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The Fear and the Face of God

As promised, I have been studying the Proverbs looking for promises for my own fearful heart and for the hearts of my older sons as they approach the Middle School years. I haven’t gotten very far, because the Proverbs are too jam-packed with rich promises and stern warnings for a quick fly-over.

The fear of God is the stage on which the entire book of Proverbs is written and performed. Without a proper understanding of the fear of the Lord, the book will read as an ancient self-help book. As such, I have begun praying where the book begins: the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7. 

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2: 1-2 & 5. 

All wisdom begins with our all-wise, uncreated, all-powerful God. And all wisdom ultimately leads us back to Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

Derek Kidner wisely states, “In submission to His authority and majesty (that is, in the fear of the Lord), we alone start and continue our education…He is the beginning; He is also the end.”

After studying the first two chapters of the Proverbs, my prayer request for the boys hearts and my own heart is the same: that we would live in the fear of God before the face of God. 

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The Fear of God

Even if we were to replace the word fear with a more full translation of reverential awe, such a phrase would still likely fall on deaf ears because both are so little understood or practiced in our culture today.

Sinclair Ferguson made a helpful distinction between two types of fear: servile fear and filial fear. The word servile comes from the Latin word meaning slave, while filial comes from the Latin word meaning son. Ferguson speaks of the proper Christian fear of God as the latter, defining it as, “that indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us.”

Such a filial fear of God must begin by scratching the surface of the vastness and otherness of our God. The Incarnation of Christ means less to us when we don’t first understand that the God who walked on earth is also the God holds all the oceans in the hollow of His hand. The baby who was found by the Magi under guidance of a single star was the one who calls out every star one by one and knows each by name.  Isaiah 40. Psalm 104. Job 38-39.  We won’t appreciate how small He became until we have as the backdrop the vast, incomprehensible God who spoke all things into being with a simple word.

My children have become increasingly adept at swimming since we live in a land so near the water and so sunny almost year-round. They have been known to brazenly cannonball into hot tubs and plummet into pools; however, when they stand before the enormity of the ocean, they experience healthy fear.

My prayer for them is that they would experience a similar adoring fear before the hugeness of our God who willingly humbled himself to become a servant (Philippians 2).

The Face of God

With the fear of God as the foundation underneath them, it is my prayer that they would live their lives in a conscious awareness that they are also living underneath the gaze of God.

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase that is translated, “in the presence or before the face of God.” The phrase captures the Christian idea that all of life is to be lived under the gaze and authority of, in the presence of, and to the glory of God.

This short and succinct phrase, when really pondered and applied, has long and lasting implications on the way we live our lives. While the writer of Proverbs doesn’t explicitly use this phrase, the idea it conveys is a major thread woven throughout the backdrop of the entire book.

God goes with my boys into the classrooms and locker rooms when I don’t. He sees all that I don’t see. It is before His watchful eye that I want my children to learn to live, not simply under mine.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9. 

I long for and, therefore, I will labor in prayer to the end that, my three sons will live in the fear of God before the face of God.

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