The first thing that people try to do when they see that word "fear" is to explain it away as being in awe of and reverence. And the truth of the matter is this: they would be right. However, they would be forgetting the whole definition of that Hebrew word:
fear - yare
- to fear, revere, be afraid
- to fear, be afraid
- to stand in awe of, be awed
- to fear, reverence, honor, respect
- to be fearful, be dreadful, be feared
- to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe
- to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe
- (Piel) to make afraid, terrify
So here's what I'm suggesting with regards to that word fear: let's take the whole definition and apply it to our approach to God. Should I be in awe and have extreme reverence for God? Absolutely. But, let's not limit our approach and response to Jesus because of this prideful automatic reaction in us that tells us that "I'm not afraid of anything." In fact, having a holy "fear" of God is what gives me freedom from being afraid of others.
Psalm 56:11 — In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Psalm 118:6 — The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?
Hebrews 13:6 — So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
As you read those passages, the first thing in there that jumps out is, "I will not fear..." I understand. So, the response that is so easily accepted is to not be afraid of anything, including God. However, when you read the many passages that talk about the fear of God being a blessing, the beginning of knowledge, the beginning of wisdom, you see the context of the fearlessness described above. Because I know God, having a holy fear of him, I will not fear situations or other people. Because I am in awe of who God is, it makes no sense to be afraid of those who are nothing in comparison to him (and I too am nothing when compared to his majestic splendor and glory).
So, be TERRIFIED of Jesus. Be absolutely in awe and afraid of his glory and splendor. And then keep that in step with the fact that we have been invited into a relationship with that holy being who we can call him Father. Even typing out those words once again leaves me in absolute and complete awe. Be afraid and be blessed... (part 2 tomorrow).