Many years ago on one of my trips home to visit my parents, we went to see a new hangar built for my father to use in storing his small Cessna aircraft. The airport and hangars were located beside a lake where our family and friends had gone many times to water ski.
Many years ago on one of my trips home to visit my parents, we went to see a new hangar built for my father to use in storing his small Cessna aircraft. The airport and hangars were located beside a lake where our family and friends had gone many times to water ski.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
After we drove to the back side of the lake and parked the car, we began walking across the field of tall grass toward the hangars. My mother and I trailed along behind my father by several yards.
Suddenly my mother simultaneously stopped walking and flung her arm in front of me, forcefully hitting me in the chest and shoving me backward.
Just in front of us on the ground, coiled, fangs exposed and ready to strike, was an angry, cotton-mouthed water moccasin. Had we taken another step, one or both of us would have stepped directly on him and he no doubt would have struck.
I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound emerged. After I’m sure my heart skipped a couple of beats, I could feel it pounding in my chest.
My mother somehow found her voice and called out to my father, who grabbed a huge tree limb and clubbed the snake to death.
Years later, four days after the 9/11 terror attacks when everyone was still hypersensitive, I was traveling alone in my car. An 18-wheeler carrying thick sheets of plywood was ahead of me, so I kept a respectable distance.
Without warning, one of those boards flew off the back of that truck and headed straight into my windshield. I honestly thought the impact might kill me.
For a couple of seconds, everything went black, the board completely covering my windshield. I heard a thud and the sound of glass cracking but didn’t feel anything. I looked in my rear view mirror in time to see the board graze the top of the vehicle behind me and then fall onto the road.
Again, I’m sure my heart stopped beating momentarily, and when it started again, it raced. I managed to guide my car to the shoulder of the road where I stopped until I could regain my composure and assess the damage. The truck driver apparently never knew the board had dislodged from his load.
Coiled snakes and flying plywood are nothing compared to bombs disguised as trucks and planes used as missiles. With terrorists now regularly kidnapping and beheading people, fear doesn’t begin to describe the nature of many people’s lives.
Our world is an increasingly terrifying place, and being afraid is a basic and natural instinct. We reach the limits of language when we try to explain or understand things like fear, especially when the word can mean more than one thing.
Scripture’s admonitions to fear God cause some people to cower in a corner and try to hide from God. Others give verbal assent to holding God in reverence and awe while living life as if that makes no difference. Neither option expresses genuine fear of God, and both leave us as fearful as ever.
The same Bible that tells us to fear God also tells us not to be afraid. Confusing? Not really.
Fear of God is different from fear of anything or anyone else. It is positively motivating, rather than negatively paralyzing.
We demonstrate our fear of God by living life the way God designs it, by keeping God’s commandments. When we do, our lives are characterized not by sin and disobedience but by love. Even though the world remains a very frightening place, we can live faithfully and confidently when we know we are living in proper response to God’s moral supremacy.
It both begins and ends with what Jesus acknowledged as the first commandment: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mk <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />12:29-31).
And as John later wrote, “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.
Click here to order Honoring the Ten Commandments: Monument or Movement? from Acacia Resources.
Click here for other curriculum titles