. Help us to obey you, to do all that you are commanding us to do. Help us not to be guilty of passive sin, knowing the good we ought to do and not doing it. We know that’s sin. God, help us to live in holy obedience to you. Because we fear you in this way, that we fear doing anything that would dishonor, defame, or disobey you. God, may that kind of fear mark our lives today, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.