July 30, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 33:5-6 (NRSV)
The LORD is exalted; he dwells on high;
he filled Zion with justice and righteousness;
he will be the stability of your times,
abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.
Sometimes we avoid talking about “the fear of the Lord” because we don’t want people to be so afraid of God that they run away. Yet, by doing so we risk minimizing God’s awesomeness and neglecting God’s holiness. Isaiah 33 observes that “the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure.” As it was for the Israelites, so it can be for us when we revere the holy God who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
We don’t hear much these days about the fear of the Lord. In part, we avoid this language because it can be easily misconstrued, turning God into a vengeful tyrant whom we hope to avoid if at all possible. Sometimes churches and even parents use the threat of a wrathful God to motivate members or children to behave well. We have rightly rejected such a one-sided view of God, a view that overlooks God’s love and grace.
Yet in reaction to a mistaken notion of God’s scariness, we have at times turned God into a big pal and little more. God becomes not a refining fire that consumes our sin, but an innocuous little campfire that warms our feet when we’re chilly. God is an accepting friend who always approves of us and never expects us to do better. Such a lopsided picture of God misses the biblical vision of a God who is holy and merciful, just and justifying, demanding and loving.
Though we ought not to be afraid of God so that we avoid God, we must not minimize God’s majesty. Nor may we diminish divine holiness. Biblical fear of the Lord brings us to our knees in worship, so that God might lift our faces and embrace us with grace-filled love. True fear of the Lord helps us never forget that our Friend is also the King of kings. We must remember that the One who died for our sins is also the Judge of our sins.
Such fear of the Lord is, according to Isaiah, “Zion’s treasure” (33:6). It is precious because, in part, the fear of the Lord helps us live wisely with God as our sovereign. The fear of the Lord emphasizes how blessed we are to have an intimate relationship with the Holy God, our Creator, King, and Redeemer.
What does the phrase “the fear of the Lord” mean to you? Does it have negative connotations? Positive ones?
How have you experienced the fear of the Lord in your life?
What helps you to have an appropriate fear of God, a heart filled with reverence and honor?
Talk with a wise friend or your small group about the fear of the Lord and how it is relevant to your life.
Gracious God, I’m not sure I always get what it means to fear you. It’s so easy for me to err on one side or the other. There have been times in my life when I have been afraid of you, when I have avoided you, and worried that you wouldn’t want a relationship with me. And there have been times, many times, I must confess, when I have treated you more like my little buddy than the holy God of the Universe.
Teach me, Lord, to live with a holy, truthful, healthy fear of you. May I never presume upon our relationship, or live as if your holiness didn’t matter to me. May I come before you eagerly, knowing that you accept me in your grace. And may I come before you humbly, offering myself to you as my King. May a righteous fear of you be, indeed, the unexpected key to the treasure of relationship with you. Amen.
Banner image by Ashin K. Suresh on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Life, Knowledge, and Wisdom (Isaiah 28ff.).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.