What does the fear of the Lord look like through the lens of love? For His perfect love truly casts out all our orphan-hearted fear (1 John 4:18).
I would call it reverential shock and awe. And it truly is the beginning of wisdom.
This fear of the Lord comes through a personal encounter with the living God. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like having the fabric of the time-space continuum itself ripped wide open before your eyes, revealing a great otherness, a multifaceted reality so much more real than your mind can take in. Indeed, you realize that you have not realized anything at all before this moment!
For this brief instant you’re suddenly thrust into something so stunning, so shocking, so overwhelming, that you know you’ll really never recover from the experience. And you don’t want to.
This moment, like a slice of pure light, suspended outside of time and space, seems like a lifetime. And it will take more than a lifetime to fully comprehend.
This is why it must be experienced; it defies explanation.
Suddenly, Jesus is so much bigger, more brilliant, more beautiful, more glorious, more resplendent, more magnificent and majestic than your thoughts could ever imagine…yet, He’s so much more tender and intimate, so close and so full of love that you can sense Him in your breath. Every cell in your body is resonating with manifested glory.
I sometimes wonder if all our attempts in worship to make God bigger and more transcendent in our minds we, instead, make Him so “high and lifted up” that we lose sight of Him altogether. Does our lofty view of Him cause us to hide in fear, keeping our distance from Him? Do we not also see our identification with Him…in Him?
A fear of God that does not profoundly restore our true identity in Him and bring deeper intimacy in relationship with Him is both unhealthy and dysfunctional.
If we don’t hold God’s transcendency and our intimacy with Him in divine tension, we will not be transformed. We will inevitably become religious…but, as Robert Capon once said, the revelation of Jesus Christ means the end of our religion.
This transcendent fear of the Lord reveals to us that we are indeed filled with the fullness that fills God! It’s a function of pure unconditional love that, as Paul said, is so much higher, deeper, and wider than our thoughts could ever fully contain.
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. (Eph.3:17-20 NASB)
This apocalypse, this unveiling, massively unmasks us, beholds us and heals us, penetrating our soul so much more pervasively than even our deepest desires would ever permit. It’s quick and electrifying like a flash of lightning, it catches us naked and unaware, short-circuiting the brain and enlivening the heart. Like Ezekiel by the river Chebar and John on the Isle of Patmos, our body has lost all its strength, yet our heart is pounding fast and we feel like we’ve really come alive for the very first time.
This paradoxical experience is both frightful and ecstatically joyful.
You have just encountered something so instantaneous, so surreal, yet so much more real than reality itself. Truly, He can love us more in a moment than other lovers can in a lifetime.
The fear of the Lord is being like a little child laying in the soft grass on a warm summer night, looking up into the celestial vastness with all your senses overloaded by the myriad of stars and galaxies. You realize how incredibly small you are in the scheme of things, but at the same time, how significant you are in your Father’s eyes and how safe and secure you feel in His loving embrace.
You begin to understand how David felt when he penned these words…
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:3-5 NASB)
After these precious moments with God, I always wonder if I ever really knew Him at all. The change in my soul is so significant, it’s like I’ve just been born-again…again.
Yet, my heart has always known Him, for it is fully satisfied with fullness of joy in the river of His ultimate pleasures…buoyed by grace in His overflowing liquid love.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9 NKJV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because you are forever ruined for anything other than glory and majesty. No passing counterfeit that this world can offer will ever satisfy again because you have just experienced the knowledge of the Holy One.