Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fear and Love of God

Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)
And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
[47] and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
[48] for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
[49] for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
[50] And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
[51] He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
[52] he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
[53] he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
[54] He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
[55] as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."

And his mercy is for those who fear him. The magnificat is quite a wonderful little song. The theology of mercy and salvation in it is great. His mercy is for those who fear him. Fear is a funny word. People like to down play what it means. For some reason today, people can’t fathom loving and fearing the same person. The psalmist tells us God is feared because with him is forgiveness. Certainly one who is powerful enough to forgive sins, is powerful enough to be feared. And this fear isn’t mere respect. There are other words that mean respect. The fear of God should be much deeper than respect. He is a God to be feared. Other gods of the ancient world were not to be feared, but manipulated, and possibly someone even respected them. For the most part they were harmless gods. If you pacified them they would do you a favor, but you lived in a rather symbiotic relationship with them. They may have been thought of to be more powerful than one’s self in some ways, but they depended on humans to do them favors. God depends on no one. God does not need us. He does not need our favors. He should be feared. He can forgive sins, he can bind us to them. But those who fear him, paradoxically are those who have the least to fear, for they are granted mercy. It is those who in foolish hubris do not fear him who have the most to fear, because they will not receive his mercy. To believe in God is to fear him. One cannot help but to fear him and immensely so when one believes in him. This is the all powerful God in whom we find our salvation, who created the world. He is to be feared as all fathers are feared, in proportion to how much they are loved. Perhaps that is the problem today. Growing up one feared his father. But in that fear there was love, and trust.

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