Q. Why must we fear God? Hearing this makes me wonder who would want to be a part of that kind of religion. I know we need to heed God’s word and try our best to live following God’s laws in order to get through the gates of heaven, but to be fearful of God doesn’t seem right.
A. Throughout the Bible, the People of God have had various reactions when they witnessed His glory and power, and these give us a proper understanding of what we mean by the “fear of the Lord.” Take, for example, the reaction the people have after they see Pharaoh and his forces drowned in the Red Sea. It says that the people feared the Lord. Why? Because they had just witnessed the awesome power and justice of God. Rightly, they trembled before His might as they recognized He was truly Lord of all creation and Master of the universe.
Elsewhere, notably in the Psalms, we hear that the fear of the Lord is the path of wisdom and that those who entered God’s temple were filled with a holy fear. This reaction shows how we are to have a great sense of awe and wonder for the holiness and majesty of God. It is not a servile fear but rather a sense of amazement. This feeling is no different than what you may experience when you walk into St. Peter’s Basilica or behold Mt. Everest or are enraptured by Mozart. To be struck by the awesome beauty and wonder of God’s creation, in that sense, fills us with a holy fear – a deep trembling in the soul. This holy fear is known in Latin as mysterium tremendum, to tremble before the mystery of God.
Finally, we learn that the People of God feared the Lord because they did not want to be separated from His love on account of their sins. This kind of fear motivates us as Christians to reject sin and live in God’s grace – we fear losing God through sin and selfishness and do not want to be in any way separated from Him. Thus, we strive always to be reconciled to Him and to be set free from whatever may hold us in bondage.