Fearing God: Stand In Awe of His Greatness
I Chronicles 15
I Chronicles 16
4 June 2017
A study on the proper fear of God by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Standi In Awe of His Greatness
I never tire of reading Isaiah 6. As you heard those words again from Isaiah 6:1-5 in our Scripture reading, did you notice the emphasis on God’s greatness as Isaiah watched that heavenly scene? Did you notice how the heavenly beings which are far greater than we are, covered their faces and their feet as they flew above God’s throne? They recognized that God is great in the heavens.
In our previous lesson we explored the question: is genuine fear appropriate for believers? As we tackled that question, I mentioned that there are two key ways in which genuine fear is certainly appropriate for believers. We examined the first key way: it is appropriate for believers to fear God in light of consequences for sin. This morning, I want to take up the second key way in which fear is appropriate for believers. Fear in light of God’s greatness is appropriate for believers.
This morning we’ll consider how Yahweh is great in the heavens. Next time we’ll consider how Yahweh is great upon the earth.
Let’s look now at 1 Chron 15 and 16 where David is once again moving the ark to Jerusalem after that careless, fearless disaster where Uzzah was killed. This time, David obeyed God’s instructions about moving the ark. Then David provided for Asaph and his relatives to lead the worship of Yahweh. David then led in a beautiful psalm of thanksgiving, careful to keep the fear of God at the forefront this time around. Let’s now read 1 Chron 15:1-4; 11-16; 25-29; 16:1-36.
I want to focus on 1 Chron 16:25 which ties God’s greatness to our need to fear Him [re-read vv. 24-25]. In v. 25, David answers the implied question, “why should we tell of His glory?” He provides three reasons in v. 25: Yahweh is great, He is greatly to be praised, and He is to be feared above all gods. In contrast to those gods, David uses God’s personal name, Yahweh.
David tells us something important about who Yahweh is and what He is like. He is great. Yahweh alone possesses such high value and importance. Each of God’s attributes reveal different ways in which He is great. In our worship, we must confess this essential truth about God’s nature.
In light of Yahweh’s greatness, He is “to be praised”. His people must indeed tell of His glory, to verbalize His greatness. How are we to praise Yahweh? David says we are to praise Yahweh “greatly”. The Hebrew word describes doing something in abundance, with muchness. God’s greatness can never be over told. This is why we sing so much!
David tells us something more that is true about our God. Yahweh is “to be feared”. Not only is Yahweh worthy to be praised with abundance, He is worthy to be feared. That is, He is worthy of our praise and worthy of our fear.
David zeroes in on God’s worthiness to be feared in light of what happened the last time they moved the ark and Uzzah died. That tragic event deeply impressed David with the need to fear Yahweh, especially in religious service and worship. Yahweh is not to be taken lightly. Yahweh is not to be treated the way men treat false gods. He is to be feared “above all gods”. He is to be feared in such a way that we recognize His infinite superiority over all so-called gods, whether they are physical idols we bow down to, or the demons behind those idols or whether it represents the idols in our hearts. We are to fear Yahweh only. No idol deserves our fear. It is sin to fear them.
Turn now to Ps 89. Here Ethan expresses the painful, biting tension between his theology and what he sees happening before him. He feels an intense struggle within his own heart. He doesn’t see God’s promises to Israel and to David being fulfilled in his day. In fact, it appears from the human perspective that those promises may have failed. But Ethan doesn’t seek to explain away his theology or the promises of God. He makes no excuse for them.
Instead, he holds on dearly to biblical theology and God’s promises. In vv. 1-37 Ethan declares the truth he knows about God’s promises and God’s character. Then in vv. 38-51 he laments how Israel’s sin has brought God’s judgment and how David’s descendants have failed in ruling over Israel. Notice Ethan’s commitment to God in his opening and closing words (vv. 1, 52).
Look at Ps 89:5-8. In vv. 7-8 Ethan strings together terms that show how unquestionable is God’s greatness: He is greatly feared, awesome, and mighty. Ethan pictures God here surrounded by the host of angels who gather around the throne of their sovereign Master. The rhetorical question, “Who…is like Yahweh” demands that all Creation confess that there is no one like Him in all existence. Yahweh is unique among all heavenly beings.
While men rightly fear the sheer power of angels, yet there is not even among them any who can be compared to the sovereign King of heaven. When Ethan wrote that Yahweh is to be feared, he means that all Creation ought to tremble before our great God. And Ethan doesn’t mean that we ought to tremble a little. He adds that the heavenly host trembles greatly before Yahweh. Awesome is the usual Hebrew word for ‘fear’. Yahweh’s greatness inspires fear and awe among the mighty angels. Why? By comparison, Yahweh is far mightier. He possesses all strength.
Turn now to Rev 1:12-18. John describes for us the scene in heaven. When He saw Jesus in all His glory, John trembled greatly. He was driven to heaven’s floor by holy fear. But Jesus isn’t like pagan gods. He didn’t leave John there trembling in the dust. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gently comforted and encouraged His trembling lamb. He told John, “Do not be afraid”. Why not? Why can we fear Him and yet not be afraid?
Jesus reminds John that He died in our place and conquered the power of death and the grave. As the risen Lord, He holds the keys to both of them. Now that He ever lives, He is the Sovereign Lord and Master over death and the grave. We remember that glorious event of His death as we worship at the Lord’s Table this morning.