The “Fear of the Lord”

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     Phillip said to Jesus: “Master, why is it that the Scriptures instruct as to ‘fear the Lord,’ while you would have us ask to the Father in heaven without fear? How are we to harmonize these teachings?”

     “My children, I am not surprised that you ask such questions. In the beginnings, it was only through fear that man could learn reverence, but I have come to reveal the Father’s love so that you will be attracted to the worship of the Eternal by the drawing of a [child’s] affectionate recognition and reciprocation of the Father’s profound and perfect love.”

     I would deliver you from the bondage of driving yourselves through slavish fear to the irksome service of a jealous and wrathful King-God. I would instruct you in the Father-child relationship of God and [you] so that you may be joyfully led into that sublime and supernal free worship of a loving, just, and merciful Father-God.

     The ‘fear of the Lord’ has had different meanings in the successive ages, coming up from fear, through anguish and dread, to awe and reverence. And now from reverence I would lead you up, through recognition, realization, and appreciation, to love. When man recognizes only the works of God, he is led to fear the Supreme; but when man begins to understand and experience the personality and character of the living God, he is led increasingly to love such a good and perfect, universal and eternal Father. And it is just this changing of the relation of human to God that constitutes the mission of the Son of Man (and the Son of God) on earth.

     “Intelligent children do not fear their father in order that they may receive good gifts from his hand; but having already received the abundance of good things bestowed by the dictates of the father’s affection for his sons and daughters, these much-loved children are led to love, their father in responsive recognition and appreciation of such munificent beneficence. The goodness of God leads to repentance; the beneficent of God leads to service; the mercy of God leads to salvation; while the love of God leads to intelligent and freehearted worship.”

     “Your forebears feared God because He was mighty and mysterious. You shall adore Him because He is magnificent in love, plenteous in mercy, and glorious in truth. The power of God engenders fear in the heart of man, but the nobility and righteousness of His personality beget reverence, love, and willing worship.

     A dutifully and affectionate son does not fear or dread even a mighty and noble father. I have come into the world to put love in the place of fear, joy in the place of sorrow, confidence in the place of dread, loving service and appreciative worship in the place of slavish bondage and meaningless ceremonies. But it is still true of those who sit in darkness that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ But when the light has more fully come, the sons of God are led to praise the Infinite for what He is rather than to fear Him for what He does.

     “When children are young and unthinking, they must necessarily be admonished to honor their parents; but when they grow older and become somewhat more appreciative of the benefits of the parental ministry and protection, they are led up, through understanding respect and increasing affection, to that level of experience where they actually love their parents for what they are more than for what they have done. The father naturally loves his child, but the child must develop his love for the father from the fear of what the father can do, through awe, dread, dependence, and reverence, to the appreciative and affectionate regard of love.

     “You have been taught that you should ‘fear God and keep His commandments, for that is the whole duty of [you].’ But I have come to give you a new and higher commandment. I would teach you to ‘love God and learn to do His will for that is the highest privilege of the liberated [children] of God.’ Your fathers were taught to ‘fear God — the Almighty King.’ I teach you, ‘Love God — the all-merciful Father.'”

     “In the kingdom of heaven, which I have come to declare, there is no high and mighty King; this kingdom is a divine family. The universally recognized and unreservedly worshipped center and head of this far-flung brotherhood of intelligent beings is my Father and your Father. I am his Son, and you are also his [child]. Therefore, it is eternally true that you and I are brethren in the heavenly estate, and more so since we have become brethren in the flesh of the earthly life. Cease, then, to fear God as king or serve him as a master; learn to reverence him as the Creator; honor him as the Father of your spirit youth; love him as a merciful defender, and ultimately worship him as the loving and all-wise Father of [our] more mature spiritual realization and appreciation.”

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