Living in the Awe
of the
Holiness of God

Fear not man


The words for 'fear' and 'tremble' number well over 1000 times in the Bible (1). This common usage along with the wide range of words for fear in the OT (2) reflect the Israelite's special origin and calling by a majestic and holy God. God's closeness to His people has created a people very sensitive to fear and therefore have a plethora of words to describe their emotions, physical sensations and spiritual apprehensions.

The Godly Man: When God Touches a Man's LifeSome of these words highlighting fear are: tremble, quake, shake, dismay, astonish and terrify. The event at Mount Sinai is a clear example of what happens when a people meet God close up.

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People at Mount Sinai
God's confrontation with Israel at Mount Sinai goes far beyond what a typical society would experience in the development of their religious apprehensions. When near God's holy mountain, Israel lived in great fear and trembling. This instilled great fear in their lives.

"And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw [it,] they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die." (Exodus 19:18-19)

Even Moses greatly feared God's presence.

"And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, "I AM FULL OF FEAR AND TREMBLING." (Hebrews 12:2).

Other peoples and cultures have concerns with fears of gods and supernatural powers that they imagine to exist. No doubt these fears can also truly affect the perspectives of their lives. Superstitions can greatly influence a people. However, we note that a real meeting with the Almighty One absolutely does shake the people. There are no exceptions. Even the wicked fear God.

  • "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. (Exodus 19:16 6
  • Then the king's (Belshazzar) face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together." (Daniel 5:6)
  • "It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. (Isa 8:13)

God's purpose for meeting close with His people is to instill in them a long lasting fear that will keep them from sin.

  • "And 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." (Ex 19:20)
  • "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 10:12)
  • "Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD." (Jos 24:14)

25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." 27 And this expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29).

Great fearshould exist if we need to meet God on our own apart from Christ. One day we all will meet God. Without Christ, we will meet God in His great wrath and judgment. With Christ and the New Covenant, we find that God is approachable. God did not change, but but in Christ's protection the person has found complete pardon. God's anger is removed (3). These verses use a proper (4) fear of God to lead us to faith and keep us faithful to Him. Fear is used to keep us alert. I ask people who have a problem with this, "Is it more loving and honorable to warn people of great danger that now can be avoidable or to say nothing now so they can have peace and only later face eternal devasting consequences?"

God has and will use fear to rule His world. But the facts are contrary to what what we would tend to think. God could have much more respect. It is simply amazing the way He allows us not to fear Him. Instead He patiently puts up with those that boast that God does not exist. He puts up with those who complain. Actually, we will find that if God in His grace reveals His holy self, this fear will bring only good to our lives. (Next page)

1)The search included fear | tremb | terrif | marvel | afraid | shak | quak | terror | revere | dismay | fright | dread (1169 times in NASB). The stands for any character so trem would included tremble, trembled, trembling, etc.
2) Several major OT Hebrew synonyms with yare plus a number of words referring to shaking or terrified (cf. TWOT 907 (p. 399-400). The Greek in contrast
(3) I John 2:2 says, "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." This word propitiation means to satisfy anger, in this case satisfy God's anger with us because of our sins.
(4) A proper fear is one based on reality. One does not imagine or increase the real situation.