I heard a radio advertisement the other day inviting people to visit a church in this area. In the ad, the preacher happily announced that God is just like your dog—loyal, good-natured, and friendly to the end. This seeming lack of reverence smacked me right in the face. God is not like your dog! Our God is a consuming fire!
I fear that the people of God have developed an unbalanced picture of Him. We need to understand both the kindness and severity of God. (Romans 11:22) The fear of God is very necessary and helpful for us. It was greatly beneficial for the children of Israel in the time of Moses. They were struck with fear when the Lord came down to Mount Sinai to give the Law, as we read in the book of Exodus: “So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” (Exodus 19:16-19 NASB95)
Can you imagine the fear that must have gripped the Israelites as the entire mountain smoked and quaked? Can you picture yourself there and feel the reverence and awesome respect for God Almighty? Can you see the benefit of such a fear of the Lord? The people said to Moses, “‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:19-20 NASB95) The fear of the Lord is necessary because it will keep us from sin. Of course, those walking faithfully with Christ do not need to fear the punishment of God, but we still must have an awesome respect for who He is. We must understand His hatred of sin. We must have a healthy dread of displeasing the One who holds our lives, and the entire universe in His hands.
We need to remember that the God that we read about in the time of Moses is the same God that we serve today. The covenant may have changed, but God has not changed. Do we realize who it is that we are dealing with? Do we realize who is speaking to us? We need to approach the throne with reverence and with awe this Lord’s Day, “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)