Fear of God
Fear of God
I can remember in my younger days wondering what that meant. Fearing God. I was taught about the unconditional love of God and wondered where fear came into it. If God loves unconditionally, what is there to fear? Is it the fear of death without God? What is God going to do that I should be fearful of? If He loves me unconditionally, surely there is nothing to fear? So I’ve lived my life in love and not worrying about the fear aspect of my relationship with God.
During this week, I listened to a message from Dr. R.C. Sproul, from the Ligonier series Loved by God, called The Hatred of God. The title intrigued me as I wasn’t aware that God hated. As I listened, I was reminded of several verses from the Bible that does talk about God’s hate and what He hates. This has opened my eyes to what the fear of God means.
Let’s quickly examine the concept of God hating. I don’t remember ever hearing a minister preach on this which is probably why I never connected to this concept. But it is right there, and mentioned several times, in the Bible. Almost all the references are from the Old Testament (these are all NIV versions). The first is a group of verses that refer to specifics that God hates.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
6 you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
5 The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
8 “For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
You can see easily that these all refer to sin and sinners. So, what I get from these verses is that God hates the sinners because of the sin. Then I read these following verses and see more of this…
15 “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal,
I hated them there.
Because of their sinful deeds,
I will drive them out of my house.
I will no longer love them;
all their leaders are rebellious.
and God’s response in Hosea 9:17
17 My God will reject them
because they have not obeyed him;
they will be wanderers among the nations.
Isaiah chapter one talks more on His response to the “rebellious nation”, how the Israelites turned their backs on God and did their own thing but still they practised their offerings and shows of service to God. In other words, their hypocrisy. What does God say?
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
But the Israelites did not learn. The prophet Amos repeats an almost identical message from God in chapter 5 of his book.
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
I’ve read about the Israelites and how they continually turn away from God and get punished, then call for a Judge or Prophet to save them and they repent and return to His favour. But it doesn’t last as they once again fall into their own wants and desires and turn away from God. This happens over and over and we read it and think, ‘what idiots they were’. The fear of God should have been more evident to them as we can see what God does or allows to happen to His chosen people when they turn away from His laws.
They had their own history to look back on. The whole Exodus event and how they had to wander for 40 years in the desert, because, even after God showed His might against Pharaoh, they wanted to go back, they wanted to do what they wanted and not trust God to look after them as they travelled to the promised land. God even feeds them with “angel food” and they are not happy and want something else. No wonder He calls them a stiff-necked people. They had evidence of God’s grace and mercy and the punishments that He also handed out from just the Exodus account but still they turned away. Then all the accounts of the Judges and they still turned away. Over and over, we can read through the Old Testament on how God’s chosen people continually chose something else, got punished, repented and came back. Surely the fear of God was evident and enough to teach them differently.
But are we any different? Look at the world today and think about it. Are we, God’s current chosen people, living in fear of God? Or has the teachings of God’s unconditional love blinded us to the fact that He hates sin and sinners. Does Jesus teaching contradict this? That we should love as we love ourselves? As God first loved us?
No. There’s no contradiction here. I wrote a couple of years back about hating the sin and not the sinner, just as Jesus did with the prostitute. I think Jesus did know hate and showed His reaction to it. Remember Jesus action in the Temple court? He was angry, he hated the sellers desecrating the Temple with their actions. Just as Jesus showed in there, it doesn’t mean we accept the sin, allow it or enable it. There are lots of verses again that talk about hating the sin in our lives and in the lives of others. What does God hate the most? I think it is the hypocrites. Those that show lip service. Those that say they are Christian, a follower of Jesus, and then go out and spend their time with their back turned on Him.
There are more verses about God’s hate, one in Revelation chapter 2 about how He hates the practices of the Nicolaitans. They were a sect that ate the sacrifices that were given to idols. Now I don’t know if there is anyone that can still be labelled Nicolaitans, probably, but I’m not aware of them. Do we compare them with others that want to take a form of Christian practice and pervert it? Is that the comparison we should take from this verse? That we should hate those that pervert God’s given traditions or practises? Well… if it is a sin… then God hates it and maybe we should too.
The point is this, God does hate. He hates sin. He hates sinners. We need to remember that and maybe then we will learn to fear Him again. Fear that the sin in our lives is making us a hypocrite and, from that, God hates us. There’s another verse in Revelation 3 about this, where believers are described as being neither hot nor cold and will be spat out. That’s not an act of love… is it of hate? Either way, we should be fearful of this too.
What can we do about this?
I think that verse from Proverbs that I mentioned above holds the key here. Don’t do the things in it so that God doesn’t hate you. Put on the whole armour of God as Ephesians 6:10-18 says.
The Armour of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
If we do this, as it says, we can stand firm. Then we will be prepared against the devil and his attacks. Sin won’t be a part of our lives and we will not be hated by God, we will not be spat out as we will be hot.
As for the unconditional love of God…
Remember also, He loves the repentant and accepts them. Unconditionally. That’s where His unconditional love lies. After we have admitted our sins, asked for forgiveness and try to change so that we do not sin again. God loves us in all the forms of love that there are. Check out that whole series by Dr Sproul if you like, it’s called Loved By God and can be found here.
Thank you Dr Sproul for teaching me something that I needed to understand.