With Fear and Trembling?

Something I’ve noticed in my studies lately is that people in the Bible tend to react with fear or grief when they experience God.  And I wondered, why is that?  Why, in the presence of the glorious righteous King Who has done all in His power to save us and show His awesome Love, do they grieve?  Why do they tremble?

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, or we will die'” (Ex. 20:18-19 NASB).

Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law” (Neh. 8:9 NASB).

“Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him” (Luke 1:12 NASB).

I understand that a fear of the Lord is a good thing in the sense of a reverence and respect for His awesome power, but should we be so afraid that we run from Him?  Is not that type of fear a lack of trust in Him, in His protection and love?  Perhaps it is not Him we fear, but a fear of judgement and the consequences of our own sinful nature.

“Then I said,

‘Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts'” (Isa. 6:5 NASB).

“But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!'” (Luke 5:8 NASB).

Perhaps we are right in our fear of judgement for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).  And yet, at the end of Nehemiah 8:10 it says this: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength“.  The joy of the Lord is your strength. Not His fearfulness or His judgement, but His joy.

And He brought forth His people with joy,
His chosen ones with a joyful shout” (Psa. 105:43 NASB).

Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place” (1 Chron. 16:27 NASB).

“…In Your presence is fullness of joy…” (Psa. 16:11 NASB)

We can come to the Father in joy.  Not being afraid of Him as our punisher, but rejoicing in Him as our deliverer through Jesus Christ.  As Hebrews 4:16 says “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need“.  Let us draw near with joy.


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