Teach Them to Fear
2 Chronicles 26:5
Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.
From time to time we see “fear the Lord” in the scriptures, and I have obviously preached, even recently, on the phrase. When I do this there is always a level of confusion, especially for those who haven’t thought long and hard about what the command means. It is a phrase that even Jesus uses in the New Testament, but it has often been relegated to an Old Testament concept regarding Israel’s God.
For instance, when you study the life and training of the boy king, Uzziah, you see Zechariah teaching the new monarch this posture and practice. As a wise counselor to a very young disciple, Zechariah taught Uzziah to fear God. Don’t miss this! An older man taught a younger man (16 years young) to fear the Lord.
Studying Uzziah’s life, you can get so caught up in the laundry list of his successes, and then his failure, that you don’t ponder the significance of verse 5. How does one who learns to fear God stray from such a posture later in life? Sound practical?
I’ve used a devotional exercise with my youngest sons that you may want to lead within your own family. I understand gathering them from their warm weather plans and activities for such an endeavor is always a challenge. Personally, moving them into a reverent place to even read the scriptures can be very frustrating. I come prepared for the experience; they come less than bored. It’s not that they’re merely disinterested, it’s the posture of their hearts toward God that offends me. I end up losing my cool, and then all three of us are like Satan’s cavemen. Not what I was trying to accomplish.
On one of these evenings, before their irreverence could tempt me, I asked them to approach the moment with a fear of God. That got their attention. “Fear God?” David Henry asked. As I anticipated, it was a new concept for him to consider. “Why should I be afraid of God? Doesn’t He love me?” This question launched us into a discussion of why and how we should fear God. His posture changed immediately.
A couple of things really stood out to me about our time together. First, my boys don’t naturally want to fear God, but like all of us, they are meant to fear God. I can still see the uncomfortable thoughts behind their eyes as I explained it to them. It became clear to them that fearing me was nothing compared to fearing God. I told them with a Jonathan Edwards’-like conviction that they would stand before God after they die, and that He had the authority to condemn them or receive them.
Secondly, this sort of discussion should never be put upon a Sunday school teacher alone. Who better to put the fear of God and hell in the thoughts of a child than his/her parent? And who better to close the discussion with God’s love after they’ve been rattled with the previous concept? The difficulty for parents in our contemporary culture is that “fear” in terms of respect has been all but lost in parenting. Parents even face condemnation for contrasting these two fundamental truths. I confess, by the look in my own child’s eyes, I haven’t done enough to help him think about and practice that kind of respect towards me let alone God. I’m going to change that.
Please hear me out. I don’t set out to manipulate them into a posture of preparation for our devotion. In a sense, our conversation and understanding of “Godly fear” was in itself devotional. I walked away from that moment with them encouraged that they appeared to really “get it.”
As we moved from that discussion into the scriptures, I saw in them a more natural effort to read God’s Word with reverence. Darren read Psalm 92 and said he wanted to understand what it meant to start the day with thoughts of God’s unfailing love, and then end the day with thoughts of God’s faithfulness. We had a great talk about that.
David Henry read Psalm 23, this time wanting to know why a “rod and a staff” brought someone comfort. We talked a lot about how that Psalm has brought comfort to millions of people over the years in many different circumstances. I even shared my own favorite personal moment with that Psalm.
I closed our time helping them to refocus on how we started--that our God who is certainly worthy of fear and trembling has provided for our very reason to be fearful. I think that they are beginning to see that a Creator who is not worthy of fear is not a Creator who is worthy to be obeyed. His love is compelling beyond compare, certainly, but if there were no holiness before which to tremble, then His love wouldn’t be incomparable.